NB:Â This is a guest article by Brad King, vice president of marketing and vertical sales atÂ Sojern, a US-based marketing company which counts CWT, Travelport, Delta and Kayak as customers.
And for years, marketers have been trying to tap into this need for speed while still offering a great product at a decent price.
Now with the ubiquity of mobile devices, wireless everywhere, unique payment methods and an app for just about everything, more and more people are “flying by the seat of their pants” when it comes to, well, flying and travel booking in general.
Recently there has been a huge jump in “just-in-time” travel â€“ something defined as trips booked within three days of departure. According to Expedia, 50% of all bookings made through its hotels app are for same day lodging and we are sure there is a similar stat for most of the last-minute travel products out there.
But while travelers may be jumping on the “just-in-time” behavior bandwagon, travel marketers for the most part have lagged, and are thus missing an enormous opportunity.
Most attempts to capitalize on the last minute travel trend are based around offering discounts on unsold inventory â€“ such as Pricelineâ€™s Tonight-Only Deals, Jetsetterâ€™s packaged offers and the multitude of deal sites that have proliferated recently.
Right now itâ€™s all about pull marketing â€“ using search, apps and discount offer sites to entice travelers to book on the spot.
While nothing is wrong with this approach to capitalize on remnant inventory, in some cases it can lead to unnecessary price dilution, restrain marketers through rate parity agreements and â€“ most importantly â€“ leave a lot of money on the table.
Many of these last minute travelers absolutely need to book a hotel, car or other related activities and getting a discount on these products goes against the primary principles of yield management that suppliers have used in the past.
Itâ€™s time for travel marketers to take a smarter and more proactive approach. Instead of relying on the pull from “last minute deals” marketed to people searching for discounts, marketers should “push” targeted offers specifically to travelers within the “just-in-time” window.
Targeting these just in time audiences goes beyond price. Itâ€™s also about tapping into:
- availability (is there a trip package or hotel availability that matches their schedule and circumstances?)
- opportunity (is there a special event taking place in the destination that people really want to/need to attend?)
- convenience (can you make it easy for consumers to book a hotel room they have to book anyway?)
Targeted campaigns can also provide real value to travelers.
For example, a traveler who books their flight within a few days of travel isnâ€™t likely to have a hotel or a rental car already lined up, and may also need information on airport parking, destination dining options, etc.
Designing campaigns with the last-minute traveler in mind allows marketers to provide practical advice, relevant information and targeted offers. This can lead to a better experience for the traveler and better results for the marketer.
After all, most humans place a premium on convenience so if you can make life a bit easier for them, there is a good chance they will take you up on your offer.
From the marketerâ€™s perspective, targeting “just-in-time” travelers allows campaigns to be about more than remnant inventory. Instead of pushing prices down, these campaigns can actually optimize revenue.
Offering the right deal to a traveler in the right mindset will be worth more than a generically discounted offer.
The “just-in-time” approach â€“ based on knowledge of travelersâ€™ specific in-market intentions or actual upstream purchase behavior (i.e booking an airline ticket before a hotel room or rental car) â€“ provides greater freedom in designing offers and greater pricing flexibility.
So what are the requirements to make â€śjust-in-timeâ€ť travel marketing work? It boils down to three things: targeting, insights and flexibility.
Reaching â€śjust-in-timeâ€ť travelers specifically requires focused, demand-side data â€“ such as flight search data, actual flight purchase data or flight check-in data â€“ that demonstrates clear intent to travel within a specific window.
In addition to demand-side data, marketers also need channels to reach travelers in the time available â€“ for example: precision display ad targeting, online itinerary messaging, boarding passes (printed and digital), travel apps, etc.
All of these vehicles are available to travel marketers, but not all of them are used to their full potential.
To understand the travel behavior patterns of â€śjust-in-timeâ€ť travelers, marketers need closed loop campaigns â€“ fed by focused data â€“ to optimize campaigns over time and ultimately measure success.
Data, which gives insights into key traveler behavior, is paramount to matching that traveler with an offer that they will find relevant.
While “just-in-time” travelers share many attributes, their needs, desires and behaviors are unique and need to be addressed accordingly.
This may be the most important requirement of all. Travel marketers need to shift the way they conceive of and execute their campaigns.
Within an organization â€“ whether a hotel, airline or rental car company â€“ marketing and revenue optimization rely on data.
While each may be using data, theyâ€™re using it to their own ends and often independently of one another. Successfully reaching and meeting the needs of the “just-in-time” traveler will require aligning marketing efforts and yield management programs.
This allows inventory and supply to be connected to demand generation in a meaningful and effective way.
In todayâ€™s last minute world, “just-in-time” travel will only continue to increase. The travel industry needs to move beyond their current pull-based efforts to take full advantage of this new world of consumer intent data and the “just-in-time” opportunity it presents.
This move will require focused, demand-side data and analysis, technology for real-time push marketing campaign deployment and management, and a concerted effort to align management, marketing, and revenue optimization programs.
The pieces are in place for marketers to make the shift â€“ and itâ€™s about time!
NB: This is a guest article by Brad King, vice president of marketing and vertical sales atÂ Sojern, a US-based marketing company which counts CWT, Travelport, Delta and Kayak as customers.