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In order to improve its path-to-conversion reporting, TUI Travel’s Specialist Holiday Group has recently been making efforts to improve measurement of its online campaigns. 

We interviewed head of online marketing Tess Bedard about the results...

Can you give me an idea of the traffic and turnover on TUI’s websites, and the proportion of your bookings that are made online?

Traffic to all brand sites is about 19 million visits annually. Turnover for Specialist Holiday Group is £590m annually

Percentage of web bookings varies dependant on brand and seasonality throughout the year, our biggest brand delivers about 40% plus on average from the web which makes it the single largest channel followed by Trade (third party travel agent and Thomson/First Choice shops) and Sales Centre.

How many people are switching channels during the research and booking process? How do you track this?

We track this by looking at first vs. last click but also taking in consideration all channel events in the path to conversion. We then measure this either on channel classification i.e. SEO, or brand i.e. starting on Thomson Ski but converting on Crystal Ski, or campaign basis i.e. SEO Google non-brand.

Looking at a set of data including selected brands we can see 77% switch on channel classification, 18% switch on brand and 83% switch on campaign level for example. 

Buying travel products can involve a lot of research for consumers, perhaps over a period of weeks. How do you track these customers from first visit to eventual purchase?

We use Tagman to access to the full path-to-conversion data so we can see the events the customer used through-out their journey to conversion.

We have been able to establish channel order/inclusion and length of most popular PTC based on segments such as booking revenue, booking month, departure month and holiday types.

We ignore all single event conversions as they most likely are not true single events but rather a switch of device and because our products are holidays it makes sense as the data is still statistically significant without this single event PTC data.

Before using Tagman, what were your most effective online marketing channels, and how were you measuring ROI?

Paid search, especially the brand campaigns have always come out on top, and some remarketing campaigns looked incredible on ROAS.

ROI is measured as ROAS, conversion revenue over channel spend. We mostly target on percentage CoS but targets can be very different dependant on the brands business model i.e. revenue, margin or volume driven.

Having implemented tracking tags, which channels were previously under-valued or over-valued?

The web analytics system we’re using has traditionally been set on not a last click but best click conversion attribution. In reality what this means is that any tracking set up as a campaign i.e. PPC, Display, Affiliates will almost always get attributed the conversion as it has a higher weighting than ‘non-campaigns’ such as SEO.

This, of course, gives the former channels a higher conversion rate and ROAS than the latter.

We have done analysis on our Retargeting campaigns which showed we weren’t getting the return or effect we’d previously thought.

Email, social and offline generate a small proportion which is problematic when we look at cost and effort expended. SEO non-brand is, surprisingly not, the biggest winner, both paid and natural search remains the best starting points. 

How has this informed your subsequent marketing strategies?

Focusing on attribution percentage model emphasises each marketing channel and shows us how they contribute traffic and conversions.

The claim that last click resolves ownership of the conversion is less arguable. In practical terms we have paused certain activities and campaigns for specific brands and held off from implementing campaigns on others. At the same time we have increased spend in other areas, most recently SEO and PPC non-brand.

Because we can clearly see which channels feature in the PTC for different products we adjust activities and spend to target the potential customer as early as possible in their research stage.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from this additional insight?

I’m lucky to have a fantastic team responsible for all online marketing activities which means channels don’t compete over budget.

This means the PPC team knows that in order to optimise overall online spend they have to work with the SEO team and not worry about being blamed for an increase in CoS following PPC brand spend decrease. 

This really is paramount as we are looking more and more on a reporting model of total ROAS for online.

Graham Charlton

Published 5 September, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

Useful insights. I think the articles touches on a key point toward the end which is in avoiding your spend channels from competing and instead complementing your common goal.

I'd further that and say one of the biggest challenges around multi-channel conversion management is in ensuring the business focusses on the best route to purchase for the *customer* - keeping channels from competing for custom keeps ROI tight and makes your goal of a seamless customer experience that much more easier. Happy customers lead to retention and you'd hope, a cheaper cost per (re)acquisition.

almost 5 years ago

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Tess

Couldn't agree more Depesh, should absolutely be about what's best for the customer in the buying process but of course, this would assume flawless cross-departmental budgets and targets ;)

almost 5 years ago

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Andy Simmonds

Interesting but seems all about acquisition not improving the customer experience per se. I'd be interested how their web business has performed over the last few years relative to other channels

almost 5 years ago

Paul Cook

Paul Cook, Director at NCC Web Performance

Hi all,

You can see the full case study of what Tess has been up to in terms of using path-to-conversion and attribution reporting to make spending decisions at:

http://www.tagman.com/index.php/tui-case-study/

She really is a great client.

