Whether travelling for pleasure or business, online has transformed how people research and book their getaways. And consumers now demand seamless experiences across multiple channels and devices. This means that reaching and retaining their attention can be tough.
Czech rail ticket operators České Dráhy wanted to use automation in Search so it could reach more relevant customers in new markets and free its team up to concentrate on strategy.
Founded in 1993, the company sells rail tickets both at home in the Czech Republic and in neighbouring countries including Slovakia, Germany and Austria. After a commissioned study revealed further opportunity for growth in foreign markets, the travel company partnered with digital agency H1 to begin to extend their reach. The challenge was to efficiently unlock this opportunity and become more active abroad.
Open to a “try and see” approach, the brand decided it would begin testing automated solutions and compare results — minimising risk before scaling the strategy across markets.
Putting the bots to the test
They carried out A/B tests with Search ads, splitting campaigns between manual and target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, performance marketers set a desired cost per acquisition and automation will optimise campaign bidding to reach the goal. The initial results of the testing convinced them to switch the entire account to automated solutions.
Machine Learning measures Search variables — like audience, time of day, device and messaging — and automatically improves campaigns to maximise performance. It helps by automatically detecting things like the times of day and types of devices that are returning the most revenue and adjusts bidding accordingly.
Automation is not a one size fits all solution. Different business goals means different strategies for automation. České Dráhy maximised conversions in Search campaigns by setting a target cost per acquisition (CPA) and drove traffic to the site categories that they wanted to promote further by maximising click through rate (CTR). While in display campaigns, they used automation to find the most valuable market at the lowest cost.
Automation not only removed the guesswork by delivering the most relevant messaging to the most relevant people, it also saved them time. “Automation takes the mundane work off our hands and allows us to focus on measuring and strategic thinking, but also because it suits České Dráhy’s business model,” said the company. “Since we have a wide target customer group, the algorithm is just way more powerful in finding the right people to target with the specific campaign.”
The team has now created campaigns in English and German, and for both customers from the Czech Republic travelling out of the country and foreign clients travelling into the country. But they don’t manually set specific geo-locations — they let the algorithm find the most valuable potential customers.
In Czech campaigns the CTR increased by 12% year on year (YoY) and conversions jumped up by 131%, while CPA fell by 38%. In international campaigns CTR increased by 19%, conversions rose by 36%, while CPA decreased by 24%.
The results have convinced České Dráhy to consider further expansion. “We have tested out the waters and see what value lies outside of the Czech borders,” said the company. By letting the machines take care of the day-to-day matters, they are free to focus on the strategic steps — steps which are now taking customers further on Czech trains than ever before.