Guest post: It’s never too early for travel brands to start thinking ahead

Guest post: It’s never too early for travel brands to start thinking ahead

Pauline Lemaire, head of travel at Criteo, reveals trends and insights which can help travel retailers make the most out of their turn-of-year campaigns.

Here in the UK, we spend more per person on online travel bookings than anywhere else in Europe. Whether it’s to escape the notoriously bad weather, avoid the ever-increasing fares associated with domestic trains or simply to explore the wonders of the world beyond Britain’s boundaries, we love a holiday. And at this time of year in particular it seems that the UK is more travel obsessed than usual.

While the industry might be forgiven for thinking that December and January sees Britain’s shoppers firmly focused on a three-month long sales period that includes Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day discounts, holidays are never far from the nationwide consciousness. Of course, travel agents and sites offer their own deals to coincide with these key dates but as the country prepares to start wrapping presents, industries such as fashion, toys, games and homeware tend to dominate the retail limelight.

However, long before Christmas trees across the country have lost their pines, shoppers are already thinking about where they will be jetting off to in 2018. This time last year, data from Criteo showed that both online traffic and travel bookings began to increase as early as Boxing Day with some of the busiest days in early January expected to see sale increases of more than 50%. Whether it’s a ski trip, city break or booking some summer sun, the cold weather coupled with the return to work sees shoppers’ attention quickly turn to travel. In fact, that first week back to work should have one of the more significant impacts on holiday bookings with January 8 (the first working Monday of 2018) predicted to experience sales spikes of 52% – the highest of the peak period.

For retailers in the sector, this post-Christmas period is key with the daily number of websites browsed increasing by 9%. But it’s not just browsing, both traffic and bookings jump after Boxing Day. Visitor numbers increase by 38% while bookings jump by a third (33%). This amounts to a staggering 1.5 million bookings processed in January.

In particular demand at this time of year are last minute bookings, which accounted for 20% of bookings made between January 1 and 18 2017. A further 25% of sales in the same period are for bookings departing in July or August. For travel retailers, this is essential insight which should fuel their end of year and early 2018 campaign strategies.

But to fully capitalise on the UK’s hunger for travel at this time of year, travel retailers need to address the changing browsing and buying behaviour of travel. As with many industries, the days of researching and booking a holiday on a single device is a thing of a past.

Having analysed billions of travel buyer transactions, we know that travel buyers hop from one device to another to view the same destination, hotel or flight. On average of 4.9 devices are being used before a purchase is made. With the path to purchase now made up of multiple devices, providing a consistent experience is essential. We recently partnered with the UK e-retail industry association, the IMRG, to conduct research which highlighted the importance of identifying and connecting shoppers across devices in response to ever-evolving shopping behaviour. This research found that almost half of shoppers find it frustrating when their preferences or past activities are not seamlessly connected across channels, for the travel industry looking to capitalise on Britain’s increased wanderlust at this time of year, getting this right is essential.

As the customer journey becomes ever more complex and fragmented across multiple online sessions and devices, using shoppers’ data in a smart and personalised way is key to delivering this joined up experience. Travel retailers need to invest in digital to effectively collect, use, integrate, and optimise their customers’ data particularly at this increasingly crucial time of year for the sector. The businesses that enable themselves to do this and innovate their use of data to get a holistic view of their shoppers will set them apart in this highly competitive industry.

So whether Santa left sunscreen, skis or walking boots under the tree this year, a nation of travellers won’t be hanging around to book their 2018 holidays. If retailers put a country of holidaymakers on their Christmas lists, they’ve certainly got what they asked for.

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