The following article is section of DMAI’s e-book The Evolving Role of DMOs in a Shifting Marketplace. To read the entire e-book, click here.
Rocket Fuel is a data technology company that helps destination marketers optimize their marketing across the entire funnel. The company delivers a programmatic media-buying platform at big data scale that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve marketing ROI in digital media across web, mobile, video and social channels.
In December 2014, Rocket Fuel partnered with DMAI to better understand the challenges DMOs are facing in their day-to-day operations with regard to implementing the intelligence culled from the data they collect. The use of big data in the destination marketing industry has expanded in sophistication beyond understanding age, gender and geographic demographics of consumers. In addition, the travel industry has become much more aware of the relative lack of real value in measuring proxy-driven metrics revolving around clicks, downloads and subscriptions, etc.
It's a shift from measuring how many people downloaded a destination brochure to actually calculating how many people then visited that destination and how much money they spent.
The most important metrics that everyone wants to collect are those that show how people are deciding where they want to go. DMOs are part of that process at the top of the marketing funnel, but the inherent challenge in measuring that is DMOs are not specifically selling a product. And, unlike traditional e-commerce transactions, the payoff can't be measured in a single transaction within a specific timeframe. This type of transaction is much more complex than that.
In an effort to make those linkages between digital advertising exposure and consumer purchasing behavior further down the marketing funnel on OTA and hotel websites, Rocket Fuel collects data on millions of digital ad impressions and millions of user profiles. That is then pared down and matched across multiple devices where consumers have been exposed to Rocket Fuel ads.
"This means we can match and see the kind of purchases that consumers have made and the destinations that people show up in," says Chris Lorenzoni, director of travel category strategy at Rocket Fuel. "We've also formed external partnerships with other vendors that can help prove that people have then been in certain places and they've made certain purchases that match the goals of tourism boards."
In December 2014, Rocket Fuel published a paper showing how DMOs can potentially help drive bookings converted at hotel and OTA sites. Rocket Fuel tracked specific Florida and California advertising campaigns directed at Japanese markets, and collected data on consumers exposed to those campaigns. It then compared that against bookings at those destinations via OTA and hotel websites, as well as a cross-section of users who didn't see the campaigns but booked the same destinations through the same OTA and hotel portals.
According to the paper: "Looking at our U.S. tourism campaign shows a clear benefit. Of the 15.1 million Japanese consumers exposed to the campaign, 1,765 booked hotel rooms in the U.S. through our partner brand’s website—a rate of 0.0117%. Comparatively, of the 85.6 million Japanese Internet consumers ages 18 and older who were not served ads, 6,448 booked travel to the U.S. over that same period, at a rate of 0.0075%. Thus, Japanese consumers exposed to the U.S. tourism campaign were over 55% more likely to book a trip to the United States after ad exposure than consumers who never saw the ads."
By looking at the conversions, Rocket Fuel could identify travel spend and length of stay, and identify how those variables might change after exposure to DMO advertising. The results showed that consumers exposed to DMO advertising prior to booking a hotel on an OTA site tended to book significantly longer trips.
In addition, the report suggests, when looking at OTA bookings among anyone exposed to a tourism or destination campaign for a U.S. location, the data shows that both the number of OTA ads and total ads required to drive a conversion among people converting is significantly lower among people exposed to both types of messaging. Travelers who converted did so at a 147% higher rate if they were exposed to both DMO and OTA advertising prior to their conversion.