A Personal Touch

Thursday, June 01, 2017 Robert Patterson

SITUATION

Ahead of the summer travel season, the South Dakota Department of Tourism looks to inspire, engage and convert consumers into visitors through its multichannel online platform. At the heart of their platform is the TravelSouthDakota.com website. The goal of South Dakota’s website is to expose consumers to the breadth of experiences the state has to offer, while also providing consumers with the resources needed to plan their trips.

The challenge for South Dakota, or any DMO website, is ensuring that they are:

  • Providing users with a useful, relevant and enriching site experience
  • Showcasing the destination through inspiring storytelling and visuals
  • Maximizing media, website and content investments

A systemic travel industry issue is that we heavily invest in researching our audiences and customizing messages and media placements to match consumer personas and mind-sets, but send everyone to the exact same web experience. The one-to-many website model is outdated and broken.

Our mission is to reconcile this issue by personalizing the website experience to meet the consumer’s interests, preferences and motivations while nurturing their vacation planning process through clearly defined consumer pathways. Only then can we achieve one-to-one marketing that more closely resembles our other more targeted digital marketing efforts.

ACTION

In order to provide a relevant and useful website experience on TravelSouthDakota.com, MMGY Global strategized, developed and implemented an in-depth, multi-touchpoint website personalization campaign from February to May 2017 leading into South Dakota’s peak summer season. We began with understanding whom the audiences are, what feeder markets they come from and what drives their decision process when selecting a travel destination. From this knowledge, we produced a phased personalization campaign that focused first on customizing target audiences’ user experiences from the inspirational visuals they see to the engaging stories they are served.

GEOLOCATION PERSONALIZATION TARGETING

Action_2

Example of geolocation personalization on TravelSouthDakota.com targeting active couples in New York.

During our first phase of personalization, we used our personalization platform to identify users’ locations in order to better position content relevant for each target market. For example, a user interested in family vacations who accessed the website from Minnesota is vastly different from an active outdoor couple from New York. We need to address these audiences differently. Utilizing our personalization platform, we are able to know that a family traveler from Minnesota will likely be entering the state from the east using their own vehicle, and we can now provide family-friendly itineraries, stories and photo essays that most closely resemble what their desired South Dakota vacation would look like. Through content personalization, we are able to provide each user with more relevant content that immediately addresses who they are and what they are looking to gain from their vacation experience, and then serve the appropriate content to them.

PERSONALIZED EDITORIAL FLY-INS

Personalized Editorial Fly -Ins Replacement - 920

Example of editorial fly-in targeting family travelers to learn about free activities and attractions in South Dakota.

To further engage prospective visitors, we are employing personalization to serve and showcase inspirational editorial content through “fly-ins.” The articles or content being served is determined based on consumer segments driven by media targeting. The goal is to further engage audiences to learn more about South Dakota experiences that correlate with their desired vacation attributes, personal interests and lifestyle.

VACATION GUIDE ABANDONMENT BANNER

Action_3

Example of behavioral targeting to convert users who have previously visited the vacation guide form webpage, but have not yet completed the form.

The strongest indicators of a consumer’s intent to travel from a DMO website are typically leads generated from vacation guide or e-newsletter sign-ups. These consumer actions signal to a DMO that the consumer has qualified the destination and is close to completing their travel destination selection. In order to increase the conversion rate and total number of conversions, we implemented behavioral targeting based on the users’ previous interactions with the website. In the example above, if a user was to visit the vacation guide request form but does not complete the form on their visit, the user will be served an abandonment banner on subsequent visits to the site.

RESULTS

Immediately upon implementation, the South Dakota Department of Tourism experienced significant improvement in crucial areas of the website’s engagement KPIs, including pages per session, session duration and bounce rate. On average over the course of the four-month personalization campaign, the TravelSouthDakota.com’s pages per session increased 68.25 percent, session duration increased 97.75 percent and the bounce rate decreased 32.25 percent.

PAGES PER SESSION: PERSONALIZED CONTENT vs. DEFAULT WEB EXPERIENCE

Results_1v2

Throughout the personalization campaign, the number of pages per session increased between 42 percent to 82 percent when compared to the results of the default website experience.

SESSION DURATION: PERSONALIZED CONTENT vs. DEFAULT WEB EXPERIENCE 

Results_2v2

From February through May 2017, session duration increased between 72 percent to 140 percent when compared to the results of the default website experience.

BOUNCE RATE: PERSONALIZED CONTENT vs. DEFAULT WEB EXPERIENCE

Results_3v2

During the campaign period, bounce rate decreased between 26 percent to 39 percent when compared to the results of the default website experience.

More importantly, goal-oriented actions within the website that signal intent to travel increased dramatically. Within the first month, TravelSouthDakota.com’s goal conversion rate for email sign-ups increased 549 percent, and the vacation guide conversion rate increased 559 percent.

EMAIL CONVERSION RATE: PERSONALIZED CONTENT vs. DEFAULT WEB EXPERIENCE

Results_4v2

Over the course of the campaign, the email conversion rate increased between 69 percent to 549 percent when compared to the results of the default website experience.

VACATION GUIDE CONVERSION RATE: PERSONALIZED CONTENT vs. DEFAULT WEB EXPERIENCE

Results_5v2

Over the course of the campaign, the website’s vacation guide conversion rate increased between 49 percent to 549 percent when compared to the results of the default website experience.

As you can see from the results, personalization has had a significant impact on South Dakota's website leading into their peak season. The optimizations put in place not only increased website KPIs, but were also directly correlated to increasing the ROI of media, content and website investments.

If you have questions about this particular case study or would like to learn more about MMGY’s personalization services, please email or call Robert Patterson at rpatterson@mmgyglobal.com or 816-300-5222.

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