Recently I have been asked by a lot of operators why the full purchase journey can not be tracked in marketing campaigns. For a while now it has been impossible to track the full customer journey using Facebook ads when a third party cookie and/or domain is being used.
For those who are unaware of this, this means that when you run ads on Facebook and your customer visits your website and clicks on a book now button, which then launches a booking widget like Checkfront, Fareharbor, Rezdy, Bokun or any of the many platforms out there, the tracking stops. The reason being is Facebook asks you now to verify your domain name and those widgets are pulled in from a different domain, amongst other things.
Now, IF your booking widget allows you to set a booking successful page on your site to redirect the consumer, then at least you can track that page and this will let you know if someone from an ad visited that page then they have completed the booking… but most platforms do not allow this, or have the capability.
The only way to track the full journey is to have a fully integrated booking system that is on your site.
Facebook are not the only ones to make tracking harder as Google will be implementing changes in this regard too.
Like Apple's Safari browser and Firefox, Google Chrome will also be phasing out the use of third-party cookies. This is because of pressure from many governments and privacy advocates that claim this type of targeting to be too intrusive and to use too much personal information. This was meant to be introduced in 2023 but Google have extended this to 2024, as detailed here.
What does this mean for operators?
Basically, It will stop you from measuring the success and ROIs of digital marketing campaigns. For example, next time you run ads and they appear on another platform, there is a strong chance you wouldn't know whether people booked your tours after they saw your ad.
These moves by Google, Firefox and Apple, as well as governments and privacy regulators want you to rely on first-party and zero-party cookies and data. This basically means that you must have a direct relationship with that consumer (Past customers, website users, opt-in email subscribers).
Zero-party data is all the customer data, provided voluntarily by customers via sign-up forms, reward and loyalty program membership preferences, etc. This all means you must have robust CRMs to manage your consumers data.
I also can not see many booking platforms and widgets changing how they operate (a move away from widgets), which, in my opinion, is short sighted. Better data creates better marketing campaigns which means more bookings and more revenue for them and the operator.
What does this mean for marketing?
When it comes to running ad campaigns, you first need to make sure your target audience is precise. You need robust consumer personas so you know who you should be targeting.
You will also need great content to inspire them to sign up for more information. Brochures, travel guides, downloadable PDFs, drip email campaigns, contact forms and any other way to entice the consumer to leave their details.
But soon, and as it currently stands, it will be harder to track a consumer from beginning to end of their journey with your brand. You must first attract them through ads, or they find you organically, then wow them with content, experiences, reviews and valuable, downloadable ‘gated’ content… all with the hope that they leave details or book with you… you probably just won’t know how that journey started.