Today’s travelers are always-on and always connected—searching and booking 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Instead of following seasonal trends or waiting to book at key moments, travelers often plan multiple trips at once, use more than one device to do so, and conduct research throughout the year as they are inundated with ideas and inspiration for future travel.
You’ve probably heard that marketers must keep up with this behavior, remaining always-on throughout the year for more direct bookings. But, what exactly does that mean for travel marketers? In this blog post, we’ll lay it all out.
What Always-On is
At its core, an always-on strategy takes a continuous, proactive approach to digital marketing. It uses live data, the ability to dynamically segment your audiences, and the power of real-time intent signals to know how and when to engage with a potential customer. And it is a strategy that directly responds to the changing way that consumers research and book travel.
To underscore the need for an always-on strategy in travel, it’s important to highlight how different the travel industry is from other online verticals. In other verticals, say retail, people’s shopping habits are a little more defined. They can be more easily segmented based on clear purchase affinities, demographics, and psychographics. However, when we travel—we can and often do fit into multiple segments.
At some point, each of us is both a business and leisure traveler. Sometimes we’re planning a trip home to visit family, and sometimes we’re looking for an entirely new experience. We may be a last-minute traveler in one instance, and in another, a long-term planner. Often, we’re many of these simultaneously—planning multiple trips, each with different motivations. But as we dream, and as we plan, we leave behind digital clues that help marketers understand our motivations for each trip.
Today’s travel marketers need a strategy capable of using these digital moments and technology to anticipate which trip motivation reigns in the moment. This gives marketers the ability to present the most relevant offer at the right time—but also allows them to continuously learn, optimize, and more accurately execute their digital marketing strategy.
“We sell rooms 365 days per year and as such, our online advertising efforts should never stop. It is fundamental to target users at every stage of the conversion funnel. We are continuously working to feed the top of the funnel by bringing a relevant audience to our sites, and we actively seek to convert website visitors using a retargeting strategy.” — Pierre Langelotti, Corporate Director of Digital Marketing, Centara Hotels & Resorts
What Always-On is Not
Always-on is not aggressively ad targeting your customers all of the time. It’s using data to deliver in-market travelers a personalized and relevant message, depending on where they are in the path to purchase.
Always-on does not require a greater marketing budget. In fact, a solid always-on strategy means a more effective spend of your existing budget.
Always-on will not replace traditional burst or flight campaigns. In fact, both are required for a successful marketing strategy. When used in concert, you will see improved performance overall, and greater insights over time to refine strategies, which will give you the opportunity to expand your addressable market and increase conversions.
Always-On Marketing is a Scientific Approach
An always-on strategy puts data at the heart of everything you do, to ensure you’re reaching as many of your potential customers as possible when the time is right for them. You can reach travelers with relevant messaging no matter when they start their search and use that to compliment your seasonal campaigns. By relying only on seasonal spikes in travel, you’re missing out on those who aren’t going to wait for your seasonal burst campaign to start.
It is imperative that today’s marketing strategies reflect how travel planning and booking exists now. Basing marketing strategies on assumptions and myths of seasonality is not the approach that will win you the strongest results. Instead, brands who wish to drive bookings all year round need to take a scientific approach to marketing and base their strategies on data.
An always-on approach delivers on that. It shifts the focus from achieving campaign performance within a set time frame, to making incremental improvements over time. It is not limited to specific start and end dates, so your learnings become more robust over time. It lets you continuously optimize and improve performance, and gives you a more holistic view of your performance, quarter over quarter, year over year.
Interested in learning about taking an always-on approach to travel marketing? Read more in Sojern’s Guide to Always-On Marketing in 2020.