When it comes to online travel websites a lot of year ago, there were Travelocity.com and there’s everyone else scrambling to keep up. The offspring of easySabre (a product launched by Sabre in 1985 for its frequent travelers), Travelocity.com arrived in March 1996 as the first online travel website to offer full service online booking capabilities.
In January 1999, we were hired as Travelocity’s interactive agency, tasked with increasing the number of monthly bookings and lowering the cost per booking.
Our research led to a strategy of targeting users who are actively searching for travel information and products. We made aggressive use of portals and search engines where we targeted our ads based on keyword searches.
Then we went after specialized travel sites, like Frommer’s Budget Travel. And we sought out placements in the travel content sections of non-travel sites, like the New York Times. Finally, we identified a variety of sites targeting customer segments such as women, business, minority and college travelers.
The end result was a robust and highly targeted approach to reaching Travelocity’s key customers and prospects. Most of our competitors would have thought that was adequate. Not us.
We further targeted our market by matching the message in the banners to the user’s specific needs. We developed creative for categories such as air travel, car rentals, hotels, vacations and travel deals. It just makes sense; people value timely, relevant information. For users looking for fare information on sites like Yahoo!, we served “low fare” banners. And for users researching vacation alternatives on sites like Frommer’s, we served vacation-oriented messaging.
But even that was not enough. We wanted our banners to do more than pitch Travelocity. We made them do work for the consumer. We programmed the banners with drop-down menus and let users request specific information. In other cases we created text input fields. In essence, we brought the site to the user.
The results have been impressive to say the least. In 2000 we drove nearly 4 million users to Travelocity, with an average click-through rate of 0.82%. That’s roughly 64% better than the industry average. We also drove over 216,000 bookings at a click-to-conversion rate of 5.64%, again beating the industry average of 2 to 5%. And by December, we had driven the cost per booking down to a level 25% lower than Travelocity’s overall customer acquisition cost. That’s right. More site visitors, more bookings, for less money.
And the news just keeps getting better. By the end of May 2001, we drove 3 million users to Travelocity and generated 310,000 bookings at a click-to-conversion rate of 10.01%. Our year-to-date cost per booking is 42% lower than what it was in December 2000, and we are now delivering purchasers to Travelocity at a rate 56% lower than their overall customer acquisition cost.
We’re not the only ones who think the Travelocity story is something else. Ad Age recognized Travelocity’s online creative for its effectiveness, and we were recently awarded Best Online Media Strategy by the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association for our work with Travelocity.