As an online travel-deal publisher, Travelzoo constantly engages its audience by offering value propositions. Regardless of the marketing channels we use, our core focus is to ensure we provide quality deals to 26 million global subscribers. Two key trends are helping us to get even closer to them and make good on our value promise —these same trends are also turning marketing on its head no matter what sector you do business in and will figure into 2014 with greater significance.
Dial M for mobiles
Mobiles are no longer tools for communication. They have become indispensable network nodes that keep consumers tethered to their friends and workplaces from anywhere and at anytime. They are also empowering consumers to make smarter and fast choices. This transformation is having a profound effect on marketing and how effective campaigns are built—especially in the travel industry.
According to a recent research report by EyeforTravel (1), 20 per cent of all travel sales are made through mobiles. In particular to China, reaching your target customer segments through mobile can be highly effective. There are 618 million Internet users and 500 million mobile Internet users (2). The proportion of those who came online via mobile hit 73.3 per cent — higher than any other mode of Internet access.
The latest Travelzoo Asia Pacific survey (3) revealed that mobile use for travel-related commerce is skyrocketing. Over 50 per cent of regional subscribers said they will likely book and pay for a holiday using their mobile in 2014, with 73 per cent hailing from China.
Likewise, mobile Internet usage overseas is also experiencing a similar growth spurt. In the same Travelzoo Asia Pacific survey, over 80 per cent of regional subscribers noted that they used mobile Internet during their holidays, with 98 per cent coming from China.
Travelzoo’s launch of its iPhone application two years ago has confirmed that consumers love a great deal, no matter where they are. Currently, 20 per cent of our total voucher purchases in Asia Pacific are done through mobile. This is a significant achievement and testament to the quality of our deals, as our high-ticket items have not deterred our subscribers from making transactions on mobile. We anticipate continued double digit growth in the coming quarters from mobile purchases.
We are looking to further enhanceour subscribers’ on-the-go experience with a major revamp of our mobile site, developing mobile exclusive content and strategic partnerships, launching targeted promotions to drive application downloads and in addition, developing a new mobile application tailored for the China market.
Accessibility to our deals is paramount to our continued success. Seamless in-app transactions are something we are working on to maximize this. We are currently experimenting with in-app purchases on WeChat to enable users to purchase our deals directly in the WeChat environment.
So with mobile’s impact on rate of return growing, will 2014 be an outstanding year for mobile in travel marketing? Travelzoo does not believe so. Instead, we predict that marketers will be influenced by short-term macro trends and economic challenges. This will make them cautious about increasing their investments in mobile and overlook the long-term potential of mobile marketing.
Time to go social
The world, it seems, is getting social. In travel, it makes perfect sense. Understanding the first-hand experience of other travellers removes the risk and anxieties of travelling to a foreign destination. Travel is an emotional buy and social media is the accelerating vehicle for consumers' emotional out-pourings. The positive feedback on popular Social Media platforms has an aggregating effect that has a significant influence on travellers’ preferences.
Savvy brands are jumping into social media. But experts urge caution and in particular against using it as direct marketing tool. Instead, they should be viewed as complementary, helping you to improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts while offering you a listening post for your customer comments.
For Travelzoo, social media is not just another channel to extend our deals. We view it as a platform to further engage our consumers and listen to what they want in real-time. In turn, it shapes our strategy in choosing the right strategic partners, pushing relevant content and building a win-win scenario with our subscribers, our partners and ourselves. In 2014, we are looking to strengthen our social media strategy by diversifying our presence and putting even more focus on popular social media platforms, such as Weibo, Facebook, Instagram and WeChat.
Social media success is often defined by four factors: Being genuine to your customers, ensuring relevant content, building a strong and persistent presence, and ensuring that your message is consistent across all customer-touch points. It’s a formula that has worked especially well for Travelzoo. But while we celebrate its success, we need to recognise that a well-conceived strategic approach remains the basis of a profitable marketing plan.
Both trends—mobiles and social media, are not new and have been discussed at great lengths. However, their value and impact in marketing campaigns, especially in the travel industry, have grown significantly. And for those targeting mobile-savvy and socially-aware netizens across Asia, these are trends you ignore at your own peril.
EyeforTravel, Social Media and Mobile in Travel Distribution Report: Online strategies, consumer and industry trends, Aug 2013.
TNW, China’s Internet pentration hit 618 million, at the end of 2013January, 2014.
Travelzoo Asia Pacific subscriber survey is conducted in collaboration with WIMI, a consumer insights consultancy, Jan 2014.
Jason Yap is CEO Travelzoo Asia Pacific