Travel Tech

There is an on-going debate what mobile marketing really means. According to the popular author Kim Dushinski, mobile marketing connects businesses and each of their customers (through their mobile devices) at the right time and at the right place with the right message and requires the customer’s explicit permission and/or active interaction.

In his book, The Mobile Marketing Handbook, Dushinski makes a difference between mobile marketing (connecting with customers) and marketing mobile products (promoting and advertising mobile websites and apps).

The mobile device provides a unique opportunity to connect with customers at any time and place. In addition, while desktop computers and tablet might be shared, the smartphone is the first truly personal and private mobile computer and this opens many doors for marketers.

In the last couple of years a number of studies have shown that travellers use mobile devices to actively research, plan and book trips. Many brands, including hotels, resorts, airlines, and destinations are already using mobile advertising to generate concrete results.

In this article we discuss 5 ways to target consumers on mobile devices and provide examples of successful and interesting mobile marketing campaigns. Note that, while some of the campaigns may seem quite specific for the sector they were first implemented in, most of them could easily be applied to other sectors and situations.

1Mobile Paid Search Campaigns

According to eMarketer, 19% of Google’s 2013 ad revenue came from mobile search ads. Marin Software predicted that mobile devices will account for 50% of all paid search clicks globally by December 2015.

Paid Search campaigns have become more popular for travel and tourism businesses looking to drive traffic and increase awareness. While similar, mobile paid search campaigns are also quite distinct from desktop paid search campaigns.

Mona Elesseily advises that mobile paid search campaigns work best for immediate intent actions, such as ordering a pizza or finding places to eat. Targeting specific devices (Android, iPhones) and shorter search queries are two other things that mobile marketing campaigns have to consider.

The Nevada Commission on Tourism used the services of MoreVisibility for developing a specific mobile marketing campaign. MoreVisibility’s Campaign Management and Analytics teams reviewed historical data for referring traffic sources to the website. Popular content areas were identified (i.e. weather, maps, travel conditions). Keyword themed search and content campaigns were launched via Google AdWords; targeted to mobile browsers only. Campaign themes were restricted to topics that have historically generated high quality website visitors. Nevada Commission on Tourism saw a significant increase in the volume of traffic coming to their mobile websites. Visitors increased 62% over the prior month, with the addition of Keyword themed search and content campaigns targeted to mobile browsers. Landing Pages in use across all campaigns were also promoting Nevada’s new mobile websites.

An important and obvious difference between desktop and mobile paid search results is the click-to-call button. Click-to-Call advertising is a Google mobile advertising feature that allows consumers to place a call to a business by simply clicking on the advertiser' paid search ad. The primary cost for click-to-call is the staff required to support it.

Starwood paid search campaign

Source: StarwoodHotels

Working together with Razorfish, the Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched search ads with click-to-call (CTC) and location extensions, providing potential guests easy access to location-specific, clickable phone numbers to book their stay and maps where they could access directions to the hotel location.

“Implementing click-to-call and location extensions simultaneously boosted ROI and improved user experience,” says Amos Ductan, Senior Search Manager at Razorfish. “Mobile users are 20 times more likely to click on a map than desktop users and people who make a call are much more likely to convert. Ad extensions improved both conversions and customer experience.”

2Location-Based Advertising

One of the biggest priorities for mobile marketing campaigns is that they can leverage the capabilities of the smartphone to acquire and process positioning data. This means that consumers can be targeted based on their current location.

Also called geo-targeting, there is a lot of excitement around location-based marketing in the industry. Millennial Media report that in 2012, 61% of retail and restaurant brands utilised location-based targeting in their campaigns. More than half of the campaigns are directed at driving consumers to their locations.

As Cathy Boyle explains, there are 6 degrees of outdoor location targeting: country, state (province), city, Designated Market Area (DMA), zip, or non-standard. Indoor targeting is quite different and can be achieved by Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth. The required infrastructure is quite pricey, but definitely worth the effort.

