Digital ad spending in the travel space has grown exponentially over the past five years. eMarketer projects that travel advertisers in the US will spend $12.97 billion on digital advertising in 2020, more than double the $5.95 billion they spent in 2016. This post reveals how travel marketers can leverage affiliate marketing to increase bookings.
January and February are prime times to start getting in front of people who are starting to plan their vacations, says Katie Kelly, a Senior Account Manager at Rakuten Marketing who works with clients in the travel industry.
“The busy time when it comes to travel bookings is from March-September,” Kelly says.
That’s because in January-February, many people just got done traveling for the holidays, so they hold off on planning any additional trips until Spring Break and summer getaways. Budget is also an issue, given that the holiday season just wrapped up and travelers are looking to save a couple of bucks rather than immediately going on another vacation.
With that in mind, marketers across the travel industry are in the process of ramping up their digital marketing campaigns. One channel that is poised to get a growing amount of that spending is the affiliate channel in part because of the diverse range of publishers that an advertiser can leverage to reach subsets of potential customers.
According to travel direct demand engine Sojern’s State of the Travel Industry report, more than half of all travel marketers (54%) measure advertising effectiveness by the amount of traffic generated by a particular campaign, while 50% measure success based on the cost per booking and 38% measure success based on click through rate. Tools like Dynamic Commissioning, explained below, can help a travel marketer increase traffic and bookings, while clearly communicating which audience you’re trying to engage with can help you lower your cost per booking.
Align your commission strategy with your goals.
Kelly says the most important thing that travel advertisers can do is to set goals at the outset for the types of customers they’re hoping to acquire and communicate those goals to publishers upfront in order to attract the right partners that are capable of delivering a message that resonates.
“If your goal is to drive new customers, offer a higher commission to drive new customers,” Kelly says. “But offering higher commission is one part of the equation – you have to work with your publishers to come up with some sort of promotion that will stand out from all of the other online noise and be enough of a carrot to entice a traveler into booking a deal with you rather than one of your competitors.”
Identify properties or destinations that could use a sales bump
Affiliate marketing can be an effective tool to drive more sales and traffic during periods of time or to properties that can use a bump.
Kelly says it’s important for travel advertisers to identify the time frame and locations that they want to drive more interest in and work closely with your account team to develop a strategy to increase bookings for these properties.
“Your account team can help you come up with an effective mix of publishers that will help you reach your target customer, be it working with publishers that focus on a specific topic or reach a specific audience, or even working with publishers that can do certain mobile geo pushes,” she says.
Kelly recommends leveraging Rakuten Marketing’s Dynamic Commissioning tool in order to offer higher commission rates for driving clicks and conversions to specific properties. This will encourage publishers that you’re working with to more actively promote and feature those properties while also giving you a better return on ad spend.
Here’s how this would work in action – Let’s say you know that one of your hotels in Seattle tends to have more vacancies in October. You can encourage publishers to prominently feature your properties that are in Seattle – or a specific property within the city that isn’t performing as well – by offering higher percentage of each booking to those locations during a certain time frame.
Tailor your content to the publishers you’re working with
Affiliate networks are complex and varied and this allows an advertiser to leverage different types of publishers to generate interest at all stages of the funnel. For instance, travel marketers can introduce themselves to people who are looking to book family travel for Spring or Summer break by working with content publishers who focus on family activities. A cash back or rewards publisher can then be an effective tool to close the deal by offering better rewards for booking certain dates or locations.
Now is the perfect time to start thinking about and exploring how the affiliate channel can help you get more potential travelers en route to your destinations.
Want to learn more? Contact us today.