Recent years have witnessed a dramatic increase in online bookings from holidaymakers across the globe and the data collected from such bookings is now being used by savvy travel agents to target niche groups of customers for their next vacation.
The internet has opened up plenty of opportunities for marketers to sharpen their accuracy when it comes to distributing ads. Any online booking system requires users to fill out a form and the details within those forms provide the website with a valuable customer analysis that would be difficult to collate using traditional means.
This information is like gold dust to any business but travel agents in particular have seen real benefits of the approach during the last year. The European Technology and Travel Services Association carried out research that shows:
“Gross online travel bookings across Europe will account for 35% of the total in 2011, measuring 83.6 billion Euros compared to 238 billion Euros for the entire market.”
Considering the advertising technique is still in its youth, this research shows that direct marketing is rapidly becoming a high-calibre weapon in the armoury of travel agents. The real beauty of it being that it’s relatively ‘easier’ to wield than traditional methods.
When a customer goes online and books a three star hotel in Mallorca for a family of four, the travel agent’s marketing team can then advertise similar packages to that customer throughout the following year.
By collecting all this demographic data through a combination of data companies and utilising the simple practice of forms travel agents are carrying out their market research at the same time as processing a holiday booking.
This market research could provide details of a customer’s email address and social networking accounts to be targeted. Still, the marketing technique should not be mistaken for random spamming and can actually be of use to customers, especially those who the product or service provides a solution or opportunity like holidaymakers.
Trawling through brochures and websites may be part of the whole holiday experience but for some it can all be a bit overwhelming. With direct marketing, the travel agents are doing the research for the vacationer.
It’s basically a two-way street - businesses get to advertise more directly (and successfully) while customers receive almost a bespoke package based on their demographics and psychographics. It’s important to remember that just because these advertisements are aimed at niche groups, it’s not to say those niche groups are exempt from using the other services that particular business has to offer.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are also becoming hunting grounds for travel agents who utilise the combination of demographic data and Facebook advertisements or dedicated pages, as they are likely to experience much more successful advertising campaigns than traditional fall-behinds.
Google named Facebook the most visited website in 2010 surpassing Google itself! If a travel agent can use these incredible platforms effectively to target consumers, who should (theoretically) be interested in their product or service, then it’s difficult to argue a reason not to delve into social media and creating positive social engagement.
With smart phones, handheld tablets and even TVs that can connect to the internet, booking a holiday can literally take seconds and if a user’s preferred holiday type is advertised on their social feeds or sitting in their inbox thanks to direct marketing, spontaneous holiday goers are going to be jetting off quicker than ever.
If advertisers can use the technique tastefully and avoid crossing the line into spam bombardment, the customer analysis database that comes as a result could be a long lasting treasure chest of marketing intelligence, to be updated and used again year after year.
Individuals have the right to prevent anyone from using their demographic profile for direct marketing on account of the Data Protection Act 1998. Also, it’s not always necessary to fill out an online form completely – the email box for example, often isn’t starred (*), which leaves it entirely up to the customer to supply such information. Still, the users who do provide their email can be slotted into the marketing team’s email lists and benefit from the receiving end of direct marketing.