At the AD Club’s The VERTICALS: Travel event last Tuesday, Stacey Pear from YAHOO, Lisa Kauffman from Celebrity Cruises, Avi Mannis from Hawaiian Airlines and David Elkins of TripAdvisor gave their insights about how the travel industry is moving towards an even more seamless experience, which includes making interactive mobile and social content a huge priority. They also discussed the opportunities for providing consumers with extensive, in-depth brand experiences, touching on the growing importance of differentiating travel brands.
We want to thank our lovely panel of speakers and our event sponsor YAHOO for making this all possible! We couldn’t have done it without you. Missed it? Don’t worry – we’ve gathered the key takeaways from our experts who know best!
Mobile is growing, but it’s only part of the picture
In the travel industry, roughly 25% of all digital bookings are now mobile. Consumers are more and more comfortable with booking an entire vacation, flights and lodging through their phones.
However, many travel brands recognize that they still need to develop mobile strategies within the context of an overall device strategy. Consumers generally choose travel options with care, taking the time to carefully research and plan their vacation. This process means that there are usually multiple devices involved in the path to purchase. According to Avi Mannis, SVP of Marketing at Hawaiian Airlines, devices like the tablet have emerged as one of the primary platforms for reaching their target audience.
“Consumers use the tablet for shopping and researching, and the desktop and laptop are still where people transact,” he said. “The phone has specific use cases for the day of travel, notifications, flight disruption, and check in.”
To effectively connect with consumers at each stage of the purchasing journey, travel brands must develop content and user experiences geared towards each platform at various times while their customers are booking their travel arrangements.
Lisa Kauffman, VP of Marketing at Celebrity Cruises, believes that mobile use will trend towards on-board experiences in the future. “When you’re on board, that’s the holy grail, and we’re heading into that territory. That means staying connected while on board, sharing experiences and connecting with other guests,” she said.
Travel means an in-depth brand experience
For travel brands, the lengthily nature of travel provides a unique opportunity to interact with consumers. Consumers are willing to put money towards an experience, so developing a meaningful, engaging experience is crucial for travel companies. Brands have their audience’s attention for the duration of the flight, the hotel stay, or the cruise. Many consumers plan and book vacations months ahead of time, giving brands even more time to create a positive, interactive experience.
“The average time to be on board (a cruise) is nine days, which is a long time to experience a brand,” Lisa said. “Consumers are also the happiest because they are on vacation.”
Experiential messaging and authentic branding should be priorities for travel brands, with content ideally created by the user community.
“The affluent consumer is all about experiences, meaning spending money on experience versus things,” Lisa said. “People are willing to spend on travel, so positioning ourselves as modern luxury is all about creating unique, immersive experiences.”
An extensive brand experience equals an extensive social experience
This in-depth brand experience highlights the importance of social through each stage of travel. Consumers choose airlines or cruise lines based on recommendations from friends, research travel brands via social, and use social to interact with other guests during the trip.
“The purpose of social channels is to entice people to come back, research, and immerse themselves from a content perspective,” said David Elkins, Senior Director of Advertising at Tripadvisor. “Organic is best, but we also have a team focused on putting ideas out.”
The executives’ primary focus in social is engagement and conversations with consumers, not simply social content marketing. While content is important, for the brand experience to be completely immersive and authentic, consumers need to be participating in the social conversation.
Avi measures the success of social by “looking at the basics of metrics. Looking at the tone and substance of what people say. From a corporate standpoint, we want consumers to be engaged in the conversation. We don’t just want impressions—we want conversations we are building with customers.”
Defining your brand is vital
Travel advertisers are recognizing the importance of clearly defining and differentiating their products. Because consumers are spending so much money on travel, they are looking for the exact experience they want.
Celebrity Cruises is differentiating itself as a modern luxury travel brand. According to Lisa Kauffman, “The first leap is to see ourselves as a vacation brand and not just a cruise brand. Then, it’s important to look at the vacation universe and segment our audience based on vacation experiences, how they spend, and what leisure activities are relevant to them. The sweet spot is international travelers who dine out and who are into culture.”