Performance marketing insights, discussions and expertise

Affiliate Marketing for the Travel Industry: 3 Key Considerations

By on July 29, 2015

shutterstock_296220575With consumers around the world increasingly taking to the skies and using the internet as their personal travel agent, travel companies are placing a greater emphasis on the potential of performance-based online channels. As a result, the travel and transport industry is investing heavily in online advertising, representing a 14% share of total market spend (IAB-UK).

Cost effective and flexible, the rewards of effectively utilizing the affiliate channel can significantly boost revenue for travel companies. However, the industry is highly competitive and requires expertise, creativity and targeted communication to succeed. Here are 3 ways to make any travel affiliate program take flight:

1. Consider Seasonality

The travel industry is without a doubt one of the most seasonal when it comes to online shopping. In the UK for example, there are two distinct and regular peaks each year: January and July. The January peak represents bookings from customers looking for winter sun and ski holidays alongside those who are booking early for their summer holidays, whilst the July peak mainly consists of last minute summer holiday bookings.

Taking the above into consideration, it is vital that affiliate marketers in the travel industry understand both trends as well as high and low seasons in the territories in which they advertise. Digital strategy should then be planned accordingly, with seasonal-specific content and campaigns scheduled using a global editorial calendar.

2. Consider Tool Choice

Affiliate marketing in the travel industry is a unique beast. Bookings can be made for same day travel or for a trip that is a full year out. This makes it difficult for advertisers to track and pay on consumed travel. It requires tracking separate actions and manually sorting them, which can limit growth and profitability. The right technology, in particular one that allows ‘open-ended’ actions using disposition codes, will allow a single transaction to track a reservation through to a completed stay with automated updates. This benefits advertisers as it improves reporting clarity and saves time. It also benefits affiliate partners as they do not need to wait on an extended, fixed approval window and are paid as soon as a stay is completed.

Furthermore, crediting affiliates on a last click basis can be tricky for advertisers working in the travel industry. Imagine a customer starts their research into a hotel by visiting a forum that gives advice and reviews. They then go to a hotel booking engine to select the hotel and add it to the cart. Before they purchase, they go to a coupon site, get a promo-code, enter it and completing their booking. Given a standard last click crediting model, the coupon site wins the sale. But who drove the most value? A platform that offers multiple crediting options (first click, last to cart and last click) is key to increasing profitability, improving margins and enhancing competitive standing.

3. Consider Locality

Whether recruiting or managing affiliate partners for a travel campaign, it is essential to consider locality. In particular,  there are two very important factors to pay attention to when it comes to locality: language and currency. It is vital that performance marketing campaigns are delivered in the local language of the affiliates and their audience. If it is not possible to reproduce or translate a whole website in the required local language, focus on the most popular pages and checkout page.

Currency, whether referring to the currency paid out to affiliate partners or the currency campaigns are displayed in, also needs to be taken into consideration. Campaigns should be offered in the accepted regional currency to increase customer trust and shopability. In addition, paying affiliate partners in their local currency adds convenience and will ultimately help build stronger relationships.

The Bottom Line:

Affiliate marketing in the travel industry presents unique challenges. However, with the right approach and taking into consideration the points above, an advertiser’s travel affiliate program can overcome these challenges and eclipse all expectations.

1 thought on “Affiliate Marketing for the Travel Industry: 3 Key Considerations”

  1. Great article Aaron. My company (TheSearchMonitor.com) has found the same considerations when we look at affiliate activity among advertisers in airline, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and luxury travel (our 5 big travel verticals).

    For Seasonality, we can see different offers, ad copy, and landing pages being used, even by month.

    For your tracking comment, yes, our travel clients tell us the importance of seeing the Affiliate IDs for their visits, and more importantly, making sure their affiliates are not hijacking their URLs (aka URL hijacking – definition: http://www.thesearchmonitor.com/faq/url-hijacking-aka-direct-linking/) and then gaining false credit for a sale. This happens more than you’d like to think, and it’s easy to get away with if you think no one is looking.

    And for your locality comment, absolutely! Travel advertisers and their affiliates need to be geo-targeting their ads (of course), but also geo-targeting their ad monitoring, so they can see how ad attributes (i.e. rank, copy, offers, landing page, etc.) change at the city and country level. We provide this service often for our travel clients, esp. in the hotel world. And they quickly adjust their campaigns once they see how much geo-targeting other travel advertisers do.

    Thanks again for the post. Let me know if you’d like any data for a future post on travel or affiliates.

    Ken Barber
    TheSearchMonitor.com – ad monitoring & compliance for travel advertisers and their affiliates

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