Two years ago, Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine Software, was prepared for anything as the pandemic set in, expecting particularly hard hits for retail and travel. Heading up a company that provides data and analytics for marketers, he was often advising clients who had significantly reduced or no budgets at all.
As the travel industry emerges from the crisis, Voda sees a landscape that has changed -- perhaps permanently -- in some ways. That might be seen most dramatically in business travel, the hardest hit, and probably the longest to recover, of any segment.
While some continued to travel for business, there are segments of that market that might continue to be largely virtual from here on in, depending on the purpose of the trip. For instance, said Voda, conferences built around training, worker education and other group events might remain substantially virtual. Meanwhile, trips geared toward building client relationships and sales offer compelling reasons for face-to-face contact. Bottom line: there will be more granular segments to deal with -- not simply a big picture leisure travel vs. business travel approach.
And even that traditional business/leisure dichotomy may be permanently blurred with the surge of remote work, digital nomads and the long-discussed-but-time-whose-come bleisure: vacation add-ons to work trips. On top of that has been the explosion of the vacation rental sector. Marketers will need to retarget their messages -- and even their products -- to tailor campaigns to these growing, but still evolving markets.
Coinciding with these changes, said Voda, comes a huge privacy wave -- led in some ways by Apple -- that makes the marketer’s job more challenging. OptiMine, has taken a privacy-focused approach since its founding 15 years ago, he said. That approach calls for better data, measurements and analytics – and more investment in all of those areas.
OptiMine uses a marketing mix modeling strategy that aims to correlate media spend and deployment with outcome: for example, does a campaign drive bookings or room nights? The system is more audience-based and not dependent on targeting individuals. To contend with privacy issues, OptiMine has stepped up its solutions with a modern cloud computing approach that enables the company to “blow out” analytics into more and more detail, said Voda.
Compounding the challenges in this transitional periodcompanies need to plan for differing rebound scenarios and figure out how to time their marketing strategies. Voda explained that during the pandemic, all marketing was in survival mode, targeted at driving short-term business. Now marketers have to decide when they might consider which media levers to pull to balance short-term and long-term messages.
With the growth of car trips, increased regional travel and more last-minute bookings, marketers moved to search and paid social media to meet the trickle of demand, marketing to the lower part of the media funnel. And while the pandemic may be easing, there are always mitigating factors to consider – even if they are short of a crisis. That might be inflation, the war in Ukraine or the state of the economy – all to be taken account of in developing campaigns.
Travel marketers now face, the ultimate segmentation dilemma: How can they identify smaller and less traditional subsegments and communicate effectively to them, at the same time dealing with privacy issues and a volatile social landscape? “We are still on a bumpy road,” Voda concluded, “so that speed and agility will rule the day."