Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tips for Clicks on Your Website – Combining Social Media and E-mail Marketing is a Growing Trend

A couple of days ago I met a friend of mine who is the content manager for the website of a regional tourist board and we discussed to what extent social media networks can drive more visitors to your own website and especially of what quality these clicks were regarding leads and user engagement. We concluded our discussion that the success of social media marketing is dependent on the content quality and how the usage of social networks is integrated into the whole eTourism and eMarketing strategy.

To summarise the tips for clicks, it must be emphasised that first and above all content is still king! High quality content means that it is interesting and relevant for your visitors and potential buyers. Self-adulations and exaggerations about products and services (as they can be found frequently in brochures and flyers) are in most cases not perceived as credible by customers.

Moreover, the navigation, information structure and look & feel of the website should be distinguished by a high usability which caters for the skills and needs of various user types (e.g. experienced – inexperienced, first-time visitor – returning visitor). Not only can you please your visitors with relevant content and an intuitive navigation structure but this will also improve the volume and quality of traffic to the website from search engines via organic search results (i.e. search engine optimisation).

Despite the wide variety and potential of online marketing formats, offline marketing should not be neglected. Every contact point with customers (e.g. personal contact, public relations, press releases, print catalogue, phone call, voice mail etc.) is an opportunity to point clients to content on your website. However, customers should also be made aware of the benefit they get when visiting the website. You can collect the user feedback in order to find out why customers visited your website and what they found particularly useful.

Many tourism businesses and organisations have planned to increase their communication activities on social networks in the next months with the goal to generate more website traffic. This trend is also underpinned by the “2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report” from MarketingSherpa, published by eMarketer (21 Dec 2009). Increasing website traffic significantly outranks other marketing objectives such as increasing leads and sales revenues or improving search engine rankings and brand awareness (see table below, click to enlarge):

However, creating content for social media platforms (e.g. fan pages, blogs, videos, tweets), communicating with users and monitoring user activities also require more financial investments into staff and co-operations with agencies or consultancies. It is therefore not really surprising that many industries plan to raise their marketing budget in favour of social media marketing (see chart below, click to enlarge).

Half of the marketing managers from the travel and leisure industry claimed they intend to increase the budget for social media marketing in 2010, according to the “2010 Social Media Benchmark Report”, for which 2,317 US marketers were questioned about their marketing budget plans.

In spite of the hype and growing popularity of social networks, recent surveys revealed that it is still the e-mail newsletter that can lead to high conversion (e.g. purchases, subscriptions etc.) and user engagement rates. E-mail is obviously still the king of online content sharing, according to a survey carried out by StrongMail and published by eMarketer (23 Dec 2009). E-mail links achieved conversion rates of nearly 37% for online content shared by Internet users, whereas Facebook led to conversion rates of 3% and Twitter of 0.4% (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

Another “driver” for e-mail sharing is SWYN which stands for “Share with your Network”. The integration of a code snippet in an e-mail newsletter allows subscribers to share email content with various social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg etc. (see graphic below).

It actually seems that the combination of e-mail marketing and social media is a growing trend for driving more visitors to the website, which is also reflected in the planned marketing spendings for the year 2010. Seven out of ten business executives around the world are going to increase the budget for e-mail marketing and 60% will spend more money for social media marketing (see chart below, click on chart to enlarge).

Of course other marketing activities such as search engine marketing, banner advertising, ads on mobile applications, strategic e-partnerships and many more are also still relevant in the marketing mix. It is essential for all marketing activities, though, that the objectives and metrics of how to measure these objectives are clearly defined, targeted and geared to the user needs.

Therefore, the basic ingredients for driving more traffic to your website and turning visitors into customers are a well structured website, top-quality content / offers, aligned marketing activities, regular analysis of performance metrics and continuous quality improvement.

Related arcticles:
How to Conduct Email Marketing that Doesn't Suck
Poor Usability Drives Down Bookings on Hospitality Websites
What travelers are actually looking for when searching online

Saturday, 9 January 2010

One of Two Europeans Uses the Internet Daily in 2009 – Austria Faces a Digital Divide

The number of households with Internet access is steadily growing in the 27 EU member states, which gives hope for increasing online business. In the first quarter 2009 two thirds of Europeans (65%) could access Internet from their home, compared with 60% in the first quarter of 2008, according to Eurostat (news release from 8 Dec 2009). Almost 40% of individuals aged between 16 and 74 years in the EU27 had purchased something over the Internet in the last 12 months. In Austria, one person in three used the Internet daily in 2009, as a survey by IMAS Market Research revealed.

The internet access landscape in European households is - not surprisingly - rather diverse and ranges from 30% in Bulgaria to 90% in the Netherlands. In Austria 70% of all households had internet access in 2009, compared to 69% in 2008 and 60% in 2007.
The online shopping behavior varies also considerably between Europeans aged from 16 to 74. The online buying share in 2009 was highest in the United Kingdom (66%), Denmark (64%) and in the Netherlands and Sweden (each with 63%), whereas Romania (2%), Bulgaria (5%) and Lithuania (8%) were on the lower end of the scale. The Austrians (41%) seem to be a bit diffident as far as online shopping is concerned and can be found in the middle field, together with France (45%) and Germany (56%). These figures are quite important for eTourism strategists, because although some of these Eastern European countries are considered as emerging markets in the online travel landscape (see my post from 3 Jan 2010) the potential of online bookers is still rather low.

Is Austria facing a digital divide?
Every third person (37%) in Austria older than 16 years uses the Internet daily and therefore can be called a “heavy user”, whereas 41% of Internet ascetics totally refuse to use the Internet, according to a survey carried out by IMAS between August and September 2009 and presented yesterday (see IMAS chart below, click to enlarge). The data from Eurostat differs slightly in this respect, which might be led back to a different formulation of the question. According to Eurostat, 70% of Austrians aged from 16 to 24 and 48% of individuals aged from 16 to 74 use the Internet on average daily or almost every day.

