How should the travel industry handle vaccine talk? Q&A with Matt Voda, CEO at OptiMine Software

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BHN speaks to Matt Voda, CEO at OptiMine Software, about what the travel industry should do to change its marketing messaging around news of the vaccine.

• How can the travel industry begin shifting their messaging around potential covid vaccines?

Exciting news came out of Pfizer this week about their vaccine's effectiveness and this raises hopes that the world may have a path to pandemic recovery. When (or if) vaccine plans begin to solidify with a public schedule for rollout, savvy travel brands can use this opportunity to promote, capture and lock-in long term advanced bookings from consumers who have newfound confidence to make future travel plans. But precise targeting and tailored communication strategies backed by advanced marketing analytics will save brands from ineffective and inefficient investments and avoid jumping the gun with customer segments who may not be ready to make the leap. 

Let’s start with the most important thing: travel brands that know more about their customers tend to perform better. This knowledge is supported by and maximised through marketing technologies and techniques such as segmentation, targeting, personalisation, CRM, and mature consumer data strategies. Underneath all of this is a bedrock foundation in ​marketing measurement that provides feedback on how well the marketing is performing across all media, segments and conversion points - both online and offline. In particular regards to the pandemic and a possible vaccine, travel brands using advanced analytics can more easily identify travelers who have a higher propensity for longer term, leisure travel bookings and focus campaigns on those segments. Business travellers, while lucrative, may not be the primary target in this case, but for the same reasons it would be important for a brand to be able to segment these business-oriented customers in order to avoid communications that won't be as relevant.  

• What are the key marketing considerations that travel brands should focus on in light of the news?

Recognising that there is a huge pent up demand for leisure travel, brands can take a two-fold strategy around the vaccine:

1. Building brand awareness in advance of a potential vaccine rollout to ensure their best customers have the brand top-of-mind when they become ready to make travel plans

2. Targeting shorter term campaigns designed to book demand from customer segments that have already reached the confidence point to book longer term travel 

The smartest brands equipped with advanced marketing measurement analytics know that different marketing channels have different "carryover halos" whereby certain mediums (digital video for example) have a longer-term effect on brand awareness versus other channels (paid search for example), whose effects only last a few days. With these analytics, marketers can then tailor marketing mix to support the two different strategies outlined above and align the best channels and campaigns to each different objective. This approach is a best practice in the best of times, but is even more important during times like this where more precise and targeted methods are required to communicate to specific audiences uniquely. 

Taking this a step further, advanced marketing measurement analytics also show how certain media drive incremental bookings volumes at different rates across different channels. Travel brands investing in their own direct-to-consumer strategies may be dismayed by the fact that their marketing campaigns “leak” into OTA bookings volumes. But by being able to measure these leak rates is critically important because brands can further refine their own direct efforts but also know where certain digital marketing channels may capture additional demand from leisure travellers who may be more loyal to the OTA - or may be more likely to start their longer term planning steps with an OTA. Knowledge is power and creates competitive advantages and margin-saving moves.

• How can travel companies utilise marketing analytics to target consumers more effectively?

There is a large note of caution as it relates to marketing measurement. The fact is that using historical data that is pre-pandemic is incredibly risky. There have been massive shifts in media consumption patterns, purchase behaviors and consumer psychographics as a result of COVID-19. If your marketing measurement includes pre-pandemic data, your brand runs the risk of getting it all wrong. The time is now to shift measurement windows to the current pandemic-era in order to understand and capture these tectonic changes in the consumer landscape. By updating measurement, and refreshing more frequently as the “new normal” of recovery proceeds on its rollercoaster route, brands’ marketing efforts will be much more successful and efficient. It is time to forget history for a moment and more to an agile analytic approach and do it NOW. 

Netting it out, brands have an enormous opportunity to use the pending good vaccine news to get out ahead with confident consumers itching to get back out in the world. The most successful brands will adapt their marketing campaigns to consumer segments most receptive to this emerging good news and most likely to act in advance. These successful brands will use advanced marketing analytics to identify these high-confidence travel audiences and combined with highly sophisticated marketing performance measurement, will use the best marketing channels to reach, engage and convert them. The smartest, most agile brands will win to live another day.    

Matt Voda is the CEO at OptiMine Software, a cloud-based cross-channel marketing analytics and optimisation company. He joined the company from United Health Group, where he led consumer marketing and analytics within the $40 billion Optum division. Voda also spent 11 years at Digital River as vice president of product management, helping develop the world’s first cloud-based e-commerce platform.  

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