Travel is considered to be one of the foremost categories in US e-commerce. Considering the fierce battle between travel suppliers and intermediaries, it is important for every online travel brand to position its’ offering with great clarity.
Judging by the number of online travel agencies in the US, it becomes imperative for them to be specific about their marketing priorities. They have to balance out aspects like return on marketing spend, how much that return is likely to be while also estimating when these efforts may translate into growth.
Online travel agency CheapOair, which recently came up with a brand initiative illustrating how aspirational trips and vacations are within reach, has chosen to convey that the company’s prices may be cheap but its services are not. The company isn’t looking just at short-term goals via a performance-oriented approach toward digital marketing, but it is also building its brand to strengthen travellers’ affiliation. An example of this is the recent ‘Travel the World for Less’ campaign that enticed customers to go for the trip of their dreams. As part of it, CheapOairintroduced its first-ever ‘Traveler of the Year’ competition in search of the traveller who could best show how to travel the world for less.
“Our aim is to be a one stop solution for affordable travel, with a focus on providing dedicated support to our customers 24/7,” says Pete Howard, chief marketing officer at Fareportal and CheapOair. Having a solid brand is critical and Howard agrees: “Brand engagement can improve customer lifetime value by increasing the chances that the customer will book their next trip through CheapOair. We see that in improvements in our repeat buyer rates.”
Here EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta talks to Howard about how CheapOair assesses its brand’s strength and prioritises its marketing initiatives.
EFT: In a competitive market like the US, how do you differentiate?
PH: In regards to competition, we’re always looking for the most accurate, reliable and up-to-date deals for our customers. For this reason, we started the new CheapOair ‘Travel the World for Less’ campaign and tagline as a brand initiative showcasing how aspirational trips and vacations are actually attainable. Positioning our brand in this way communicates that our prices may be cheap, but our services are not.
EFT: How does CheapOair assess its brand’s strength from time to time?
PH: Millions have trusted us with their travel as consumers have booked over 18 million flight deals on CheapOair.com and 80,000 negotiated hotel rates. Our aim is to be a one-stop solution for affordable travel, with a focus on providing dedicated support to our customers 24/7.
Last year we launched in Canada and the UK, and began offering our services on the go with the launch of CheapOair’s mobile site and applications. With all this synthesised together, we hope to make travel both easier and more affordable than ever before.
EFT: How do you prioritise your marketing initiatives?
PH: We, like many e-marketers, use our marketing investments to attract new customers, and also to encourage repeat customers and loyalty. The ROI on marketing is immediate in that it generates travel bookings, but also it has value over the long term in that customers become favourably disposed to our brand, and thus are more likely to stay loyal.
EFT: Considering today’s economic environment, have your acquisition and retention plans changed dramatically?
PH: Not really. Travel is still a growth industry and we are gaining market share.
EFT: Should marketers be focusing on a twin-brand marketing strategy – and by that I mean acquisition and conversion?
PH: It’s really acquisition strategy, repeat customer strategy, and loyalty. They all work together. The first experience of a new customer must be great, to improve the chances of a repeat purchase. The brand and the experience must stay consistently great to ensure long-term loyalty.
EFT: Given the amount of time consumers are spending online, how can digital channels contribute to brand building?
PH: The effort behind our social media sites and travel blog is extraordinary and is an invaluable tool for travellers looking to find the best value in destinations across America and around the world. Services are also offered to the Canadian and UK markets through CheapOair.ca and CheapOair.co.uk.
Furthermore, in addition to ad placements used to spread the word about CheapOair’s new ‘Travel the World for Less’ campaign, we also launched our first ‘Traveler of the Year’ competition which was largely based around social media participation through voting on Facebook and Twitter. The level of fan involvement through social media was fantastic.
EFT: Tell me about how you are approaching mobile from a marketing perspective and how has your approach evolved?
PH: We fully acknowledge how travellers increasingly rely on mobile technology to research and book their travel.With the constant updates to mobile platforms, CheapOair must remain current with this ever-changing technology and update our apps accordingly so that customers always have access to our services. As of now, CheapOair is accessible anywhere and at all times via the CheapOair Mobile App for Android,iPhone, iPad, Windows and Windows 8, and the CheapOair mobile site.