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Travel marketing: First-party data strategies to increase bookings this autumn 2023
September 14, 2023
Here, Josh Beckwith (managing director, global strategic accounts & partnerships), helps marketers to navigate the post-summer marketing landscape with data-driven insights.
And breathe. If, like me, you are a parent, especially of younger children, the first weeks of September can be a whirlwind of emotions. The summer holidays can be a heady mix of sunshine (although not so much this year), ice cream bribery, a few inevitable tantrums, and, let's be honest, a lot of hard work. Whether you’re gleefully sharing those eagerly awaited first-day-of-school photos with the grandparents or embarking on a car journey laden with clothes and parental anxiety to drop off your child at university halls, these weeks herald significant change.
As we gear up for the autumn ‘back-to-school’ season, the marketing landscape also experiences a turn of its axis, requiring innovative strategies. In the travel industry, travel intent in Europe has dropped by 4% compared to last year. Nonetheless, travelers are exploring cost-effective options, favoring off-peak months like October and November, resulting in a 5% surge in tourist numbers compared to the previous year.
Above: Josh Beckwith (managing director, global strategic accounts & partnerships)
I have to confess, I envy these travelers as I check the pricing fluctuations between peak holiday periods and the shoulder seasons. While businesses plan their next moves, savvy travel marketers, renowned for their astute approach to navigating shifts, are already devising strategies to leverage this renewed intent during the shoulder season. Marketers across industries can lift a page from the travel playbook to boost sales.
Why the back-to-school season is a huge opportunity for travel marketers
Renewing customer engagement should be a no-brainer during the post-summer marketing period and beyond. The ‘back to school’ season presents a unique opportunity for marketers to re-engage with consumers as they settle back into their routines. Having had the privilege of a summer getaway, I can't help but fondly recall my trip while eagerly anticipating the next family adventure amidst the flurry of school runs and mounting meetings. During the shoulder season, travelers are often in search of attractive deals for quick getaways, presenting marketers with a window to offer enticing, unique offers that spur immediate bookings. As travelers reinitiate their plans - whether it’s a brief weekend escape or an extended getaway - a well-structured first-party data strategy becomes paramount.
What is first party data and why is it important for marketers?
As the digital landscape evolves, the impending phase-out of third-party cookies by Google Chrome in the second half of 2024 highlights the need for a fundamental shift in marketing strategies. Relying on traditional targeting methods will soon be a thing of the past. Instead, marketers must harness the power of first-party data to ensure effective targeting efforts – and laying that groundwork starts now.
First-party data is the information that you, as an advertiser, own. It encompasses everything from newsletter signups to purchases, as well as intent, website interaction, and loyalty program engagement, all gathered with the consent of the customer. This not only makes first-party data more accurate, enabling you to better personalize your marketing efforts, but also empowers you to manage and adhere to data privacy standards, such as GDPR.
What are some examples of first-party data? 3 pillars to consider
A robust first-party data strategy rests on three foundational pillars: a persistent identifier like hashed emails, first-party cookies, and historical data. These three pillars form the foundation of first-party data, offering critical insights about your customers, regardless of the touchpoints through which they’ve interacted with your brand, so you can target them more effectively. Now, rather than having one small slice of information, you can stitch together a more comprehensive view of your customer. These three pillars not only enable you to deploy campaigns that are even more effective than those reliant on third-party cookies, but your customers will also thank you for taking the time to understand them and deliver genuinely relevant offers.
Your email address is increasingly becoming your digital passport, and the same holds true for your customers. Often, an email address is a prerequisite for creating an account, placing an order, confirming travel bookings, and more. Here’s how you can transform an email address into a hashed email: After your customers log in, you can utilize an algorithm to convert their email addresses into unique strings of characters. Since hashed emails don't contain any personally identifiable information, you can consistently retarget customers with relevant ads every time they log in. The best part? Hashed emails are more accurate than third-party cookies, but they still comply with privacy regulations–making them the ultimate win-win.
The second pillar of data is one you already use on your website: first-party cookies. First-party cookies enhance the website experience for your customers by performing tasks like remembering language preferences, so your customer doesn't have to choose a preferred language every time. These cookies are low maintenance and don’t require customer logins for data collection. They effortlessly allow you to leverage data to deliver personalized experiences throughout the customer journey.
Lastly, historical data provides valuable insights into your customers’ purchase and behaviour patterns. You likely already have this information stored in a CRM or another system and can include in-person interactions, such as style preferences noted during interactions with an in-store customer service rep. This historical data is just one more way to gain a deeper understanding of your customers and their preferences. By segmenting your lists into similar customer groups, you can use this information to send relevant promotions to smaller, more specific audiences. Tailored offers not only boost conversions and foster brand loyalty, but also reduce the number of customers who hit that dreaded unsubscribe button.
Embracing change for effective engagement
As the back-to-school season brings about shifts in consumer behavior, we, as marketers must head back to school and adapt our strategies to remain relevant. By focusing on strengthening your first-party data, you can effectively engage customers, forging meaningful connections that leave a lasting impression–and increase conversions that extend far beyond the change of season.