By Emma Jowett, head of travel and education, Yahoo
The advance of digital has radically transformed the travel industry. Nowadays travel agents aren’t just on the high street – we live in a world of airline ecommerce sites, travel recommendation sites and social networks that offer inspiration.
With this change, brands have an opportunity to become a part of the consumer’s journey through every step of their trip – encompassing the full spectrum of before, during and even after a holiday.
Digital has developed into the new shop window, a place where potential buyers can view a wealth of opportunities – be that browsing websites before a trip, updates while abroad, or enviously eyeing up a friend’s holiday photos on social media. Travel is heavily researched and viewed online.
Booking a holiday is often still quite a fragmented experience, with consumers going to multiple online destinations to find their inspiration.
On average travellers visit more than 18 different websites when planning a holiday. They’re booking their flights with one site, researching the destination on another, taking recommendations from friends through social networks and reading reviews from experts.
Many travellers now do their research on a tablet or mobile device and emotionally a picture is built up of the ideal holiday. As they are browsing across devices it is high quality imagery that catches their eye – 68% of people told us that looking at images was a prime source of their travel decision-making.
Part of Yahoo, Flickr is one of the world’s largest photo sharing sites where millions of travellers already upload their holiday photos, making it a great place for brands to run picture-led campaigns which showcase beautiful and inspiring imagery or tap into existing communities who are sharing and exploring travel photography.
Although the travel industry leads many other sectors in terms of ecommerce, travel brands are largely yet to capitalise on this wider online experience – the opportunity to engage with consumers at the ‘inspire’ stage.
A recent study we undertook saw that only 3% of travel brands are a destination for consumers when they are looking for inspiration. There is a massive opportunity to own this crucial phase in the travel cycle.
While travel brands should ensure their online presence is as inspirational as possible for browsing across multiple devices, they also need to optimise their mobile and tablet sites for bookers.
The IAB found that of the 48% of travel brands who have a mobile optimised site, only 6% are specifically designed for tablet devices.
For a consumer this means browsing beautiful images and being inspired on your tablet only to then have to log on to a desktop, or go through a clunky mobile experience, to actually book your holiday. My message to the travel industry is to get it right on tablet now, not just for browsing but for transactions too.
Timely and contextual advertising can also help brands have a meaningful role at each of these points of this online journey – especially the ‘inspiration’ stage.
The travel industry in many ways leads other sectors in terms of acquisition marketing but in a world where the cost of every conversion is scrutinised, it can seem like a daunting prospect to spend ad budget further up the purchase funnel.
With this in mind, 2014 will be the year of native advertising. At Yahoo, we recently revamped the homepage to show news in an infinite stream, allowing contextual ads that can sit within the feed.
This is just one example of native advertising and we believe this new format is only set to get bigger – this is particularly true on mobile where traditional banner ads have been less successful. The possibility to also serve contextually relevant image advertising will be the icing on the cake to really inspire the audience.
Together native advertising, optimising sites for mobile and tablet and making the most of images are a huge opportunity for the travel industry. Used effectively, brands can own the whole travel cycle, from inspiration to purchase.