Lee Hayhurst reports from a personalisation and conversion masterclass at last week’s TTE from Sagittarius’s Paul Stephen and Layton Anderson of the Trafalgar and Costsaver brands in The Travel Corporation family
Travel firms heavily reliant on programmatic marketing need to rethink their strategy as the ability to track people using third party cookies are phased out, TTE delegates were told.
Paul Stephen, chief executive of digital agency Sagittarius, told a session on how to increase conversions through personalisation, that “contextual advertising is back”.
“Context is key, because following people around the internet is going to become more difficult,” he said. “There is a change coming.
“If you are really heavily reliant on programmatic marketing you need to look at that. You have to go to where your customers are.
“When it comes to being able to segment and personalise you now need to take more control of that user journey when they are on your real estate.
“There are a number of tools available so you know about them because you have seen them before.”
Stephen said users of Google’s Chrome browser can now turn off third party cookies and that will soon become the default setting, as it already is on Apple’s Safari browser and Firefox.
He said the general public’s awareness of the way organisations and companies abuse personal data was raised thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal ahead of new GDPR rules coming in in Europe.
“People are wary of giving data to you,” Stephen said. “We are now legally obliged to be more careful. It’s getting harder to capture that data and hold on to it.
“But the reality is we really do need to create a more optimised experience.”
Despite this Stephen said there are still many tactics to improve conversion that do not require the capturing and keeping of personal data.
He said simple details that can be capture through Customer Relationship Management platforms can give firms signals about user intent without needing their email or personal details.
“This is a holiday you are selling. It’s all about the whole experience. It’s the stuff that happens on the website that’s where the holiday really starts.”
“As marketers we have a tendency to get as much information from our user at any point. That may be for legitimate reasons. Getting customer data can be a force for good.
“However, we have a tendency to ask for way more information than we can actually use. Ninety percent of what we ask for we don’t use most of the time.
“So how do we make sure we are not abusing our position in terms of what we are requesting and asking for and just leveraging the things that we need?
“Often it the most simple things that we need to provide the most optimised experience for our users. The important point is around making sure we stay relevant.”
Anderson cited the rock band Metallica which creates localised play lists based on what people in the destinations it is playing are listening to on Spotify.
And on-demand fashion brand Choosy uses social proofing metrics before deciding what products to manufacturer. Amazon’s bricks and mortar stores only stock items rated four and five stars.
“We are very interested in showing that we know what’s interesting to out customers,” Anderson said.
One area where Trafalgar struggled to turn improved engagement into conversions was on social, Anderson added.
“When we were beefing up our social strategy we took a lot of best practice advice and followed a lot of conversations and did what we were told to do.
“Yes, we got some improvements, but people were not really interested in what we were doing in our business. We were not turning social in to consumers, not getting the RIU we needed.”
A key learning for the Trafalgar and Costsaver brands has been the importance of using consumer data to extract the insight into what they were looking for and how.
“It was only when we engaged with our consumers that we could optimise our experience accordingly,” Anderson said and warned firms could end up in a “Cambridge Analytica situation” if they execute their strategy poorly.
“Done well is can be a force for good. If you are using customer data to create better experiences there are not many consumers who are going to take any issues with that.
“It’s about not abusing their trust, not asking for what we do not need. Do not come across as over familiar or creepy. It’s knowing what to ask for and when.”
Although the average Trafalgar client is aged 50-plus the brand has seen a significant shift to mobile which has taken over desktop of the most-used device at 45% of all visits.
“People are consuming content on mobile but not achieving their goals. Context is so critical,” said Anderson.
“You need to make sure you are optimising not just the lay out of the page but the content need to be presented differently. We have had to pivot to a mobile-first approach to our marketing.”
Stephen said: “Throughout the whole journey there are opportunities for personification. There are lots of signals to tell you people moving through the sales funnel.
“Between purchase and travel, this space in between could be as much as six months or more but it’s actually a magic moment. Often it’s lost.
“Definitely there are opportunities for up-sell, then there are opportunities after the holiday, when you want to be treating the customer differently.
“You need some tools to do this, but actually you do not need names and emails, you don’t need one to one personalisation to do this.
“Just using insight into the device they are on, where they are in the world, is it there first or third visit to the site, what did they search for last time is enough.
“Even if they have not bought something or given an email you may know them. This is still quite basic stuff but it really works.”