Getting Your Message Across the Web: Travel Weekly


Arnie Weissman

You communicate with a potential travel buyer, maybe over the phone, maybe in person, maybe through posts on your homepage. How much information is too much, too little, or just right?

Live and in person, a salesperson’s active listening skills and ability to “read the room” come into play. But online, the conversation takes place between the buyer and a machine. How can a digital conversation reward both buyer and seller?

A reliable pre-internet marketing strategy has become even more effective online: AB testing. Before the Internet, when direct mail was the dominant form of mass marketing, a control piece that worked well was sent to the majority of an email list, while a challenger variation was sent to a more subset. small to see what resulted in a higher percentage of sales. The goal was to “beat the champion”; that is, create a variant that performs better than the control and that would become the new main message.

The Wall Street Journal had a champ that lasted over 20 years and grossed $2 billion. It told the story of two men with nearly identical backgrounds who attend a college reunion. One is the president of a company, the other a lower level employee in the same company. The only difference is that the president was a subscriber to the Journal and the other was not.

How to set up AB tests on a website? Nicola Clark, vice president of digital marketing services for Making Science, a digital marketing company with cruise and resort customers, was hired to optimize Azamara’s website, she said. And, using the AB methodology, there was a 34% increase in revenue on a new variation version of the site compared to the existing control version of the site.

He did this by essentially learning to “read the room” in a digital environment. Fifty percent of visitors to the cruise line’s website were directed to the existing home or control page, and the other half landed on a page with information about the cruise line’s Covid protocols. But that information was only revealed if visitors hovered over health and safety-related iconography: a bandage with a “cheque” on it and the text “Vaccines and tests” or an icon with the text “ Filtration of fresh air”.

Onboard protocols were briefly detailed, and there was a “Learn more” link for visitors who wanted to dig deeper, but Clark said very few people clicked on it. The messaging on the pop-up proved “fair” for those who hovered over the iconography.

Additional AB testing was performed on other pages of the site. If you look at a shore excursion webpage, for example, one version of the website provides direct information about the ex ashore. An alternative version reassured potential bookings – those who hovered over health-related icons – that shore excursions were taking place in a bubble of vaccinated travel companions.

The timing of the AB test is important to note: it was performed from mid-November to mid-January, coinciding with the emergence and spread of the omicron variant.

Now that Covid concerns seem to be on a lower level, I asked Clark what they were finding.

“We have these discussions today,” she said. “In the headlines, Covid is kind of on the back foot when it comes to stories about Ukraine. In my 20 years of experience, I’ve never seen the sentiment change so quickly. But we continually measure – c “is the beauty of AB testing – – and can shift gears on our messaging and tactics. We also did a study of six different cruise lines to see who puts what messaging and where on their product landing page , on detail pages, and further down the funnel.

“We call it our Goldilocks temperature test because, you know, are we too hot? Too cold? the message on their product description page. And all of them have it in the booking pages. So it’s interesting. They want you to get excited about your vacation, plan your trip, and then when you enter the booking funnel, ‘don’t forget you need to be vaccinated.'”

Clark paused. “I wouldn’t be surprised if things change in the next two weeks. We’ve done this temperature check, but that doesn’t mean everyone got it right either. That’s why testing is so critical for us. . “

While providers have the traffic volume to rely on the trends uncovered by AB testing, most travel agents do not. But a long time ago, small consumer goods retailers learned that they didn’t need a lot of traffic or big marketing budgets to discover web best practices; they just studied and copied what Amazon was doing.

Similarly, travel counselors can visit and study the websites of six cruise lines (or tour operators or resorts) and similarly serve their customers personalized messages that are neither too hot nor too cold, but just enough.


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