How to plan the perfect digital marketing campaign in travelNews / Technology | OnlineBy Viewpoints | May 13, 2014Share This article was originally published on The travel vertical is a natural fit for digital marketing. For one thing, a large share of travel booking and planning is done online. This means almost all conversions are measurable, and attributing credit to particular ads is feasible.That makes for good ROI optimization. But there is more to campaign optimization than just calculating ROI for different strategies.NB: This is a viewpoint from Brian d'Alessandro, VP of data science at Dstillery.The marketing industry has evolved to a stage where data from many sources can be used in digital campaigns. The expansion of data sources is a game-changer that can have a huge impact on messaging and media planning for online travel campaigns.Almost every American travels at some point in their life, so at a top level, the entire US adult population is the addressable audience. To be effective, however, there is clearly a need to segment this audience and get specific.But how can this be done?There are at least as many segments as there are travel destinations and travel personas (i.e., business, family, resort, sport...). Luckily, the data is converging in the digital sphere so that we can create the right segments and take action against them.Here are three ways we can use data to give digital travel campaigns an ROI boost.Build a story and media plan around your own dataIn my experience as a marketing focused data scientist, CRM data has some of the richest signals, and is generally free for the brand. Brands have long relied on their CRM systems for offline and email marketing, and now this data can be associated with browsers and devices and incorporated seamlessly into digital display campaigns.The key is to get the pipes in place. Demand management platforms (DMPs) are entities that specialize in syncing a brand’s CRM data to cookie pools, and doing so can bring tremendous intelligence to a digital campaign. Every travel brand has a range of customers, from extreme loyalists to opportunistic brand agnostic shoppers.The different types of customers should clearly be targeted and messaged differently. Simple retargeting can’t differentiate between these types, though, so the distinction is lost without the CRM data.Acknowledging the heterogeneity of your own customer base and adjusting the relevant messaging should be the first step in planning a successful travel campaign.Reach people in their planning phaseBefore people take their physical journeys, they typically make digital journeys that indicate the nature of their intent.As a travel enthusiast myself, the research phase is part of the excitement of a vacation. Discovering new places to eat and visit brings you to your destination before you ever get there. This discovery process is almost always done on the web, and it happens at various levels.First, I need to pick destination. Will this next trip be to Paris or the Caribbean? Then I need to book a flight and find a hotel.This is a critical time for any travel brand to consider in their marketing plan. This is when the big decisions happen, and getting your brand, with the right message, in front of me can really influence the choices I make.While the prospect of seeing Rodin at the Musee d’Orsay entices me, seeing ad creatives with palm trees and white sand beaches reminds me of how much my winter-weary self needs some sun. The benefit of leveraging this type of in-market research data is that the audience pool extends beyond the CRM or retargeting base.This is the chance for the travel brand to reach new audiences and establish new customers.Be locally creativeThe best way to know if someone is a traveler (and what type of traveler they are) is to actually observe them travel.Traditional online and CRM data are great for capturing travel intent, but they are still constrained to traditional online and cookie-based systems. Consumers are increasingly reachable via their mobile devices, and this increased reach comes with increased signals.Specifically, a lot of mobile inventory has location data attached to it.With this data, you can build audiences and targeting criteria based on physical travel signals. For instance, a person killing time in the airport might be the ideal candidate for a hotel ad.It is highly likely that the person’s mobile device would be the best way to reach her. Additionally, you can see that a particular person spends most of his time in New York City but occasionally is observed in San Francisco. That person might be an ideal candidate to serve ads announcing the opening of a new hotel in San Francisco or new services on flights that connect the two cities.Targeting firms are increasingly offering solutions for this type of audience identification and location data is perfect for travel marketing.When it comes to planning a travel campaign, timing and intent are everything. Understanding what type of traveler you’re reaching and when they’re ready to hear your message is the differentiator between positive and negative ROI.Luckily for travel brands, there is a plethora of data available for doing this right.NB: This is a viewpoint from Brian d'Alessandro, VP of data science at Dstillery.NB2:Tablet image courtesy Shutterstock.