NB: This is an article by Burcu Gobuluk, Chief Operating Officer of Adphorus
Today, more than 70% of Travel’s digital ad dollars go to Direct Response advertising. Intent-based search advertising takes the lion’s share and has proven to reliably and effectively drive revenue and generate online bookings.
While Facebook does not capture intent-based search data on its platform, its Direct Response products can efficiently utilize intent data generated on advertisers’ websites. Thanks to its reach, user-based and cross-device marketing capabilities, Facebook has become an attractive performance marketing channel.
Facebook as a Performance Marketing Channel
On a given day more than 1 billion users log in at least once to Facebook, making it the most successful social platform in the world.
Facebook’s remarketing efforts started with Website Custom Audiences (WCA), a tool that allows advertisers to capture on-site user behavior data and target users with relevant ads on Facebook’s ever-expanding platform. However the real breakthrough came with Dynamic Product Ads (DPA). This product helps advertisers dynamically retarget their users on Facebook with recently searched products on any device. When you search for a hotel on a travel site, the next time you login to Facebook you see the ad of same hotel; that’s DPA in action. DPA has become a hit among e-commerce advertisers and performance advertisers in general. But has DPA cracked the code for Travel as well?
Cracking the code for Travel on Facebook
The fact that Dynamic Product Ads are designed to meet the specific needs of e-commerce advertisers poses real challenges for travel advertisers. Therefore making it “work for Travel” requires a travel-specific approach.
Challenge 1: Defining and preparing your product catalog
Preparing a product catalog is more complicated for travel advertisers than it is for e-commerce websites. They must first determine what their “product” is. For an OTA or a meta-search website focused on hotels, the products could be either hotels or destinations. For an airline, it is a flight route between two destinations.
In the current setup of DPA, travel advertisers need to prepare their product catalog within the constraints of an e-commerce product catalog. In some cases, they might need to have separate catalogs for different categories like flights, hotels and cars. Since the catalog is essential to establishing the right campaign structures for retargeting and cross-selling, travel-specific know-how is needed.
Challenge 2: Implementing a pixel structure that fits your business model
As a user progresses through a website’s conversion funnel, intent and ultimately the chances of conversion increase. Depending on the business model, travel advertisers must place Facebook tracking and conversion pixels at each step of the conversion funnel and make sure all necessary data is being sent properly. This allows you to segment audiences based on their intention level and optimize your ad spend accordingly. For example, a user that reached the booking page on your website is more likely to convert than a user who conducted a hotel search but left your website thereafter.
Challenge 3: Using retention windows to your advantage
The retention window (the time between showing the initial intent and conversion) varies depending on the travel product. For example, flights statistically convert faster than hotels in online travel bookings.
In addition to audience actions within the sales funnel, the retention window is another intent indicator for a visitor. Someone who searched for a hotel or flight two days ago is more likely to return to your site and convert than someone who searched 28 days ago. Therefore travel advertisers need to take retention windows into account while they are setting up their audiences in order to come up with the optimal strategy to manage bidding and budget allocation.
Challenge 4: Optimizing your creatives
Creatives affect the conversion rate of your ads significantly, and there are unique challenges in sourcing, customizing and optimizing creative images for travel advertisers.
The problem flight (or destination)advertisers face is in sourcing unique, appealing images for every flight destination in their product catalog. It’s quite the challenge with more than 8,000 destinations airlines route to globally!
For marketers advertising hotels/properties, choosing a representative creative image is easier because each hotel already has self-branded photos. Yet quality matters; a carelessly selected hotel without appealing angles or not showcasing luxury features could deter conversion.
When you have all of your product catalog images ready, it is time to customize them. Having a marketing platform that automatically places dynamic information on creatives such as price, check-in date and hotel stars will increase conversions and bring you more bookings.
Challenge 5: Optimizing and scaling spend
Travel companies, especially those with global reach, need the expertise and resources to run thorough testing to optimize their campaigns so that they hit the sweet spot and scale. With so many moving parts, companies who fail to successfully set up and execute the right strategy often undervalue Facebook as a robust marketing channel, causing them to miss out on a huge opportunity. Success will only come with intelligent bid management and the allocation of budgets toward better performing ads. Having a marketing platform that uses advanced algorithms to automate this process is the way to go.
Trusting the Experts
As one of Facebook’s faster growing verticals in 2015, Travel will be a pivotal focus for Facebook in 2016. Most global travel advertisers choose Facebook Marketing Partners (FMP) who have expertise in performance marketing and travel. If you are a travel marketer who wants to drive revenue and unlock Facebook as a key performance marketing channel, make sure that the FMP you select has experience in scaling global travel advertisers and a deep understanding of the industry’s specific needs and challenges.