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The travel and tourism industries are some of the world’s largest industries, and they’ve grown exponentially in the past decade (we’re talking from $500 billion in gross bookings throughout the US to $800 billion). As staggering as these numbers are, it might even be more intimidating as a challenger brand to stand out from the competition. So, how can you win over consumers? By ensuring that your campaign strategy for display and email is targeted to your audience and customer journey.

What Distinguishes Travel From Other Verticals?

The fundamental components of building a marketing campaign for any vertical are similar. You need to think about the phases of a customer’s journey, starting with the brand awareness stage (How do you capture interest from people who don’t know your brand?); then the consideration stage (Now that you’ve caught their attention, how will you convince them to convert?); and then lastly, with the loyalty stage (How do you keep customers coming back?). 

However, all marketing campaigns will look different depending on your business. For example, retail brands would gear their strategies more towards holidays, while travel companies would place a more significant emphasis on peak traveling seasons. 

Do You Know Your Audience? 

Before you create your campaign strategy, it’s critical to get as much insight as you can about your audience to customize targeting. For example, do you know their demographic, interests, net worth, age, and gender? 

Let’s take a look at a recent study from Bing. Their research determined that women conduct 68% of (family vacation ideas) searches and make up for 69% of clicks. Family searches were also broken down by age group: 

  • Age 35 to 49: 41%
  • Age 50 to 64: 31%
  • Age 25 to 34: 16%

With this information, if your target market is family travel, you’ll know that you should target mostly women between the ages of 35 – 49. Of course, depending on your goals and target audience, your demographics will vary. 

Once you have your demographics figured out, you can do a deep dive into your audience’s customer journey and start developing your campaign strategy for your specific traveler. 

Understanding the Traveling Customer’s Journey

In a perfect, uncomplicated world, consumers would see your paid search ad, click, and then boom — they’d convert. However, today’s customer journey is infinitely more complex — particularly when it comes to travel. Instead of three or four steps until a conversion, one person can have hundreds of interactions with brands before settling for one. In a case study conducted by Think With Google, a woman did 34 searches, played five videos, and bounced around almost 400 web pages while researching her trip to Disney World.

This is why it’s essential to segment audiences and behaviors correctly to capture (or re-capture) interest at the right time. 

Stage 1: Brand Awareness 

This stage takes place before the research phase. An effective brand awareness strategy will create brand recall in your target demographic. Ultimately, your customers should have your website in mind before they even begin researching their next trip.  

Here are suggested ad types to serve: 

Lookalike ads (Facebook + Web): These are ads that reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers. 

  • Audience to target: Website traffic lookalike

Contextual targeting ads (Web): These ads are designed to show your ads on sites that have to do with travel. For example, think about ad placements on travel blogs. While from a KPI standpoint, this type of ad performs the “worst,” they’re also considered strong because of the brand recall they create. By serving your ads alongside content related to your brand, you’re creating a connection in that customer’s mind between the content and the brand. Down the road, they’re more likely to recall your company versus a random ad on unrelated content. Note that contextual targeting ads might not be as suitable for retail businesses but makes sense for travel because the ultimate conversion is much higher than a $25 t-shirt. 

  • Audience to target: Travel websites, health, and wellness websites

Demographic and interest ads (Web): These ads are focused on people specifically interested in a subject related to your product. 

  • Audience to target: Demographic information such as age, education and net worth, people with interest in travel

Creatives for brand awareness: If possible, try to have a mix of video, native, and static ads.

Stage 2: Consideration

This phase is when consumers are considering making a purchase related to your brand. They have some level of recognition of your company, and they’re performing actions such as googling hotels. The “consideration” phase is when you start looking deeply into behaviors versus demographics. 

Examples of retargeting options by intent: 

Web and app / Facebook and Instagram retargeting – low-intent: When consumers are considered low-intent, they’re in the pre-research period (just browsing). 

  • Segment: 1+ pages viewed
  • Creative: Video, native, and static

Web and app / Facebook and Instagram – mid-intent: When consumers are considered mid-intent, they’re starting to look for specific information. 

  • Segment: 2+ Pages viewed, listing viewed
  • Creative: Dynamic

Web and app / Facebook and Instagram – high-intent: People are considered high-intent if they went as far as, say, the booking page, and then abandoned it.

  • Segment: Booking process viewed
  • Creative: Dynamic

Emails: Serve an onboarding email series to get people acquainted with your brand. It helps if you provide an incentive (like a discount or promotion). 

  • Segment: Emails captured on your site

Stage 3: Loyalty 

During the “loyalty” phase, your job is to keep your brand top-of-mind with customers. This is when CRM retargeting comes in handy as a loyalty strategy. CRM retargeting uses a marketer’s owned customer data to match known customers across any device or browser within logged-in media like Facebook, Google Search, and email.

Web and app / Facebook and Instagram retargeting – loyalty: The goal is to target past customers. People plan vacations, year after year — it’s essential to provide continued engagement

  • Segment: CRM audience – 6 months since purchase 
  • Creative: Video, native, and static

Emails: Serve re-engagement email campaigns to past customers. 

  • Segment: CRM audience – 6 months since purchase

Key Takeaways

The travel purchase cycle can be a long and complex road. It’s essential to ensure that your display and email campaigns are targeted to your audience to a) capture interest at the right time and b.) make sure consumers can find their way back to you. 

Key takeaways include: 

  • Don’t be shy when it comes to experimenting with your creatives. When it comes to travel, video, native, and static can all work to your benefit. 
  • Personalization is key. Your retargeting strategy must have the ability to serve customers the places they’re interested in. You can’t serve an ad to Maui if they’re looking for a vacation to New York. 
  • Remember how consideration-heavy shoppers in the travel industry are. It takes considerably more thought and time for your shopper to come to a purchasing decision. Because of this, a focus on the customer journey when building your campaign strategy is a must.
  • Awareness is incredibly important, for travel marketers, especially. Other than seasonality, there are few ways to predict when someone might be interested in taking a trip for business or pleasure. By developing a comprehensive awareness strategy, you can ensure whenever your audience is ready to travel, you’re first to mind.
  • Make sure you’re providing a fantastic user experience. Your customer should be rewarded for working with your brand for something as crucial as travel. Remind them down the road how great their last experience was with you, and encourage them to use your product again!

For additional tips on how to improve your campaign strategy, read more here