This report on marketers in the travel, transportation and hospitality (TTH) industry is based on TCS’ larger 2019 study on digital marketing opportunities for CMOs in 11 global industries. The findings of this report are based on just one part of the study: how marketers are using digital technology to personalize the way they communicate with prospects to create awareness, in what we refer to as the first stage of the brand experience. (Creating awareness is one of four stages; stay tuned for more reports about what TTH marketers are doing in the other three stages.)
Not surprisingly, all 41 TTH companies we surveyed have marketing programs in Stage 1. However, when we asked whether marketing creates communications in the other three stages, those percentages fell off significantly. (See figure 1.)
KEY FINDINGS IN STAGE 1—Creating Market Awareness
How TTH Marketers Personalize Communications to Attract the Digitally Distracted
#1 Travel Marketers Are Heavily Digital and Heavily Social
Every CMO we surveyed in this industry said their company uses four digital marketing channels: digital ads, their own websites, email marketing and online video sites. The clear majority (93%) also has social media site pages—a much higher than average percentage than the 11 industries we surveyed (71% of whose companies created awareness through their social media company pages). Digital media ads today on the big travel book sites are crucial for many companies in this industry. (See figure 2.)
But non-digital media are still important for the majority of firms: outbound contact centers, field outlets (i.e., travel agencies), field sales forces, billboards, and print advertising.
However, direct mail marketing (used by none of the firms) and broadcast media (used by only about one third) are not frequently used marketing channels in Stage 1. For all survey respondents, 75% use broadcast media, and so travel, transportation and hospitality firms as a whole rely far less on that marketing channel.
#2 Travel Marketers Are Not Fully on the Digital Data Trail for Personalizing Communications
So what data do travel-related marketers use to personalize communications to individual prospects? By far, the highest percentage of them use demographic data (which has long been in use, before and after digital channels emerged in the 1990s). Coming in a distant second (used by 41%) is data on online users past buying behavior with other companies. For example, for a rental car company, somebody booking an airline flight is a prime prospect for dangling a rental car deal. (See figure 3.)
Less than a third are using web traffic to their own websites to personalize what they present to prospects. And only about one in four personalizes communications based on a prospect’s social media comments. That is far less than the industry average (41%), and less than half of the retail industry average (61%). Personalizing interactions with consumers on a travel company’s social media pages (e.g., Facebook) could be new frontier for many travel marketers who want to turn prospects into customers.
Only one in five travel industry marketers uses geo- location data to personalize communications in the awareness stage of the brand experience. Such data, which smartphones can provide if wireless carriers sell it travel marketers, on average is used by 38% of the 516 marketers that we surveyed in 11 industries. All to say that travel marketers are trailing most other sectors in using geo-location to target ads.
Only 1 in 5 travel industry marketers uses geo-location data to personalize communications in the awareness stage of the brand experience.
#3 Personalized Marketing Usually Means Special Offers
People booking travel are often ready to book when they go online. Travel marketers know this, and their marketing messages usually comes armed with deals. The most frequent way that travel marketers digitally personalize communications with individuals to create awareness of their offerings is to pitch special deals and prices. 66% of the travel marketers we survey do this. (See figure 4.)
Close behind (by 63% of those surveyed) was providing useful product or service information – again, personalized to the individual based on data the travel marketer has about that individual. More than one third (37%) are tailoring the graphic design (colors, images used, etc.) of their personalized digital promotions to prospects. And 29% provide relevant videos to prospects based on some data they have about them – e.g., the web surfer looking for vacation hotels in Paris who is shown a hotelier’s digital ad with a video of the premises.
The most frequent way that travel marketers digitally personalize communications with individuals to create awareness of their offerings is to pitch special deals and prices. 66% of the travel marketers we survey do this.
We surveyed 41 companies in North America and Europe in the travel, transportation and hospitality industry. A breakdown of that industry can be seen in Figure 5. Nearly half (49%) the firms were based in the U.S., with 27% based in the UK, 12% in Canada, 7% in Netherlands and 5% in Germany. (See Figure 5.)
The average revenue of the firms we surveyed was $12.5 billion. Nearly half (49%) had marketing budgets of $250 million or more (Figure 6).