The traveler path to purchase has never been a simple one, but as most travel marketers know, it’s becoming even more complex as newer channels such as mobile, social media, video, and online reviews play bigger roles in the discovery process. While these channels require new ways of thinking about marketing strategies, they also provide new opportunities for traveler engagement and authentic customer connections.
SkiftX spoke with Alia Lamborghini, Industry Lead – Travel and Disruption at Oath about why travel marketers should move beyond the bottom of the funnel to focus on the larger picture of traveler brand engagement, why the human element of travel marketing matters now more than ever, and why the importance of content and mobile cannot be overstated.
SkiftX: Travel brands talk about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time on the right device. Do you think we’re there yet?
Alia Lamborghini: There is still a gap between consumer behavior and how brands are advertising. Today, consumer-centric means mobile-first. According to eMarketer, 80 percent of people globally will use a mobile phone by 2020.
When it comes to cross-device strategy, consumers expect more than a mobile app or site — they expect an experience that is seamless, immediate, and personal. In mobile and beyond, brands must approach each user touchpoint as a human moment. It’s not just data, machines and algorithms. It’s also about passions, connections, conveniences, identity, and community. In-depth audience insights that reveal such nuances are essential in helping marketers meet their consumers with the right message each step of the way.
SkiftX: How does the travel industry approach campaign planning? Is it still brand-centric?
Lamborghini: Many travel marketers are still catching up when it comes to mobile and non-traditional performance marketing attribution. The travel industry has traditionally invested heavily in bottom of the funnel, user acquisition performance marketing — but last-click attribution doesn’t tell the full story. Content marketing and mobile strategy are important branding tools that are still not getting enough share of the marketing dollars.
Attention is an important currency that should be measured by dwell time and engagement — not just the quick drive-by of a like, follow or click. For example, we know the discovery and consideration processes begin long before the first click, on different devices through different channels. Compelling content from a myriad of sources — social media, third-party content creators, influencers, online reviews — play a huge role in inspiring and shaping consumer choices leading up to brand selection or booking.
SkiftX: We’re hearing more and more about how brands can create mobile moments to engage customers. How should travel marketers approach this?
Lamborghini: People spend over five hours a day on mobile devices, so mobile must be a priority. Premium mobile content, trusted mobile data, and ad tech built specifically for mobile are table stakes in 2018 mobile planning.
Beyond function and utility, relevant mobile moments will turn users into members. Brands become market leaders when they reinvent consumer touchpoints and create new ways to add value on-the-go. Data-targeted email coupons or real-time app notifications are ways in which mobile moments can surprise and delight. Innovative mobile ad formats also create a huge impact. Immersive ads, for example, can transport consumers to a virtual vacation through interactive 360 views of the beach or a selection of tropical drinks through augmented reality components. Ultimately, the mobile experience must be easy to navigate, personalized, and convenient.
SkiftX: How can travel marketers use data to gather a 360-degree view of their customer and successfully measure results from their campaigns?
Lamborghini: Consumers have high expectations from their brands. They want to be understood as a person and spoken to as a valued customer. They also want their brands to speak up for what they believe in, oppose what they don’t, and use their data for good without taking advantage. There is no “one size fits all” in marketing, but deep audience insights uncovered through data based on verified interests, behaviors, locations, and purchases should drive brand strategy to deliver better, tailored messaging that provides real value to the consumer.
SkiftX: When it comes to creating content, what should travel marketers think about first?
Lamborghini: There is nothing more powerful than storytelling to elicit emotion, empathy, interest, and action. Storytelling facilitates human connection and shared value systems. As the race to create quality content mounts across industries, brands have the unprecedented opportunity to become some of the best storytellers out there and use that power to drive consumer dialogue.
A successful content strategy should match brands with relevant publisher voices and audiences, and craft custom content with a fresh perspective on the human experience. Content created in various formats (editorial, 360-degree video) and distributed across multiple platforms (mobile, social, web, experiential events) engages audiences and builds trust amongst customers.
The pressure for brands to define their values is increasing too. Millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to expect brands to take a stance on social issues and are overall more drawn to brands they consider trendsetters. Reacting in real time to cultural moments and delivering up-to-speed, relevant content is one way brands can create that authentic voice in market.
SkiftX: What are some trends travel marketers should be thinking about for 2018?
Lamborghini: Internet of Things (IoT), addressable TV and live streaming are three trends that will continue to impact content consumption and push marketers to adopt mobile and data-first agendas. IoT-connected hotel rooms, travel experiences and virtual assistants will be big in 2018. We’re already seeing industry pioneers like Marriott and Carnival lead the way with the adoption of artificial intelligence and OTA data plug-ins and we’ll continue to see more of this.
As an industry, we’re changing the narrative around how travel services and products are sold. Brand marketers are highlighting the value of the experience above material accommodations. This shift reflects cultural sentiment as a whole, as we move away from collecting “things” and place greater value on autonomy and authenticity of character. Consumers are presenting their own “personal brand” on social media through photos and content, and in this world, unique experiences are the greatest currency.