Online travel landscape is a bit like the movie Highlanders.
Lots of contestants, all fighting for the same fable prize: just replace chopping heads until you’re the last standing immortal with getting customer’s to book with them! And despite all other web-related actions, search was on a not so long past the very best choice in terms of marketing budget ROI.
How come? Well, search is (as you’re about to see, not sure if it still is…) closer to conversion.
Explaining why search is so conversion oriented
When you’re searching, you are probably in an interest/consideration mode and that is deeper on the purchase funnel and closer to the conversion than any other web-related activities.
Why point the obvious? To help you understand Google’s importance on driving large scale travel revenue, especially on a last click attribution model.
Whether we’re talking about Macro or Micro conversions, Google has all the tools to help you and has made everything on its power to create an environment prone to its paid search ads model AdWords: by increase paid ads search visibility, by encouraging competitiveness between announcers and consequently monetizing all of this.
In fact, and on a global scale, except for China, Google as long taken the “cutting heads…there shall be only one” approach and almost completely owns the search engine scenario.
Marketers love big segmented audiences, and performance driven marketers love to measure their campaigns impact (results) on those audiences. Until now, Google has had the better on both fields: audience & measurement!
That’s always been the case with Online Travel. Google is still THE most important source of traffic for hotel chains, airplane companies, rentals and all the related categories. For years big brands like IHG, Marriot or Accor and OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com have supported the majority of their online marketing budgets on Google products, specifically AdWords.
And why wouldn’t they? Google Ads can be set by intent what makes them reliable, capable of reaching highly interested audiences (because of intent) and an unmatched mutlti-national scale. At the same time and unlike tradicional media, Google allows rapid budget reallocation and offer brands trustworthy insights on their customers.
Travel is a Multi-Billion dollar game and Google as always tried to make the best of it. First with static paid ads, then launching Google Flights and Google Hotels, and even more recently presenting “Destinations on Google” and Google Hotel Ads that dynamically pull prices and availability from direct connections with the hotels, partners and OTAs.
Also, a new AdWords feature Google Price extensions is in beta at the moment but might also be used in the Travel in a near feature, allowing travel providers to show prices for related products and thus increasing CTR and probably conversion rates.
Now enters Facebook
For years Facebook has been considered by marketers as a never-ending promise.
Of course it has the scale. Facebook has been building a huge and active audience, and most of the time brands considered Facebook for brand awareness and even consideration purposes, but besides not being as easily accessible like Google AdWords (with local offices on several countries, hundreds of tutorials, white-papers, how-to articles, etc…), Facebook also lacked the part of the purchase funnel that drives most of the sales volume and scale: the intent.
Back in good old 2012, after a highly controversial IPO valued at $104 Billion, Facebook decided to change is business approach to a “Mobile First Strategy” despite being 2 years late compared with Google.
That was the turning point!
By then it was crystal clear to Facebook that mobile users would outnumber desktop users, would spend more time online and there was a huge opportunity for mobile monetizing. Even do it took them roughly 1 year to get the strategy straight, they’ve soon began capitalizing mobile traffic.
With the mobile 1st approach, some wrongs suddenly became very clear:
- For relevance and engagement, ads served needed to be native (easily integrating in the users experience and not disrupting it);
- Big data needed to be analyzed fast and efficiently, producing actionable outcomes – that was solved with strategic partners like Adobe;
- A new way of audience targeting needed to be found to connect consumer habits, demographics and several other signs that could potentially help either influence and/or understand intents from Facebook users. That was done by partnering with 3rd party data giants such as Datalogix (later bought by Oracle) in order to cross-reference online and offline data and establish purchase/conversion patterns;
- The existing standard in audience segmentation- cookie based – showed several restrictions, especially considering online landscape with its micro-moments (Google’s new marketing model), cross-browser, cross-device content consumption;
Since then, Facebook has release and tried several usefull features aimed at increasingly target and segment audiences by all sorts of filters, events and interests.
Some as crazy has life events where you can literally choose from new relationship to newly engaged or to newlywed. I imagine 1800-Flowers has a special relationship with this set of audience…
Facebook Remarketing has also evolved and has became increasingly consistent on delivering fairly good results, also because of better targeting and segmenting as well as newly released ad types like Canvas, that provides a full page ad story-telling seamless experience on mobile.
If you manage online marketing for a brand, try this:
- Have the Facebook base pixel installed on your website & app and then install the pixel for tracking conversion-related events.
