MarketingRethinking new business models, data and metrics to capitalise on travel recovery.

Opinion: How Asia marketers can benefit from digital co-ops

With the right data, new co-op models can help destination marketers build back differently and demonstrate ROI every step of the way.
With the right data, new co-op models can help destination marketers build back differently and demonstrate ROI every step of the way. Photo Credit: Getty Images/metamorworks

Co-ops are used all over the world as part of destination marketing campaigns. Co-ops enable multiple brands to partner together to increase marketing and advertising buying power, share messaging and drive awareness about a particular destination.

While they are more popular in Australia and New Zealand, co-ops are rarely leveraged in a number of Asian markets. However, in a season where 90% of travel marketers are working with reduced budgets, digital co-op models are emerging as the right tool to maximise spend and capitalise on recovery. Co-ops give brands the opportunity to partner with other travel entities while helping marketers meet individual business objectives. With the right tools, metrics, and data, the digital domestic co-op can increase brand awareness and ultimately drive bookings.

Build back differently

Co-ops are traditionally used to promote international destinations. A host tourism board or destination marketing organisation (DMO) creates the co-op, establishes the fund that will be used for ad spend, and invites other DMOs, hotels, or attractions to join the co-op.

Economic impact is measured through increased visitation, although brands rarely receive individual metrics. While co-ops still enable travel brands to partner together, the digital co-ops are evolving to capture current consumer sentiment, drive future bookings, and show brand-level results.

In today’s market, brands can no longer use traditional metrics, such as data from the same period of last year. That’s because traveller intent has changed. Many travellers are hesitant to leave their home borders due to safety concerns and changing restrictions, which is why domestic travel will lead the way in the Asian market. This means many travel marketers are navigating uncharted terrain while trying to maximise dwindling budgets. Thanks to new tools and technologies, digital co-ops are scalable, more effective, and can help brands of all sizes. These new co-op models can help marketers build back differently and demonstrate ROI every step of the way.

Travel marketers can utilise data such as Thailand's high mobile connection penetration rate, and turn to target mobile ads.
Travel marketers can utilise data such as Thailand's high mobile connection penetration rate, and turn to target mobile ads. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ultramansk

First, develop a digital plan

The first step to enabling a successful co-op is deploying the right data strategy. While the immediate reaction may be for marketers to acquire large amounts of data, quality is more important than quantity. Besides, having access to great data with no clear plan makes that data a cost centre. Travel marketers must first determine how that data fits within the business model, where the data is best used, and long-term data strategies. Once marketers have a solid data strategy in place, they can determine how to maximise that data through ad spend.

For example, Indonesia (124%) and Thailand (133%) have some of the highest mobile connection penetration rates in the world. This creates a massive opportunity for domestic destinations to use the right data to target mobile ads.

From there, marketers can create the right partnerships to gain access to the right mix of first and third-party data as well as new platforms that can manage best practices and budgets across the hotel, attraction, and destination partners. By having a data plan and the right supporting technology firmly in place, marketers can effectively target travellers to deploy co-op campaigns that track and engage travellers from planning all the way through booking.

Create sustainable programmes

Creating a successful co-op hinges on a sustainable model. A sustainable co-op must serve the needs of all participants. Ad spend, strategies, and technologies must accommodate all budget sizes and be able to easily prove economic impact, all of which often requires building the right partnerships. All participants must understand the rules, including any government regulations, prior to joining.

In addition to a sustainable co-op model, brands must also promote sustainable business practices. This includes mindful travelling that will continue to allow destinations and businesses to be there for years to come. For example, some attractions, such as coral reefs in Maya Bay, are regenerating due to dwindling tourism, and co-ops can encourage future travellers to be mindful of the local ecosystem. In addition, co-ops can use data to drive bookings not only into a destination, but also local businesses. By funnelling business to a local boat tour company, guide, or other entity that has been hit hard by Covid restrictions, co-ops can do their part to lift local economies out of crisis.

Digital co-ops can enable Asian markets to capitalise on travel recovery. Not only can co-ops maximise spend for brands of all sizes, new digital tools enable co-ops to demonstrate concrete results. By marketing inside borders, deploying the right data strategy and technology, and creating sustainable programs, travel brands can build back better all the way to recovery.

Katy Gallagher is commercial director, Asia Pacific at Sojern, a digital marketing platform powered by artificial intelligence and traveller intent data. Clients include hotels, attractions, and tourism boards.

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