Life Beyond Walled Gardens

By Tom Rolph, VP, EMEA — Walled gardens are the industry’s frenemies. On one hand they offer advertisers access to millions of users, but on the other hand, they make it near impossible for brands to use all-important behavioural data outside of the one platform. This can be especially detrimental for industries with unpredictable consumer purchase cycles — such as travel.

Customers can spend up to 12 months researching and planning before booking a trip, making it difficult for travel brands to follow the full customer journey and identify different touchpoints. Let’s also not forget the unpredictable nature of travel. Some travellers may book six months in advance and others might wait until the very last minute. In addition, for nearly every traveller, there is something different driving their decisions, whether it’s price, convenience, or time.

The tech companies controlling the data within the walled garden platforms continue to make it challenging for brands to consolidate data and create a vivid picture of what customers are doing across their devices. It becomes easy for marketers to think that there will always be a black hole when it comes to this type of insight, but there are in fact steps that travel marketers can take to get ahead and rely less on the walled gardens. So, what can brands do outside of these platforms to create a great user experience?

Understand purchasing signals

To make it trickier, customers tend to use multiple devices before making a travel purchase. As a result, abandoned journeys are common, meaning that brands have to think about how they can attract customers back to the site to complete the purchase.

A leading travel brand working with Tapad found that at least 20 percent of all bookings have a cross-device journey, proving that it’s important to understand every part of the purchasing cycle and be able to deliver ads that consider all factors across any device.

The most effective way to do this is through personalised messages and offers. However, it’s important to take into consideration the number of devices that a user has as well as their device preference.  In addition, frequency capping should be in place on an individual level rather than by device in order to avoid creating an irritating experience, which can push customers to disengage.

Utilize stand-by devices

There is a huge amount of competition in the travel sector and, as a result, the conversion price is high. For smaller businesses especially, justifying that spend can be difficult and in some cases unnecessary. Instead, brands should look at using a pool of device or cookie IDs and use this to reach customers on their other devices, allowing them to communicate with customers in a smarter way.

For example, if someone was browsing a travel website on their laptop looking for hotels by the beach, they would then be served advertisements by an array of different hotel brands and travel businesses on the device they are using. Rather than trying to compete, brands can use other GDPR compliant data they have on the customer — including device IDs — to reach them on other devices.

Travel brands are facing a difficult time ahead. It’s one of the most competitive sectors, with new technology making it easier than ever for travel brands to innovate and offer something different. With all of these challenges, in addition to an already complex customer journey, travel brands need to be able to reach the right customers in order to maximise their return and reduce wastage. And they need to be looking beyond just using walled gardens to achieve this.

Focusing solely on walled gardens limits the opportunity to reach relevant customers by restricting the data that can be accessed. By looking outside these platforms, and ensuring that you are using the data you have to personalise the user experience, travel brands can create a far more engaging experience for customers that will ultimately increase the chances of success for a campaign.

(This piece originally ran on Tnooz)