A World of Sights, Tastes, and Sensations

Expedia Experiences

by Elizabeth Davidson

In June 2017, a friend at Expedia called Daniel and asked if we might be interested in putting together a proposal to evolve their activity email marketing.

In June 2017, a friend at Expedia called Daniel and asked if we might be interested in putting together a proposal to evolve their activity email marketing.

An Awfully Big Adventure

Daniel called me and asked: “What do you think, Lizzie?” I don’t mind admitting I had a healthy dollop of self-doubt that we, as a boutique collective of destination marketers, would have anything to teach a global travel behemoth like Expedia. But it turns out we do, and that’s awesome!

So, in September we flew to Seattle. We went up the Space Needle, ate chowder and kettle corn and visited the incredible Chihuly Glass Museum. We made like tourists.

Then we met with key people from the Expedia activity team at their Bellevue office. They briefed us on their goals for evolving their activity e-marketing strategy. It was one intense day of discovery.

The Power of the In Box

After our discovery meeting with the Expedia team we headed back to our offices and put our biggest e-marketing hats on. E-mail is still the number one way for businesses to drive profits.

 That’s because:

  • 72% of people would rather receive promotional content via email
  • 66% of people purchase from email
  • The order value from emails is three times that of social media

 So, it’s not surprising that Expedia take their e-marketing game very seriously.

We Began by Waiting in Line

We started with the most important people, with travelers. We wanted to understand how they discover, plan, and book their holiday activities. We also wondered what they thought about booking activities online, and we were curious about their perceptions of Expedia’s activity offering. We waited in line at top visitor attractions to ask people why they were there, and how they had booked.

We also dug deep into Expedia’s activity booking data, looking for insights about their customers. Then we reviewed existing research from various travel industry sources to identify activity marketing insights. And we had a good sniff around their core competitors to see if they were up to anything particularly exciting.

Tours & Activity Booking Challenges

We can’t share our recommendations to Expedia. They’re top secret. But we can tell you a related story.

Our destination partners often tell us that activities are challenging to sell online. Their observations are  borne out by Phocus Wright research on traveler activity booking.

The Phocus Wright report on the in-destination experience echoed meetings we’d had with several of our partners. Reading it was one of those strange experiences, because the writer encapsulated our recent conversations so perfectly. We love those moments where the stars align and everything comes together.

The Phocus Wright report is pay to play gated content. But there are useful outtakes about why travelers don’t book activities online. Here we summarize key takeaways from this article and give some recommendations to help overcome barriers to booking activities online.

  • Activity providers don’t offer people a strong reason to book online. Consider incentivizing online bookings with savings, or convenience, e.g. skip the line, and minimizing risks, with no fuss refunds.
  • Activity providers don’t talk travelers’ language. They tend to focus on selling their product, and not the visitor experience. This doesn’t inspire. If you’re marketing an activity, tell your guests a story about what they will experience, and why the activity is right for them. And if you’re a destination or a travel trade business showcasing a wide range of activities, think hard about how you categorize your activities, and use the same terms your visitors are using.
  • Activity providers don’t present themselves in an inspiring way. Visual inspiration is king. Invest in great imagery. Collate great guest imagery using a quality social media aggregation tool like Crowdriff.

Activities make a vacation. They make memories. But you’d never know it from the way they are sold.

We’re beyond excited about working with the Expedia team to implement some of our strategic recommendations, and experiment with new ways of marketing experiences. Watch this space for more updates! Let’s make 2018 the year of inspiring adventures!

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