Case study: Designing a standout online experience

The internet has trained us to extensively research our options—particularly when it comes to travel. But this often ends in consumers being well informed but so overwhelmed they fail to make a satisfactory purchase.

Social integrated campaign leveraging House of Travel's large existing customer base

The internet has trained us to extensively research our options—particularly when it comes to travel. But this often ends in consumers being well informed but so overwhelmed they fail to make a satisfactory purchase.

House of Travel approached Young & Shand to help tackle the challenges it faced and to bring some clarity to its online strategy. Over the past few years, House of Travel has been a strong and innovative marketing force in the digital space, but it needed a supplier that could bring everything together and provide a one-stop service across all aspects of its digital marketing.

The Problem
The retail outlets wanted to derive greater benefit from the House of Travel website. What could it do for them and their business? And the cost of getting an inquiry was creeping up.
In the travel market, increasing attention has been given to the short-haul battle of the cheapest flights, and travel deals—especially in the domestic market. But these are high-volume, low- (or no) margin products, while longer overseas travel offers higher commissions and expenditure.

The goal was to push consumers in research mode into action mode, and make them book the holiday they desired, says Young & Shand co-founder and commercial director, Duncan Shand.

The Solution
The idea was to focus on experiences. When booking a holiday, we often get bogged down in the details. Young & Shand wanted to remind consumers why they travel: for unique experiences, for a time in our lives that we’ll remember fondly.

“We developed a series of six micro-sites focused around House of Travel Experiences,” says Shand. “Aspirational images were used to bring users back into the holiday mindset, with a series of images showing the possibilities available: beach, adventure, shopping, romantic breaks etc.”

Social reinforcement was also incorporated, with Facebook buttons allowing users to ‘like’ the experiences. This instantly communicated their affinity for the experience to their social network, and confirmed its popularity as an experience to other users. Who wants to go on holiday to a destination no one likes?

The landing pages were also developed based on international research to avoid distracting users with other options and links that might take them back into research mode. It was crucial to ensure the right information was in the right place to get consumers to take action.

“Visitors were then presented with what we call a story form. It’s like a regular web form with first name, last name etc, except that it’s integrated into a story,” explains co-founder Ben Young. “It also reminds consumers why they’re filling out the form and lets us plant the idea of the benefit they’ll receive in a natural, informal manner.

“Plus, story forms result in completion rates two to three times higher than regular-format forms,” he adds.

But with the sites built, they still needed to get people to them.

“The basic formula online is Attention*Conversion=Sales. We had built the framework for conversion and, translating that into sales, we now had to get the leads in the door.”

Using the Google Content network, a campaign was methodically developed around colloquial terms, long-tail searches (which had low or non-existent competition) and, of course, searches around experiences, i.e. ‘work escape’, ‘shopping spree’, ‘beach escape’. Often, people tend to focus on direct terms, driving up the competition and costs in these areas, says Shand.

“Traffic acquisition is one of our key strengths—acquiring smart qualified traffic that drives down costs while boosting results,” he says.

The House of Travel homepage was used to drive interest, both to take advantage of the site’s huge monthly traffic and to build an audience for a retargeting campaign, which built a virtual-travel ad network.

After visiting each of the experiences, consumers were targeted through various ad networks that allowed House of Travel’s advertising. Following visitors around the web, it gently reminded them about the House of Travel experiences. The campaign went live in early December, but rather than leaving it to run, Young & Shand constantly looked at ways to improve it until it wrapped up just before Christmas. And leads continued to come in over the holiday break.

The Results
Young & Shand successfully took consumers out of the research mindset, achieving a 3% conversion rate on the web pages. Traffic costs decreased by a significant margin, meaning the overall acquisition cost was 30% below target.

“House of Travel now has an asset they can keep adding extra experiences to,” says Young. “They can refine with A/B testing to increase conversions and develop further traffic sources.”

And House of Travel is happy with the results. Young & Shand are a smart team, says marketing director, Val Green. “They developed a strategy that made sense and drove results, which pushed up our leads by 10% in the month. They made a difference to our business.”

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