3 Travel E-Commerce Companies That Took Off with Digital Marketing

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When you think of e-commerce, there's a good chance that you imagine online retailers who sell physical goods. However, there are outstanding and impressive e-commerce businesses in verticals other than retail, and some of the most creative in terms of marketing are companies that work in travel.

If you are curious about e-commerce companies in the travel industry that have mastered marketing techniques in order to grow their business, check out the outstanding examples below.

Airbnb Experiences Campaign

Airbnb was already majorly successful as a vacation rental site when they decided to launch "Experiences" in 2016. Experiences allowed travelers to search for authentic local adventures to go on or events to attend via the site, then plan a trip around an authentic experience they wanted to have.

Experiences was a great idea from Airbnb, but one of the things that made it so successful was their approach to marketing it. The company used a slew of digital marketing strategies to promote it, including paid advertising, content marketing, and more.


But their most successful approach was using Instagram, harnessing the platform's visual strengths to sell their offerings by posting photos and videos of the experiences, which made them imaginable and real to potential travelers.

The gist of Experiences is that you get to travel to a foreign place, then see it as locals do. So Airbnb shaped their digital campaign around the idea of displaying destinations from a local's point of view.

The photos they posted were beautiful but regular everyday shots featuring neighborhoods, meals, and communities. The captions offered warm and friendly stories about local hosts. Finally, in Instagram stories, they regularly posted long-form stories about Experiences hosts, who they were, and what they offered.

Airbnb's choice to market Experiences in a warm, beautiful, and inviting way shaped it into a product that drew in a wide range of travelers and convinced them to become customers, and it helps them maintain a giant following of potential leads via their Instagram, which currently has more than 3.5 million followers.

HotelTonight's Upgraded Ad Messaging

HotelTonight is one of the most successful mobile first travel companies around. The company centered itself on a premise: offer same-day hotel rooms that are not booked for a great discount, and take commission on the booking.

Discounted rooms were great for travelers and hotel owners. HotelTonight has done well since its launch, and they became profitable in 2016. The app now has more than 29 million unique downloads.

HotelTonight decided to boost business in 2017 by changing up their marketing message to appeal to a very specific audience of potential customers.

People who choose to use HotelTonight are often impulsive consumers who plan less and do things on the fly. They tend to be on the wilder side.

So, HotelTonight tailored its ad messaging to appeal to a more adult or spontaneous crowd.

In the New York and New Jersey area, the company used tangible ads – on billboards and bus stops – to encourage people to book same-day hotels. Messages included things like "Keep the night going" and "Skip the commute," encouraging people to make spur of the moment choices to stay in hotels.

The company also launched an ad campaign called "Let's Have a Threeday," which they used in the digital space, which encourages travelers to take short, three-day trips (but also imply sex and romance with their subtle reference to threeways). The "Let's Have a Threeday" campaign appeared in social media ads, regular digital ads, and also radio and billboard ads.

HotelTonight did a good job at shifting their content to the audience that their brand appeals to in order to encourage more usage. They also took a successful step towards ensuring their brand remained relevant, close to a decade after their initial launch and branding.

Kayak Moving Facebook Ads

Kayak is one of the web's leading travel search engines. In 2017, the company saw huge success with a Facebook marketing campaign in which they did something subtle to make their digital ads more successful: incorporated motion.

The company partnered with Facebook Creative Shop and its Create-to-Convert Program. The program adds lightweight motion to still images to make them more visually appealing. They also launched ads with the same images, but static.

The moving ad creatives attracted far more potential customers to Kayak than those that were static, and in the end, Kayak found that there was a 39% lower cost per incremental searcher and a 50% reduction in ad production time. In the end, the advertising campaign successfully reached 2.1 million people.

Kayak was smart to incorporate a visual element into their travel photos that caught people's eye and made them want to take a closer look. This resulted in more leads and potential buyers on their site.

Travel e-commerce companies are unique in terms of their offerings. However, they, too can use digital marketing techniques in order to grow their audience and generate more leads.

If you run an e-commerce company that specializes in travel, don't overlook the power of marketing online. If you are smart and creative with your ad content and dissemination tactics, you can reach a new audience and develop a stellar reputation for your company.

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