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5 Ways You Are Missing Travel Customers on Mobile

Written by Alka Du Mont, Account Manager

Remember your friendly local travel agent? Chances are you have quaint and distant memories of booking in person, because much like all aspects of life, this industry has gone digital. A challenge of conducting business online is that consumers have access to infinite information about their opinions, making it harder to close the quick sales.


In recent projections of US digital travel sales, a study noted negative travel sales growth on desktop between 2017 and 2020, but mobile will have double digit growth until 2019.



Source: Think Google, Think Google, Econsultancy, Total Access


Source: eMarketer, April 2016


While mobile travel sales have not eclipsed desktop sales, the trends show that mobile sales are on the rise and it is inevitable that mobile will eventually dominate in the travel industry.



Source: eMarketer, April 2016


Mobile’s success in travel is no surprise – an eMarketer report from 2016 estimated a forecast of 128.8 million people would research travel online. Google noted in a survey that 69% of consumers use mobile search for travel ideas, especially during life’s duller moments, like waiting for a train or in lines. Additionally, in a recent survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by the market research company Signal, we learned that millennials are driving the mobile travel revolution. The stats show that millennials between the ages of 18 – 34, are 5 times more likely to research and book travel and accommodations on their smartphones.


These statistics paint a story of how we make big picture purchases and that a lot of research starts on mobile.


We will delve into some overlooked ideas for expanding your mobile travel marketing strategy. In 2017 and beyond, mobile paid search advertising is crucial for travel companies that want to stay ahead of the market trends and connect with customer in a saturated industry.




Google has coined the phrase “micro-moments” to label the multi-step process of researching a future vacation online. Micro-moments encapsulates the marriage of impulsive whims, existence of spare time and having portable microprocessors that we carry in our pockets. Before making big travel purchases, travelers are checking multiple resources on their mobile and desktop devices, much to the delight of the marketers that are trying to track leads! According to Google, 40% of travelers say they use multiple devices in the decision-making process of planning their next trip. The stages of travel research are the plotting, planning, booking and publically sharing the experience with others. With each of these stages, it is important to be in front of your potential customers and to tailor a message that speaks to their specific questions at that time. An example of this strategy would be a cruise line with a campaign for high-funnel customers, with keywords like: “best Caribbean cruises”, “all-inclusive Caribbean cruises”, “best Caribbean cruises for families”. The ads for this campaign should highlight the best features of your product, comparing the amenities and other common questions for new visitors. Alternatively, a low-funnel campaign would have high-intent keywords that signal a purchase is imminent, such as “buy”, “purchase”, “reserve” and “book”. This campaign should have ads that call out limited offers, discounts and easy booking process.






While waiting for a coffee order, a potential customer might start doing some research about their next dream vacation but not have the time to call after seeing your ad. Instead of losing that potential lead, an easy way to start the dialogue and secure a place in the consideration set, is to set up a click-to-message ad extension.



When a customer taps on your message extension, it launches the user’s SMS app and sends a message to your team from that user’s phone with a customizable default greeting. For example, a hotel might set up a pre-filled message that says, “I’m interested in a reserving a room” and the customer can decide if they want to use that message or edit the text with their own information and questions. After the first message is sent, the business can reply and the customer can then follow up with the thread of conversation discretely in their own time.


Advertisers use this extension as an opportunity to build rapport with customers quickly, and answer specific questions, thus leading to increased chance of conversion. For example, a travel agency called TravelPASS Group, used the click-to-message ad extension to prequalify their customers and start the reservation process and they noted a 41% conversion rate for message extensions, versus other ad extensions.




When Google launched the Book on Google feature for hotels, the intention was to make the transition between research mode and purchasing smoother. These ads show below the address and map section on the search results page, and allow customers to check availability, price compare and book hotel rooms through you or an Online Travel Agency (OTA).



To feature in this prominent place, a hotel would have to participate in the Google Hotel Ads program and partner with an authorized Integration Partner. Management of data feeds can be complicated and most hotels work with a partner who can aggregate the hotels’ up-to-the-minute rates and availability, and would manage your campaign and bids. When you set up this partnership, your website will appear in the list of options with the other.


Bing offers a similar tool, called Instant Booking. The main difference is that this booking feature is powered by TripAdvisor and prominently displays reviews and takes users to TripAdvisor to book.


Lastly, Google Flight Search (GFS) launched in 2011 and is an aggregate tool that allows for more open-ended flight searches and can facilitate the purchase of airline tickets through third-party suppliers. For example, GFS can find the best option for a customer that knows they want to get away, but is flexible on the dates and location. Air travel companies can maximize their exposure from this aggregate tool by ensuring they have all the necessary feeds running error-free to appear in the organic listings, as illustrated to the right here.



Another option to increase direct bookings is to use your paid search ad to offer a discount for booking through your site, versus another OTA or GFS. There is a currently some discussion about GFS overriding airlines’ brand and trademarks, for example, American Airlines does not participate in the web search aspect of GFS.




Developing a seamless mobile landing page experience can be a long and costly process. If you are still creating the ideal visitor experience, then consider the option of a call-only campaign.



These ads will only appear on devices that can make calls and offer less detailed information, with the purpose of compelling a customer to call and avoid the website landing page. It is important if customers are side-stepping the website, that your staff is ready to answer consultative questions and push for the sale. Also, call tracking is necessary to gauge if these calls are converting to leads or just wasting your company resources. Lastly, consider the keywords that will reach those ideal customers, either focus on non-brand keywords to connect with customers that are exploring their next excursion. Otherwise, use branded keywords to target those that know your brand and might just have a few questions before booking.




As mobile devices become the predominant connection point to the Internet, more mobile users are relying on travel apps to explore their journey options. Opera Mediaworks noted in a 2016 survey of 1000 consumers, that 45% relied on mobile apps when booking accommodations and activities, and 1 in 3 travelers said that mobile apps were also their go-to source for travel research. If you can create a mobile app to interact with your customers, you can build some brand loyalty when your downloaded app is used repeatedly for future bookings.


If you do not have a mobile app, consider the fact that 84% of all smartphone time is spent in mobile apps and the growth of in-app advertising capitalizes on this market. Additionally, ads in apps have double the click through rate and travel ads get 60% higher click through rate than ads for retail and other categories.



When advertising a mobile travel app or advertising in another app, consider adding a deep link so the customer is taken directly to the page of most interest.



For example, in the first screen someone sees an ad for a deal on travel to San Francisco available through the Hip Nomad app. When the customer clicks “Install Now”, they are taken to the app store to download and when they open the installed app, the first page they see is the San Francisco deal. This strategy might involve multiple ads, however, you will reduce the likelihood of losing a customer as they search for that original deal.


In the example below, you can see that setting up your in-app ad is as easy as altering the ad copy and images that align with your landing page.





Paid search is constantly evolving and there are many marketing options we have not covered, such as highly targeted Gmail ads which crawl inboxes for trigger keywords or competitor email addresses and send ads to a users’ promotion tab. Moreover, ads on YouTube channels that focus on travel videos about unique destinations, attractions, tourist tips. Large brands like Disney and Turkish Airways are investing in developing attractive content for YouTube, jumping on the trend of sharing video content and inspiring travel. It is important to try new channels, test and adjust, and follow the mobile trend reports, which tell us that more researching, purchases and sharing will happen on mobile more than ever before.