Travellers turn to the Net, so must travel merchants: Google

  • Travellers plan and buy holidays via the Web, looking for content that will inspire them to act
  • Merchants must tap these trends or risk losing out; need to use of video, creative content and analytics

Travellers turn to the Net, so must travel merchants: GoogleTRADITIONAL advertisers and travel-related businesses should develop a coherent digital strategy that will allow them to tap into a changing trend in how leisure and business travellers make choices when they travel, says search giant Google.
 
According to a recently released Google-TNS Research joint study, nine out of 10 Malaysian travellers log on to the Web to find out some of the best hotels to book, with five in 10 going on to book hotels via the Web. Also significant was the fact that one in four travellers surveyed depended solely on online research when planning their travel.
 
The study interviewed a total of 11,000 Internet users between the ages of 18 and 64 across 11 countries. The study targeted both business and leisure travellers, with a Malaysian survey sample size of 1,040.
 
The quantitative interviews were conducted in an online survey last May and were aimed at understanding the research and purchase behaviours of travellers in these countries, company officials said.
 
Speaking to the media last week to reveal the finding, Google travel lead executive Marc Woo (pic, above) said that each of these trends surveyed represents an opportunity for travel businesses and advertisers to reach consumers who are planning their trips with the help of the Internet.
 
“The data seems to suggest that more people are now getting their information from the Web, particularly via search,” he said. “This means that hoteliers, travel agents and advertisers must start thinking of ways to tap into this digital direction.
 
“They can maintain their traditional business model of getting business and inventory from their [usual] suppliers, but they have to start to cater to how the consumers are now behaving,” Woo urged, adding that traditional travel-related businesses just aren’t doing enough to pay attention to this burgeoning development.
 
Quizzed as to how those in the travel industry should address this, Woo said there are two aspects to how this can be approached.
 
He said having a website today is a given for any business, but noted that merely having one isn’t enough.
 
“This is like a business printing some pamphlets and sending them out in the hope that people will respond," he explained. “Businesses need to go beyond this and think about how to make their digital storefront as attractive as possible so that it can help them deliver their products and services to customers.
 
“For example, do they have e-commerce enabled on their sites and are they tracking their electronic store front effectively? Are they using the correct tools to collect data about their customers and acting based on the data insights they glean? This is the foundation one has to be build before they can think about capturing qualified leads.”
 
Capturing customers’ imagination
 
Woo said after sorting such issues out, the second aspect revolves around building brand awareness and inspiring potential customers to dream about their vacation.
 
He suggested that travel businesses use the power of sound and sight in the form of videos, and create content that will engage, entertain and resonate with potential travellers, thereby inspiring them to act.
 
Woo said this strategy is beginning to show signs of success and has been validated by the Google-TNS survey, which noted that 85% of travellers surveyed agree that online videos strongly influence their decision on what accommodation to choose. The report also noted that 44% of leisure travellers and 57% of business travellers reported seeing a video about their last destination.

“A lot of brands out there have strong content marketing strategy, and as such, they are able to entertain their audience and inspire people to travel to certain destinations.
 
“For instance, AirAsia has engaged a popular travel blogger to put videos of his clips online on YouTube, highlighting what the locals do,” Woo said. “Companies must therefore have a clear content marketing strategy to educate, entertain, and ultimately inspire others to travel.”
 
Lasting impressions
 
Travellers turn to the Net, so must travel merchants: GoogleAccording to Woo, the Google-TNS study also revealed that travellers who spend a lot of time online find the advertisements they see easy to remember, with 72% and 76% of leisure and business travellers respectively tending to recall an online advertisement, compared with other mediums such as print, TV and/ or radio.
 
This was because online ads are very targeted to people’s interests, something that becomes very relevant to the content they’re browsing at, he noted.
 
“If I’m searching from a hotel in an area, and that advertisement appears, I would remember it more than if I were to see an advertisement on a billboard on a highway, while stuck in a jam,” he added.
 
Asked if he agreed that the power to recall is a very subjective measure of how effective an advertisement is, Woo said it is, but was quick to point out that from advertisers’ point of view, it’s about sustainability of the dollar that they invest in each different medium, which ultimately affects their bottom line.
 
Meanwhile, the Google-TNS survey also revealed that being mobile-ready is essential as three out of five Malaysian business travellers have used smartphones to plan their accommodations, while two in five have used tablets.
 
“In countries like Singapore, a major source of visitors to Malaysia, this trend is also pronounced: Four in 10 leisure travellers in Singapore use mobile to plan hotels, while more than half of business travellers do the same,” Woo said.
 
“Yet many travellers reported frustration with booking accommodation on mobile -- 43% of those who had never booked on mobile agreed that it was easier from a PC, showing that Malaysia’s hotels should be sure they have optimised their sites and booking engines to accommodate consumers searching for and booking rooms from smartphones," he added.
 
Additionally, Google noted that travel marketers looking to make the most of these trends can take advantage of digital advertising. According to the survey, two in three travellers who see online advertisement click through or visit the website advertised.
 
“The travel industry is only just waking up to the potential of digital,” said Woo. “We hope this study will help marketers throughout Malaysia understand and engage online consumers, both at home and abroad.”
 
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