Digital marketing specialist I Spy has claimed trial results for its Upcast social media advertising management software proves travel firms can make money from Facebook.
Manchester-based On The Beach used Upcast for a Facebook advertising campaign and says it has shown the channel to outperform all traditional digital marketing channels.
I Spy says the results of the trials have provided the best evidence yet that social media can be more than just a PR or marketing tool and that brands can exploit the medium to drive sales.
On The Beach claimed to have seen a tenfold return on investment by using Upcast, which offers advanced multivariate testing and attribution modelling. The company says it was able to properly assess the value of a Facebook advert, rather than simply relying on ‘last click’ attribution.
Conrad Edkins, head of search at On the Beach, said: “UK holidaymakers spend several hours searching for holidays online and fall into a wide range of demographic profiles.
“By using Upcast to analyse the response rates of an initial broad demographic cross-section, we were able to focus our efforts on specific campaigns targeting particular age groups and geographic locations where conversion was strong.
“Without Upcast, we’d have come away with what we believed to be a neutral spend versus revenue figure as well as wasting a huge amount of time and resource.
“In fact, Facebook advertising has delivered the highest first to last click conversion ratio of any major digital channel, including paid search, organic search and comparison sites.”
Nishma Robb, I Spy business development manager, said: “There are about six agencies worldwide including two in the UK doing this, but this is the first time anyone has seen this level of return. It’s finally proving that social media can be a viable sales channel. The difference is we have come at this not from a technology point of view but from a search perspective.”
I Spy says it is one of only a handful of companies to partner with Google Analytics and with access to Facebook’s API (Application Programming Interface). It uses Google’s new Multi-Channel Funnels technology, which allows sales to be tracked and attributed back to the first or assisting click in the search and book process.
Having identified the demographic most likely to respond to a Facebook advert – the best response came from 45-54-year-old females – the On The Beach campaign was optimised for that target audience.
The result was the campaign made a return when measured purely on a last click basis but evaluated according to post click criteria, it generated “several times” more sales.
Facebook ads were also the first click in seven times as many sales as last click conversions. I Spy claims “in comparison to other channels Facebook ads were one of the highest assisting channels in post-click sales as well as one of the highest drivers of new visits to onthebeach.co.uk.”
Robb added: “Upcast has successfully helped On The Beach focus its advertising budget on the areas, locations and times of day that produced the biggest response rates.
“Multi-channel funnel analysis is particularly important in the travel industry where the average holidaymaker uses a variety of channels throughout the purchase decision making process.
“Users tend to shop around for the best holiday over a period of time lasting up to several weeks.”
Robb said social media advertising management was not intended to be a replacement to search marketing on search engines like Google, but a complement to it.
She said it did potentially offer smaller brands a cost-effective marketing opportunity in an online sector that has seen traditional search become more competitive and expensive as click rates rise but conversions remain low. As well as On The Beach I Spy also works with the RSPCA and recruitment website Jobsite. Upcast was officially launched in October 2010.