As any busy professional knows, traveling for business and traveling for leisure are vastly different experiences. But there’s one area where the two really aren’t that dissimilar: the booking process.
Most travelers – no matter their driving purpose – tend to start the trip planning process with online search.
The majority of those searchers end up booking their flights through online travel agencies (OTAs) or metasearch engines (MSEs), in part because those aggregator platforms dominate search engine results.
Yet among both business and leisure segments, travelers’ affinity for online search doesn’t mean they’re uninterested in what a carrier’s website has to offer. 22 percent of travelers at large typically book through an airline’s “direct channel,” and 74 percent of those visitors go there to review detailed fare and pricing information.
That 74 percent data point is more significant than it may sound, because it lines up with the same reasons travelers navigate to OTAs and MSEs – that is, timing and flight comparisons. Travelers’ engagement with airline websites in pursuit of more detailed fare info may indicate that they understand that airlines may house deeper inventories inside their direct channel systems than they distribute to OTAs and MSEs.
That’s something airlines have failed to give them credit for, leading to a larger disconnect between why travelers navigate to carrier sites and what they see when they get there.
Many airlines invest heavily in “inspirational” content strategies backed by “getaway” messaging, destination-related imagery, and escape-driven marketing copy. The underlying marketing approach is designed to drive consumers’ toward a greater intent to travel, ideally boosting their engagement with the airline’s site by generating new interest in taking a trip.
But with 74 percent of consumers’ actual engagement with airline sites focused exclusively on reviewing inventory information, that marketing approach is clearly off base – and it doesn’t take data to figure out why: “Getaway” fantasies are rarely the driving force behind a traveler’s’ decisions to go from Place A to Place B.
And while a small segment of leisure travelers could hypothetically be motivated enough by an airline’s curated travel ideas (or compelling destination photos) to buy a plane ticket, 100 percent of business travelers definitely would not be. What good is an all-encompassing marketing strategy if it neglects half of your customer base? Especially considering business travelers tend to fly much more often?
As carriers look to cultivate larger bases of brand-loyal travelers and to grow their margins by boosting direct bookings, it’s time for them to rectify the disconnect between how they market themselves and what they actually offer.
Fundamentally, airlines don’t sell fantasy vacations, they sell air transportation – and that’s what consumers, be they business or leisure travelers, are shopping their sites for. Accepting that fact, and harnessing it more effectively in marketing and customer acquisition, can help carriers better attract both customer groups.
Leveraging performance content is one smart marketing strategy for driving stronger growth and new customer acquisition. Performance marketing technologies like airTRFX® can help airlines “productize” their flight inventories for online search, creating more touchpoints for acquiring customer data, and enabling them to create and disseminate many thousands of dynamic, high-performance webpages (that adhere to SEO best practices) for every destination and route that the airline flies, in every language that its customers speak.
That can give carriers with the vastly expanded online footprint they need to better compete with the aggregators in search, and to improve conversion across all marketing channels. As carriers start to see stronger customer acquisition and conversion rates as a result of performance content, they can increasingly retain more and more of their inventory for themselves – rather than share it with OTAs in the hopes of earning an indirect booking– thus delivering greater value to those travelers who visit the direct channel first.
Ultimately, value is the key to driving greater brand loyalty between consumers (business or leisure) and airlines. Using marketing to showcase that value can keep travelers, no matter their driving purpose, coming back to book directly on a carrier’s site.