Miikka Holkeri

Step up your Dynamic Ads for Travel Game with Cross-selling and Destinations

By Miikka Holkeri on November 3, 2016

Facebook launched Dynamic Ads for Travel (DAT) — its dynamic retargeting solution for the travel industry — in May 2016. Advertisers transitioning from their old Dynamic Ads for Products campaigns to the new travel-specific version have seen improvements in campaign performance following the move.

DAT initially only supported advertising hotels based on user interactions on the advertiser’s website, but it was a lesser-known fact that it could be also used to intelligently cross-sell hotels to people who have interacted with flights. Now, Facebook has released destination catalog, which adds the possibility to advertise destinations and flights with DAT. This post delves into these opportunities.

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Increased volume with flight-to-hotel cross-selling

When the initial version of DAT was launched, few advertisers noted that it could also be used to promote hotels based on how people interact with flights or other journeys on their website or in their app — also known as cross-selling. This is especially relevant for online travel agencies (OTA) and metasearch engines, as many of them are able to record user interactions with flights but prefer to promote hotels, which typically have higher profit margins.

Using flight browsing data to guide hotel advertising can be very powerful: 81% of people book their flights before or on the same day as booking their hotel. Searching for flights is a significant signal of travel intent and purchasing them means the user is really traveling to the destination and is likely to book a hotel soon. Cross-selling can also provide additional value for the user as she gets recommendations that aid her in picking a suitable hotel conveniently. And as with other Facebook products, this also works across devices — pretty important considering that 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices as they plan or book a trip.

A good user experience and campaign performance are guaranteed by DAT’s intelligent hotel recommendations: in addition to being location-based, they pay attention to the user’s personal preferences such as brand and star rating. Instead of simply promoting hotels within a certain radius from the airport, the recommendation algorithm is able to learn which are the most popular end destinations for each of them. So instead of promoting airport hotels to people flying to Miami, Facebook shows the best hotels near Miami Beach.

Setting up flight-to-hotel cross-selling with DAT is fairly simple. If you’re already running hotel retargeting campaigns with DAT, you can use your existing hotel catalog. All you have to do then is implement the appropriate standard events to your Facebook Pixel and Mobile App SDK — which are fired whenever a user searches for, views, initiates checkout or purchases flights. When you’re building the campaign, simply define the audiences with dynamic rules based on flight events. Facebook will take care of the rest.

 

Destination catalog – It’s not all about hotels!

Hotel retargeting was the first but by no means the last step of Dynamic Ads for Travel. Facebook just launched a new addition to it: destination catalogs. They can be used for destination-level creatives such as “Buenos Aires” or “Manhattan, New York”. These are especially useful if the retargeted user is high in the conversion funnel. For example, if she is still deciding where to go, showing destination-level ads might prove to be more effective than starting to promote specific hotels.

What should you use as a landing page for these kinds of ads? Many OTAs and metasearch engines have destination pages rich with information about local attractions, places to stay, when to travel and other kinds of content. Here’s a prime example from Emirates. But don’t worry if you don’t have one – a search results page with the most popular hotels in the area will work as well.

And naturally you also get all the benefits of DAT with destination retargeting:

  • Recommendation engine optimized for locations instead of products
  • Booking window targeting: exclude users whose travel dates have already passed or are too far in the future
  • Other DAT-specific targeting options such as length of stay, number of weekends, number of travelers
  • Ability to direct user to a pre-filled landing page with the travel dates the user is looking for

To get started, you’ll need a destination feed that contains all the necessary information about the destinations you’re advertising. Facebook also added destination-specific events for building retargeting audiences from destination-level pages but the real beauty of DAT is that different types of audiences can be combined with different types of catalogs — flight-to-hotel retargeting described above being one example.

 

Using destination catalog for flight retargeting

There’s also another interesting way to use DAT’s new destination catalog: promoting flights. So far, travel advertisers have had to resort to using Dynamic Ads for Products (DPA) for flight retargeting, which has been suboptimal due to its recommendation algorithm mainly designed for e-commerce products. While destination catalog is not the final solution Facebook is planning for flights, it’s the one they currently recommend implementing.

The main benefits of switching from DPA to DAT are the travel-specific features listed above. DAT allows you to, for example, bid higher for audiences whose planned travel dates are approaching and exclude people whose travel dates have already passed. Or to show different creatives to people planning to fly somewhere only for the weekend or people traveling in larger groups.

Setting up flight retargeting with destination catalogs involves creating a destination feed with a separate entry for each origin-destination airport pair and referring to the item ID in the flight events on your website or in your app.

 

Should I start running Dynamic Ads for Travel?

Simply put: There’s no longer a reason to use Dynamic Ads for Products (DPA) if you’re a travel advertiser. DAT already provides a superior feature set, including the travel-specific recommendation engine. By upgrading your feeds and pixels to DAT’s requirements now, you secure your place in the forefront of the quickly evolving solution. These are only the early steps — Facebook will keep introducing significant improvements in the future.

 

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