In a previous column, I shared how Viajala, a Latin American flight and hotel metasearch company I co-founded, competes with much bigger competition. In this column I am sharing three specific techniques we implemented to further increase our travel traffic.
As with my previous column, this isn’t meant as a blueprint for your own business; my purpose is to provide readers with an interesting read that may trigger ideas they can use for their own business.
Content marketing as low-cost branding
Search and Facebook advertising are great channels to find users who are interested in booking flights or hotels, but we already rely vastly on these two traffic sources. We decided to diversify our traffic sources by improving our brand awareness, but we couldn’t afford any media spend – especially as we operate in seven different markets. As a result, we decided to invest in content marketing in order to increase our brand exposure at no advertising cost.
We defined our objective to generate greater brand awareness, by associating our name with travel content and inspiring more online users to travel.
We hired an internal content marketing team who produce in-house unique content, for example, tips on where and how to travel, which we distribute on either our own blogs, through the local press, or with other travel bloggers. Our purpose is to build an online footprint of Viajala outside of paid marketing, which gives users another opportunity to learn about us.
One example is we regularly contribute to Brazil’s most popular collaborative travel blog, Catracalivre. Exclusive, high-quality content written by our content marketing managers gets published and exposed to an audience of 16 million Brazilian users.
Another way we get users to learn about our business is by sharing relevant travel trends.
One recent example was when Avianca, Colombia’s largest airline, suffered a pilots’ strike, which led to travel chaos throughout the country. We analyzed the impact of the strike on prices and found the cheapest domestic tickets fare increased by 70 percent. This was clear, measurable evidence of the strike’s impact on Colombian travelers we should share with the public.
As we found the impact was particularly strong for the flights to and from the airport of Barranquilla, one of the country’s largest cities, we got the largest local newspaper, El Heraldo, to publish our findings alongside other data regarding the crisis’ impact. This is an example of how we are building Viajala’s reputation as a credible player in the Latam travel industry.
Our paid marketing strategy is mostly software driven, which works best on ordinary days, however, it does not handle extraordinary days well.
For example, huge increases in travel demand can be caused by school holidays, long weekends, and commercial events such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Our systems will catch some of that extra traffic as they’re designed to cast a wide net, but they will not take any extraordinary steps to take further advantage of them, so we do that manually with a few simple but powerful steps.
First, we create pages with content specific to the event which lists our best offers to drive large amounts of SEO traffic and give us a great landing page for marketing traffic.
Second, when the time of the event comes we channel traffic to the relevant page by sending newsletters, Chrome notifications, and social media posts with customized content at the time of highest demand.
Third, we also boost our search marketing campaigns by enabling countdown ads for time-constrained events such as Black Friday, which increases the users’ sense of urgency and click-through-rate. Overall, as we have some of the most comprehensive inventory in our markets, we push some of the best offers a user can find, as a result, those efforts drive large volumes of highly qualified traffic.
Whilst we could build software to better manage these events, this would be difficult as every event is different. For now, we manage this process manually and, as we learn about how to optimize the process, we hope to build in-house software to better support it than we currently do.
Cross-sell to diversify
Most people take holidays only once per year, especially in emerging economies like Latin America where travel is less accessible than in wealthier markets. So whilst there are frequent travelers, most are travel users which have low repeat rate. It, therefore, makes sense to drive as much value as possible from our users by providing multiple services for the one trip they are planning this year.
This was a big part of why we decided to expand Viajala from just flights to hotels relatively early after our founding, despite the challenge of managing more than one product line with our few resources. Once we know a user is planning a trip, and the data shows where and when they are traveling, it makes sense to offer highly targeted complementary services to these users.
Whilst we advertise both products independently — for example, we advertise both on flights and hotel keywords on Adwords — we also display relevant hotel ads to users who have researched flights with us. These ads are based on the destination and dates research by those users. We distribute the ads directly on our website, as well as by email, and Chrome notifications. This is a great way to drive additional revenue and get our users to discover our less known product line.
Most large travel companies cross-sell in an effort to become travel’s everything store and emulate Amazon. The industry’s recent push into activities and experiences validates this theory, for example, see Airbnb’s recent expansion to experiences, the recent fundraising from GetYourGuide and Booking.com’s recent addition of flights and car rental to their homepage. At our business’ own scale, we benefit in a similar way by offering two product lines that complete one another, thus accelerating our growth whilst diversifying our revenue.
Whether it’s implementing a second line of business when the company was in its infancy, trying to build brand awareness without spending a dollar in media, or building a manual process against the basic principles we set out to follow, the overarching lesson is we are not afraid to go against conventions, even the ones we set ourselves.
As such, our biggest advantage relative to our much larger competition is used to its maximum: flexibility.