Andy Headington, CEO at travel marketing specialists Adido, recently moderated a joint Cruise Trade News and CLIA workshop.
Named Supercharging your Digital Marketing, it was the first seminar of its kind and attended by brands from across the cruise sector.
Andy has identified five key themes, as outlined by expert speakers across the day, which can improve online results both now and in the future.
Think carefully about digital marketing budgets
Cruise has seen a significant increase in demand in 2022, which is expected to carry on into 2023. Andy Harmer, CLIA MD UK & Ireland, highlighted the changes and improvements that are coming within the industry.
In order for cruise businesses to make more of this demand – in both search and booking volumes – they need to think analytically about how they spend their digital marketing budgets and where they see the best returns from.
Top tips include looking in more detail at brand traffic compared to non-brand traffic, and spending more time looking at where to get the best results from investments by marketing channel.
The role each marketing channel can play in the customer journey is crucial when it comes to understanding when to invest, how much to invest and where.
Make more of technology
The cruise industry can better harness technology to improve the customer experience, marketing efficiencies and business decision making.
Speakers, including Traveltek, demonstrated that better systems can enhance customer delivery and give more engaging data.
Google’s travel expert, Jay Chauhan, provided insight on the technologies they are developing that will help shape our future, such as automated AI driven assistants, which will be able to understand human conversation and take bookings, answer questions and deal with customer feedback.
Agents and cruise brands can learn from other industries and use technology to improve every customer touch point to drive enhanced loyalty and experiences.
Be real and authentic on social media
Both Fred Olsen and Royal Caribbean stated that cruise travellers are increasingly looking to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, not only for inspiration, but also for information about routes, facilities and to give feedback on cruises they have been on.
Brands must make the most of social media, and there are great examples of how interacting on these platforms helps them engage more effectively with their audience and increase reach with potential customers.
Another key theme was authenticity. Social media is often a ‘me to’ activity, whereas brands need to think more about what they stand for and how to get key messages in front of their audiences.
Businesses must have easy access to good quality videos, images and other assets to help tell their story.
Collect your own customer data
The marketing world has seen big changes to online data collection in recent years. GDPR, iOS updates, Apple’s operating system and a clampdown on cookie use throughout the marketing ecosystem has meant that every brand needs to focus more on collecting better quality customer information.
The importance of first party data – namely collecting e-mail addresses or other data that can help understand user needs – and how it can play a role to help deliver better marketing effectiveness in the future, cannot be underestimated.
Jay Chauhan touched upon the privacy-centric approach to Google Analytics, which is a wider challenge facing the cruise industry and marketing industry in general.
By collecting better information and storing it within their own systems, cruise brands will be able to make more informed decisions – and gain a competitive advantage – by determining where customers spend their time and money.
Keep testing new content, ideas and channels
While the traditional cruise audience hasn’t changed radically in recent years, the ways that cruise brands interact and communicate continues to evolve.
However, there are still a lot of agents and cruise lines who are yet to adjust, and some still finding their audience are discovering new ways to get in contact.
Across the industry, new channels are being tested in order to enhance online customer engagement. For brands looking to grow their revenue and bookings in 2023, it is important they keep an agile mind when it comes to the digital world, and don’t rest on the laurels when looking to generating interest.
Channels such as TikTok are getting a lot of attention, but they are currently not necessarily relevant for engaging with most target audiences.
Nevertheless, there are still new ways that Facebook, Instagram and channels such as Pinterest, Twitter and even LinkedIn can be used to engage with customers hoping to sail now and in the future.
Using new channels and content is allowing forward-thinking brands to increase engagement, reach and ultimately cruise bookings.