Alexa, show me Tripadvisor’s voice-activated marketing strategy – ClickZ


Do you use a voice assistant to help you boil an egg, finding local restaurants and businesses, are you planning your next vacation? If so, you are not alone. 36.6% of the US population owned a smart speaker in 2021 and a A 2018 study by Juniper Research it is estimated that by 2023 there will be eight billion digital voice assistants in use. The opportunities for voice-activated marketing have never been greater.

Over the past three years, TripAdvisor has recognized this boundary as an important part of its communication strategy. The online travel company has created a unique audio experience for its audience on devices with Alexa smart speakers. Audience members are taken on a personalized voice tour (of Orlando or Abu Dhabi) simply by saying “Alexa, launch Visit Orlando.”

In a time of travel uncertainty, Tripadvisor’s audio-immersive experience leveraged first-person data insights to ensure the credibility and relevance of content. Audiences were engaged for more than four minutes on average. It was also a campaign that delivered a high return on investment. Incremental cost per visitor averaged $0.62 over the duration of the Visit Orlando campaign.

We spoke with Justin Reid, Director of Media, Destinations, Hotels and Growth at Tripadvisor, to discuss how this pilot campaign was set up and how Tripadvisor has achieved such a successful start to a new era of travel planning.

Creating an immersive audio experience

Tripadvisor wanted to make voice activation a key part of the entire user planning journey. Starting with Orlando and Abu Dhabi, two pilot partners, the team assessed what kind of audio experience potential customers might enjoy at the destination.

It was an iterative process to determine who Tripadvisor was targeting and what voice activated marketing to target them. Proprietary data, artificial intelligence and simple real-time polling have helped align these two components to deliver a powerful audio experience.

Targeting through first-party data

The first-person data highlighted which users were in the browsing phase, i.e. viewing competing destinations but have not yet made a reservation. Tripadvisor continuously uses these insights to assess who to target and whether its messages are working for those target users.

“As the largest travel website in the world, our first-person data is simply enormous. We don’t have to look too far beyond the first party data we collect. It tells us exactly what residents are looking for, what they end up buying, how long it takes them, how many cities they visit on the way, how many destinations they see and what they see as competing destinations.”

“Our marketing dollars would be spent on finding those people who didn’t book travel to a given destination. Our goal is to convert the unconverted.”

But not all data is equal. Tripadvisor captured every point at which a customer would enter or exit the funnel and used AI to score the data based on the relevance of that customer. If the customer left the funnel without making a purchase decision, their importance would be lower in the overall intelligence gathering.

“We track them through their buying cycle. Of course, the final purchase, i.e. booking a hotel, experience or restaurant, has more weight due to its effectiveness. These weights run behind the scenes in our algorithms as we evaluate which messages are working and which aren’t.”

This is the stage where Tripadvisor would drive voice-activated marketing to its audience through traditional content modules and display advertising with text such as “improve your Alexa skills and explore Abu Dhabi”.

It was about broadcasting messages, but to a very targeted place. The message can appear on the website as well as via email with an appropriate voice command, such as “launch Visit Orlando”.

Creating effective voice-activated marketing

The user needed to hear the right message when they were redirected to start their Alexa journey. It was an iterative process.

“We’re testing and seeing what really resonates. We wanted to create an interaction where a voice-activated unit takes the user on a journey. For example, our trip to Abu Dhabi is stylized to make one feel like they are walking through the Medina. You could get a sense of what it would be like to be there.”

For a quick refresher, Tripadvisor built a simple one-question survey into the user journey, such as “was this helpful?” This revealed immediate insight into the utility of messaging.

“We wanted quick and easy responses and as many as possible. Being a new medium, we weren’t sure how popular it would be. The answers to individual questions allowed us to quickly plan the route and immediately return to the cycle of our user. It had to be flawless so as not to disrupt the purpose of the reservation.”

In addition to the messaging widget, Tripadvisor monitored three other areas to gauge how successful its audio-immersive experience was.

Which voice activated marketing metrics to track

  • Engagement duration: An average of four minutes per user

As with website bounce rates, it was important to make sure people were willing to listen to the content. Listening for 15 seconds before exiting would be the equivalent of a bounce. A four-minute average per user showed that audience members were immersed in audio messages.

  • Number of transactions: An average of seven responses per user

By tracking the number of questions users answered, Tripadvisor was able to gauge how engaged users were with the audio journey. This ensured a balance between personalized journeys without users leaving their journey.

