When you’re a world leading tourism group, it’s important to have the most agile, streamlined process to maintain your position. State-of-the-art technologies play a major role in ensuring this. The TUI group has been using Channable for Search Ads 360 and other digital marketing channels to do just that. Channable has helped TUI automate the most repetitive tasks and brought them closer as a group. Jeroen Maaijen, SEA Manager TUI Benelux, and Martin Michels, Paid Search Manager TUI UK and Ireland, shared exactly how.
The TUI group has a portfolio consisting of tour operators, travel agencies, airlines, hotels, cruise liners, and many agencies. Despite its immense size, TUI strives for quality and personalization. “We want to make sure we offer a unique experience to each and every customer” Jeroen Maaijen shared. This demands intricate work from each source market (regional teams). “Each and every source market within the TUI Group has their own responsibility and their own way of working, but we are always looking to improve ourselves and create synergy. Obviously there are a lot of ways where you can collaborate together, and we can find common ground and improve efficiency. It’s helpful because we’re all dependent on using the same platform.” It was for this reason that TUI opted for Google’s Search Ads 360 (SA360). However, importing the TUI inventory wasn’t as easy, nor user-friendly, as the team had expected.
Running into a little turbulence
TUI’s offerings are incredibly dynamic, especially in the last-minute season when people book flights and holidays at a rapid rate. It’s important for TUI to ensure that ads are kept up to date with inventory, and to actively reallocate advertising efforts on less popular routes. “We need to make sure we sell destinations and hotels we’ve already committed to and that’s also where technology comes in place. To get that information and act on it asap”, Martin Michels voiced.
“In Dutch, we have a saying “you can sell the sweetbreads”. That’s basically what we usually do in PPC, we’re selling the sweetbreads, the ones that are really easy to sell. But actually, from a business perspective, you want to sell the ones that are tougher to sell. Because the sweetbreads will most likely sell themselves via other, sometimes unpaid, channels.”
However, TUI’s IT department is primarily responsible for the inventory feed, and Jeroen noted that “our priorities often did not meet the priorities of the people responsible for the output feeds that we were pushing directly to the marketing channels. There was a bit of a lack of development speed”.
Another issue arose from the sheer size of TUI. The TUI group is constantly looking for ways to harmonize and improve collaboration. “For example, why would the UK be spending a huge amount of time on something we already invented in the Netherlands.” Efficiency would be improved by finding a group-wide technology that can solve common problems.
Channable helping TUI take off
“Roughly 8 years ago, we made excel files and once a month we changed all the destinations. I spent an awful lot of time, roughly a day or two, every single month. Obviously, there was a lot of wasted spend because we were advertising destinations and hotels that we didn’t have anymore because they were sold out. So, there was a huge advantage when we started using XMLs. Quality scores increased because you got more relevant by using useful feeds but also bounce rates were lower and conversions were higher. The next step was getting better data sources and enriching the feeds. And it’s constant.”
Jeroen came across Channable in 2017, and in September of that year, TUI started making its first feeds for SA360. “In order to use SA360’s dynamic ads function [inventory management] you need to have feeds that meet those standards. That’s where Channable came in place back around two years ago. Later on, we were like, this tool is great, it could also be very helpful for all the other channels.” Using Channable for SA360 was ideal for TUI as it provided the possibility to ensure that the same approach in all source markets could be applied.
This is because, in Channable, you can have many projects and many users in one account. TUI has one account in Channable, but over 50 projects. You can copy rules and feeds across projects in a matter of clicks, streamlining group-wide approaches. TUI uses Channable rules to ensure that the keywords and destinations in the feed are similar to the search terms used by potential customers. “Customers looking to fly to Gran Canaria, for example, are less likely to search for flights to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. We use SA360 to advertise all our stock – all our keywords, all our destinations, all in a dynamic way. Channable makes us way more flexible when using SA360, compared to being forced to make changes within the inventory management. Channable is faster, and the UX is way better. I think the UX is good, it’s great!”
“Channable helps us to take matters into our own hands to become more flexible when it comes down to feeds. The way that we structure them and the way we create them.”
TUI is now using Channable for all digital marketing channels, including display retargeting, affiliate marketing, and paid social. For a more refined and strategic marketing effort, TUI generates multiple feeds for each channel that are designated to each product i.e. hotels, activities, flights etc. “Channable makes us way more flexible to all of the changes that happen in the back end. So, we get like daily URL changes for hotels, hotel name changes, and this really helps reduce our manual time.”
Channable has helped TUI manage forecasting to improve its ROI too. “If you know something is most likely to occur, you can put that in the feed, and you can make business rules accordingly,” Jeroen explained. “Especially in the peak season, the last-minute season. From a PPC perspective, maybe 20 days further down the road, we see the cost of sale for that destination go up.” Martin added that, “you kind of know beforehand what’s going to happen. If we don’t use Channable we can only kind of act on it after it happens. We can change the feeds in Channable so that we don’t promote certain destinations. Channable’s interface makes it so much easier.”
