Although spring is upon us, many still remember this past winter, which for many parts of the country was among the worst on record. And anyone traveling during those storms is all too familiar with the blizzard of delays, cancellations, and related lost business.
Winter: Web Wins
Compete leveraged its ability to survey the digital general population by asking consumers about how they see last winter’s weather impacting future travel plans. For example, people might travel more to flee winter weather, or less to avoid weather-related headaches. Results favor the latter: a greater share said they would be less likely to travel. Not surprisingly, Flying fared the worst (arguably the most susceptible to winter weather) and Hotel fared the best.
The Internet, however, looks to be a clear winner and that may represent a key business opportunity for OTAs, suppliers, social sites, and others in the space. For example, tailoring advertising messaging to weather-sensitive consumers may help drive traffic. So could offering less stringent cancellation policies or better weather-centric travel insurance, or at least displaying the policies more prominently. Another option is to offer travel insurance to loyalty members or as a reward for booking early. Leveraging this opportunity will in part hinge on the placement and effectiveness of messaging, such as on sites like Weather.com, and also through optimizing other outreach tactics, such as email.
Whether to Visit Weather.com
To gauge the extent to which online consumers engaged with weather-related content, Compete investigated traffic volumes to Weather.com and Accuweather.com over the past 13 months. These data are unique visitors (in millions), meaning no double-counting of people that visited the site more than once in the same month.
Both sites show lifts in traffic as the snow started to fall in much of the US. Weather.com in particular showed an extended lift in carrying through January. It is possible that traffic could have increased even more had the magnitude of storms not made them fodder for general news services, potentially stealing some traffic from the weather sites.
Plowing Toward Insights
Without question it will snow somewhere in the US next winter, and at least some of that will cause travel delays. And consumers will turn more to the internet for help, which is an opportunity for the travel industry. For travel players to best capture weather-related changes in online traffic, logical next steps are:
- Size the Pond: Identify trends in overall traffic to weather-related sites, including weather sub-sections on general information sites
- Travel Overlap: Quantify the extent to which active travel shoppers also visit these same sites, how often, and how far in advance of researching and booking
- Context: Assess the extent to which weather sites influence travelers by comparing travelers’ online research behavior before and after visiting weather sites to research behavior before and after visitation to sites in other categories
- Saturation: Evaluate the openness of the advertising playing field by reviewing messaging on weather-informing sites (see Disney Parks ad on weather.com, right) by month and section
- Effectiveness beyond click-throughs: Identify the effectiveness of current travel ads by measuring the behavioral impacts of aggregate exposure impacts
Lincoln Merrihew is the Senior Vice President of Transportation at Millward Brown Digital. At Millward Brown Digital, Lincoln is responsible for steering the Transportation Team, which encompasses the automotive and travel practices. Before Lincoln joined the Millward Brown Digital team, he worked at TNS Custom leading the Automotive team, and then continued on there to lead business development for 10 different industry verticals. Lincoln's career aspiration is to create game-changing solutions and insights. Connect with Lincoln on LinkedIn.