Most travel brands think of search ads when they think of digital advertising. And while search will forever have a place in customer acquisition strategies, Facebook and Instagram have also come to play.
Any travel brand worth its salt wants to be known for putting its customers first. And since so many of these customers are on social media, either praising their awesome hotel stay on Facebook, sharing their trip photos on Instagram, or complaining vociferously about their awful airline flight on Twitter, don’t you want to be where your consumers are?
TRAVEL IS BEING ‘MOBILE’IZED
Just like everything else, the travel industry needs to be migrating towards a mobile-first environment.
A full 85% of travelers in the United States used their phone or tablet to plan their most recent trip; 53% of those actually started their trip planning process on mobile.
The trend of mobile booking isn’t just stateside, with 42% of travelers worldwide saying they have booked a hotel on mobile. If you isolate just the travelers who are under 30, that number goes up to 53%.
What’s more surprising (or anxiety-producing if you’re Type A and a planner), is that 42% of people have booked a hotel for the same day on mobile (thanks, HotelTonight?).
Even better (or worse), 14% have booked their hotel while sitting at the gate awaiting their flight!
Travel industry executives are starting to pay attention to these stats, with over 40% of the travel execs saying they foresee their mobile budgets increasing 50% or more in the next few years.
When asked what they thought was the biggest opportunities for growth this year alone, almost 80% said mobile.
Consumers also want to be able to use their mobile device even during their stay to communicate with their hotel.
Marina McDonald, the CMO of Red Roof Inn said about mobile, “You have to invest . . . You really have to understand how your customers are interacting [with you].”
It’s clear that travelers are using their mobile at every stage of the process, so if you want to be where your consumers are, mobile’s the first place to start.
TRAVELERS ALREADY USE FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM TO PLAN THEIR TRIPS
Let’s be honest here – we all know of at least one time where we’ve lusted after someone’s amazing vacation photos on Facebook or Instagram. In 2016 alone, Instagram users shared 98.5 million travel-related photos.
The ability to save Facebook posts or Instagram photos, the latter of which was finally introduced in December, also helps propel travelers to spend additional time on these platforms since they can return to them again and again.
Whether planning or while on their trip, travelers spent 20% of their overall mobile time on Facebook and/or Instagram.
Facebook is fully embracing these numbers and is building ad types specifically to cater to travel brands who want to acquire more customers.
HOW FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM ARE CATERING TO TRAVEL BRANDS
Just within the last year, Facebook and Instagram have increased their work with travel brands and the ad offerings available to them.
Dynamic Ads for Travel
What’s been most exciting is the introduction of Dynamic Travel Ads. These ads, similar to Dynamic Product Ads (DPAs), are the first vertical-specific iteration off of DPAs to be introduced.
The purpose of DTAs are to aid travel brands in retargeting potential customers who have visited the brand’s app, website, and/or some other digital touchpoint.
Employing the destination catalog for DTAs (similar to the product catalog e-commerce companies would use in DPAs), travel brands can showcase images of searched destinations, additional hotel options, or potential flight choices.
For example, say you’re the fictitious Priya Luxury Hotels in Iceland, and a potential customer searches your website for a hotel room for New Year’s Eve.
You can then retarget that consumer with images of your hotel or the rooms they viewed, as well as real-time rates and availability.
If you’re an airline, you could show images of the city that the consumer has searched for flights to, or you can share relevant hotels to people who may have already purchased a flight from you as an upsell.
YEAH, BUT DO THESE DTAs WORK?
A beta testing group that included InterContinental Hotel Group and Trivago have been trying out DTAs now for almost a year.
One of the reasons that Trivago was attracted to DTAs was this ad product can respond quickly to changes and consumer demand much better than many of its
As many of u know, hotel prices can change quickly (and seemingly, daily). Dynamic Ads for Travel have the ability to dynamically alter the information shown to the consumer based on what inventory is available and at what price at the time the person is seeing the ad.
Thomas Wrobel, head of performance marketing for Trivago, reported that the DTAs led to higher CTRs and conversion rates compared to the other Facebook ad products they previously used.
Some travel brands have been reticent in using Facebook advertising, but Trivago has consistently been one of the most aggressive when it comes to trying new advertising formats, and it’s paying off: One marketing group calculated their return on ad spend increased by 116% just within the first three-quarters of 2016.
Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG)
The fact that IHG enthusiastically agreed to beta test DTAs is the equivalent of your grandmother eagerly agreeing to be a Snapchat star. With origins that can be traced back to 1777 (also the same year the United States was first recognized as an independent nation), IHG is not necessarily known for testing out the latest technology to acquire new customers.
Even this storied brand knows a good thing when they see it and tried DTAs to increase bookings on its brand sites and to help promote the benefits of its loyalty program.
Realizing they could engage and target their customers based on what they had searched, IHG sought to highlight the diversity of their offerings with DTAs.
Michael Menis, IHG’s senior vice president of global digital and voice, discussed how using carousel ads in combination with DTAs meant that IHG could “focus by brand, location and by stay dates with the exact live pricing” for each consumer that visited their websites.
Unsurprisingly, the use of this direct response ad format on Facebook has had a significant impact on generating direct bookings for IHG. Menis touts the fact that DTAs allow them to be “able to place content in front of consumers [who are at] the bottom of the purchasing funnel.”
The numbers support this with IHG able to increase at scale by 50% while decreasing their cost per booking by 20%.
The CMO of RyanAir, Kenny Jacobs, lamented recently that he wishes they had done more on mobile earlier and believes every CMO in the travel industry should be “all over” mobile at this point. Basically, if you’re not on mobile, you’re obsolete.
But it’s not just targeting mobile consumers that will make a difference. You also should be capitalizing on the travel-specific products that Facebook and Instagram are offering.
Rob Johnson, an Ad Optimization Specialist, mentioned that “it’s a win-win for these brands because Facebook always gives preferential placement to its newest ad formats, plus early users of these new formats get them at much cheaper rates before they are widely used across the market.”
Lisa Ronson, who runs the marketing for Tourism Australia, noted that keeping up with the consumer in the digital landscape these days should be a priority for any travel brand.
Facebook and Instagram give you that exact ability to keep up with hundreds of millions of your potential customers as they plan their trips.
With major travel companies like Trivago, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, Expedia and others already using DTAs to their advantage, airlines, hotel groups, tourism associations, and anyone else with a vested interest in reaching travelers need to follow suit or get left behind.