The data gives evidence that the Austrian society is split into those 59% of individuals who use the Internet at least once a month and the 41% of non-users. Interestingly, the Internet user/non-user ratio has remained relatively constant over the past five years. It will be interesting to see what impact this trend might have on the communication behavior and information/knowledge transfer.

Looking at the socio-demografic characteristics of either group the following pattern can be observed: the higher educated and/or the younger a person is, the more likely it is that (s)he uses the Internet daily. For example, 62% of Austrians aged between 14 to 29 and 59% with a higher education (e.g. A-Levels, University) use the Internet daily (see chart from IMAS below, click to enlarge).

Will these developments lead to a digitally divided society in Austria, i.e. those who do it and those who don’t, namely using the Internet for information search and communication? Or will the communication behavior of the baby boomers and generation N level the differences over the next years anyway?

The IMAS survey further revealed that every fifth Austrian older than 16 years is a member of a social networking platform such as Facebook or Xing. Interestingly, the main reasons for joining virtual communities are to stay in contact with friends and relatives (60%) and to get in contact with people of similar interests (59%). I believe that especially the latter reason can be used by marketers in the travel industry, for example creating fan pages or special interest communities so that individuals can get in contact with people of similar travel or activity interests. Observing the communication between the “fans” on the fan page can give deeper insights in the consumer needs and wants and is probably more effictive than simply placing an ad on a social networking platform.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

eTourism Trends for 2010

Happy New Year and welcome to 2010!

The end of the old and beginning of the new year is not only the time for many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions but also for prognoses which technologies and developments will play an important role and hopefully also will become profitable in the coming months. I have tried to summarise key predictions and trends in eTourism for the year 2010 from various sources.

  • The online travel market share in Europe will grow despite the economic crisis. Whereas the total European travel market faces a double-digit decline through 2009 and 2010, the online market share for leisure and unmanaged business travel will increase from 28% in 2008 to 34% in 2010 (PhoCusWright, 21 Dec 2009). It seems like a side effect of the recession that customers are increasingly searching online for budget travel deals (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). Especially Germany will gain more online market share (see illustration below, click on chart to enlarge). Morever, emerging markets in the east such as Poland or Romania will also increase their shares in the European online travel landscape.

  • Travel metasearch websites such as Checkfelix or Kayak will become increasingly popular among European Internet users due to the highly fragmented European online travel market and the price-sensitivity of the customers (PhoCusWright, 21 Dec 2009). This new breed of online “meta-mediaries” aggregate offerings from suppliers and intermediaries likewise and could have the potential to change the travel distribution landscape fundamentally. The benefits for the consumers are that they get access to a wide range of suppliers and that they can compare their offers immediately.

  • Online media consumption will continue to grow due to increasing consumer empowerment and technology advances (eMarketer, 14 December 2009). Online content will become more distributed (i.e. the same content will appear in multiple channels and formats), personalised and contextualised (i.e. content and format is geared to the location and social situation of the users). Therefore a more precise targeting will be essential to reach the target audience.

  • Social media marketing and social commerce will become an integral part in the online marketing mix and the marketing spending will continue to shift from traditional to online media. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter will certainly remain the most attractive social networks for marketers also in 2010 (see graphic below, click on chart to enlarge).

  • However, it is necessary to find better ways for managing and measuring the impact of “earned media” (eMarketer, 31st Dec 2009). Earned media means the additional unpaid exposure that a brand receives when users share information about the brand online. “Social marketing works best when it’s earned, not paid for.” (eMarketer, 14 Dec 2009)

  • The need foradvanced analytics” is also identified by Gartner’s analysts for whom “the new step is to provide simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, not simply information, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action.” This will be particularly important for the question whether a large fan base on a social network can eventually generate sales or increase brand loyalty. Furthermore, real-time content from social networking platforms (e.g. Facebook) and temporal search (e.g. Twitter) will increasingly be considered by search engines and integrated into the search results.

  • Mobile is moving into the mainstream. The convergence of location-based and social-aware mobile applications will engage consumers en-route and will make mobile services an integral tool for travel planning and management. By the end of 2010, 1.2 billion people will have smart phones with mobile Internet access capable of rich content and user experiences (Gartner). As a result of this mobile advertising spending will also gain a bigger share in the marketing mix (eMarketer, 31 Dec 2009). The fusion of different technologies (e.g. internet, telephony, television) and applications will lead to new forms of media consumption and new marketing opportunities. Google’s $ 750 million purchase of AdMob can maybe also seen as an indicator that 2010 can turn in to the “year of mobile” (eMarketer, 8 Dec 2009)

  • Video conferencing will gain momentum as an alternative to business travel and is seen as a lead trend in 2010 by some analysts (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). This trend is further supported by the economic backdrop and the often rather tight budgets for business travels in many companies. I personally doubt that video conferencing will be booming among representatives of the travel industry but this trend could have a negative impact on the airline and hospitality industry.

  • Whole body scanners will become the standard on many airports due to increased threat of terroristic attacks (Scene Advisor, cited on NewMedia TrendWatch, Nov 2009). The failed bomb attack on a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in December 2009 has weakened the arguments of privacy defenders against the usage of full body scanners which will show not only hidden weapons but also very intimate body details. The Netherlands and also airports in Germany will start using whole body scanners (Focus Online, 2 Jan 2010).
The year 2010 will bring significant changes in terms of online media usage, advertising formats and e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce activities. Monitoring those developments and reacting quickly if necessary means that you will be better prepared to capitalise on those changes.

I wish all readers and followers of my blog an exciting and successful happy New Year 2010!