The more things change…and how some things remain the same

If you’ve got the dosh, then spending on marketing is a worthwhile exercise, providing you have your priorities right.

There are a couple of major ways in which online traffic is being monetised in the travel sector. These largely centre around two business models – on that is transaction-oriented and the other based on traffic trading. Of course depending on the model, the priority of travel marketers may vary. In the case of those specialising in traffic trading, the main drive is to acquire online traffic and monetise it. The value proposition is typically free content, and earnings are garnered via outbound links to other sites.

EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta talks to travel meta-search engine Wego’s chief marketing officer Joachim Holte about the challenges facing marketers, the evolution of metrics and how to prioritise marketing initiatives.

EFT: What is the most challenging part of being a travel marketer?

JH: For Wego, it is connecting with people at the appropriate place in the travel booking funnel. For example when they are ready to purchase. Because of our global scale it is also about gaining a good understanding of all the different markets we operate in - they are all very unique with their own idiosyncrasies. 

EFT: How are marketers getting closer to customers? How necessary is it to capture customer data from websites and to analyse it using statistical methods?

JH: Despite all the technology that we have today getting personal information is still the same as it always was. You have to offer something in return for the information that you want (logging in to receive price alerts etc). With aggregated information, such as location, it is much easier now, but the granular and most valuable information is still difficult to come by.

As an example, a business like Wego, with around 5 million visitors to our site every month, needs some serious chops in terms of data science - we have a fairly large team in this area - so that we can glean useful information from the millions of data points generated. 

EFT: Can you share how marketing metrics have evolved?

JH: Back in the day there was a saying that ‘50% of my marketing is working really well, I just don’t know which 50%’.

We have now evolved to a point where we can track everything that happens online with some certainty; which invariably just opens up new questions around channel mix and attribution systems. In general, the additional information is a very positive development but it can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis if one isn’t careful.  

EFT: Can you explain how initiatives such as time stamping important milestone transitions or evaluations such as cost-per-lead, cost-per-revenue dollar and so on are reducing wastage of marketing expenditure?

JH: There are lots of different metrics out there, and software to help you track, and they all go a long way to ensuring that you are aware of the return for each dollar spent. This is far away from where we were even ten years ago and, if marketing was an efficient market, we would all acquire and use this information in the best possible way. Fortunately the market isn’t efficient, so there are a lot of opportunities to be smarter than the next guy. I will say that online travel companies have to some extent led the way in this area. You can’t sustain Priceline-sized marketing spend without understanding exactly what is resulting from that spend. 

EFT: How do you priortise your marketing initiatives in terms of the timing and the likelihood of return on investment?  

JH: We have our bread and butter - like Google Adwords - which we know works well so we keep a lot of arrows in our quiver at any one time that are always on. We evaluate each new opportunity by its merits - if something seems like it will work then we try it (time permitting) and if it doesn’t we either shut it down or see if it is worth optimising. It is very hard to say that something won’t work until you’ve had at least a little bit of experience with it.

EFT: How has the multi-channel shopping environment impacted customer decision-making and the sales funnel? Can you list the changes in shopping behaviour?

JH: There are too many to list. With the Internet everything changed and things are very much in the process of changing again with the growth of mobile - especially as some people are accessing the internet through mobile for the first time and exclusively – they’re skipping the desktop entirely. The only certainty is that shopping behaviour will continue to change. 

EFT: Considering the amount of time consumers are spending online, how do digital channels contribute to brand building?

JH: They contribute, all of them, in different ways. However, it is very hard to quantify exactly how they do. Undoubtedly there are brands that have built themselves up 100% using online channels - including purely through paid and organic search, but there isn’t a roadmap for that type of brand building out there. If you look at something like Youtube for example, there is no reason why you can’t run an entire brand building campaign on a digital channel - in most countries it gets far more eyeballs than the TV stations. 

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