An interesting example for using location-based advertising is the mobile campaign by Best Western. They use a form of mobile marketing called geofencing. In essence, a virtual fence is set up around airports and the Best Western hotels that targets travellers who receive a push notification once they are within the fence. But the campaign does not stop there - Best Western use also another form of location-based marketing, called geo-conquesting - in essence the same virtual fence is drawn around competitor hotels so users get the notification if they approach another hotel as well. Their location-based campaign received a 0.95% click through from mobile users, which is significantly higher than the industry average of 0.2-0.8%.

Best Western Hotels mobile campaign

Source: Mobile Commerce Daily

Geo-conquesting is indeed an interesting, innovative and well received approach to location-based marketing. However, considering the specific needs of tourists, it would probably work best for increasing awareness, rather than immediately drawing consumers away from the competition.

The main disadvantage of mobile location-based advertising is that it can be quite intrusive, as it lacks the context of why you are there and who you are with. With mobile, it’s all about context. To quote Martin Collings, “the phone tells you who, the GPS (if it is turned on) gives you the where, but neither gives you the why; the context of why a person is in a given location is extremely valuable to advertisers.” This is why a lot of investment is focused on sensors and algorithms geared to acquire context information about users and infer their intent. While a lot has been done in laboratory settings, robust commercial solutions are yet to come.

QR codes and NFCQR codes and NFC

Quick Response (QR) codes are becoming highly popular in digital marketing and are bound to be a great source for the travel industry. QR codes requires that the user scans the code with their mobile device and can be used to quickly drive traffic to an online website or a mobile app.

Google has integrated this technology in three airports (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and travellers can now download movies, music, apps and books direct to their Android device.

Of course, the most obvious use of QR codes is to push special offers and services to consumers. For instance, the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau has chosen to focus on a mobile website backed by a traditional advertising campaign. Rail commuters in the New York area see signs inviting them to scan a QR code which links to a video about Pocono skiing. Then, users can sign up for special offers. Over 2,000 people signed up to receive weekly special offers.

However, due to the saturated market, Patrik Landman, CEO of Xotels, recommends that QR codes provide a clear value for customers and are used in a way that improves their experience: “Upon scanning the QR code, users are diverted to the hotel website’s blog which contains the latest events, restaurant tips, attractions and activity recommendations, our favorite shops, etc. From here the guest can also navigate to social media pages.”

Another problem is to get tourists or visitors to actually scan the code. An interesting use of QR codes for promotion of destinations was implemented in the campaign “Banana Ambassador” developed by Visit Ecuador. The country is the largest banana exporter in the world. Stickers on bananas exported from the country included a QR code. Scanning the code brings potential visitors to a promotional video of the country and their website.


Source: ConsumerLab

Not many destinations have used the QR codes concept. It is important to remember that QR codes do not work in isolation and a QR code campaign would only work if they provide value and a positive experience. Links that lead to non-optimised websites for mobile or apps that crash and cannot download make would contribute to a really badly executed and received campaign. Mobile optimised websites, rich media or apps with clear and specific call to actions are critical for the success of QR codes campaigns.

Near Field Communication (NFC), which stands for short-range data transfer without physical touch, is expected to have a wider impact on the tourism industry. The use of NFC has yet to reach mainstream in the industry, but there are already a couple of useful examples how it can be used to engage and complement the overall experience of tourists. For instance, a type of NFC device called Poken, was used at the Smart City Expo last year. This is only one example how NFC could be used to engage customers at events. NFC is definitely a powerful technology for mobile advertising that you need to have in the future.

Banner ads and rich mediaBanner ads and rich media

Banners and in-app advertising is also seeing a huge growth. Banners and in-app ads share many common traits, however, a study by Appsavvy indicates that in-app advertisement is 11.4 times better than standard banner ads. One of the reasons is the much more engaging experience that apps bring. Another factor is that people might consider banners on websites intrusive and not part of the mobile user experience.

Sabre conducted a survey of 800 corporate and leisure travellers from Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America to investigate the attitudes towards advertising in free applications and premium (paid) services. Described in more detail by Tnooz, the survey found that all respondents were willing to accept advertising as long as the applications are free. And 28% of very frequent business travellers even prefer that their free applications come with advertising. Sabre’s free TripCase application developed for iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile, serves in-app ads based on users’ locations.

