Henry Eccles, Head of e-commerce, Google UK.
What’s the most frequent question your friends and family ask when you return from holiday? Beyond the ritual “So, how was it?” (and disqualifying remarks about tans) I’d wager “How was your journey?” is a contender for the top spot. In my experience, reports of drama and delays often precipitate a domino-effect of travel nightmares being shared.
For travel brands and agencies, the importance of the journey to the consumer has long been known. Whether it’s the flight, the transfer to the hotel or booking the holiday itself, people want a smooth, convenient experience.
Fundamental to the success of travel search engine, Skyscanner is its completely user-centric approach, offering consumers an unbiased, transparent way to compare a vast array of travel products and options. Skyscanner made convenience for its consumers a crucial part of its search and booking process, but wanted to expand this to another area: its advertising.
Skyscanner wanted to create a bespoke, engaging advertising experience for its users and looked to work with Google Marketing Platform to create bespoke native ad formats. The travel search engine set out three goals:
1. Deliver highly relevant messages to users with visually attractive, customised creative.
2. Provide world-class products to partners, automated and unique for every brand.
3. Increase advertising revenue using an industry-leading native product.
To achieve its goals, it collaborated with Google’s technical and commercial teams. This partnership pushed both Google and Skyscanner to create innovative solutions and build the right products for the brand.
Three products were built, each with their own purpose: ‘Flights In-line’ for contextual performance, in which flight ads appear ‘in line’ with search results and so fit naturally with organic results, ‘Dynamic multi-layout’ through which an internal feed is used to automatically serve an image of the destination the customer is searching for in a relevant ad, while the ‘Discovery Tile’ is used to display homepage branding. Crucially, each of these formats was created with automation and scalability in mind and worked seamlessly cross-screen and cross-platform.
These native products enabled Skyscanner to provide users with useful, contextually relevant advertising from its travel partners. For instance, the formats would instantly provide travellers with a bookable price for a service during the dates and in the destination they were searching for and present the opportunity for a quick, one-click journey.
The formats made the task of creating adverts easier for clients and partners, too. Each advert served to users is dynamic – meaning it is automatically created based on the users’ search. This empowered Skyscanner’s partners as it meant they did not need to produce thousands of versions of creative for each individual destination that a user might be searching for.
For example, if a user was searching for a trip to Barbados, Skyscanner’s internal image feed would automatically serve a beautiful, engaging image of the searched for destination that fits within the format – no client creative required. Further to this, internal language translation technology enables each advert’s copy to be localised for every user, regardless of whether they are viewing the site in English, Japanese or Spanish.
This ability to easily adapt to the context for the user reflects something we’re seeing across the travel industry (and beyond). Not only does a great experience for the user yield better results, but smart use of data can make both partner and user experience much simpler.
It’s crucial in the complex travel sector for multiple partners to be able to work together, making journeys and bookings that much more seamless for holiday-makers. One way to do this, as demonstrated by Skyscanner, is by enabling relevant ads that sit neatly into the design of your brand’s website – as making the customer journey easy and effective should be top of the list for every travel marketer. And for Skyscanner, it’s delivered results.
Skyscanner saw an impressive increase in click-rates, achieving a rate seven times higher than standard display banners and astronomically high viewability of greater than 90%. The formats are now Skyscanner’s most in-demand product by its advertisers, and enabled the business to achieve its goal of growing advertising revenue whilst supporting its partners’ needs and goals.
The lesson for travel agents, comparison sites and brands is not a new one: in travel, convenience is king. But new technologies and products enable brands to apply this rule to their advertising, creating dynamic and relevant ads that work to create a better experience for users, and drive better results for business.