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May Day, May Day – Does Your Brand Have a Robust Activation Plan this Bank Holiday Weekend?

With the May bank holidays just around the corner, consumers are increasingly searching online for deals on day trips and weekends away, presenting a significant opportunity for travel and leisure brands to drive sales. As online spending peaks, marketers seeking to capitalise on these high-intent shoppers need a robust programmatic strategy that identifies, engages, and reacts to consumers in real-time.

So what are the key learnings that marketers can build upon to create timely, successful campaigns?

Forecast your customer’s journey
Detailed analysis from The Exchange Lab’s business intelligence team identified that in the lead up to the 2014 Easter and May bank holiday periods, the travel sector experienced a significant rise in online consumer activity.

Looking at this data, we can see online travel purchases increased by an incredible 590% during the four-week period leading up to the Easter bank holiday weekend with customer conversions peaking on Easter Monday. In the week following Easter, purchases dropped by 56% before peaking for a second time over the May Day bank holiday. Conversion rates dropped significantly following the May Day bank holiday and did not reach similar levels until August 2014.

For marketers, the search stage of the consumer journey in the weeks prior to the bank holiday is the prime time to attract the attention of consumers interested in travel. A compelling, strong creative campaign that quickly engages the user is essential, backed up with appropriate formats that support rich content such as cross-platform rich media executions, native advertising placements, and dynamic creative optimisation.

Bring all consumers on board
Any bank holiday marketing strategy needs to be timed to engage both the forward planners – who will start their search early – as well as the last-minute bookers. Using data gathered around last year’s bank holidays, it is clear there is a six to eight week window of opportunity for advertisers to influence potential customers.

In 2014, 3.4 million British adults planned to take at least one overnight UK Easter bank holiday trip, and 1.8 million adults planned to travel abroad. During the same period, 4.5 million were undecided about whether to take an overnight trip during the bank holiday weekend, demonstrating the opportunity for travel brands to convert potential customers.

A strong online campaign strategy can be the difference between a casual browser and a committed customer.

A multi-platform approach to programmatic marketing can provide clients with a holistic view of the marketplace. Data from The Exchange Lab business analysts show that mobile plays an important role in researching travel and leisure plans. However, while mobile activity is consistent over the Easter weekend, desktop traffic dramatically declines.

This would suggest that individuals are planning their excursions at the beginning of the week on their desktops and researching on mobiles over the weekend when their activities are less static. For marketers to connect effectively and at scale with consumers they need to adopt a cross-device approach across multiple platforms.

Dive deeper for greater insight
Identifying patterns in consumer behaviour is invaluable for marketers planning 2015 campaigns. Using programmatic, it is possible to target various customers from the planners to the late decision makers in a way that sees the right ad served to the right customer at the crucial decision-making moment.

Programmatic is a powerful marketing tool, but to maximise its benefits, we must drill deeper into travel customers’ behaviour to determine who the user is and what their needs are.

1. Use precision demographic targeting
Demographic targeting uses specific audience data pools with targeting options including age, sex, income, and location. By engaging with these audience data sets, ads can be delivered to users that meet the desired characteristics appropriate for that brand.

2. Identify in-market consumers 
Contextual or channel-based targeting works by serving ads on sites and pages containing content that is relevant to the advertised products or services. It is a direct and intentional tool that places ads to maximum effect.

3. Serve brand-engagement messages
Engaging consumers and encouraging their participation with the product or service is an efficient method to build brand relations. Messages that advertise last-minute deals will attract attention and up-weighting will work most effectively if launched within three weeks prior to the bank holiday. In addition, it is crucial to drive customers to the activity site as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

While the bank holiday season may signal the perfect opportunity to relax and take a well-earned break, for travel and leisure brands it is the time to capitalise on high-intent shoppers and drive sales.

Only by implementing a strong activation plan utilizing programmatic – with its edge on efficiency, targeting audiences across devices, and optimizing to any KPIs in real-time – can brands avoid missing out during a key sales period.