Guest Post: Time is money in mobile travel marketing

Guest Post: Time is money in mobile travel marketing

Performance advertising on mobile is improving all the time and is an opportunity not to be missed, says Jon Buss, managing director Northern Europe at Criteo

Technology is making the world a smaller place. Perhaps more than any other recent invention, smartphones and the mobile Internet have revolutionised the way people travel. Off-the-cuff decisions and spontaneous excursions are, with the help of on-demand maps, transport timetables, and online accommodation booking sites, easier to make than ever before. Queues for crowded cybercafés now seem a quirk of the past.

Similarly, the rise of mobile has provided travel and hospitality companies with an additional and, according to a recent eMarketer report, increasingly popular retail platform for holidaymakers. Companies in the travel industry – particularly those already flourishing on the web, such as flight, hotel and car hire comparison sites – have endeavoured  to stay apace with the mobile boom, and many successfully so. The move to mobile hasn’t all be rosy, however, as retailers initially suffered from a dearth of sophisticated mobile advertising options.

Performance advertising has long allowed travel companies to recapture lost value from browsers who did not convert to buyers. This, combined with a recent Criteo report which found that travel ad click-through rates are higher on mobile than desktop, highlights the scale of the opportunity for both retailers and marketers. An opportunity, needless to say, that shouldn’t be missed.

Recent technological developments have sought to redress the risk-reward balance of investing in mobile through a variety of means, allowing advertisers to take full advantage of the mobile platform and reach their audience with timely, relevant, personalised advertisements.

In-app advertising

The favoured form of mobile browsing for many, apps have been a key consideration (and area of investment) for travel companies. Being able to show relevant ads within apps allows marketers to offer and capitalise on the kind of personalised consumer experience that is so crucial to effecting conversions.

Thanks to in-app performance advertising, it’s possible for marketers to deliver the same highly personalised ads to consumers based on their app-based browsing habits in the same way that they have been doing with desktop users. This not only allows companies to make the most of their substantial mobile user bases, but also to capitalise on the small windows of opportunity offered by typically time sensitive mobile shoppers.

Dynamic ads

Despite considerable advances, mobile ads remain plagued by two key issues: firstly, that frequently they can appear impersonal and irrelevant (whether being shown ads for apps they already own or have no intention of ever installing); secondly, that mobile ads can be difficult to interact with – not only on account of their scale, but also as a result of a vague call to action that requires multiple follow-up clicks to arrive at the right page (diminishing the likelihood not only of conversions but also of future interactions).

The combined effect is of ads firstly being ignored, through assumption of their irrelevance, and secondly, left void of user engagement.Such ads are ineffective at the best of times, but even more so in the case of mobile users and the narrow timeframe that their use pattern demands – a fact exaggerated by the nature of booking out last minute travel itineraries while on the move.

Increasingly, however, marketers can now implement highly targeted, dynamic advertisements that are customised and personalised to each user’s individual experience. So, for instance, instead of seeing generic ads from metasearch providers, mobile browsers might be shown specific offers for the plane route that they had just been looking for elsewhere. As a result, marketers can increase the value of their advertising campaigns with boosts to the probability of conversions.

Deep linking

Deep linking is, in a nutshell, a means of linking directly to specific locations within individual applications – so, for example, if a person has been viewing flight options to the Caribbean, a dynamic ad will show them a specific, relevant offer which after being clicked will take them straight to the purchase page within the travel company’s app.

It’s the latter half of this process that makes the difference here, capitalising on the influence of the initial personalised ad: the click-through process is shortened substantially, meaning time-sensitive shoppers can move straight from the call to action to the point of purchase, eliminating unnecessary homepage redirects and network hops.

Despite the initial drive by travel companies to develop positive user experiences for the search, comparison and purchase process – catering particularly to the trend towards apps over mobile web optimisation – conversion numbers have lagged. Deep linking, in combination with dynamic, personalised performance ads, has allowed advertisers to reclaim ROI by driving potential customers more precisely to purchase points within their apps.

Driving ROI

Ultimately, ROI is the scale that full-scale adoption of new platforms (and the teething problems to be expected with such a move) will be judged on. The good news is that the work to integrate mobile and map effective desktop user experience has been done, and done well for the most part; now, travel marketers need to focus efforts on capturing revenue from those mobile customers using the platform for its speed and convenience rather than its user experience.

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