With flights cheaper than ever, more and more Australians are travelling overseas each year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that 45% of Australians travelled abroad in 2016, which has seen a year-on-year increase since 2006.
In this article, I’ll take an in-depth look at the online airline sector and reveal:
- how Australians are researching and booking flights,
- how airline carriers can better position themselves to drive more business,
- where and when Australians travel, and
- why mobile will be the future of the airline sector.
After reading this article, you’ll gain a clearer perspective of Australian consumer behaviour when it comes to air travel.
Reading time: 4 minutes
How Australians are researching and booking flights
Very few people are now booking flights by visiting a brick and motor travel agent (yes, they are still a thing).
There are four platforms that Australians use to research and book their flights. They are Google, travel blogs, Facebook and influencer marketing.
86% of Australians over the age of 14 use Google.(Source)
Whether you’re fact finding, looking for a local car repair shop or researching flight prices, most Australians start on Google.
Our own internal research has found that the amount of queries and impressions for fares and flights from 2012-2016 has been on a steady incline.
Searching for a flight schedule on Google.com.au shows intense competition from the biggest airline carriers and flight comparison sites.
Every airline carrier operating in Australia needs to have a dedicated online presence on AdWords and in the organic search, and it’s never been cheaper to do this with CPC at its lowest ever level for this sector.
In my opinion, travel blogs are the most underutilised platform for airline carriers. A simple Google search for Where to stay in Tokyo returns the following results:
This key search term receives 1,000 searches from Australians per month, with other similar keywords hitting as many as 4,400 searches per month.
While these searchers are not directly looking for flights, they’ll typically be at the start of their customer journey, and may not have booked a flight either.
Airline carriers should be reaching out to high-ranking blogs based on keyword ranking and asking if they can include offers to their internal flight and hotel packages.
Placements on popular travel blogs generate greater social proof as the content appears to be organic and backed by the blogger; and unlike AdWords, there is no competition.
Receiving a placement on a highly targeted keyword blog post will almost certainly be cheaper than other inbound marketing methods, and in many cases bloggers will happily mention airlines if they are given a free flight or paid through referrals.
Fight comparison sites such as Sky Scanner and Kayak receive a high amount of sales from travel blog referrals.
The average Facebook user spends 50 minutes of each day on the platform, with 69% of Australians accessing the site in January 2017.
Facebook is a MUST for not just for every airline company, but every business in the world. Not only can you build, brand and reach your audience, but you’ll be able to use a number of their tools to learn more about how Australians travel.
Audience Insights is a free Facebook tool that lets you enter parameters such as age, location, gender and interests and reveals data about that audience on Facebook.
In the image below, I have decided to learn more about Facebook users living in Sydney, between the ages of 25-44 who have an interest in air travel and Thailand.
Facebook reveals that the age group 25-34 makes up the bulk (64%) audience for Thailand. Next, I changed the country to Fiji and found that the 35-44 age group makes up 45% of the audience.
Audience Insights also reveals other information such as their relationship status, education and job title based on your search requirements.
Audience Insights is great because it gives airline companies the chance to better profile each of their customers by age, location, gender and interests, allowing them to target and create more tailored content when running ads for the top of their funnel. From this data, you could create one campaign targeting women in the 24-35 age range who live in Sydney and who are considering a trip to Thailand, and one campaign for couples in Sydney between the ages of 36-44 looking for a romantic getaway to Fiji.
However, what I’ll often see is airline carriers creating generic adverts on Facebook targeting a wide audience with a range of offers.
The data pulled earlier from Audience Insights reveals that different destinations appeal to different people and ads must be personalised, not generic like Qantas’ Facebook ad.
A better way for Qantas to reach their audience, reduce ad costs and drive more sales is if they divide their campaign into four personalised adverts with each one targeting a single continent and paired up with the relevant audience.
If you have no interest in visiting the United States, you’d probably skip their advert altogether. It also lacks relevance because it mentions Europe, South America and South Africa, but the picture only shows the United States.
This is common practice with airline carriers when running adverts.
Through retargeting on Facebook, airline companies must show ads based on search queries made or pages visited.
For example, if I visit the Qantas website and search for a flight from Australia to Bangkok, they should serve me an advert on Facebook for this flight and no other countries that I’ve shown zero interest in.
When raising interest for new routes or destinations, lead with video and content marketing, not adverts linking to booking pages like the above.
In the next few years, influencer marketing will be used by all major brands to better position their business and reach new audiences.
