As the COVID-19 curve flattens and destinations look toward resuming or restarting their marketing campaigns, Madden has made it a priority to help our partners make better decisions about their marketing efforts and planning based on reliable data and insights.
Utilizing our DOMO powered reporting dashboard, Madden Voyage, we’ve identified and compiled key industry trends and research from a variety of sources including media platforms, DMO websites, and Google. Taking this broad mix of ever-evolving data, we’re able to analyze multiple streams of information at once to better predict when travelers will be ready to start traveling again. We’re working behind-the-scenes to help DMOs:
- Capture the consumer as they resume travel planning and seek inspiration by providing insight into when to begin campaigns to start engaging the consumer on their own terms.
- Compare travel intent against historical trends to see how behavior is changing in order to optimize marketing tactics based on travel intent in real-time.
- Identify messages resonating with consumers that are increasing their intent to travel.
Identifying Intent Indicators
When it comes to determining intent measurements, we’re focusing on a few key pieces of data:
- Aggregated Organic Intent (AOI): We believe this is one of the key indicators of travel intent because it shows dedicated engagement on DMO websites. Beyond just site visits, we are looking at page types and DMO search terms to validate that the consumer is on DMO websites with the intent to be inspired or plan for travel. We weigh this type of metric highly for consumer travel intent.
- Aggregated Marketing Engagement (AME): The goal of this metric is to show how the consumer is interacting with paid marketing efforts compared to historical trends, so we can ensure marketing is being provided at the right time.
- Travel Search Trends (TST): Based on Google searches by week and keyword, we believe this will be a leading indicator showing when consumers will start regaining their interest in travel. We know the circuitous path that is the traveler’s journey, and this information enriches what we are not able to see on DMO websites and from media providers.
Intent by Numbers
When it comes to AOI and TST, our partners saw a sharp decline to almost no engagement starting in March. However, these numbers have since plateaued and we have even seen marginal increases over the last couple of weeks. Additionally, travelers are revisiting travel websites and research after booking to stay on top of developing information. This offers even more opportunity to engage and interact with prospective travelers as their intent to travel increases. In the case of AME, engagement has stayed relatively steady with dips occurring only when efforts were paused momentarily. As of this week, each of the partners we’ve monitored has seen a return to “normal” levels of Aggregated Marketing Engagement.
What does this mean?
With week over week gains with a plateau in six-month travel plan cancellations, these numbers indicate that engagement has already reached its lowest point and our partners can begin moving from protecting their brand to planning for future marketing initiatives as outlined in our Protect. Plan. Recover. Framework.
Marketing to Travel Intent
Don’t wait for stay-at-home orders to end before restarting your marketing efforts, encourage your audience to plan for recovery but recognize that your messaging must be tailored to be specific to the situation. Prospective travelers still perceive fall travel as safe but, among those planning travel, there is a clear increase in drive market intent to travel while consumers are still avoiding air and international travel. Additionally, these hopeful travelers are particularly interested in outdoor activities and local support and collaboration beyond hotel partners. Inspirational messaging that showcases outdoor options and creates emotional connections to the destination will be well-received. It’s not just the messages that need to be tailored, the method of delivery is also evolving as digital platforms and TV receive more attention and audio formats receive less.
As traveler intent increases, the following tactics will help our partners reach consumers where they are in their planning process—knowing that booking windows will shorten while planning windows expand amid uncertainty.
Engage and Encourage
Lower-funnel marketing efforts continue to serve consumers looking for more information and those who have previously expressed interest in your destination. Target your existing engaged audiences and continue to build audience development momentum among leisure travelers through SEM, YouTube, lead generation, remarketing, CTV, organic social, SEO, and print and digital visitor guides. Minimize events content while identifying and promoting virtual tourism opportunities.
Continue meeting planning marketing with long-term orientation and adapted messaging for future meetings booking in 2021 and beyond. Shift focus to audiences already in the conversion funnel to continue to build momentum and maintain the lead through SEM, remarketing, and LinkedIn remarketing. Now’s the time to transition to online sales and planning tools as much as possible; consider virtual planning and visualization opportunities like maps, 360-video, and digitally-built itineraries.
Update your site with engaging content that welcomes visitors back to your destination and promotes local dining and hotel partner packages/deals while remaining reflective of current and future social distancing expectations. Be sure to resume any lapsed SEO efforts to bridge gaps in content. Continue to focus on lower-funnel efforts with an increase in paid media to further fuel inspiration and awareness as well as recover site traffic losses. Geo-target residents, in-state and drive markets, and key meetings markets to reach them with SEM, remarketing, paid social, native advertising, and other brand awareness tactics.
Collaborate with meetings venues and local business partners to create incentive opportunities that can be used in promotion in order to quick-start bookings and re-establish the sales pipeline. Re-establish awareness tactics and promote these new incentives with SEM, prospecting and remarketing, LinkedIn prospecting and remarketing, LinkedIn InMail, dedicated meetings incentive content, and native content advertising.
Diligently review marketing performance and pivot messaging as travel is reintroduced across the board and the industry heads toward recovery. Expand targeting to include regional and key fly markets. Transition messaging to include content pillars and discovery-oriented calls-to-action for new consumers and booking calls-to-action for remarketed consumers. Test, optimize, and measure media and creative carefully during this recovery period to ensure relevancy. Results and responses during this time will influence future planning. Continue incentive promotions, especially around lodging and dining for leisure marketing and incentives to book for meeting planners/group travel.
Expand Brand Marketing
As the travel and hospitality industry continues to recover and adjust, gauge reintroducing events, gatherings, etc. into marketing messaging and creative. Assess and activate broad and niche brand marketing activities across channels. Re-evaluate international marketing initiatives to possibly resume in 2021. Consumer needs and values around what matters most have likely been altered and will have a lasting impact. An appreciation for life, experiences together, and joy-seeking will emerge as emotional values to highlight in brand marketing.
As consumers continue to ramp up travel, this is the time to revisit research in order to get an understanding of the new consumer landscape. Understanding your current audience is the most important step in developing future strategies. Messaging and prioritization can now shift to once again focus on occupancy. Assist in navigating consumers through the Traveler’s Journey with a comprehensive marketing campaign including SEM, prospecting and brand awareness, and remarketing and conversion.
Travel has already shown beginning signs of resuming and Madden is keeping a pulse on industry data to provide our partners with actionable insights. These insights will help us identify when to enact new strategies in order to reach consumers where they are in their planning process. As the industry rebounds to a new normal, we’ll continue to provide cutting-edge solutions in real-time and prioritize the growth of our partners—your success is our success.