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.