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Plugging the data gaps to ensure travel brands flourish in today's environment

The big picture  

Travel brands face an uncertain and rapidly evolving environment as travel returns. But there are positive signs, with UK digital ad spend in the sector growing 33% in 2021 – and anticipated to be the same in 2022.  The winners will be those able to increase their sales by taking opportunities to win new customers while engaging with past ones seeking to travel again. And accessing and activating rich data to identify, target and engage the most valuable individuals is critical to achieving this.

Why it matters 

Effective marketing needs relevant, up to date, actionable data. But for the travel industry, it's ground zero when it comes to data. The fractured nature of travel over the last two years has led to an absence of fresh, reliable data. Now, anticipating future travel activity based on past behaviours is impossible, and traditional assumptions, customer segmentation models and marketing approaches no longer hold true.  To reset their marketing, travel brands must reset their data.   

Deeper dive – 5 steps to help travel brands evolve their marketing 


  1. Rebuild your first-party data: First-party data is critical – and access to it is essential to ensure brands are in a strong position when third-party cookies die. Focus on replenishing your customer data through your loyalty programmes and email CRM. Then maximise its value. Start leveraging it beyond the environment it's been collected in to activate your media and support your acquisition activities. 

  2. Target the person, not the traveller: Building communications based on travel data alone limits marketing effectiveness. But building them around an enhanced understanding of individual consumers using demographic, lifestyle, preference, purchasing behaviour, and intention data enriches your messaging, delivers more relevant, impactful creatives, and provides new insights to improve your future marketing. Seek out new data sources that will give you a more rounded view of your customers.

  3. Keep insights current: In a dynamic, uncertain travel environment, consumer confidence is ever-changing. Ensure your data is fresh and continually analyse your customers –more so than in pre-pandemic times. You can then identify emerging trends and proactively address the opportunities and challenges. 

  4. Realise that customer journeys are fluid, not linear: Today's customer journey is not a static funnel with a defined end – it's a continual loop. Consumers enter this loop at many stages, depending on their needs, so marketing and messaging must be dynamic. Use data intelligently to ensure individuals receive relevant, targeted communications wherever they are in the loop. Ultimately, the more individual data points you have about consumers, the more impactful this will be.

  5. Ensure everything drives an outcome: In challenging times, you must justify all marketing spend. Focus on demonstrating how your marketing activity is contributing to the bottom line. Move away from marketing metrics like Cost per Booking. Instead, report on those that matter to the business and demonstrate marketing's impact.      


In a nutshell 

Evolving to the new travel reality comes down to understanding consumers, which requires a data-driven approach. Accessing data that plugs the holes in their current customer information – while uncovering new insights to better understand and market to them as individuals – is essential. This will ensure travel brands are in a stronger position to develop their business in these challenging times.

Looking for more ideas around evolving your business to compete in today's market? Then check out our new Customer-Centric Video Series for insights, advice, and best practices on developing critical areas of your marketing.

For more information, please contact our travel expert Toby Morris.