Travel advertising is most effective when you understand your audience — and that includes the complex journey today’s travelers take before booking. Our custom research reveals what people do as they gather inspiration and conduct research prior to booking their trip. Knowing what influences them and when is a powerful part of a successful travel advertising strategy.

What are the stages of the buyer’s journey?

Our Path to Purchase study with Luth Research — which included seven countries, nearly 6,000 survey respondents, and a 70,000+ digital data panel — uncovered how travelers plan and book online and the resources they turn to along the way. This purchasing journey features three stages: inspiration, research and planning, and booking.

Download Path to Purchase ebook

Why the stages of a buyer’s journey matter for travel advertising

We know that understanding your target audiences’ behavior is a vital part of travel advertising, especially in an increasingly fragmented market. You can make powerful campaign decisions and adapt your marketing plan if you know where your audience is searching, what content they’re interacting with, and what shapes their decisions as they move through the funnel.

Our full-funnel suite of solutions can help you effectively engage travelers at every stage of the buyers’ journey. Below, we share some specific ideas, potential solutions, and case studies for using these advertising tools at different stages to connect with travelers and reach your goals.

Inspiration: Shape travelers’ plans early

The inspiration stage, when travelers first begin thinking about a trip, is the start of the buyer’s journey. Our research shows that people spend 33 days in this stage, interacting with their friends, family, social media, and more. This initial phase presents an opportunity for advertisers to build awareness with travelers.

While some marketers may wait to target travelers after showing interest in their destination or offering, advertising during the inspiration stage can allow you to shape that destination decision. Our study shows that travelers are indecisive at this stage, with three out of five travelers considering multiple destinations as they try to figure out where they want to go. This creates a window where you can boost your visibility and showcase the unique amenities, activities, and experiences your destination offers.

To reach these travelers, you’re not tied to a single solution as our advertising tools work individually or together to help you connect with travelers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Here’s an overview of some of our solutions and how you can use them during the inspiration stage:

Travel Spotlights

Inspiration is the wanderlust phase, when gorgeous images, compelling content, and exciting experiences move people. Our research shows that 45% of travelers visit destination sites during this stage.

One way to advertise to travelers at this stage is with Travel Spotlights that offer elegant and impactful premium landing page experiences. From stunning galleries and videos to engaging quizzes, you can help travelers envision themselves at your destination or hotel or experiencing one of the activities you offer.

Social media solutions

According to our Path to Purchase study, 65% of travelers use social media for destination inspiration and 49% for lodging recommendations and inspiration. You can get noticed at this stage by increasing your mobile advertising to boost your presence across social media. We offer a variety of solutions to reach that goal, like transforming standard ads into a native social experience across travelers’ feeds or influencer content.

Co-op campaigns

Suppose your pain point is that you feel like your destination is being overlooked. In that case, consider a co-op campaign that sets you apart during the inspiration stage to attract travelers. With co-op campaigns, we unite multiple brands with common marketing goals to take your budget and message further.

This strategy of using a co-op campaign during the inspiration phase increased demand by 40% in Kyushu, the southernmost region of Japan, as part of a 10-city regional campaign.

Research and planning: Reach travelers while they browse

We know that travelers use a variety of resources at this stage to gather and refine their options, including search engines, travel websites, social media, destination websites, and OTAs. You can drive travelers to book with you by targeting them at this stage, so we’ve gathered ways you can use some of our solutions to reach travelers researching and planning.

TravelAds Sponsored Listings

At the research stage, where nearly three-fourths of travelers use search engines, your advertising can help you achieve more prominent placement in search results. Combined with the fact that among travelers using resources in the planning stage, OTAs become the top online resource, an effective plan for this stage is to boost your hotel’s visibility.

TravelAds is a flexible pay-per-click solution that helps you deliver the right message with customized ad copy and images and lets you get real-time reporting on your campaign’s performance to help you manage your spend. With TravelAds, you can extend your reach with ads across Expedia’s 200+ travel websites and apps. Globally, properties running a TravelAds campaign were 90% more visible in search results and gained 120% more bookings than properties that didn’t use TravelAds.* Plus, TravelAds can be even more impactful when combined with other solutions.

Display advertising

Another way to get noticed at this stage is with our scalable display advertising that highlights your brand. With mobile campaigns, branded emails, and more, you can showcase what makes your destination or property unique and create a strong call to action to engage your target audience as they browse.

The robust targeting capabilities of TravelAds and display ads can help you reach your ideal travelers across any vertical. Whether you’re looking to increase bookings on a particular flight route, attract travelers looking to combine work and play at your destination, or engage with your target audience who are looking for specific hotel amenities, targeted advertising strategies at the research and planning stage of a traveler’s journey can help you connect with the right traveler at the right time.

Palace Resorts used a combination of TravelAds and display advertising, with custom copy and images, to stand out from the competition. Travelers who saw multiple ads had a conversion rate of 2.6x, and 17% more travelers converted when display advertising was combined with TravelAds. During the consideration stage, the buyer consumes a variety of content, so ensuring you stand out helps boost your performance.

Using TravelAds in tandem with display advertising made the impact we were looking for. DANIEL CONTE, DIRECTOR OF ONLINE DISTRIBUTION, PALACE RESORTS

Booking: Show up to capture demand

When travelers reach the stage where they’re actively booking flights, rooms, activities, and more, you should make it as easy as possible for them to choose you. This includes reaching them where and how they book, whether that’s on a mobile device or desktop or while watching travel programming.

Shoppable streaming platform

To convert travelers from looking to booking in a way other brands can’t, you can advertise on our shoppable streaming platform that lets travelers book as they watch travel programming as part of an immersive travel experience.

PassportAds Audience Extension

This solution lets you reach travelers wherever they are online to shape their purchase decisions. Our first-party data helps you leverage billions of data points to connect with your target audience and engage potential customers.

Korean Air used PassportAds to increase bookings by reaching U.S. shoppers through custom audience segments, delivering a 10:1 ROAS. Airlines can also use Flight Sponsored Listings at the booking stage to capture demand from the billions of flight searches made on our 200+ websites and apps every year.

Travel advertising for every stage of the buyers’ journey

The travel shopping journey is complex, lasting 71 days on average, and our solutions, targeting capabilities, custom research, and exclusive first-party data can reach travelers at the right moment to help you reach your goals.

We can help you maximize your content marketing strategy along the traveler purchasing journey. To find out how to connect with and convert travelers, download our ebook for a deeper look at how our advertising solutions can help you reach travelers at every stage of their buying journey.

Download Path to Purchase ebook

* Expedia Group internal data, July 2021-July 2022

About Expedia Group Media Solutions

Expedia Group Media Solutions is a global travel advertising platform that connects marketers with hundreds of millions of travelers across Expedia Group's 200+ websites and apps. Our exclusive first-party data on traveler trends, search behavior, and booking data provides travel advertisers and marketers with unique insights to inform their strategies. We offer a full-funnel suite of solutions to help our partners connect with and convert travelers globally. Our digital experts have more than 20 years of travel and media experience to help our partners create advertising campaigns that deliver meaningful results.

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