Digital video is poised to break out as one of the most powerful sales tools available to travel brands. In a recent study, the media consulting firm Sequent Partners found that 65 percent of marketers believe video is growing in importance for driving offline sales while 42 percent of those surveyed already see it as a better sales tool than other leading forms of media.
Despite this shifting mindset, the travel industry has largely shied away from implementing digital video as a performance tactic. Indeed, brands in the airline, hotel and recreation sectors face a unique set of challenges that have made it difficult to justify significant video budgets, much less to track whether those budgets are generating sales. But video is patiently waiting for the chance to change travel marketing.
Dwight Pirtle, now digital lead at Airbnb and formerly with Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation, shared some insight about the hurdles to digital video adoption in travel marketing, as well as tactics and tips he recommends to clear these challenges moving forward. Below, we look at three hurdles keeping video from becoming a major player in the travel industry.
1. Travel marketers have trouble getting ahold of the right creative assets
With the exception of the airlines, most travel brands, like hotels, resorts and travel destinations, don’t run a whole lot of television advertising. The cost of TV advertising is pretty high for the average travel brand, and as a result, they oftentimes don’t have high-quality video assets necessary for the medium. Creating these assets is time-consuming and expensive, which can be a heavy burden for a campaign that will ultimately be measured by its ability to drive sales lift and a positive return on ad spend.
This problem is then compounded by the fact that travel marketers need a multitude of assets to speak to a company’s different brands, discounts, specials, packages, unique offerings, amenities and attractions, all along with the various destinations it uses to attract customers. After all, an ad designed to persuade someone to book a hotel in Miami probably won’t work for someone planning a trip to Alaska or an ad designed to persuade a business traveler likely won’t work for someone planning a family cruise.
As a partial fix, Pirtle suggests that marketers could trim costs by using video personalization technology to automate asset production and tailor it to a company’s different brands and locations. Personalizing a singular video asset addresses both the concerns with lead time and investment and the detailed customization necessary for travel brands. “Personalization offers the ability to not have to produce nine videos for nine different properties and to have a message that will still be relevant to each user,” Pirtle says.
2. Long lead times for booking creates measurement headaches
One of leisure travel marketing’s defining features is its long lead times, with consumers sometimes planning their trips a year or more in advance. This unusually large window makes it difficult for brands to understand when and where their ads were seen, and whether those ads influenced the actual sale.
“Personalization offers the ability to not have to produce nine videos for nine different properties and to have a message that will still be relevant to each user.”
Dwight Pirtle, Travel Marketing Expert
This is especially hard in video, which often plays a storytelling role early in the consideration process—long before a consumer might click on the search ad that leads them to the booking page. Pirtle explains that a user exposed to a video campaign can take at least 30 days to actually convert. As such, he recommends that marketers should either account for this period in the look-back windows they use for tracking or adjust the weighting they give to video in their attribution models.
3. Travel agencies and online aggregators make attribution a constant issue
According to a Skift article from January of 2016, just 25 percent of hotel bookings are made on brand websites and mobile properties with the rest coming through traditional travel agencies, online aggregators like Expedia (also known as Online Travel Agencies or OTAs) and other entry points. With so many attribution points to keep track of, it can be extremely difficult for travel brands to measure sales lift—particularly since several of these properties are owned by other companies.
From Pirtle’s perspective, travel brands can improve the quality of their attribution data by giving consumers incentives to book directly on their sites. In addition, marketers should look at the regions where they are spending large portions of their budget to see whether there’s a lift in OTA bookings, traditional travel agency bookings and/or direct campaign bookings in those markets. One booking channel certainly can affect another channel’s performance.
While these challenges are formidable, they are certainly not insurmountable. By implementing the strategies outlined above, developing intelligent targeting parameters and working with the right technology partners, travel brands can succeed at driving sales lift as well as generating and measuring return on ad spend from digital video that is integrated into their marketing campaigns.
“I do think it’s a challenge for video that people think it’s upper funnel and that it doesn’t drive return on investment because of how expensive it is,” Pirtle says. “That can be true, but when you work with partners who are laser-targeted and extremely focused on driving results for their clients, digital video can deliver a positive return, precision awareness and a positive outcome for all parties.”