Online travel, including airfares and hotels, is an intensely competitive sector, marked by low margins, a ton of low-cost operators, and daily changes in customer interests besides some heavyweight global travel operators. How do you ensure success, build a brand and acquire new customers in that environment?
Digital Minds has worked with Qantas Hotels since 2012 to build its brand and market share, overhaul its digital marketing, and help secure its one millionth customer. We asked Neil Sutton, who has worked closely with Digital Minds across all paid digital media channels (including search, social, aggregators, and meta-search engines such as TripAdvisor and Trivago) since 2015, in his role as Digital Marketing Manager for Qantas Hotels.
What’s been your key focus?
My focus at Qantas Hotels is to drive hotel bookings, revenue and profit for the group, drive the acquisition of Qantas Hotels customers, and increase market share in the online hotel space.
A major challenge has been to ensure we are agile enough to drive bookings for particular hotel types or to target particular customer types. Thanks to a very strong relationship with Digital Minds over the years we have been able to meet very aggressive targets in each of these areas.
How did Digital Minds work with you to achieve your digital objectives?
I would break this down into four areas.
Technology being central to methodology: The Digital Minds team have a very strong understanding of the technical side of performance marketing. This allowed us to increase our digital marketing activity on a large scale quickly whilst maintaining a targeted approach that focused on relevance and ROI.
Agility: In a dynamic market, where seasonality and customer preference lead to constantly changing variables relating to demand, agility in the acquisition philosophy and process used was of utmost importance. This agility enabled us to quickly take advantage of opportunities in market and work to explore new areas of business while meeting our aggressive ROI and volume goals.
Attention to detail: Detail is important in the hotels game. Commission rates, prices, seasonal fluctuations, a large volume of promotions with varying dates and offers, various channels, combined – all result in a very complicated mix of outputs which change constantly. Attention to detail is very important for a brand like Qantas. As all of these variables change swiftly, the brand must at all times be communicating with consistency and the utmost respect to customer preference and demands. This could be in relation to T&Cs, pricing, creative and messaging. Qantas must always provide clarity to the customer and as a result, accuracy is central to marketing success.
Pushing the envelope: The Digital Minds team are proactive and take the lead. They push the envelope in terms of techniques and processes used to achieve a goal. They are excited to explore new strategic priorities and develop unique niche strategies to achieve new objectives. Although the team is relatively small compared to some global agencies, Digital Minds hire clever passionate people, who focus on tangible results. This was also central to the success of the partnership.
With a combined focus on the above areas we were able to achieve great results. We focused on driving volume whilst embracing the targeting – on a customer level – that is needed to build strong relationships with new and existing customers.
What were some of the key successes you achieved with Digital Minds?
We have achieved a lot. Here are some highlights:
- We secured our one millionth hotel customer. Our growth since launch has been astounding
- We expanded our hotel inventory domestically and more recently to include international hotels
- We launched some very strategically important meta-search and display channels to our digital marketing mix
- The Digital Minds team developed a unique attribution model for us, enabling us to understand and attribute bookings correctly and help inform the media mix
- We planned for and executed the successful launch of the Qantas Luxury Hotels product
- We were able to achieve sustained double-digit YOY growth for the Qantas Hotels business
- We introduced cross-device attribution and targeting to our search marketing, moving into mobile to identify and capture leads
- We designed and implemented a de-duped, completely transparent process towards channel attribution in our internal booking manager system
What improvements to the Qantas digital marketing program were made, working with Digital Minds?
The improvements revolved around scale, accuracy, relevance and ROI. Complete transparency in performance by channel in a given window gave us the ability to confidently weave paid marketing channels into our growth plan and forecasting.
What do you like most about working with Digital Minds?
The team’s personal and friendly approach, in addition to the dedication and commitment they give to bespoke client objectives – despite the frequency that these can change. The team’s flexibility and technical knowledge makes daily communication and larger project management productive and easy.