Why use influencers? According to recent reports, consumers are 82% more likely to follow the advice of an influencer. If you set up new routes, upgrade your fleet or would like to drive more sales for a particular route, influencers are a great way to do that.
British Airways not so long ago used Instagram influencer Luanna to publicise their route from London to NYC.
The post received over 52,000 likes, dozens of comments and positive social proof for the airline carrier.
While I loved their effort, they could have picked a better and more relevant influencer. If you take a quick look at Luanna’s page, she focuses on fashion and not travel.
Qantas uses the same tactic by leveraging social media influencer Gary Pepper Girl who has over 1.7 million followers on Instagram.Klout is a great platform to get started on finding the right influencers for your business.
Top travel destinations in 2016 for Australians
Rather than guessing where Australians will be holidaying in 2017 and beyond, with a little bit of research (and looking at your internal data) you can find where they went in 2016 to give you an idea of where they will be heading this year.
Based on hotel search results on Trivago, these were the top destinations that were searched for between 2014 and 2016:
You can double check this by looking at how often each city has been searched for on Google Australia.
Knowing where Australians are thinking about travelling to in 2017 means you can do the following things:
Serve the right offers – From the data above, Queenstown, New Zealand has increased its position each year, whereas Kuala Lumpur and Pattaya has been on the decline. With this data you can reduce budget allocation on cities that are declining and focus your efforts more on trending destinations.
Create content – Singapore seems to be the country of choice for Australians, ranking #1 for the last three years. To ensure consumers fly on your airline, create content for YouTube or blog posts with city guides to position your airline for holidaymakers.
Offering all customers a physical tour guide with every flight ticket for hot destinations or free eBook downloads to serve them tailored offers are marketing methods that other industries outside the airline sector all use to great success.
Keyword targeting – Look into your SEO and AdWords strategy to see if you’re correctly targeting all countries listed above and whether you’re allocating the correct amount of spend for each search term.
What time of the year do Australians travel?
Knowing what times of the year your customers travel is huge. December will typically be the quietest month due to the Christmas holidays.
Less searches are made on Google in the month of December compared to all others.
While I’m relying on secondary data from Google to gauge when Australians travel, you will have years’ worth of travel history on your customers, revealing when each customer group prefers to travel and for how long.
Segment the buyer personas (students, families, working professionals, etc.) and find the months they are most likely to take a holiday and where.
Using the data, you should correctly adjust your marketing spend to spend less during quieter months (December) and increase spending during the busier months (January). It will also provide a clearer outline on how your content schedule should look throughout the year; for example, it might be better to promote internal travel in December so families can get together for Christmas as opposed to a flight to the States.
Airliners aren’t taking mobile seriously enough
Mobile and tablet devices accounted for 63% of the monthly time spent on devices for Australians in 2015.
The bulk of searches made on Google are done through mobile. If you take a look at your website’s analytics, you’ll also see that you receive more mobile traffic than desktop traffic.
While the world has gone mobile, many airline websites are still focusing on desktop.
Here is a Qantas page on a desktop computer showing the search bar allowing me to choose my flight.
Perfect, just what I expect.
Now here is the same page on a mobile browser:
There is no search bar – I actually have to click a button to be sent to another page where I can only search by continent.
The entire mobile experience is frustrating and stressful. I clicked more than five elements and could not find the flight search bar to enter my query.
Booking a holiday and spending thousands of dollars is already a stressful experience for consumers. The last thing they need is for airlines to make the booking process unresponsive and difficult.
I landed on the Qantas page through a Google Ad. I’d expect them to have a much higher bounce rate and lower ROI for visitors who visit on a smartphone given the experience I received.
Compare this to Singapore Airlines who take their mobile presence much more seriously. Right away, they tell me about their mobile app I can download for free to search for flights.
They also have a flight search bar which is on the first page I view.
Airline carriers need to focus on a mobile-first strategy in 2017.
This means everything from mobile apps for customers to book flights, PDF flight tickets and boarding passes.
You could even take it one step further by creating your own free maps of cities listing tourist sights, bus routes, hotels and restaurants to provide an omni-channel user experience with your brand on a single app.
Are you firing on all cylinders?
The world of business and marketing has changed vastly thanks to the internet and technology. The ecosystem is continually evolving; where brands were once ahead of the curve, today they are struggling to keep up with digital.
Above, I have identified the main problems Australian airline carriers face, new ways they can reach their target market, and ways to generate better awareness with the public and to innovate their space.
Which of these tips will you take on board for 2017?