Google doesn’t stand still for long, so last week eTourism Summit | DigMe caught up with Betsy Vankula, Head of Travel Industry, to talk about some of the latest key topics: micro-moments, the path to purchase, mobile, future trends and more.
Micro-moments are snippets of time that people are able to grab on mobile when they’re thinking about taking a trip in the early stages of the path to purchase. Due to the shift from desktop, far more opportunities present themselves, as people can grab a few minutes on their smartphones throughout the day. For travel providers, Betsy points out, there are a multitude of opportunities to be top-of-mind, to be present when people are exploring intent. “We noticed a huge shift in the number of times as well as the type of information people were looking to find. Data showed us that mobile is significant for the research stages,” Betsy said.
Path to purchase
“While purchase is still primarily happening on desktop, mobile is where people are when they’re trying to put all the parts of a trip together,” Betsy explains. Google can look at search terms in aggregate to find out more about travelers’ thinking and planning. For example: ‘Caribbean vacation’ or ‘family trip ideas’ are indications that trip research is at the top of the funnel, destinations are being explored. “A good interaction here for travel-related providers would be sight, sound and motion: in a word, video,” Betsy suggests.
Uniquely mobile features
Because mobile phones have GPS and other features that desktop cannot provide, mobile allows marketers to create in-destination opportunities in addition to the pre-arrival and post-trip stages of travel. Marketers can develop content strategy that is shaped to appeal to demographics and profiles of travelers as they move through the funnel, based on preferences of a family, solo, couple, honeymooners, girls’ weekend, etc.
Ways to use data
“Programmatic is absolutely key,” says Betsy. “Create aggregate audiences and target them.” She recommends using programmatic tools in combination with Google Analytics to put the right audiences together with cookies. Take some chances, look at the resulting data and make the required changes. “Test and learn, have an appetite for failure and then double down on what works,” Betsy suggests. Also that’s where remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) comes in, allowing bidding on certain terms.
Beauty of mobile
Google research indicates that over a 60-day vacation search, a travel consumer’s digital interfaces number 419, of which 87% are in short snippets of downtime grabbed on a mobile device. The beauty of mobile creates the possibility of brief chunks of research time (commuting on public transport, waiting on a line, getting coffee, etc.) which are significant. Betsy points out that enabling sharing is also an important feature in the travel sphere, as leisure travel decisions are often shared decisions.
Budgeting for mobile
“Testing and learning needs to be part of an advertiser’s plan. Spend a bit, have an appetite for ‘failure’ of the kind that teaches something to improve your messaging going forward. No matter what your budget is, start by dedicating 20% to mobile and see how it shifts to optimize from there.”
Evolution of search
Ongoing evolution means that a Google search page looks so different than it did even 5 years ago. Changes have been “remarkable, including maps, creating a really strong UX,” says Betsy. One of the key areas she points to regarding the future is voice search, noting that her 4-year-old daughter now searches for everything by speaking aloud. Betsy wonders, “Will she ever need to learn to type?” How long before keyboards become extinct, or at best optional?
Mistakes travel marketers make
Asked what is the biggest mistake being made by travel marketers, Betsy said, “Not valuing mobile as much as they should be. All the tools are not quite there yet to show the complete path to purchase. However, marketers need to take a leap of faith, knowing how much usage there is on mobile and reflect that in the budget.”
VR looms in our future
Betsy also had some thoughts regarding more creativity with content. “VR is an amazing space where we’re going to see so much happen in the next year. I would love to see the travel vertical embrace this in a big way. Many now see it as a fun, nice thing to have but actually there are ways you can do it reasonably cheaply to highlight your destination.” Betsy pointed out that YouTube now does 360-degree videos. Universal Orlando is using VR and you don’t need the headset. Destination opportunities for VR that cannot be overlooked include hair-raising roller coaster rides, activities such as “bullets and burgers” near Las Vegas and other interactive draws, as ”Millennials are looking for experiential travel,” Betsy said.
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