How Royal Caribbean used customisation to convert Aussies to cruise

In a fast-moving and evolving market, Royal Caribbean wanted to reach Aussies looking to book a cruise. Here, Kathryn Valk, Royal Caribbean’s director of marketing and PR, shares how one of Australia’s leading cruise lines used automation to customise its offers and experiences for the right audience.

Whether they’re looking for action and adventure or relaxation and rejuvenation, today’s travellers spend a significant amount of time and effort planning their dream trips — especially for a getaway at sea. They want to find the best deal on their dream destination and expect cruise lines like Royal Caribbean to make the process quick and easy. With so many unique and varying experiences to offer, we needed to find the best way to reach Aussies with relevant offers when they were looking to book.

We’ve seen massive growth since our start in the Australian market in 2007: more than 300,000 passengers sailed with Royal Caribbean last year. However, with Aussies’ growing expectations for personalisation, we knew it’d be crucial to speak to their different needs, passions, and travel preferences to capture their attention. So, our marketing team turned to advanced audiences and automation to help us reach travellers in the moments they’re researching their dream vacations.

Diving into advanced audiences

Royal Caribbean offers vacation packages that vary by destination, time of year, and type of experience. Rather than paint all our potential customers with the same brush, we needed to figure out how to match the right trip with the right traveller. We teamed up with our media agency, Blue449, and Google to find the perfect pairing between Aussie cruisers and Royal Caribbean experiences.

With clear audience segments and the help of automated bidding, we were able to reach each audience with ads tailored to their cruising interests, passion for travel, and unique context.

To better understand what Aussies were looking for in their next cruise, we used Google’s intent signals to break down our website visitors into three groups: existing Royal customers, cruisers new to Royal Caribbean, and travellers looking to book their first-ever cruise experience. With clear audience segments and the help of automated bidding, we were able to reach each audience with ads tailored to their cruising interests, passion for travel, and unique context.

For example, a first-time cruiser searching for “South Pacific cruises” would see an ad to explore different ships and itineraries, whereas returning cruisers searching for another escape would see an ad for a current last-minute deal.

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Making waves with Aussie cruisers

By creating a customised strategy, we enhanced audience engagement and raised awareness among Aussies eyeing their next getaway. As a result, we saw a 260% increase in website visits, a 42.5% reduction in cost per website visit, and a 52% improvement in click-through rate (CTR) on our ads compared to last year.

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“Audience segmentation was an effective way to help maximise Royal Caribbean’s search investments,” said Oliver Duff, senior performance manager at Blue 449. “It made it easier for us to identify the likelihood of a consumer booking a cruise so we could adjust our messaging accordingly and make the most out of our search strategy.”

With a clearer picture of our audiences, we were able to boost awareness and help travellers find the cruise that was right for them. Our main goal is to help people not just see the world but to experience it. By pairing travellers with the right offer, it’s much easier to make that goal a reality.

Q&A with Essence & Google: key takeaways from a programmatic journey