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How to Design Travel Commerce Platform ads that Convert into Hotel Revenues

November 20, 2018
Shirin Veeran

Advertising on Travel Commerce Platforms (GDS global distribution systems) is essentially the same as any other form of advertising. The same principles apply. Less is more. Don’t try to throw in the kitchen sink into your ads. As the saying goes, throw somebody three balls and they’ll miss them all. Throw them one, and they’ll catch it. The campaigns you plan to run on these systems need to follow this sage advice.  
Now we have the basics covered, here are some other essentials you need to consider. 
Use visuals that capture your unique hotel experience. Be impactful, evocative, striking, and try to capture the tone and mood of your hotel and the offer you are promoting. Don’t overcomplicate your messaging. For direct response offers use simple, clear, concise headlines and descriptions. 
For impactful screen presence, keep your messaging brief and captivating. People today simply do not have the time nor the inclination or attention spans to read narratives - they want to know the big takeaway immediately. What’s in it for them? So keep that in mind when crafting copy. Short and sweet. Less is more. 
Keep the user experience in mind for designs too. Have your call-to-action buttons stand out from the background, have your logo visible and make the offer alluring at a glance. 
These points are universal to all advertising platforms, but the advantage of global distribution systems, is that there is a wealth of unique data insights that will help you devise campaigns that generate returns on these data rich platforms. Here are some of the tactics that have proved successful in generating strong returns:

  • Cover the basics: Make sure your ads have all the necessary information to ensure the best possible performance. For example, in addition to the offer you are promoting, make sure all offer details are clear, including Property IDs, and Brand Name/Codes. 
  • Be current: Current offers to take advantage of seasonality trends. Using features like Dynamic Rate Update (DRU) helps instill confidence in agents as these updates are the “lowest public rate” available to book, for the date the agent requested. Triggers like this convert searchers into bookers. 
  • Be seen: As is often the case in advertising, visuals often catch the eye. The vast majority of agents (78%) say they find visual ads the most appealing. Be focused on your choice. Use just one image per ad space. The dimensions are limited, so make the choice compelling and alluring. Capture the essence of the offer and the brand. 
  • Be ever present: When agents narrow in on destinations and book flights, the chances are they will follow up with a hotel enquiry. It’s important to be advertising hotels at every stage of the process to sweep up the bookings. 70% of agents will book a hotel in an ad when they see a great offer, regardless of where they are in the booking workflow.  
  • Order your messaging: It’s important to be succinct and attention-grabbing in your headlines, offers and visuals. This makes it easy to get your rooms booked. You can also offer a simple click-through to more info to expand upon the messaging and go into more detail.

Based on our experience, you need 4 to 6 weeks to run ads for a 6 to 8-week promotion period. If you’re running it longer remember to refresh the ad copy & visuals to ensure agents do not get ‘same message fatigue’. For agents to recall, this correlates to a tipping point of 5% to 10% frequency of impressions per IAB Interactive Advertising Bureau. Plan your campaign spend to account for this. This is a balancing act as around 12%-14% is considered oversaturation. 

To maximise your campaign performance on a Travel Commerce Platform you should also consider the following unique features

  • Preferred Placement or Featured Property Ads - Ads that use this feature to prominently position their ads at the top of travel agent screens typically return 18:1 ROI on average. 89% of properties see a positive return on their investment. This comes as no surprise considering 98% of bookings are made on the top of search results. 
  • Sign on messages - ‘Get there first’ is a good way of looking at your campaigns. 34% of agents state the most effective time for promotional messages is when they sign onto their global distribution system, so sign on messages will grab attention as agents sign onto the platform. Plant your message into their minds at this stage, and your hotel will continually remain front of mind as agents go about their daily searches and bookings. 
  • Incentives work well - 60% of agents are influenced by offers that benefited them; commission being the most influential. However, gift cards, vouchers, points, discounts or cash are all alluring. The most popular incentives for a traveller to book your hotel are free breakfasts, free Wi-Fi, swimming pools, free parking, airport shuttles, transfers, gyms, and early check-ins/late check-outs.

After designing the perfect GDS campaign, you can broaden out the reach of your offers through a number of ways

  • Audience Extension - When a traveller leaves the platform, that doesn’t mean that it’s a lost opportunity for engagement. You can extend the reach of your GDS promotions with Audience Extension, tailoring your offers, as travellers browse the wider web. 
  • Programmatic Advertising - You can also reach up to 700 million internet users in China through targeted advertising across major networks including Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. 
  • Real Time Push Notifications - Additionally, you can upsell ancillaries directly to individual consumers who have ViewTrip app, an intuitive travel itinerary app. Viewtrip collates all aspects of a bookers trip under one roof for easy access on or offline, complete with real-time push notifications, maps, directions, confirmation numbers and more for all trip segments.
  • Don’t try to do it all yourself - A lot goes into the strategy, planning and execution of successful advertising campaigns. What we have highlighted above is only part of the bigger picture. There are many other important factors to take into account and many different bespoke solutions. The best advice you could get is to not try to do it all yourself.