Best,

Paul

almost 5 years ago

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Tess

Hi Andy, yes I think you're right, it does appear to be all about acquisition, this is probably because we are so heavily targeted on just this.
However, we have a great UX team that keep aggressive marketers like myself in place, spending all day, every day improving our customers experience.
The web as a channel has grown enormously in the last few years, for example, for many of our brands the web is the single largest channel which didn't use to be the case. I'd like to think that this has been the combined work of UX and marketing.

almost 5 years ago

Hero Grigoraki

Hero Grigoraki, Head of Media Product at lastminute.com

Tess how did the affiliate channel fare in this study?

almost 5 years ago

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Tess

Hi Hero - our affiliate data set is fairly small in comparison with channels such as PPC and SEO. We saved 30%+ of the affiliate budget by deduping on last click but we have invested a lot of this back into the affiliate channel by paying bonuses to publishers performing well at the top of the marketing funnel. Reporting wise, conversions are tracking slightly higher in our web analytics compared to Tagman, about 7%-15%, not anywhere near the disproportional levels for PPC though.

almost 5 years ago

Hero Grigoraki

Hero Grigoraki, Head of Media Product at lastminute.com

I'm asking about affiliates as that's the only channel that is paid on conversions and deduping all channels on last click has always left them short-changed.

almost 5 years ago

Robin Davies

Robin Davies, Country Manager UK, DE & APAC at ValueClick

Hi Tess, great to see advertisers exploring ways to evaluate return on ad spend and it looks like you have had some success.  I'm keen to ask whether this attribution method of arbitrarily re-assigning conversion value to correlated impressions and clicks can determine whether correlated impressions have any contribution effect on subsequent conversions. In short can you prove the value of display? Or have confidence in the value of any correlated click for that matter?

almost 5 years ago

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Tess

Hero - you're right, it does short-change them, but I think great content publishers driving incremental traffic takes the hardest hit on this and they do that regardless. I would love to see our affiliate network suggest different models i.e. segment publishers based on type and pay out on first/last click dependent on publisher.

almost 5 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital Marketing at Lost My Name

@Tess (CC Hero) - I think conversion path attribution is well worth looking into. Might not work for everyone but if you have the following scenario of Small Content Affiliate > Larger Content Affiliate > Brand SEO > Direct Visit > Purchase what often gets lost is the initial effect of the content affiliate, which may have led to the customer considering the brand in the first place

My arguement in the travel sector is that the considered nature of purchase means last click is generally the wrong model, since the consideration phase is far longer than FMCG. This is why Amazon for example have such a short cookie period, as most customers will purchase an FMCG item within a day if not within the first click.

Then the challenge is how you attribute ROI and apportion the value of sale. There isn't a right answer to this as each link in the chain is as important as the next though to keep brand support I think affiliates would be accepting of a smaller chunk of sale(10-25% depending on AOVs) in return for some recognition of an otherwise unrewarding last-click model

almost 5 years ago

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Tess

Hi Robin, good question, I'd like to think it's not too whimsical ;) To clarify, we don't do complex attribution models for reporting but mainly work on flat to see customer touch points. Of course different channels have different strengths and this various by channel campaign too. On Crystal Ski, one of our brands, we'd use display on Snow Forecast and expect to see touch points further down the PTC than a brand campaign such as a take-over on the Telegraph.

But, yes, I do believe we can prove the value, not just on last click or post impression data but actually see how a top level brand campaign can significantly benefit conversions.

almost 5 years ago

Stu Bowker

Stu Bowker, Web Analyst at TUI Group

Attribution is a delicate subject and each industry will have different rules.

Do you go for first click vs last click vs weighted attribution??? They can all have a massive impact on strategic decisions, picking the right one for you is not easy.

When I worked at Propellernet I wrote this blog post on the future of last click, attribution and how a new method could be employed. The article and the comments also touch on how this could affect affiliates.

http://www.propellernet.co.uk/blog/2009/07/is-this-the-end-for-last-click-wins/

almost 5 years ago

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