TUI tip: Use Channable’s exclude filter to restrict sending certain information. For instance, if a destination becomes ill-advised for travel, simply make a rule stating, “If destination is equal to ‘example destination’ then take all fields and exclude”.
Today, “all the source markets of TUI are on Channable, they’re all pretty enthusiastic about it and that’s one of the great examples of how TUI group as a whole, we can collaborate better with the right tech.”
TUI tip: By using one project to straighten out your master feed, you can create new XMLs that will then serve as the imports for the other projects. This will save you even more time.
TUI in the fast lane
TUI was already impressed with Channable from the get-go. “We were actually able to really start using it, we didn’t have to wait for IT. So, being able to start using SA360 and being more flexible was already a great starting point,” Jeroen shared.
However, the biggest results TUI has seen is in time saved, across all fronts. For TUI Group collaboration, Channable “saves us time, we don’t have to figure everything out each and every time, so there’s synergy benefits for the source markets. Channable is a real collaboration improvement tool, because it’s the same technology which we’re all using. We all have an issue, you guys are able to help us with that issue and now we’re working on it together, we all have the same goal.”
Another benefit of using one tool group-wide is that with one moderator for the whole TUI account, they can “logically limit the number of projects but there is also cost savings involved”. Martin acknowledged that “performance-wise you build better campaigns; you save manual time. You don’t get delays because you’re not dependent on another person to fix your feeds”.
In addition, TUI has seen significant savings in terms of costs and more relevant campaigns. “It’s about being able to reach the right audience, the right people, with the right message,” said Jeroen, “by using Channable, but also SA360’s inventory management, we’re talking about a huge number of savings in terms of expense and conversion.”
“Automation, or feed based advertising, is helping us to reduce wasted spend and act with PPC, but also in a more intelligent way.”
The importance of automation in the UK
The decision to introduce Channable to the TUI UK team came about from the existing desire to attain a level of synergy across the TUI group, but also a huge need for automation. “I’d already had a great experience. The other source markets, such as Germany, the Nordics, and France, are using Channable and are enthusiastic. The [current] set up in the UK is not ideal, and Channable gives us the opportunity to create a future proof structure, that is done in a different and dynamic way”, Jeroen explained. Martin mentioned that “we want to move to automate everything and I really expect big savings and major efficiency. The time we don’t spend there, we can spend on optimization and other projects in the pipeline that we cannot deal with now. Channable will help with that.”
Implementing Channable’s automation tool for the UK market was a no-brainer for Jeroen and Martin. “Repetitive tasks should be automated. Everybody is pushing for automation. If you don’t move forward with these things, you might not see immediate changes now, but you will fall behind in the market. If you do it in two years from now, you’re already too late. And then, you will really see the expense of not having automated processes.”
The process to get Channable up and running in TUI UK hasn’t been as smooth as hoped, “The UK architecture is quite complicated. You have various sources in terms of data coming out of the website.” Channable has continuously worked with TUI to find an import method that is compatible. “We’ve gotten very good support from the Netherlands”. However, it hasn’t stopped Martin’s ambition plans for Channable in the UK. “I have all the ideas I just don’t know yet how to get them in place. I want to try using feeds to play with bidding and working with deals. We have weekly deals and feeds should be able to help us pushing them automatically forward. If it works out, we can really cut down the hours of time just spent on ads and keywords for each new deal.” The end goal of TUI is to increase conversion rates through the help of Channable and automation.
“Channable is actually one of the tools that I think we can consider a success because now it’s adopted in almost every source market of TUI. And a lot of rules, or things we have thought about in certain source markets, can also be expanded to other TUI source markets.”
Onwards and upwards
For TUI UK, the journey with Channable has only just begun. The first steps are launching Channable for inventory management in SA360. “That’s the first big step we’ll take over the first three to twelve months. It’s the first trial to see how it works and get the team more familiar with inventory management. If that’s all working and set up, we’ll start diving into more ad communication, temporary changes, and eventually bidding.”
TUI Benelux is looking to host more Channable trainings, to get all the source markets on the same level as Jeroen’s team. “I think we could improve the collaboration within the group. Basically, knowledge sharing and organizing a more advanced workshop for all marketers in the TUI group. To improve feed knowledge and automation knowledge with Channable.”
One thing that Jeroen was anticipating in the future is an increase in real-time connections. “Let’s take Search Ads 360, they don’t have an API yet, but they probably will have one in a few years. Channable will make sure that we connect the rights fields, and we’re able to communicate with SA360. Because currently, we’re not able to create feeds in the way SA360 needs them. In the future, it needs to be more real-time, it needs to be done even faster.”
When you’re a world-leading travel company, automating processes and adopting new technologies isn’t always a walk in the park. But with Channable, TUI has been incredibly happy with the implementation and results. “It’s a long-term thing, obviously Martin and TUI UK will not get there in a month. Just head in that direction, and in a few years from now, we’re looking at a very bright set up. Very future proof, with better performance.”