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Digital Travel Summit 2015 Takeaways

At the 2015 Digital Travel Summit, Matt Naeger, EVP of Digital Strategy, and I presented on “Using Customer Information to Deliver a Better Experience and Increase Value.”

The session covered how first party customer data is creating an opportunity for travel destinations to speak more directly and personally to their visitors.

Merkle’s presentation centered on the Merkle co-sponsored “Search, Shop, Buy: The New Digital Funnel” PhocusWright study. The presentation explored the potential travel customer’s digital planning process (dream, search, shop, buy, experience, share). The study results illustrated a clear online travel planning engagement curve. This curve graphically illustrates the amount of time consumers are spending online at each stage. The curve globally demonstrates the presence of high-level digital engagement through the Destination Selection and Shopping stages, but there is a clear drop-off at the Booking stage, and then a pickup again at the final Sharing stage.

Search shop buy online patterns

Interestingly, when looking exclusively at mobile sessions, the curve is even more dramatic at the Booking stage, suggesting that globally (save China), travelers are less comfortable purchasing via mobile. This drop in purchase fulfilment should be seen as an indicator of travel marketers’ need to be able to morph consumer messaging not only by traditional customer segments or by position within purchase cycle but also by device.

Search - Shop - Buy on mobile

The Customer Travel Planning Journey is continually evolving in parallel with technological innovations and, as such, analytics and personalization are becoming more relevant. Every ad, offer, or delivery must be more than just discounts, room rates, or property value points. With Merkle’s connected CRM customer experience approach, brands will be able to develop a conversation with their prospect by connecting the customer experience across device and moving the customer through a segmented messaging plan.

Achieving this level of targeting the addressable customer on an individual level, will require a new series of what Merkle calls the “competencies of platform marketing.” This is the idea that brands have a series of continually evolving technology platforms, marketing technology stacks, and different component parts that come together.

Modern travel brand marketers will need to have competencies in different areas to take advantage of that. The following nine competencies are areas that effective travel marketing teams should seek, support, and develop:

  • Consumer Privacy and Compliance: Monitoring and participating in the shaping of consumer privacy regulations and industry requirements with the objective of creating data practices that maintain balance among needs and expectations of the brand, the industry, and the traveler, simultaneously enabling innovation and value creation.
  • Identity Management: Capitalizing on the collection of consumer addressability data through experiences that make consumers provide identification criteria, while also utilizing third-party data to enhance customer guest profiles.
  • Audience Management: Builds on identity management through accumulation of consumer data from various sources in order to create and analyze consumer segments.
  • Media Optimization: New competencies in addressable media planning, programmatic media buying, and buy optimization have emerged, fully optimizing on scaling addressability in the audience platforms. Specialization in placing first-party data assets in the CRM database results in a consolidated view of an online travel consumer.
  • Channel Organization: In the digital channel world, it’s important to take advantage of increasing addressability of decision management and content management capabilities of the first-party audience platform.
  • Experience Design & Creation: Creating with insight, optimizing constantly, and developing unique creative for targeted travel audiences can help improve creative and design processes.
  • Marketing Technology: Assuring each component of the marketing technology stack has mechanisms to share data and insights, arrange unified marketing messages, and attract customers in the context of previous travel brand experiences, regardless of channel or media.
  • Measurement & Attribution: Managing key performance indicators (KPIs) and essential methods that measure the effectiveness of travel marketing strategies and provide insights for ongoing execution.
  • Platforms Utilization: As each platform moves toward the goal of 1:1 addressable audience targeting, this competency focuses on how to integrate message delivery and experiences across platforms and strategically maintaining connections between ID and user.

The nine competencies have the ability to help travel brands in their marketing efforts throughout the customer journey. In addition, brands benefit in embracing these competencies by achieving increased efficiency in travel marketing media buys.

This year’s 2015 Digital Travel Summit presentation by Matt and I provided many additional insights that can be useful for all travel brands and companies. Listen and watch the presentation below: