Lately we have detected a new confidence in performance marketing - and not just in the UK but right across Europe. But why, what is fuelling this? I believe there are six key drivers encouraging travel brands to develop strategies that include performance marketing as a key component to their online marketing.
1. Get traffic beyond Google
Google Adwords are perhaps the main source of paid traffic for many travel companies, but it doesn’t end there. There are many sites where the users go to directly, searching for information on products, offers or deals. Many of these sites are affiliates and are well known in their respective countries, with millions of visitors and their own campaigns in local media. Imagine being on a website which has more than 4 million unique users per month. It is a massive billboard, and if you work on a revenue share basis, is the consummate deal. You gain brand exposure across an entire market with minimum risk and investment.
Performance marketing has to be the spearhead of many innovations in online marketing. Advertisers working with performance marketing campaigns are always aware of the last technological developments seeking maximum ROI. Performance marketing is working hard on techniques such as RTB, as well as solutions designed to increase sales from users who have abandoned their shopping carts before completing their booking. Performance marketing now offers tools such as display or email retargeting, intelligent chats software or personalised discounts based on user navigation.
3. Niche and content marketing
There are still opportunities for content sites in performance marketing. These sites can be fairly small, and focused on specific requirements - where to travel with pets, with/without kids (Adults Only Holidays is a good example) but there are also large sites with huge volumes of content covering a range of issues (for example, the Huffington Post). There are many tools available in performance marketing which help these publishers monetise their content as well as advertisers spread their brand across these and many other sites, skimlinks.com for example.
4. White labels and widgets
Some leading companies in the travel sector such as Booking.com, Hotelscombined.com or Hotelopia.com are developing extensive strategies designed to spread their white labels across many travel related sites. These sites sell hotels; they also search for sites to place their product such as air lines, destination and transportation - Ryanair-Hotelscombined, Easyjet- Booking, Visitandorra – Hotelopia are great examples. This approach gives advertisers access to high traffic as well as affinity publishers. It is a win-win relationship.
There are affiliates that are able to send huge amounts of traffic to brands in their local markets that are much larger and more established than their advertisers. These affiliates range from SEM to RTB agencies and include vertical sites. These publishers usually need big incentives since they are key partners for a successful affiliate marketing programme.
6. Cashback and Vouchersites
There are some doubts regarding these sites, with reports of fraudulent orders and lack of perceived value. However they are still extremely popular in the US and UK and their popularity is spreading across Europe. Promocodes can and do influence buyers’ decisions, and with many sending newsletters to more than 2.5 M people every week in the UK alone, they push users to buy in certain sites.
Cashback sites are also developing new tools to increase their value to advertisers. Topcashback, for example, offer their advertisers additional customer reaching via email. Users researching hotels on Booking.com for example, could receive an email with an offer from Hotels.com. Many of these sites are becoming “benefit programmes”. Reward Gateway is a good example. These sites are targeting the employees of the world’s largest companies via their corporate extranet and offering tailored solutions.
Cashback sites are introducing anti-fraud systems (for example Quidco with its BACH mode); which minimises the number of paid fraudulent orders. Many specialised agencies like ours have developed software to control fraud on these sites.
In conclusion, we cannot speak about affiliate marketing in old terms anymore. It is an evolving industry, which is continuously adapting to new industry challenges. In the highly competitive travel sector performance marketing in becoming a key tool in online promotion for many advertisers. Medium sized brands are now reaching audiences that were traditionally reserved for industry giants with endless budgets and that is what the free market is all about.