The COVID-19 global pandemic significantly affected customer demand for goods and services around the world. The travel industry was impacted considerably coming to a standstill almost overnight, with passenger demand in April 2020 down 94.3%.
As lockdown restrictions ease across the UK, interest in travelling is beginning to rise. With rules and consumer preferences ever-changing, travel brands are looking for ways to quickly adapt to changing consumer needs, build consumer confidence and regain revenue.
Here are four ways travel brands can use the affiliate channel to drive growth and adapt to changing consumer behaviour.
Preparing for the bounce-back
It is almost unheard of that an entire industry comes to a complete standstill. With uncertainty still ahead, it’s essential for brands to use this time to set their affiliate programme up for long-term success. Here are a few strategies to prepare:
- Review processes: Improving processes is an area that can help to streamline an affiliate programme and set a brand up for success. Each programme has its own nuances, so taking a closer look at the day to day of your programme and understanding where efficiencies with time can be gained could be key. For example, automation of reporting tasks could save significant amounts of time that can you can reinvest into growth strategies.
- Programme activation: With many travel affiliates feeling the effects of lost revenue activation campaigns could be a significant boost to revenue when relaunching your travel programme. Spend time engaging with your existing partners, focusing on those who are inactive. Take the time to discuss your H2 strategy with partners and keep them up to date on cancellation policies, new destinations and routes and health and safety procedures.
- Programme recruitment: Recruitment is often key to long term programme growth but can be time-consuming and take time to yield results. Given that travel affiliates have also been impacted significantly by COVID-19, it would be wise to use the situation to connect with high impact partners where there may not have been an opportunity in the past. Alongside this, sourcing and connecting with new partners now, will give more time for the execution of growth strategies and optimisations once normality returns.
Content is king
Screen time significantly increased across the UK during the lockdown, with the average UK adult spending 4 hours a day online during April. Ofcom, predict that changing consumer behaviours bought about by the lockdown will have a lasting effect on the way people communicate and consume, leaving a lasting “digital legacy.”
In light of increasing users and time spent online, content partners became one of the largest affiliate segments during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and this trend is set to continue. Our global client data reveals that for June, revenue driven by content partners increased 37% MoM.
With an emphasis on safety and cleanliness, as well as typical destinations being affected by COVID-19, the exploratory phase of travel decisions will be much greater than in the past. This provides an opportunity to inspire and educate users at various stages before the final purchase, requiring a content strategy through mass media and niche travel content. A good example of tapping into this additional step in the purchase funnel is Weather2Travel.com who have released a safe to visit countries guide, providing travellers with up to date information to help inform their travel decisions.
Content affiliates are a great way to increase brand awareness as well as providing education around travel, but in some cases, may not drive high volumes of sales due to last-click attribution. Consider revising commission structures for content affiliates to gain a stronger share of voice amongst competitors at such a pivotal time in the travel industry.
Adapt messaging to meet changing priorities
The travel market was previously determined, largely, by price and offers. With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift in traveller priorities, and while the cost will still be relevant, consumers are now placing value in additional factors such as safety, trust, distance and insurance. A recent survey by Skyscanner reveals that hygiene outranks price and location as the top search criteria for prospective travellers.
The types of holidays consumers are taking is also shifting, and staycations and domestic travel are rising in popularity. Research by Schofields Ltd finds that many UK residents are looking closer to home for their next holiday, with a significant number of people searching for a “staycation”.
If we look at China, our team has identified that the travel industry has seen an uptick in people going on “staycations” or taking short-distance trips. To capture this trend, online travel agencies and travel service platforms in China launched marketing initiatives related to short-distance trips and promoting local travel products with attractive discounts.
As consumer’s preferences change, travel brands must address consumer concerns and adapt to changing travel preferences.
As certain regions open-up and restrictions lift, many travel brands will be looking to target consumers in specific geographic regions. Affiliates such as Ve Global, Results Media and Reward have developed technology that allows brands to target specific users on the affiliate model. Brands can use geotargeting to focus marketing messaging on areas where restrictions have lifted or there is a spike in demand.
There are still a lot of unknowns for the travel industry. The affiliate channel is ideally suited in its versatility and flexibility to meet the challenges and support brands growth. Any travel brand looking to succeed will need to be proactive and adaptive to meet ever-changing consumer needs and preferences.
If you’d like to find out more about how our team can help grow your travel brand through the affiliate channel, get in touch today.