Industry Update
Opinion Article20 September 2011

Balancing key new marketing trends with limited time and resources

IN-DEPTH: Mobile, social media, rich media, digital advertising, personalisation… marketers are continuously trying to get their arms around these areas

By Ritesh Gupta

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Travel marketers are looking at enhancing their digital marketing strategies in order to raise the bar on customer experience and improve upon their conversion rates.

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Mobile, social media, rich media, digital advertising, personalisation… marketers are continuously trying to get their arms around these areas.

Digital trends are exciting and can offer the opportunity to engage with customers in a new way.

Overall, there is a need to judiciously balance marketing spend between the traditional online channels/ options such as direct websites, display advertising and search engine marketing and the growing channels like social media and mobile websites.

Social media, mobile and the advances in online advertising (media) have each experienced significant innovation over the past few years, says Monique Jaspers-Wijn, VP Business Development, EMEA, Sabre Hospitality Solutions.

"Now, the most path-breaking opportunities are being presented in the convergence of these three specific areas: the technological evolution of the mobile device operating systems and touch screen interfaces, the huge adoption of social media, the concepts of profile portability (or single sign on), and geo-location capabilities of mobile phones," according to Jaspers-Wijn, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming EyeforTravel's Online Marketing & Social Media Europe 2011, to be held in Amsterdam (October 10-11) this year.

"Consumers are now seamlessly moving between social applications that are location aware and between them pass elements of a person's profile and social network. The opportunity to insert dynamic and rich media messaging into this "conversation" is probably the biggest opportunity being created. How we, as travel professionals, leverage this opportunity in an enriching way to connect one-on-one with our guests is a great opportunity,"

Jaspers-Wijn spoke to EyeforTravel's Ritesh Gupta about the latest trends. Excerpts:

Considering the latest digital trends, is there any area which you feel specifically needs to be followed at this stage in terms of its potential or opportunity?

Monique Jaspers-Wijn:

The travel sector faces increasingly huge opportunities in mobile. We recently published a bi-annual survey on business travellers' use of mobile devices. The results confirmed predictions made several years ago: that mobile would be the industry trend on which to focus. In a nutshell, travellers are using smartphones on every trip and also tend to access various related travel services before, after, and during those trips. One of the items I found particularly relevant was that the majority of respondents indicated they were now looking for destination-specific offers from business while on a trip. This is up 85% from a similar survey we did in 2009. The increased interest in mobile advertising presents an enormous opportunity for travel services to capitalise on mobile marketing initiatives.

How should one take a call in terms of allocating resources and budgets for the same? How should one approach the latest digital trends?

Monique Jaspers-Wijn:

Allocating marketing budgets appropriately for each channel vehicle is still the strategy we advise.

One must obviously evaluate the reach of each channel (i.e. how many people use it) and the amount of time people spend there, but it's also crucial to look at consumer behaviour in each area. It will have a direct impact on your decision on how much to invest. So, for example, in a channel where consumers are interacting socially with friends and family there should be a balance between generating engaging content and hard-sell messaging or tools. However, it's still that case that marketers under-spend in digital channels based on the amount of time consumers are spending there. If your consumer is spending 25% of their time online is 25+% of your marketing budget going there?

It is being underlined that travel videos are the most important and fastest growing trend in travel planning today and users want more visual options to help them plan the perfect trip. How and why should one go about video content at this stage?

Monique Jaspers-Wijn:

When developing a video-content strategy a combination of professionally produced video and consumer-generated video will yield the best results as together they provide controlled messaging and effectiveness of peer or unvarnished review. Where to place and aggregate the video content will also contribute to the success of the medium in conversion. Enhancing online content with appropriate video media and ensuring video aggregation channels and search engines are well optimised is critical to success.

How do you assess efforts related to an approach that integrates rich content, geo-location, social networks and features like augmented reality? How do you assess the current efforts to simplify the user experience in the overall planning and booking process?

Monique Jaspers-Wijn:

Looking at channels generically no longer works. With the advent of mobile devices and now touch screen devices (tables) a new element has been added to the strategy equation: think about your content from both - a format perspective: will a flash video work or be optimised on a mobile device and a table with a larger screen – what about the operating system? Also based on the device and the channel what is the appropriate content to serve the user at that specific time and location to enrich their experience and interaction?

According to SAS, many organisations cling to old paradigms, using social media for one-way flow of marketing messages, instead of capitalising on the opportunity to monitor, analyse, and participate in millions of conversations among consumers. What do you make of the situation?

Monique Jaspers-Wijn:

Especially in Social Media channels a one way messaging strategy is no longer going to be effective. A combination of providing enriching content worth sharing and discussing to spark conversation and joining and adding to existing conversations is critical. If nothing else provide users the ability to easily share and start conversations around your brand and monitor the conversations as much opportunity to refine your own messaging and services can be gleaned in this way.

EyeforTravel's Online Marketing & Social Media Europe 2011 EyeforTravel's Online Marketing & Social Media Europe 2011 is scheduled to take place in Amsterdam (October 10-11) this year. For more information, click here

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