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Innovating travel through technology

  Article , Travel , Success stories

TravelPass uses data and Bing Ads to target new customers

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A passion for travel

When you’re on vacation, the last thing you want to do is think about work. That’s not the case, however, for the people at TravelPass Group, a Partner Fusion company that has been innovating the travel industry while booking more than 10,000 hotel rooms daily and earning annual sales north of $400 million. To these folks, time spent on the road is an opportunity to conduct field research.

“The more I can travel, the better,” explains Mike Hurren, TravelPass Group’s vice president of marketing. “I love meeting new people, getting new ideas and being involved in the whole travel process. We use a lot of what we learn in our travel experiences. We come back to work and always seem to talk about each other’s weekend trips and how it was such a great or horrible experience with this hotel or that airline, and how we could take that insight and make our products better.”

The marketing technology company employs proprietary tools to fuel its travel websites, such as ReservationCounter.com, that combine multiple hotel inventory sources and use well-tested search strategies to help consumers find and save on the best travel destinations and deals.

“We started by partnering with Expedia,” Hurren says of the company’s impressive momentum. “Now we have partnerships with Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, GetARoom, Amadeus, Sabre, Booking.com and other major players in the travel industry. We also foster individual relationships with different hotel groups and hotel chains.”

Individually, each of these sites is a household brand; together, they create a powerful supply network that helps travelers access more choices and deals available in the TravelPass Group system, which has a combined inventory of more than 1 million properties worldwide.

“We look at our product as a whole,” says Cameron Urry, the vice president of product for TravelPass Group. “We want to leverage the web to understand the customer’s needs. Sometimes, that’s giving them the ability to work with us in a direct line of communication. Like, ‘give us a call, we’ll help find the hotel that's right for you.’ Or, ‘tell us your needs, tell us the situation, and we'll get it booked and taken care of.’”

Bing Ads is a vital component of our company’s marketing strategy.

— Mike Hurren, Vice President of Marketing, TravelPass Group

Data everywhere

Rather than a frustrating maze of “contact us” pages and automated phone systems, Urry and Hurren want something more user-friendly. Because when they travel, they want a simple booking experience and fast, amiable customer service.

“There are a lot of players in the travel industry who would rather keep all the interactions online,” Hurren says. “We have our own call centers available to our customers 24/7. We’ve developed technology that links our marketing efforts with our phone efforts, attributing our sales back to the channel that drove customers. We can leverage what we know about our customers and use that in the sales process to make booking as easy and seamless as possible.”

It’s an old-fashioned bedrock of an anachronistic industry that seems to reinvent itself every year. Gone are the days of smiling travel agents waiting for your visit in a nearby office; today, sites compare prices and seek out a user’s criteria in the wink of an eye.

“We’re a very data-driven company, and we have access to tons of data on what users prefer on our website, those who come through our search campaigns and those who prefer to use our best-in-class call center,” explains Hurren. “We know what speaks to them at scale because of data, and then we try to use that as much as possible to improve the customer experience through agent training and scripting in our call centers. Also, it’s in the way we tailor our websites to help travelers find what they're looking for as quickly and easily as possible.”

Mixing the old-fashioned virtues of a travel agency with the new-fashioned benefits of our connected world, however, isn’t without its obstacles.

“It's a challenge,” Urry says of such efforts. “It's challenging to carry all that information from that search experience to the web experience and to the call center.”

Hurren adds, “But those are the challenges we like.”

Bing’s valuable audience

Cameron Urry, vice president of product, TravelPass Group.

Analyzing data across the various networks in the TravelPass Group portfolio, certain truths about marketing have emerged. Bing Ads is a vital component of our company’s marketing strategy.

“Bing has been a great partner for us,” Hurren explains. “Bing Ads provides us with some unique features that we really appreciate and like. We've ramped up our spend with Bing and it’s on an equal footing with Google for us. With any new campaign or new product we're launching, we're just as likely to launch first on Bing as Google.”

According to Urry, the demographics of the Bing audience are a perfect fit for its travel sites, which largely targets consumers with disposable income. “The user base is similar to ours, with Reservation Counter specifically,” he explains. “That site tends to index a little bit higher in the age groups, and right now it’s one of our largest sites. It has always meshed very well with Bing.”

With any new campaign or new product we're launching, we're just as likely to launch first on Bing as Google.

— Mike Hurren, Vice President of Marketing, TravelPass Group

Remarketing for the future

Datatable showing TravelPass achievements with Bing Ads: 24% higher cost per aquisition; 10% lower cost per click; 19% higher conversion rate; 94% highter click-through rate. Data provided by TravelPass Group.

Data provided by TravelPass Group

Another truth is universal, even beyond the travel agency: If you don’t have a capable remarketing strategy, you’re leaving money on the table.

“We see a large majority of our customers converting within 24 hours, but visiting the page multiple times,” Urry says. “There are a lot of people who come back over time because the travel-buying process is just that, a process.”

Hurren says that although remarketing has been part of the TravelPass Group strategy for some time, there is room for amplification. “We're trying to improve and expand our remarketing efforts with Bing in particular right now,” he explains. “We find that our previous customers are much more likely to convert when they come back to our sites. They know us, they like us, and our brand recognition is higher. Any time we can re-engage with somebody who's been on our site and who has interacted with us before — whether they've converted or not — it's something we want to do. “

From here, it’s anybody’s guess where the travel industry will go next. But by drawing upon its innovative spirit, technological know-how and partnership with Bing Ads, Partner Fusion’s TravelPass Group is well-positioned for a future filled with growth, adventure, and plenty more field research.

“It's about creating experiences that inspire travel,” Urry says. “Site redesigns, branding, everything is focused on that. But no matter where things go, search is always going to be a big part of our future. It’s our bread and butter.”

According to Hurren, the immediate goals are simply a matter of increased personalization. Despite serving countless customers every day, the goal is to use technologies both old and new to make each person feel like they’re receiving a one-on-one experience.

“More and more we’re focusing on a more segmented approach in our search campaigns,” he says. “There may be 1,400 different people searching for a certain keyword, but as we notice different things about each one of those people, we can act appropriately based on age, gender, location and device to meet their needs.

“That's our focus right now,” Hurren adds. “Using data to move from a broadcast approach in our search advertising to connecting with our customers one on one.”

Keep reading

View or save the infographic recap to see how Bing Ads customer TravelPass uses data and remarketing to drive performance and growth in paid search.

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