- Load your active email data base for Custom Audience Ads.
- Split-test different campaigns according to your conversion events above & another campaign for your Custom Audience and then…
Just feast your eyes on an up to 4% on cost per conversion with epic, accurate and result driven Facebook Remarketing Ads!!!
Bum!!! Nailed it!!!
Up to 4% on cost per acquisiton?!? That’s a number that only brand bidding campaigns with search ads can reach!
Display is (was) far far away from that cost per conversion rate!
Do you get now what worries the AdWords team at night?
Display can tap into the largest part of the web: content. Suddenly, for performance campaigns, you’re not restrained to what people search!
Apply these on highly compeling product ads along with dynamic remarketing and custom audience look-a-likes, and you start guessing fast why Facebook is suddenly becoming Google AdWords worst nightmare…
So now for the main question: what Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel brings to the table? Will cover that below.
Facebook Dynamic Travel Ads – a good AdWords complement?
First of all: what are Facebook Dynamic Travel Ads?
It’s a bit like Facebook Dynamic Ads, just focusing more on the Travel Industry.
Facebook explains Dynamic Ads fairly good:
“With Dynamic Ads you can promote relevant items from an entire catalog across any device. Display ads for thousands of items to the right audience and automate the process. The solution has three major elements: 1. Set up a product catalog. 2. Build your audience from your website and/or mobile app. 3. Create and deliver ads for your catalog”.
So it’s just like regular Facebook Ads, but instead of manually creating every single ad for every product you sell, Facebook will not only automatically do this for you, but it will also customize them according to your customer audience.
Again, its very similar to a Google product, Google Shopping Ads, but without the hassle of people having to search for it!
And now, Dynamic Travel Ads:
“Automatically promote your travel inventory on Facebook. Facebook’s dynamic ads for travel leverage cross-device intent signals to automatically promote relevant products from your inventory with unique creative on Facebook.”
Facebook is diving DTA (Dynamic Travel Ads) in 2 major categories:
- Hotel Remarketing purposes;
- Destination Display for awareness and inspiration purposes;
How can you do it?
- Set up your Hotel or Destination Catalog
- Build your Audience for Travel
- Create and deliver ads for your hotels / destinations
Do you get now how Dynamic Ads work? The cycle is very well explained below:
With Facebook tapping your audience for user intent signals, automatically feeding your product images, description and pricing to your remarketing audience and then extending it to similar intent-driven shoppers, it’s easy to foresee that these Ads will have a fairly good conversion rate along with the opportunitie to increase the brand’s reach to similar audiences, always keeping in mind conversion goals!
Why a game changer?
Just as explained before, Google takes a huge share of online travel marketing budgets because it allows you to tap into the interest phase of your audience. Also, they’re a global presence so it makes it easier for big brands to scale fast on this model.
With search ads you know what your customers want, because they express it in writing (keywords) on Google search. That’s why every time someone is searching for your travel brand, you need to be there. That’s also the main reason why OTAs and Metasearch Websites are there….
The main players in this game are Expedia Inc and Priceline (who owns Booking.com), and they are willing to invest heavily to take their fare-share on Google paid real estate!
Over the course of 2015 Expedia claims to have spent a staggering $3,3 Billion on online advertising, Priceline Group around $2,8 Billion with AdWords having a lion’s share on their marketing share.
The big problem is that you don’t really want to put all your eggs in the same basket, and that’s why travel giants see Facebook Advertising, specifically Dynamic Travel Ads as such a game changer! It’s has global scale, a huge audience to reach and finally the technology to convert!
Bellow you can see IHG beta testing Facebook Dynamic Travel Ads with it’s IHG Rewards Club:
Bellow you can see Waterford Lux Resort Dynamic Travel Ads:
Facebook Dynamic Ads and soon other social platforms Ads will offer a viable opportunity to combine high scale marketing investments with increasingly higher conversion rates, therefore allowing brands to either shift a bigger share of their marketing investment or to keep on scaling their marketing dollars but acquiring customers at different stages from the usual “search by keyword, intention stage”.
Analyzing and accurately identifying the correct consumer patterns, signs, habits and behaviors prior to purchasing travel products is the key to a continual increase on ad relevancy and accuracy.
Will Facebook be able to significantly gain marketing dollars share that were previously directed to Google?
What’s your opinion? Leave your thoughts below!