  • Costs: $0.62 per incremental user

For every $6 the destination spent, ten additional people who had not previously booked with Visit Orlando went through the entire user journey. As the ROI of channels like Facebook continues to decline, this low cost per user demonstrates the impressive power of the customer experience on voice-enabled devices.

Shifting Sands: The Changing Landscape for Travel and Voice-Activated Marketing

Visit Orlando MessagingThe move to voice-activated marketing was a deliberate move. The last few years have been extremely difficult for travel companies. This has coincided with broader trends in digital and media consumption, which include more and more audio content and voice-activated devices. All of these interconnected threads shaped Tripadvisor’s decision to create audio messages that capture the sounds of Orlando and Abu Dhabi.

Increasing the will to travel

Tripadvisor has conducted a long-term study in collaboration with Qualtrics. It assesses how consumer attitudes towards travel have changed over the past few years. The survey was conducted every quarter in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Italy. At least 2,500 people participated in each survey.

The survey found that attitudes evolved from fears and hesitations about travel to plans for domestic travel and ultimately to international travel. People were willing to pay a higher premium for their holidays compared to the average nightly booking. Reid shares how Tripadvisor’s core message has adapted to this reality.

“The main message we’re trying to convey is to make up for two years of missed adventures. Now is the time to catch up on relationships and see the places you’ve always wanted to go. You may have to do things a little differently, but the destinations you’ve always wanted to enjoy will be there waiting.”

Increasing consumption of audio content

Audio content is increasingly popular. An estimated 162 million people aged twelve and over in the US have listened to a podcast. Tripadvisor recognizes this reality and chooses to meet its audience through this medium.

“It’s about engaging people in the areas and places where they feel most comfortable. Our message to our partners in the tourism industry has always been to put your energy into your content, not your website. Put that content where people naturally listen or naturally enjoy it, like on Tripadvisor.”

“Similarly, if we want to engage with people outside of the Tripadvisor platform, we need to put our content and our partners’ content in places where people enjoy it. Increasingly, it’s audio content, and Alexa Skill journeys made it possible for us.”

Increasing use of voice-activated devices

The rise of smart devices and voice-activated speakers is linked to rising audio consumption. It is estimated that a third of the US population owns a smart speaker, of which nearly three-quarters (73%) are Alexa. Tripadvisor decided to partner with Alexa on this basis.

“It was also aligned with the rise of voice-activated devices and, in the case of Alexa, voice-activated different skills and types of media. Devices like Alexa and Echo have moved from just a few clips and streaming music to using a wider range of content.”

“The most widely used voice-activated platform we saw in the market was Alexa. They wanted to see a partnership where they could explore expanding the adoption of voice-activated content. We identified various platforms that could meet our needs and looked at the most popular platform to host this content. We wanted the maximum number of people, size, scale and adoption. Alexa provided feedback, including what pieces of content worked and what tone of voice and background sound worked in the past.”

Voice activated marketing message for Visit Abu DhabiAlthough audience members are more comfortable consuming audio content than ever before, voice-activated marketing may still be a new experience. The brand is highly trusted by Tripadvisor’s audience thanks to its community-driven model, with over a billion reviews on the platform to date. This level of trust allowed Tripadvisor to put their audience at ease when they first explored the audio immersive experience.

Where to next?

Voice-activated marketing campaigns for Visit Orlando and Visit Abu Dhabi were pilot destinations for Tripadvisor’s Alexa Skill partnership. Tripadvisor sees collaboration through voice-activated devices as a key part of its future communications plan.

“Presence on voice-activated devices will become as inseparable as using social media or a website. It will become an automatic question for users, “Alexa, what’s your vacation recommendation for this month?” We plan to make every destination like an Alexa skill that Tripadvisor offers to the user.”

“When websites first came out, the first one was ‘Visit Britain’. Every location has copied this everywhere with their “Visit” website. However, people are spending less time on traditional tourism board websites. They want to enjoy content on the platforms they are most familiar with and are most comfortable with. Here we have to meet them. These locations now need to emulate the success we saw with Visit Orlando and Visit Abu Dhabi. Each location should consider what might work for their own Alexa skill.”

Whether it’s a weekend getaway to Paris or a summer trip to Tokyo, Tripadvisor plans to invest in giving its audience the audio experience they might hear when they book these destinations. He will continue to explore the growing field of smart speakers and invites other tourism community partners to join him on his journey. If such partners dare to shift focus from their websites to voice-activated marketing, they may also enjoy improved audience engagement and ROI.

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