Travel remarketing is an exciting topic in tourism not only because it generates some of the best returns on advertising spend, but also because there are a lot of ways to use this good data to target the best consumers for your tour & activity business.
If you missed part 1 of our Remarketing for Tours & Activities Guide, find out how remarketing works, why it benefits your marketing, how it can be used for local audiences, and the types of remarketing ads you can use.
In Part 2 of the guide, you will learn additional insights and strategies, including:
- How pixels work, and how to install them
- How to create effective audiences to reach the right consumers
- The issue with iOS 14 changes and how to manage this challenge
You’ll learn strategies we use to attract travelers to our clients’ tour and attraction businesses.
How an Ad Pixel Works in Travel Remarketing
When a visitor comes to your website, a tiny piece of code (a “pixel”) communicates back to a site like Facebook, so that Facebook is aware that the person visited your site. This allows the visitor to be added to one or more lists in Facebook, such as “people who visited my site” or “people who visited the birthday party planning page.” These lists allow you to show relevant ads to people on those lists. The more relevant the ads – based on the viewing history and preferences of the audience – the higher chances these visitors will buy.
You can then set a budget, such as $10, to reach this audience.
There’s more to pixels though, because they can tell a platform like Facebook not only which page a person visited, but also which additional actions they took, such as clicking a Book Now button, completing a purchase, submitting a form, etc. The power of the pixel is realized when your booking engine uses the pixel to tell Facebook that a booking was completed, and Facebook ties that booking to a specific ad click. Then Facebook can help you out in a couple of ways: 1) tell you how much revenue was created from your ad spend, 2) understand what kind of people are likely to book—and then focus your ads on those types of people.
Installing a Pixel to Start Remarketing Campaigns
To easily install pixels and to manage them over time, we recommend using Google Tag Manager.
For the purpose of this post, think of Google Tag Manager as a container for pixels. Once you install the container on your site, you don’t have to keep editing your website in order to manage your pixels. If you’re new to Google Tag Manager, we recommend this article on How to Set Up Tracking Pixels On Your Website, which also provides some guidance on installing Google Tag Manager.
Which remarketing platforms and Pixels Should You Use?
We typically start with pixels from Facebook Ads and Google Ads.
The Facebook Pixel allows you to create and track ads on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.
The Google Ads Pixel allows you to run YouTube ads, search remarketing ads, display ads on the Google Display Network—a vast publishing network available on millions of websites.
(You can create travel remarketing audiences directly through Google Analytics too. However, if somebody sees your ad and then purchases without clicking, you can’t track it through a Google Analytics audience, so direct Google Ads audiences are a better choice if you want that insight.)
Other platforms can be useful depending on your audience. Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn all have pixels. There’s no harm in testing different ad platforms, but if you ever determine that a platform is not going to work for you, you should remove the pixel from Google Tag Manager to keep your code and tracking configuration as clean and fast as possible.
Insider Tip: How do I see if my competitors are running remarketing ads?
You can see the pixels on any site using tools such as builtwith.com or the Tag Inspector Chrome plugin. With Builtwith.com, just paste in a website URL and scroll down to the advertising section, where you’ll see the different tracking pixels installed on their website. You may see other advertising platforms represented, such as the Expedia marketplace. It’s not unusual to see several pixels. And Facebook’s Ad Library allows you to view competitor ads—but you won’t know precisely which of those are for remarketing audiences.
Defining Audiences for Remarketing Campaigns
Now that you have the pixel installed on your website, you can capture traffic data to build highly targeted audiences to receive your ads.
I should mention that even though we’ve been focused on pixels so far in this post, pixel data isn’t the only source for creating audiences. For example, here are 5 excellent data sources you can use to build retargeting audiences on Facebook.
- Customer Lists and Newsletter Subscribers. Use lists of past customers and subscribers to show them ads for new tours and attractions.
- Website traffic (from your pixel). Use visitors to your website or visitors who took specific actions. If they came to your website, they are already familiar with your brand, making them an ideal audience to send ads to.
- Offline activity. If you have information from people who engaged with you offline—such as calling to inquire about a corporate tour, booking over the phone, or visiting you for an event—you can upload that list to Facebook.
- App Activity. Although valuable data, this is only relevant if you have an app used by your customers.
- Engagement. You can choose people for your travel remarketing list who have liked, commented on, watched, or shared your content on Facebook or Instagram.
Audience Strategies for your Remarketing Campaigns
Armed with your travel remarketing lists, how can you effectively use them? We have a few specific strategies.
a. Using recency
The time frame (or lookback windows) that a consumer visited your website is an important factor in determining the right audience for your remarketing ads.
For example, how long ago did these consumers visit your website? Within 3 days? 7 days? 30 days? Facebook allows you to remarket to people for up to a maximum of 180 days.
Use recency to target the most engaged consumers and set up budgets accordingly.
How recently a person visited your site will affect the cost to remarket to them and the probability of converting them to a buyer.
For example, a consumer who visited your site 45 days ago will have lower recall of your brand and the tour they viewed, and will be less likely to purchase than a consumer who visited your website just 7 days ago. This 7-day visitor is an ideal customer since brand recall will be stronger, and they’re more likely to be in the purchasing stage for your tour or activity.
