In some industries, going digital has not been without its setbacks. Take travel, for example. In the past, travel agents were able to easily glean a customer’s intent by walking them through a brochure or asking some basic questions, but today the plethora of online travel agents and metasearch sites available are overwhelming. Customers often do their due diligence months in advance, making it more complicated for brands to recognise intent, map path-to-purchase, or refine marketing practices to maximise results.
With the wealth of customer touchpoints, channels, and devices used today, how can travel marketers make sense of the customer journey?

With effective use of first-party data, brands can reach the right customers in real-time to take their most in-market customers to conversion. Here are five examples of how to do it right:

1. CRM data

 CRM data is one of the travel marketer’s most valuable resources and can serve as a starting point for tailoring online advertising strategies.
Feeding CRM data into your digital marketing strategy means you can identify your frequent guests, one-time visitors, and regular booking abandoners, to pinpoint your highest value customers and effectively target advertising across channels accordingly. This extra layer of insight into your audiences can be the deciding factor between abandonment and conversion. 

2. Website

The data held within the website is perhaps the travel marketer’s most under-utilised tool. The website is no longer just a transactional platform: audiences use your website to learn about your brand, assortment, pricing, reviews, and lots more besides. In the same way, audiences use your website to understand your brand, marketers can draw upon this data to learn how your customers engage and interact with it, to effectively understand and segment audiences. 
Drawing on the data held within your website to identify your most valuable and in-market customers means you can activate them across other marketing channels with personalised experiences, messages or unique offers. This valuable first-party data can inform and optimise customer engagement across channels.

3. Display

Display is the digital equivalent of the all-inclusive holiday poster in the shop window or the bank holiday deal advertised on the side of the bus stop. With access to data from dozens of customer touchpoints – from the platforms and devices customers are using to research travel – marketers can plot individual journeys, understand specific behaviour, and use these insights to create personalised, targeted engagement strategies.
For example, a brand can tailor their display campaigns to show a particularly low-price September holiday to Barcelona to an individual who has been searching for “September flights Barcelona” on Google or comparing all-inclusive Barcelona deals on a price comparison site.

From our work with travel brands, we’ve seen a 4x uplift in return and conversions when data is effectively leveraged to inform display campaign strategies. 

4. Search

Search is perhaps the most akin to the traditional role of the travel agent. The keyword search replaces the role of the introductory chit-chat between travel agent and customer. Brands can use search data to understand their customer, what they’re searching for, where and when they want to travel and then tailor their campaign accordingly across devices and channels. 
Given that 97% of the audiences interacting with your brand are non-converters, the onus is on travel marketers to leverage the available data to identify the daydreamers who, with the right marketing campaign at the right time, could become your most in-market customers. If an individual is scrolling Google Images for “Fiji beaches” every day of December, marketers should use this data to convert that individual’s wanderlust to reality.
This could mean personalising your landing page or the ad you’re serving, based on what the customer has searched for, so you’re immediately giving them news of a specific relevant offer rather than a generic homepage. In our work with travel brands, we’ve seen up to a 20x return on ad spend through search marketing, showing just how valuable this channel can be. 

5. Geo-fencing

You’re trying to reach Mancunian holidaymakers, a number of whom are looking to travel to France to see United play Lyon. Drawing on location data, your brand can segment audiences based on set geographical parameters – say, within the M60 motorway. By implementing a geo-fence for this audience segment, your brand can deliver targeted advertising across the channels and devices your audiences are using: search, display and social on their mobiles as they reflect on United’s latest performance in the pub, for example.
For travel marketers, geo-fencing offers particular value in its ability to be used to track the resultant offline impact of the advertising campaign. Brands can then more effectively trace property visitation and offline sales lift back to their online strategy.
For brands to succeed, using data more effectively is a prerequisite; it’s about using a data-driven approach to find and engage your brand’s most valuable customers. By analysing customer behaviour and interactions in real time, brands can leverage customer intelligence to deliver truly personalised marketing. This strategy takes the nostalgic premise of a chat across the travel agent’s desk and transforms it into a twenty-first-century engagement tool that powers smarter marketing decisions and better results.