Tnooz featured the Bermuda Department of Tourism as an example for a mobile marketing campaign which used mobile banner ads. The mobile ad campaign targeted audience from nearby markets on the East Coast of the US. The tourism board enlisted ad agency Ingenuity Media for the campaign and Google’s AdMob unit, which created the mobile banner ads and landing pages.


Source: Tnooz

The campaign had a clear target audience, as it was focused only on smartphone and iPad users with an income above $135,000 along the East Coast of the US. The DMO’s intent was to attract the mobile users’ attention while during the travel planning process. While the results in terms of CTRs were only slightly higher (0.56%) than the industry average (0.2-0.5%), this is great example of defining clear goals and target market in the beginning of a marketing campaign. After all, mobile marketing is about delivering the right message, at the right time and place, and pushing useless content to users could damage, rather than benefit a brand.

The travel advertising business will always be competitive and busy, but it appears that online and mobile rich media ads are starting to gain more traction within the industry, with the potential to outperform and substitute simple (and static) banner ads.

We have already seen that video is probably one of the most engaging types of content on mobile, and according to eMarketer, performance metrics for travel digital video ads are impressive.

With rich media, you can have ads that expand when users click or roll over, for example, and there are extensive possibilities for interactive content, such as HD video or even the ability to click to make a phone call.

Very recently, Toyota launched a mobile voice-activated rich media marketing campaign. The campaign was developed by Millennial Media, who note that the campaign “highlights the all-new 2014 Corolla and lets consumers engage in a two-way conversation with the ad unit to mimic the experience of Entune Audio, Toyota's innovative in-vehicle multimedia and telematics system with speech recognition.” Lisa Lacy describes the experience: when a consumer clicks on the Toyota ad, Millennial's 'Show and Tell' ad unit gives the user images of three apps available on the Entune system: iHeartradio, Weather and Text to Speech. The ad unit asks consumers to say which app they would like to find out more about and then highlights the selected app's features.


Source: Clickz

Using voice-activated rich media is a novel and still interesting approach to reach consumers. Imagine a situation where users are asked to select (and say aloud) the name of a destination and then a video loads which explains the main selling points. Having in mind the significant potential of mobile games for tourism, it is easy to imagine a voice-controlled game which allows users to discover a destination by solving puzzles and “unlocking” and winning prices.


Where should you start?

Identify clear goals

The best way to approach mobile is to start with clearly defined campaign goals. An airline may decide that they want to generate downloads of their branded app in order to promote frequent flier promotions. A hotel may want to generate awareness to encourage business traveller bookings and/or loyalty. Check out our previous blog post to see how goals and priorities fit within the overall mobile strategy or download the reference cards which will help you determine your own goals.

 2) Consider the customers’ characteristics and context

Go through your analytics data again and consider the different types of devices that visitors use to access your website or app. Do you observe differences in locations, age, or other demographics? Targeting specific segments would make your marketing campaign more successful. Check out our earlier blog post for more information on analytics.

3) Mix methods and ensure a unique user experience

Asked what lessons learned from the mobile marketing campaign of the Bermuda Deparment of Tourism, Anne Shutte (tourism board director) says: “It is important to ensure that all assets, including the landing page, provide utility and a good user experience.”

As we discussed in our previous blog post, mobile user experience is critical to the success of any organisation, and the same is true for mobile marketing campaigns.

4) Track performance regularly

Check regularly whether the goals you set out with are achieved (and achievable). If not, go back to the data (either analytics or user research) and consider the potential pitfalls. Are calls to action visible and clear? Are messages and ads delivered in the right time? To the right audience?

It is also important to consider the budget in terms of the achieved results. Is the budget appropriate? Was it worth the investment? Is it worth investing more?

Further reading:

The Mobile Marketing Handbook

Top Trends in Mobile Location-Based Advertising

IAB Global Mobile Advertising Revenue Report (Webinar)


Our team is always happy to help and listen should you have any feedback, suggestions or questions.


If you would like to learn more about the most effective approaches to design and prepare a mobile strategy, check out our Mobile Marketing and Advertising workshop.


If you are not sure how to address all of the stages and prepare an effective mobile strategy quickly, contact us to discuss how we can help.

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