Facebook’s Got the Travel Bug: Travel Summit 2018

September 26, 2018, marked the date of Facebook’s annual Travel Summit at its New York City headquarters. Being a long-time Facebook Marketing Partner, select members of the Brand Networks media team who work primarily with travel brands were invited to discuss the exciting innovations Facebook is creating for this vertical.

A full day of speakers, breakout sessions, and networking, Facebook’s Travel Summit opened with introductory remarks from Industry Manager, Colleen Coulter. Topics included Facebook’s evolving technologies to measure incremental attribution, a push toward Messenger as a maturing marketing tool, and Facebook’s top-of-mind strategies to help travel marketers reach their consumers at each point in the Travel Cycle.

Travel brands are faced with unique hurdles when trying to reach their clientele, including an incredibly long path to purchase. In fact, a traveler’s path to purchase includes over 56 touch points spanning over 1.5 months*. Faced with this, Facebook continues to position itself as a leader in developing new technologies to help marketers drive their travel objectives.

The Traveler’s Consumer Journey

As part of the Travel Summit, Dave Elzinga (Partner, Chicago) and Eric Falardeau (Associate Partner) from Mckinsey and Company, outlined the “Consumer Decision Journey,” which starts with the consumer being triggered. You know what this looks like: You are going about your day and all of a sudden you see a picture in your Instagram feed of your favorite blogger with a new sun hat, boasting about the amazing beaches in Boca Raton. You think to yourself, “I have some time off, let me research some areas I might like to travel to.” Just like that, you are thrust into Step 3 of the Consumer Decision Journey: active evaluation. This step may take you a while since it includes comparing prices, resort amenities, etc. Believe it or not, you have already rushed past Step 2: initial consideration. This step consists of all of the brands or locations that you are willing to consider, and more than likely, you have only a small set of options in mind. For example, when booking hotels, there might be 58 available brands to choose from, but, on average, only 2.3 brands are even considered initially (4%). This makes it crucial that your brand is part of that initial consideration period*.

How can your brand get into the coveted initial consideration set? Elzinga and Falardeau champion the use of the Mckinsey’s CGI score or “Customer Growth Indicator” to discover opportunities to drive growth. CGI is a combination of initial consideration and a company’s market share. High-scoring brands might choose to focus their efforts on innovating product/experience/communication. Mid-range brands might want to expand their view of potential customers, while low-scoring brands may want to consider re-allocating funds to help get them top-of-mind when consumers are in their initial consideration stage.

Facebook’s Travel Offerings

After laying down the foundation for the “Why,” Facebook revealed “how” its tools can help travel brands and marketers. One such product is Trip Consideration. Beginning last year, Facebook rolled out this tool as an opportunity to prioritize ad delivery for people likely to travel. This includes general travel intent and is not specified to unique destinations. At Brand Networks, we have been using this tool on all of our travel clients’ Video View and Traffic campaigns, and have subsequently seen greater cost efficiencies and higher performance.

Another tool offered by Facebook is Dynamic Travel Ads. This product also allows marketers to reach people with travel intent but provides a dynamic experience that serves the most relevant ad to the consumer based on recent activities, and the most relevant product/destination within your inventory. One caveat with this is that marketers must use a product catalog; however, the product supports flights, hotels, and destination catalogs, meaning even if your brand is not necessarily looking for direct conversions, you can still create dynamic ads to move consumers down the funnel. While this offering has been out for a while, it is still being finely tuned to open up this opportunity to all travel clients from hotels to tourism boards.

Some very exciting news unveiled at the Travel Summit was the new tool Facebook is working on to give marketers further insight into where people are coming from when they travel. Tentatively named “Audience Insights Explorer,” this tool is currently in alpha and is positioning Facebook as a leader in travel insights. Based on Facebook check-ins and more data collected from the app, this tool is meant to allow businesses to explore travel trends by location, spanning 50 markets and 2,000 cities worldwide. You can also select multiple cities for trend analysis and comparisons. This tool can help answer some key questions like when do people travel and where are people traveling from? Brand Networks is excited to learn more about this tool and how it can help shape our future social advertising strategies.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Facebook touched on its expanding Messenger capabilities since 43% of consumers prefer to interact with a travel provider on Messenger, and 1 in 3 people find ideas for trips on Messenger, but that’s another story for another time*.

Taking Full Advantage of Partner Offerings

Facebook’s offerings are rapidly expanding, which is a huge indication of where the industry is moving. In fact, the travel industry is evolving so quickly that multiple social platforms are developing solutions in response. At Brand Networks, our partnerships with Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitter are invaluable to help us learn about the latest marketing advancements first, helping our travel clients take full advantage of these offerings to find the social advertising strategy that works best for them.

*All statistical information is from speakers and presentations disclosed via Facebook Travel Summit 2018.