Three tips for targeting the multi-channel shopper with relevant offers

Getting to grips with data, understanding changes in the marketing mix and communicating with customers in the right way are three ways travel brands can get closer to customers. Ritesh Gupta investigates

Exactly how workable is the concept of being in touch with travellers at every touch point in their journey? Well there is no clear answer to this question! Even senior marketers have to admit that nothing is ever 100% precise in the world of analytics!

But this doesn’t mean that travel brands can’t try to reach consumers before, during and after their stay. Nor should it stop brands from putting in place mechanisms to gather feedback from customers to better understand their journey. That said this can be complicated. So considering evolving behaviour we take a look at three areas today that demand the close attention of marketers:  

1.      Using data to know your customers

Travel marketers have to ensure that they work out ways to meet their customer wherever they want to be met. To achieve this means securing data from all channels and pulling it together into meaningful insights into a particular buyer that can be acted upon. Here are a few tips for achieving this:

·         Ensure the accuracy of your data: Make sure you are gathering the right data. Engage specialists in analytics and test to ensure that your data is accurate.

·         Use data to assess the value of different initiatives: This can, for example, pave way for a better channel mix. One can chase everything that happens online with some certainty which means you can analyse your channel mix from new angles.

·         Don’t be put off by attribution: As Joachim Holte, CMO of Wego, points out attribution complicates this [assigning value to initiatives] but also gives you a better platform for decision-making, especially when you start looking at post view conversions and different attribution models). However, he also says, “there’s a balance to be had here”. 

2.     Changes in the marketing mix

The multi-channel shopping environment has forced changes in the marketing mix. Manish Shah, Director of Strategy & Analytics, InterContinental Hotels Group, suggests three ways to deal with with it:

·         Optimise value: The emergence of a multitude of digital channels and platforms has made the marketing mix much more complex. “Marketers must consider not just the multitude of channels available, but also how to connect physical and digital channels within marketing programmes to optimise value,” says Shah.

·         Technology solutions: IHG says it is seeing the emergence of technology solutions that help companies look across both digital and traditional marketing programmes, and to understand, at a macro level, what actually leads to conversions. These marketing mix modelling vendors deliver on this approach by combining legacy systems or tools with econometric modelling. There is a market need for these capabilities, which often organisations do not have internally. This has propelled significant growth in development of this specialty in the marketplace over the past five years.

·         Collaboration: In parallel, corporations are setting up internal advanced analytics teams who will partner with marketing mix modelling firms to holistically answer where to invest marketing dollars to drive both revenue and brand equity metrics.

3.     Communication

Another critical aspect is how travel e-commerce players focus on communicating during the multi-faceted sales funnel. So what exactly needs to be done?  According to Shah, it is critical to take into consideration customer groups and customer segmentation. In the hotel industry, one must identify who is the travel planner versus who is consuming travel, as well as groupings or segments within travel planners and consumers. 

Take for example two sample travel managers:  

a)     A medium-sized business operation where a travel manager may not be travelling, but may be making decisions (for air, hotel and so on) on behalf of the group.

b)     Consider a family. Research on the modern family reveals that one person typically dominates the booking of family vacations, yet all members of the family will be consuming the stay.

“We would need to identify and work with the family travel planner who is planning a vacation to Disney and provide tools and informational needs for them across multiple channels,” explains Shah. “We then must provide a completely different mechanism for the entire family together to experience the travel after it is booked.”

Maintaining relevancy is extremely challenging. “We must surface the right message at the right time for the right product at the right price. Each has its own analytics and complexities to understand and prioritise for a specific segment,” says Shah.

For a family travelling to a major theme park and planning to stay overnight, we can infer that they’re probably budget constrained and need information four to six months in advance. How do you intersect them at the right time with the right product, likely a Holiday Inn hotel?

However, the mother of same family goes on a business trip one week later. She is headed to Chicago and wants to entertain a client. Price likely isn’t an issue, but place is very important. We need to reach her within a week of her planning to intercept with the right message which may include an offer or reason to choose an InterContinental hotel.

Today’s consumer is not a single channel consumer; they’re multi-channel. Smart brands will have a continuous conversation with the consumer, so that they don’t have to start over at every touch point (eg. call centre, in hotel, mobile).  

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