The more you understand your audience, the easier it is to show up and help them adapt to uncertain times. Luxury Escapes’ VP of performance Matt Meisner shares how adopting a data-driven approach to Search is helping the travel brand connect Aussies to their dream holidays as regulations in the country continue to evolve.
When the news of worldwide lockdowns spread and international travel came to a stop, our industry was one of the hardest hit. Unsure of how or when the tides would turn, Luxury Escapes — like many of our competitors — had to press pause on most of our marketing as the team regrouped to figure out how to adapt to this rapidly changing environment.
Even though we were all stuck at home, we knew Aussies wouldn’t stay inside forever. In fact, as COVID-19 cases have largely decreased in Australia, search interest trends show that hope for local travel has been steadily rising. Compared to last year, searches for activities like “day spa” have increased 650% in Western Australia, and “glamping mudgee” searches have climbed 350% in New South Wales.
Today, it’s a lot safer to assume people are dreaming about and even planning their next holiday. But months ago, we still needed to back up our hunch with more facts before making any sudden moves. While our marketing was on hold, we decided to partner with Google to dig deeper into our data, gauge Aussies’ interest in travel deals and destinations, and develop a new strategy.
Travel goes local under lockdowns
What we found was in the midst of a crisis, Aussies were still thinking about travel. While searches for hotels and accommodations dropped 40% in May compared to 2019, interest had risen 37% in New South Wales and Queensland from the previous month. Because we’d spent years connecting our data sources and sharing insights across teams, our Google Analytics showed that Aussies weren’t just making travel plans — customers were actually booking future getaways through our website, call centre, and mobile app. That put us in a better position to present a plan to our board to restart our marketing efforts and set up a six-week Search experiment to learn more about our local audience.
Due to border closures and international travel restrictions, we focused exclusively on domestic travel within Australia by reactivating our search campaigns on a statewide level. We started by directing potential travellers to relevant pages on our website using Dynamic Search ads that highlighted local deals and hotels.
To make these getaways visible in the right moments while Aussies were searching, we also reinstated automated bidding to ensure we’d show up on the most relevant queries.
Reacting to Aussie travellers in real time
To address any uncertainty travellers might’ve had about their future plans being interrupted, we also tweaked our creative messaging to convey the flexibility of travel, letting our customers know they could save on future travel by booking a trip and travelling at a later date.
As demand increased in regions where restrictions were relaxing, we were able to seek out new hotel vendors and negotiate never-before-seen deals and experiences. And to connect Aussies to these one-of-a-kind escapes, we tailored our ad copy to reflect the offerings and bid on keywords specific to those regions.
By keeping an eye on what our customers were searching for and being flexible with our messaging and approach, we were able to drive as much revenue as we did before the lockdown — a huge success, considering how much the industry was affected — resulting in a 12:1 return on ad spend.
Adapting for the future of travel
As states continue to lift travel restrictions, Luxury Escapes will have even more opportunities to connect Aussies with local experiences. Recently, we launched Last Minute Escapes for travellers in states that are better equipped to handle new guidelines, and we’ve already seen an impressive response from Aussies open to booking these spur-of-the-moment getaways.
With so many countries and states still under lockdown restrictions, there’s plenty more to learn about how travel will evolve in 2021. According to a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, 50% of Aussies expect to travel domestically in the next 12 months.1 One of our biggest hopes for the coming year is that by being one of the first to get back in the market, we’ll be in a better position to keep up with and react to new travel behaviours on the horizon.
Above all, we learned firsthand the value of connecting our data and following the insights to truly understand our audience. Because we were already set up to measure and optimise across our platforms, we were able to keep testing and making strategic decisions based on real customer behaviours. We realised we might not see immediate results, especially considering the changing circumstances, but we also recognised knowing what your audience cares about is vital to serving their needs now and in the uncertain future.