Although we are fully immersed in the countdown to Christmas and retail merchants are busy pushing out lots of offers, promotions and top selling products to their affiliates, it is also a key time for travel merchants to begin planning for Q1 next year.
January and February are key months for travel merchants, with the Winter blues kicking in people actively start looking for holidays to warmer climates to escape from the winter weather! So it’s vital to spend the next few weeks preparing your affiliate program and planning your strategy to ensure your program is in tip top condition for the January peak!
Firstly, a successful affiliate program is all about communication. If you have some great offers planned for Q1 but your affiliates don’t know about them, then it’s unlikely you will be able to gain much exposure for these. Letting affiliates know about what offers are coming up (many of the top partners will be happy to sign NDAs for confidentiality purposes) means they can plan these into their own marketing calendars and offer you good exposure for the duration of the offer.
The next key element to take care of is the affiliate toolkit. Within the travel sector, having a good product feed is very important for a successful program. Adding in live availability and pricing to your product feed is advised as this will help to improve your conversion rate. Affiliates should have access to your searchable booking banner in order to allow them to promote your holidays/flights/breaks more effectively by driving customers directly to the relevant page in the booking process. This will result in improved conversion on the program as customers don’t have to go through multiple steps to find their chosen product. Content affiliates especially will actively seek out tools like this so if you want to attract these types of affiliates onto your program make sure you have the relevant tools!
Promotion specific banners are also important for a successful travel affiliate program. Clearly communicating that these are available to affiliates will allow them to showcase your key offers and capture as much traffic as possible during the key January – February period. Within the affiliate toolkit, one thing that is often missing is content widgets. These can be created by an agency or there are companies like Affiliate Widgets who can work with merchants to create these for a fee. These widgets appeal both to affiliates and also customers – as they look nice on the site and are easy for customers to interact with, and for affiliates it is another tool to help improve their conversion rates and drive bookings. By making the toolkit as strong as possible means that your affiliate program will stand out against competitor’s programs and encourage your affiliates to work harder on the program to drive bookings for your brand.
If you have never run any affiliate incentives before then we would highly recommend you run one during the key travel period. These competitions can be targeted at encouraging active affiliates to drive more bookings, or at incentivising new/inactive affiliates to join the program and start driving bookings. Prizes for these affiliate competitions are entirely up to the merchant, however if budgets/commissions are limited then offering a hotel stay as a prize always goes down well with affiliates! They will also receive firsthand experience of your brand.
Another key consideration to get the most exposure for your travel brand during this period is to look at the affiliates currently on the program, and approach them prior to January to offer them either a tactical commission increase or an exclusive voucher code. These are both great for building relationships with affiliates and ensuring your brand has prominent exposure across key affiliate sites and their newsletters. It is important to start approaching these affiliates now, as exposure on sites is highly sought after and gets booked up extremely quickly.
Although it is important to plan for the peak travel trading period, the above elements aren’t just relevant to this time period. Once you have tested things like incentives, tactical commission increases and exclusive voucher codes, they can be rolled out strategically throughout the year. By improving the creative toolkit and communicating more regularly with affiliates will reap merchant’s rewards for years to come.