How Consumers’ Buying Data Can Help Travel Marketers Make The Most Of 2016

Holiday spending dominates January, but with the rate of digital sales growth in the U.K. travel market predicted to fall, marketers must target customers online effectively.

How Consumers’ Buying Data Can Help Travel Marketers Make The Most Of 2016

One sector that dominates the ecommerce spending period in January is travel. Post-Christmas, consumers are keen to book quick getaways or lay out plans for holidays later in the year. This was highlighted in January 2015, when the hotel industry recorded its strongest sales figures of any month for five years.

In order to be successful in 2016, travel brands need to know where and when to reach these consumers. This should be done by ensuring that valuable online customer journey data underpins digital marketing strategies. User journey data provides valuable insights into how purchases are made, showing the websites visited, the number of clicks involved, the length of time taken to purchase and even the order value.

Brands are beginning to better understand their customers and how they shop, but it’s knowing when and how to engage customers with effective ad messages that’s key. Tracking the customer journey is vitally important in order to know exactly where customers are, from the first click to the last, to optimise digital budgets and increase conversion rates.

It’s important for marketers to note that, while January is likely to be a profitable time, the rate of digital sales growth within the U.K. travel market for the entire year is set to slow in both 2016 and 2017. Because of this, digital marketers face a new challenge and with 80% of travel bookings taking place online, it has never been more vital to effectively target consumers online.

There are three key ways marketers can benefit from understanding user purchasing behaviour: building the mobile experience; getting to know a new type of travel customer; and finally, streamlining activities to effectively meet objectives.

Keeping Up With The Move To Mobile

A standout way to ensure success in 2016 will be to prioritise mobile strategies. Statistics show that 65% of same-day hotel bookings are now done on a smartphone. These last-minute consumers want to book quickly and easily with a company they can trust.

Tradedoubler’s User Journey insights show that people browse on multiple devices during the week, but tablets are the device of choice on which to complete a purchase during the weekend—with 26% more sales conducted on them as opposed to desktop computers.

Weekly online travel buying behaviour – The travel sector has a weekly trend whereby customers are making online purchases during the weekend

With so many bookings coming from mobile devices, brands need to look at how their customers are using apps. They need to look beyond the initial app download and understand how their customers interact with their brand on apps compared to the mobile web. Bear in mind most people only keep a small number of apps; and use only a few on a regular basis. So when a consumer is looking online for travel products and services after a gap of often a few months there’s a good chance they will have forgotten they downloaded a branded travel app previously.

Mobiles have significantly changed the user journey behaviour of consumers, and travel brands need to recognise this if they are to remain competitive. Two-thirds of leisure customers and 78% of business travelers use a mobile in the travel purchase journey at some point, which means that the mobile web experience must be seamless and coordinated with all wider digital marketing strategies.

Getting To Know A New Type Of Travel Customer

Consumers vary greatly in terms of likes and dislikes, buying habits and preferred shopping channels. Because of this, it’s important for digital marketers to understand that travel customers themselves are truly unique. Brands therefore need to know exactly how and when to make the most of the opportunities they present.

Tradedoubler User Journey insights, based on the analysis of 8million sales across a variety of sectors, found that the typical sales funnel across all industries follows a monthly trend. However, the travel sector’s sales funnel follows a weekly trend. By understanding where the low, medium and high funnels fall (that is, the stage consumers are at in the purchase journey i.e. browse, compare, buy) marketers are able to plan their digital spend and campaigns.

The travel sector sales funnel - Average order value (AOV) is at its highest at the weekend this is when the average journey time is at its lowest

Based on the data insights, we know that travel sales peak over the weekend, therefore marketers should start their promotions on a Monday with the aim of converting consumers at the weekend. By the weekend customers have already decided which channel they are going to buy from. Consequently, if you haven’t engaged with that customer at the start of the week, you’ve lost the sale.

The average online user journey takes eight days, 19 hours and 30 minutes in total from first click to purchase. In the travel sector, the journey is far quicker, with consumers purchasing just five days, 21 hours and 30 minutes after the first click. Travel customers also visit more websites on average, but their journeys involve just over five (5.34) clicks, whereas the typical user journey across all sectors involves 25 clicks.

A typical user journey in the travel sector – There are significant variations in the typical user journey of a travel customer compared with the average user journey across all sectors

Consumers across all industries are now adopting a DIY approach to shopping, in terms of researching, browsing, and purchasing; a trend which is clearly prevalent in the travel sector. This shift in behaviour has meant that the online travel booking customer of today is no longer a tourist but a traveler. They are now willing to research and book flights, hotels, and make other arrangements online, such as car hire. They are now much more likely to read blogs and social media accounts from ‘independent’ travelers than read the type of carefully curated content which was prevalent a few years ago. Brands need to talk to consumers in the tone of voice that matches their needs and requirements.

With the aforementioned rate of growth in digital travel bookings set to decline next year, it’s important that brands are harnessing user insight to target this new customer with the right content, in the right place, at the right time, and on the right device.

Hitting Targets And Executing Plans

Despite it making interesting reading, looking at user journey data in isolation won’t benefit a business. In order to gain the benefits of this knowledge, clear digital marketing objectives need to be in place. What we’ve been doing wrong for so long is just having one goal and one KPI: “get more sales”.

We are now able to work out the optimal online user journey to deliver on specific KPIs. Brands must be really clear and have an effective plan in place to ensure they are focused on what it is they want to achieve and within what timeframe. Once this is known, organisations can tailor their digital marketing strategies with the right insight, based on specific objectives. Taking this information, marketers are able to define their strategies and make decisions about where they invest their budgets and what partners they should work with.

To maximise effectiveness in an increasingly competitive market, travel brands in 2016 need to know where and when to reach out to their customers. This is where utilising user journey insights becomes paramount. Brands need to not only have access to their customer buying data—including tablet, mobile web and app, and desktop—but to understand it, so they are able to take appropriate action. By doing this, marketers can adapt to meet the needs and demands of the evolving traveller of 2016.