Additionally, it will cost more in ad spend to convince and convert the 45-day consumer to buy.
Our approach with clients is to find the optimal list size of consumers who visited their site. We often use multiple lookback windows, allocating more spend to more recent windows to deliver the best return on investment.
b. Specific web pages
Use specific web pages to promote individual tours or attractions and create relevant ads for particular consumer segments.
For example, Royal Gorge Rafting and Zipline Tours could show all their ads to all their visitors, but they’ll likely get a better return if they show rafting ads to anyone who visited any of their two rafting pages. Like in this example:
But they could easily get more specific than that if they have enough traffic, because they have two rafting trips: the Bighorn Sheep Canyon Tour that appeals to families looking for a more relaxed rafting trip, and the more intense Royal Gorge Rafting Tour with class 3 and 4 rapids. It’s possible to show a family enjoying the calmer rapids of Bighorn Sheep Canyon to those who were browsing that page, and a more intense photo or video for those who were considering the world-class tour.
It’s also possible to focus your retargeting campaign by excluding specific audiences. For example, if we want to target only visitors who have never bought a rafting tour from Royal Gorge Rafting and Ziplining, we could exclude visitors who already purchased a tour.
This is how it looks in Facebook Ads Manager:
c. Time spent on your website
Another strategy to create a travel remarketing audience is to look at how much time visitors spent on your website. For example, the most engaged people – your fans most interested in the content on your website – would show up as your top 10% of visitors. These are the visitors who spent more time reading your content, which indicates that they potentially have more interest in your tour than the average visitor. You can test different audiences to see what your threshold should be; for example, try the top 10% of visitors if the audience is large enough, or expand it to the top 25% of visitors. This approach also works well to create Lookalike audiences if your customer lists are small. Here is how the screen looks on the Facebook ads platform:
Exclusions from your remarketing list
Assuming your booking engine is integrated into your website (which hopefully it is), it would be best to track other events, such as Add To Cart, Initiate Checkout, or Purchase.
It’s a typical practice to remove people who purchased and exclude them from a remarketing list, but in some cases, it’s ok to show people ads for your brand even if they’ve already booked. We often do this because past customers could book again, leave positive comments on the ad, or share it with someone they know.
One important caveat with this approach is to avoid showing ads to consumers who have already purchased at full price, when you are offering a discount. Showing the discount to those customers can sometimes lead to customer frustration and phone calls.
d. Video remarketing audiences by watch time
Similar to time spent on a website, using video remarketing audiences is a great way to create a list of engaged consumers. You can choose consumers who watched a certain number of seconds of a video, or a certain percentage of the video. For example, you may find that people who watched 10 seconds of your video ad are a great audience.
You can add exclusions to these lists too. For example, if you create an audience that watched 10 seconds of your video and another that watched 3 seconds, you could create a third audience: People who are in the 3-second audience but not in the 10-second audience, providing finer control over what you show them based on their engagement level.
When you set up your ad campaigns, you want to break out these audiences into separate groups so you can run tests and track performance.
e. Re-engage with consumers who Initiated a checkout (Abandoned Cart)
One of the best audiences to build for remarketing is consumers who initiated a checkout but didn’t purchase—the classic “abandoned cart” group.
This audience will be your best-performing audience nine times out of ten because these consumers got very low in the purchasing funnel – but then they backed out. These consumers wanted to buy, but something caused them to stop the process.
Your challenge will be to re-engage them—possibly through an offer or different copy—to entice them to come back and complete a purchase.
Here is an example of an ad we created for consumers who abandoned their cart.
All five of these strategies can be very effective for travel remarketing ad performance, but this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. Watch each audience’s size and performance, and shape your ad spend and messaging to tune your campaign for the best overall performance.
iOS 14 and Managing the Changes with your Travel Remarketing Campaigns
Apple’s recent move towards giving consumers more privacy with the iOS 14 rollout, and subsequent industry-wide changes coming to tracking and targeting, will impact your retargeting campaigns. Among the impacts: retargeting list sizes are dwindling because iOS users are starting to be excluded, and tracking and optimization are being affected.
Booking platforms need to adapt to help with some of these issues (learn how booking platforms are adapting to the iOS changes), but so do digital advertisers. We’re still learning the full impact and how to adapt, but here are some of the changes we’re making:
- Augmenting campaigns with more video ads. This medium already generates high engagement, and we can leverage video view engagement to create audiences that we can’t create with website visits.
- Growing and using clients’ customer lists such as past guests and newsletter subscribers, which are not impacted by the iOS change.
- Building different ad audiences for consumers not affected by this change such as iOS 13.9 and lower model users, Android phone users , or building lists with landing page views.
- Increasing our focus on digital and paid search on Google, Bing, YouTube, and Microsoft ads.
As this critical topic unfolds, we will continue to provide updates, strategies, and solutions to improve ad campaign performance.
You did it! You completed the most comprehensive guide on the topic of remarketing for tours and activities. If you missed Part 1 of this Remarketing Guide, grab a coffee and pick up some more tips.
If you have questions or want to know more about how digital advertising can cost-effectively drive more bookings, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us anytime.