How to bridge the travel marketing divideNews / OnlineBy Viewpoints | November 14, 2013Share This article was originally published on Data is everywhere and yet as those in travel marketing use it build a strong relationships with their consumers, it can be difficult to deliver a personal and tailored user experience.NB: This is a viewpoint by Philip Storey, global head of strategy at Lyris.To help understand this so-called "digital marketing gap", we partnered with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to understand marketer and consumer perceptions towards digital marketing in the travel sector; and to see which strategies and tactics work, and which do not.Consumers in travel prefer to acquire different types of travel information through the brand websites and company’s media material (68%) to gain product and service information as well as expert review sites (54%) and vendor/reputation information (45%) for validation.It is important for travel marketers to provide comprehensive information on their websites and ensure that the third-party websites are accurately representing your brand. We found that third party sites were often the "missing link" here.This next bit is important – travel consumers feel that broad and excessive personalisation undermines the effectiveness of marketing messages.In truth, 79% of consumers felt overwhelmed with the frequency of personalised marketing messages and 69% of consumer respondents agreed with the statement that "attempts at personalisation are superficial".However, there was some good news - the study also showed that email was listed as the top channel for pre and post-purchase communications by travel consumers (35% and 51%, respectively) and personal referrals were cited as the top channel for the final assessment cultivating influencers.The EIU research showed that greater emphasis is now placed on collecting and analysing data for individual customers, compared to five years ago.The travel industry has shifted its emphasis for disseminating messages across multiple touch points, towards collecting and analysing detailed data for customer profiles.In particular, nearly 85 % of marketers in travel paid the most attention to customers repeat purchases and the value of transactions, representing the sectors ongoing battle to achieve brand loyalty.Clearly, there is a major gap and lack of alignment between what marketers deliver and travel consumers’ needs and desires.We suggest a three-step approach to bridging this gap:1. Understand what mattersMarketers have access to lots of data, but not every data point needs to be examined. When collecting digital data, be sure that it is "actionable" as quickly as possible.For example: Who is opening your emails and what are they doing next, but how can you use that data quickly, or through automation?What information can you glean about their response to previous promotions and purchase history? Use this insight regularly and make it efficient for your marketing team to do so to generate more targeted offers and recommendations.Be aware of the dangers of relying too much on data/automation for personalisation and messaging, as there is clearly more effort needed to ensure these messages are effective and useful to your customers.2. Create meaningful interactionsExamine your customers’ behaviour across all channels – marketers should create messages and select digital channels that make the most impact in a particular phase of a buyer’s journey.When you bring personalisation and dynamic content into messages, it must be useful, relevant and absolutely accurate. And remember that browse data has a shelf life – in most cases it will only be useful to your brand for a short while.Don’t fall into the trap of over-using it.3. Support insight with best practice digital marketingServicing customers online can be a key differentiator for travel companies, so avoiding key annoyances and fulfilling their needs through better content delivery via the right channel is of paramount importance.Employing email best practices such as improved recency targeting and leaner HTML will not only improve the performance of your email marketing programme, but will also decrease spam complaint rates and un-subscriptions.Data-driven insight is only as valuable as your ability to use it effectively. Creating customised content is one thing - making sure it reaches your intended audience when, where, and how it’s supposed to is another.Applying data analytics, a thorough testing strategy, mobile optimisation, dynamic content and re-engagement strategy will help reach customers and incentivise them to act.Take a look at the entire customer lifecycle to create and optimise contact strategies. Providing personalised deals and related product comparisons can be useful.Summing upThe travel industry has been hit by increased competition (particularly the newer pure plays), massive changes in the way that people research and choose travel products, all amongst a decreasing customer spend.Bridging the gap between marketers and consumers requires marketing professionals to differentiate their brand through all the channels available – website, email, social media as well as print, TV and so on.And finally, they must be joined up – there’s no longer any room for silos in this business.NB: This is a viewpoint by Philip Storey, global head of strategy at Lyris.NB:Bridge divide image via Shutterstock.