Travel marketing is messy (and getting messier)

In 1999 my family took a trip to Florida. This trip was dreamt of through TV ads, planned through pamphlets and documented through rolls of film.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Ryan Ruud, a digital marketing consultant.

We actually had to fly home, drop film off to be developed and wait before any of our memories could be shared. Our brand experience from Disney only occurred onsite, in person at the resort. That was it.

Every travel brand throughout the experience had a finite amount of reach and capacity. As the consumer, we didn’t have much power.

Fast forward to 2017. The travel planning process and trip taking experience is messy. Travellers spread plans across devices, screens, and touch points leaving a trail of bits and bytes for travel brands to pick up.

How are travel brands big and small to make sense of it all?  By building a travel marketing technology stack.

Clean it up with a marketing tech stack

If you’re wondering what a marketing technology stack looks like, I keep a living document of mine. Here’s a snap of it today.

GA FEB17 marketingstack infog1 550w

But firstly, what is marketing technology? Cleve Gibbon, CTO of Cognifide, has this great definition:

“Marketing technology comprises tools that make life simpler for marketers to market. They automate difficult, time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks to surface customer insight. Built by technologists, used by marketers, marketing technology should aim to remove or significantly reduce the need for IT involvement.”

So how should travel brands go about building their marketing tech stack?

How to build a travel marketing tech stack

The most common challenge to a successful digital marketing effort is an ad hoc marketing tech strategy.

Too often brands begin acquiring marketing technology in piecemeal solutions. They need an email platform, so they acquire one. Down the road they need an online booking solution so they find one. Further along they beef up their digital media solutions.

Before you know it, they have a collection of tools and technology. Often, the tools don’t integrate easily or facilitate free flow of data.

Adios scale and efficiency. Hello headaches and cost.

What travel brands need is a framework to scale their marketing technology strategy. A framework drives decision-making about technology and ensures technology choices align with goals  – reach more travelers, and leverage insights to optimize sales and overall brand performance.

A starting marketing stack framework for travel marketing in 2017

To get started with a framework in your travel organization, consider aligning your marketing stack to the travel shopping journey. For the sake of this article, I’m leveraging Google’s Micromoments.

GA FEB17 marketingstack infog2 550w

Dreaming and planning moments = awareness

When it comes to awareness, travel brands have an enormous opportunity to compete.
Among leisure travellers, 78% haven’t made a decision yet about airlines while 82% haven’t made a decision about accommodation. With so much up in the air, anyone supplier can make a play for their share of the pie here.

Google data shows that an average traveller conducts around 500 Google searches in this stage. The top sites they visit include maps, social media and reviews.  Your travel marketing tech stack should look to accomplish the following items:

  • monitor, measure, and engage in organic social and search results
  • create and distribute helpful content in multiple media forms for example,  guides, itineraries, reviews, videos and more
  • create 1:1, relevant paid media opportunities across search and social

Booking moment = conversion

When it comes time to actually book your travel plans, the leisure traveller is often switching between devices creating a conversion challenge for travel marketers.

With a marketing tech stack that is engaging with travellers during the awareness stage, you have a foundation to start building on to fuel the  conversion stage.

Hopping around from devices creates a challenge for travel marketers looking to close the deal. Your marketing tech stack needs to ensure:

  • retargeting across channels and devices to ensure your brand stays top of mind from planning to booking
  • for existing customers, leverage personalization across your desktop and mobile experiences to allow seamless hand off for consumers who start booking on one device but go to another to confirm

Experience moment = nurture

Once someone has started their trip, the gig’s not up. Nearly 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities last minute.

If you’re an airline, nurture is relegated to your social media monitoring and email follow up.

If you’re a hotel, restaurant or any sort of leisure provider in the travel experience, your work is just getting started. Getting information during a trip is crucial to and expected by travellers.

The nurture category of your marketing stack needs to drive:

  • relevant reviews and information via search and social (mobile optimized, i.e. “near me”)
  • event based communications, relevant suggestions based on where and what travelers are doing.
  • social media monitoring and engagement

Analytics and automation

Finally, add analytics and automation to the framework. This category fuels all the others.

  • Analytics

Too often people install Google Analytics and think its enough. Analytics needs to fuel optimization and insights across channels. Make sure you’re setting up a stack that enables this. Look to measure web, app, social, and email for starters.

  • Automation

Today, many pieces of marketing technology “talk” to each other through automation tools  such as Zapier and IFTT. Now, automation is accessible whether you have a budget of billions, or hundreds.

Pulling your stack together

As the marketing stack framework comes together, here’s what it looks like.

GA FEB17 marketingstack infog3 550w
The overlaps and arrows indicate integrations and places where categories should work together. This helps you make decisions about the technologies you plug in to make sure they achieve scale and efficiency.

What would you put into your stack?

What tools would you start plugging into your travel marketing stack? Feel free to leave a comment below.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Ryan Ruud, a digital marketing consultant.

NB2: Image by Maxxyustas/BigStock

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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