By Greig Holbrook, founder of international marketing agencyOban Digital
By 2019 global wealth is expected to grow by 40% with emerging markets accounting for 26% of this additional wealth. The growth of the luxury travel market is evolving in corners of the globe that your strategy may not have considered yet, but you most definitely need to keep ahead of the competition.
In 2014 the number of millionaires around the world stood at 34.8 million, with South Korea, Germany and China in particular seeing strong year on year growth.
As the UK economy strengthens, many luxury travel providers are dusting-off shelved online expansion plans, or looking at launching into new markets for the first time. There are a number of pitfalls to avoid which even the largest of brands have stumbled into when it comes to internationalising their online presence.
The digital landscape in each market will vary from fundamentals such as search engine popularity, social media platform preference, device usage and digital infrastructure, down to the granular detail of how online search behaviour varies between market and locations.
What do you know about the market you are entering?
It seems like an obvious question, but there is a level of due diligence that you need to perform before you take that step. Your checklist should include research on which local markets use which channels to research, book, review and share their travel experiences.
Travel channel data comparisons between countries have taught us that users in different international markets discover brands through very different channels. They make different types of enquiries and searches, engaging organic search, display, social media marketing and paid search at different stages of the buying cycle.
A typical behaviour is where “generic paid” search occurs before “brand paid” interactions – in the real world you may see this as a user searching for terms such as “luxury travel” then later in their research using “[brand name] luxury travel” after they have encountered a brand they recall.
Differences in the make-up of this channel mix occur across different countries, in Australia display plays a stronger role in brand discovery, while in Germany email channels are often the first exposure to your brand.
Understanding the role played by each channel in engaging your audience, then leading your audience to conversion, on a country by country basis really enhances the way in which you approach your marketing strategy
Search data is a great source to explore when you’re developing plans for international expansion.
It’s a well versed fact that 80% of the 3.5 billion searches per day are informational – people thinking with their fingers via search engines – and, of course all this interesting data is captured and often available, whether through Google, Bing, Yandex in Russia or Baidu in China.
Search data can help you move away from templated websites and blanket offers and even help you develop new localised product offerings and relationships with suppliers based on the interest demonstrated in market. It is also a great way to get a sense of the size of the opportunity, competition and cost comparison by market.
Global Social media users are estimated to increase to 2.55 billion by 2017 with the emerging markets of Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa being huge drivers of this growth.
Depending on your market and activity it could be the first channel you put in place – if you can engage and then convert traffic back onto your transactional site. Social media can be an effective channel for brand discovery, trust building or promotion during the middle phases of a buyer journey.
Are you seeking to increase exposure for your brand, drive traffic to your site, or generate leads? As a luxury brand what capabilities do you need your social channels to have? Are you going to leverage image sharing, use articles for experience sharing and advice, develop video series or online personalities to engage with your customers?
Once you understand how you want to engage with an audience then you can look to research and understand if there are local social channels outside of those you operate in your market of origin. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have great reach in many countries but you may find that your target audiences don’t interact with these in the way that you expect.
Organic activity will be the backbone of your social channel but an important consideration in international markets is whether there are paid social advertising capabilities on your platform of choice.
One last thing… International digital marketing success depends on a strategic marketing strategy that has thought through the details before you go to market. Your website, social media channels and international SEO will evolve as you engage with local audiences.