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Three digital marketing trends for travel brands in 2017

John McNulty, Global Marketing at Marin Software

In this guest editorial piece, Marin Software Vice President of Global Marketing John McNulty outlines digital marketing trends for travel brands looking to cut through the competitive noise.

Summer is an important season for the travel industry. With school out and warm weather in, it’s one of the most lucrative times of the year.

Holiday goers now discover vacation locations through social media, looking to secure their dream destination in a matter of clicks.

Having studied thousands of businesses in the travel sector, Marin Software’s The State of Travel Search Advertising: Trends, Formats, and Paths to Success, revealed interesting insights.

While digital ad spend and impressions reached their highest point over the summer, clicks actually reached their highest point during autumn by nearly 20 per cent, right after the traditionally busy travel season. While consumers searched almost 20 per cent more more during summer than winter, for terms directly related to travel, lodging, and auto rentals, increased clicks occurred in the autumn period.

These findings provide the travel industry with a number of explanations and potential consumer personas worth investigating for the sector.

Early-bird travelers, fresh from their summer holiday, may have been already planning for trips next year. Post-summer sales, beginning in autumn, may drive consumers to click travel ads to find low-priced deals and plan ahead for their next trip. Budget-conscious consumers may specifically have been looking for an off-season adventure, having waited out the expensive, popular, and crowded summer season.

So how might the tourism and travel sector prepare for this in the coming summer months? With so many advertisers focusing on the summer to gain the attention of potential and interested travelers, autumn remains an untapped opportunity for search and display marketing.

Further data indicates, along with an autumn focus, advertisers would be wise to consider creatives that mirror the Instagram and Facebook experience.

In Marin’s recent study, the overwhelming majority of travel search ads in Marin’s recent study were text ads. Even with the advent of product ads and other formats, text remains the ad format of choice for travel companies, with product ads accounting for less than 1% of all travel search ads. This is significantly less diversified than the overall search industry, leaving an opening for visually rich creatives that mirror Instagram and Facebook.

Over the past two years, travel advertisers have also steadily shifted spend away from desktop and tablet towards smartphone. While smartphone made up under 10 per cent of search spend in early 2014, by the end of 2015, that number grew to almost 30 per cent of all search budgets.

Our research indicates this trend is bound to evolve in 2017 with the adoption of smartphone technology, as advertisers become more familiar with the click behaviors of their target travel audiences.

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