Like many online travel agents, the Thomas Cook Group has had to weather tough market conditions in recent years. Following the appointment of Harriet Green as CEO in 2012, the company – and the brands the group encompasses – has reengineered itself to become more digitally focused, aiming to improve customer experience, whilst at the same time reduce costs to the business.
Thomas Cook Airlines has epitomised this new philosophy, releasing new routes and planes for the enjoyment of customers, whilst drastically reducing internal costs. In order to achieve this the company has focused on how it can maximise its investment in existing assets. For the affiliate marketing programme, that means finding innovative new ways of gaining more traffic from existing partners and increasing the conversion rate that affiliates were generating.
The objectives for the programme, directly linked to Thomas Cook Airlines’ commercial objective to grow revenue, were
Increase the number of publishers driving sales by 15% through both the recruitment of new partners and the reactivation of existing ones
Increase conversion rates on two fronts:
- Understand the customer journey and the impact that affiliates have on purchasing decisions within that journey
- Segmenting, profiling and targeting through the publisher base by user demographics, destination and business model
In order to achieve these objectives, affilinet launched three key streams of activity:
Customer journey analysis: In order to optimise the programme, affilinet recognised that it needed to better understand the customer path to purchase and the role that affiliates played in influencing customers. Combining Thomas Cook Airlines’ analytical data with its own network data, from which it can see that last five clicks before purchase, affilinet was able to see which affiliates were influencing customers at different points – particularly in the crucial early stages. Based on this data, affilinet and Thomas Cook Airlines concluded that by implementing a mixture of payment models, not just cost-per acquisition, it would be able to reach a huge variety of travelers at a more efficient cost.
Analysing the booking data: Working closely with the Thomas Cook Airlines trading team, affilinet set out to understand which routes were the most popular, reasons for this and how affiliate activity could be adjusted accordingly. For example, if Thomas Cook Airlines was particularly popular on one of its routes, was it the cheapest? If so, is there scope to adjust the commission paid to affiliates? And if not, would it be beneficial to increase commission in order to incentivise publishers and retain the company’s number one position? This data was also cross referenced with aggregator data and other influences such as weather and seasonality of a destination on order to build a comprehensive view of where efficiencies could be gained and activity optimised.
Segmentation, profiling and targeting: affilinet embarked on a project to better segment affiliates by their promotion type, demographics, destinations and user profile (e.g. families, young professionals, retired). This targeted approach ensured that Thomas Cook Airlines was targeting the right users with the right routes and offers at the right times, thus optimising conversion rates. It has particular success in the long-tail, were targeted communications increased the number of active, sale-driving affiliates by 22%.
Results and ROI:
- The result of bringing aggregators into the affiliate channels resulted in a 15.7% increase in conversion rate, and a 8.2% increase in total order value.
- Segmenting the long-tail publisher base and sending only targeted communications resulted in a 22%. increase in sale-driving publishers since the project started, surpassing the original target of 15%.
- The number of sales from the long-tail of publishers increased by 39.9%.
- All of the processes implemented by Thomas Cook Airlines have contributed to providing a seamless user experience for their customers, from initial research through to final booking.
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