EyeforTravel North America 2018

October 2018, Las Vegas

Understand how data, digital and partnerships can make your marketing work again

How to market to Chinese travellers heading West

Chinese outbound travellers are becoming more adventurous, and this creates many opportunities, but is there a 'local' balance to be struck between brand and performance marketing?

One of the biggest challenges facing destination marketers and travel companies looking to secure a foothold in China is how to find and engage a Chinese audience. First and foremost, they must find a local partner, says Humphrey Ho, Managing Director, Hylink Digital, which recently cemented its commitment to the tourism segment with the launch of Hylink Travel.

Having local insight, however, is one thing, but that partner should also have access to the data of China’s most powerful publishers such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. After all, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre, this is a country where, in 2017, 772 million of its 1.3 billion citizens were ‘netizens’, and 97.5% of those accessed the internet via mobile. Even more crucially, today China accounts for 42% of the global e-commerce market, finds a report by McKinsey, versus 24% in the US.

As China’s largest independent digital ad agency, and with 85% of its 2017 revenue coming from digital, Hylink, believes it is strongly positioned to work with the growing number of destination marketers and travel companies looking to target Chinese outbound travellers. Brand USA, which chose Hylink as its advertising China 'agency of record' last year, and has a goal of attracting 5 million Chinese visitors to the US by 2020, seems to think so.

For US firms looking to target Chinese tourists, there was good news from a recent HotelBeds survey which outlined where outbound travellers were headed for Golden Week, the seven-day national holiday that started this week on October 1st. While Asian destinations are still popular spots, in this year’s top 10 there are four countries from other parts of the world – the US being the front runner, followed by Italy, France and Spain.

So, when it comes to getting their marketing message out, what do travel brands need to understand about the Chinese market?

  • Performance: it’s not just about the numbers

“Most travel brands’ focus tends to be skewed toward performance: ROI, room nights, and flights. But when solely focused on sales, an essential marketing component is neglected –– that is, cart abandonment rate, or, understanding who decided not to book,” says Ho. A marketer should be equally as concerned about reducing that number, as well as increasing the rate at which customers are visiting their website.

OTAs such as Ctrip and Fliggy are “certainly valuable”…but focusing only on those platforms can be limiting

OTAs such as Ctrip and Fliggy are certainly valuable, says Ho, but focusing only on those platforms can be limiting. He adds that, while sales are important, travel brands shouldn’t ignore the inspiration phase.

Key takeaway: Performance marketing, by itself, isn’t always sustainable. “What we need to look beyond are campaigns that are purely discount-driven – a good incentive, but not the full picture,” says Ho.

  • Branding practices should be integrated and thoughtful

In addition to running campaigns on OTAs, Hylink is utilising more content-driven platforms such as Mafengwo, a social trip-planning site that late last year received a $133-million investment to support the branding element; it uses blogs and influencers to spark inspiration among prospective travelers. In addition, it leverages native ads, programmatic ads on mobile, and search ads to drive higher click through rates.

Understanding user behaviour is also imperative to the execution of branding campaigns, and allows marketers to target consumers strategically through mobile news feeds like Toutiao, or social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat.

Key takeaway: Once you identify the popular platforms for the desired consumer group, you can place your ads exactly where they spend the majority of their digital time.

  • The Chinese traveller needs are shifting 

A decade has passed since the 10-year visa was announced in China. Since then, there has been steady growth in the number of outbound Chinese travellers heading to the US. For many, this will be their second or third trip. For those travellers they have likely already hit the tourist spots in New York or other major cities, and are now seeking a more curated experience: they want to discover hidden gems, try new foods, and live like a local.

“They don’t need iconic figures, like  the Empire State Building, Hollywood Sign, or the Chicago Bean—they want something more,” says Ho.

Key takeaway: To get the Chinese traveler to head West, you have to inspire them to uncover something new – and this isn’t possible without a strong branding strategy, supplemented by performance.

Join us in Las Vegas (Oct 18-19) to hear more from Humphrey Ho, Managing Director, Hylink Digital and an EyeforTravel speaker and sponsor 

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