James Murray - MSFT
Posted on 05/05/14

Changing seasons, changing mind-set

After months of dreary British weather there is definitely evidence that summer is coming. Evenings are getting lighter, the sun is shining more often and heavy coats are gradually being stowed away for another year. With the change of the seasons also comes a change in the consumer mind-set as people start looking ahead to their summer holidays. The peak summer travel season is about to kick off, and with that in mind, we wanted to share some thoughts and insights into how to optimise your search campaigns to make the most of the latest online trends.

The next quarter could either make or break a year for travel companies and so it is essential to make sure that each search campaign is targeted towards the needs of consumers you are trying to reach. Whether that’s in luxury cruises or bargain bucket holidays – your marketing needs to reflect what your customers desire.

Where, When and How are consumers searching for travel?

In the UK, there is a major peak of travel search activity that occurs during July and August each year. However, you can see from the chart below that there is a significant jump in click volume in May which is the perfect time to start optimising campaigns and capitalising on increased online interest from your customers.

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Looking at last year’s data, you can see that there was particular growth in May for searches for holidays and travel agents, whereas growth of other travel categories starts to accelerate in June. May represents the initial research phase of the purchase cycle where consumers are deciding where they want to travel rather than necessarily searching for specific flights and accommodation. Later in June, when consumers are getting closer to a purchase, their search behaviour changes towards more specific areas of travel such as flights, cruises and lodging. May is a great time to start marketing to customers to ensure your brand is front of mind when they come to book a holiday.

As the UK increases to embrace technology, mobile clicks in the travel sector grow rapidly. Smartphones have enabled people to search, compare and book travel on the move whether that’s waiting for a coffee in Starbucks or sitting on a train to go to work – technology has enabled consumers to shop whenever and however they like.

According to a Weve study last November, 28% of people now book their flights on their mobile, whilst 33% book a hotel on their phone. Data from the Yahoo Bing Network shows that almost 3 in every 10 travel searches (28%) are now done on a mobile device. For the modern always-on consumer, mobile is quickly become the method of choice for travel research and bookings.

Particularly for search advertising, you can see from the chart below that the click through rate (CTR) for smartphones and tablets outperforms that of desktop computers.

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Tablets are notably ahead across all categories in some cases receiving twice as many clicks as smartphone and desktop searches. The CTR for smartphones is on par with desktops across all travel sectors but when you take into account that the cost-per-click (CPC) for smartphones are 15% lower than for desktops, this creates a compelling reason to be focusing your efforts on mobile advertising.

What do customers want?

Understanding when consumers are online and what devices to target them on is one thing, but what do they actually want? The latest search trends give us some fascinating insight into what people are currently interested in which can act as a guide for your ad copy and content.

Looking at the search volume for the top 50 flight queries in the Yahoo Bing Network, we can get a strong indication of intent for where customers want to go on their holiday. For the purposes of this data, only queries which included a specified destination were counted whilst mainland UK destinations were excluded from the list.

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New York emerged as the number one destination that people wanted to visit, up two places from last year’s search rankings. Australia remained popular at number two in the list whilst five of the top 10 spots were occupied by Spanish destinations including Tenerife, Malaga, Alicante, Barcelona and Lanzarote.

Barcelona was one of three new entries into the top 10 and one of a growing list of city break destinations that are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. As the economy continues to recover, Mintel has forecast that holidaymakers will spend more on their trips – upgrading current holidays, spending more per vacation and making more trips than in previous years. City breaks are on the rise as people have more funds available for short weekend breaks abroad which would account for increased search activity in flight searches for Amsterdam, Dublin and Barcelona.

What can you do as an advertiser?

So, what can you do as a search advertiser to take advantage of these trends? There are three simple actions you could take today to capitalise on the trends discussed in this post, namely:

1. Optimise campaigns for key destinations

2. Use ad extensions

3. Ensure your landing pages are optimised for mobile

Matching your campaigns to what consumers are searching for increases the relevance of your ads and makes it more likely that your ads are going to be clicked on. Optimising your campaigns to the key destinations we’ve highlighted above is a good starting point, but further analysis can be done using the Bing Ads Intelligence tool to see what the fast-moving destinations are or which destinations appeal to your core demographic.

Using ad extensions is also a great way of increasing clicks on your ads as well as shortening the conversion funnel for customers looking to get hold of information as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Sitelinks not only double the size of your adverts, creating less space on the page for your competitors, they also attract much a higher CTR than normal ads. Travel advertisers using Sitelinks received a 22% higher CTR than normal travel ads in September 2013.

Finally, your website content and landing pages need to be properly optimised for mobile users. It doesn’t matter how good your search marketing is, if the content you are driving traffic to is poor, your conversion rate is going to be terrible. With 3 in 10 travel searches coming from a mobile device, the volume of mobile traffic cannot be ignored. A recent study by xAd/Telmetrics revealed that an optimised mobile site was the one feature that travel customers prioritised over any other.

Your customers are starting to think about their summer holidays. Armed with the right search insights and tools, you should be able to optimise your travel campaigns to the needs and desires of those customers and make your marketing spend go further with more intelligent, targeted advertising.

Here’s to a great summer.

Tags: Bing Ads Accredited Professional Program, Insights, Optimization, Travel, Trends, Vertical Insights
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