I recently wrote a white paper on How Asia-Pacific Consumers Search for Cruises and the potential for the online cruise market. Certain factors stood out with regard to established search opportunities and potential for growth in any industry.
After having seen a steady incline in the number of searches for “cruise” throughout the Asia-Pacific, we explored the online cruise market to gain key insights into the industry. Much of what we found, however, can be applied to any market with an online presence. We took a look at global events to analyze their impact on the market and examined the year-on-year trends and the “cruise” search forecast throughout the region. We determined what Asia-Pacific consumers are searching for within the confines of the cruise industry and examined demographics and linguistics, which might help you to better understand your own target audience.
Specifically, we closely studied the niche markets within the industry and analyzed the big brand names in the space; this helps companies to get a feel for their competitors, and learn from, and ultimately, outperform them. We also inspected people’s preferred devices and explored seasonal trends, identifying the best possible time for companies to plan and launch their next campaign.
Here, we’ve included some helpful tips for your own search analysis.
Year on Year Trends
When conducting your own search forecast, it’s a good idea to go back and take a look at not only the current trends and future search potential for your industry, but to also look at the past. For example, while APAC searches for “cruise” relating to travel have gradually been increasing, there was a drop in the market in 2011. With any unexpected rise or fall in search trends, it’s a good idea to examine what has impacted the market and search trends within this timeframe to better understand your search potential.
Global events often shape our markets as a whole but can also heavily affect search trends, e.g., we know that traditionally, cruise lines have planned 2–3 years in advance and published itineraries 18–24 months in advance. Certain events, however, prompted the industry to reconsider this, reviewing their planned deployments and even going so far as to move ships to regions less impacted by these events.
For example, when cruise lines became aware that the Australian economy had not gone into recession following the global financial crisis like many of America’s source markets had, several ships were moved to the country on a full-year or seasonal basis.
While the cruise industry is particularly susceptible to a range of external factors (including the economy, climate and security), every industry is susceptible to its own range of events, whether welcome or problematic.
On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia plummeted and so too did searches for “cruise.” While some of this drop may be attributed to seasonal trends in the market, such a heavy drop cannot be accounted for by that one trend alone. In contrast, while global events can harm an online marketplace, it’s encouraging to note that certain events can also give a significant boost to the market. For example, in 2006, as the Chinese economy grew substantially to 10.7 percent, so too did searches for “cruise’ relating to travel by Chinese consumers.
By understanding which areas consumers are most interested in, you are better able to target your product offerings, marketing campaigns and website optimization. While generic searches almost always dominate, it is common for consumers to add a specific location to their search. It’s important to conduct search analysis and discover not only where your searchers are coming from, but also the destination they’re adding to their search.
The top destinations are often not what’s imagined. When conducting our research into the most searched-for destinations by Asia-Pacific cruisers, the number one destination was Sydney, with Australia clearly dominating the whole APAC market. This finding turned out to be surprising, considering the ratio of Australian travellers in the market segment.
Segmenting the market is important in order to understand, better target and serve potential customers. It also opens up a better way to filter your audience and promote engagement while creating more valuable online content.
Not only should you conduct search analysis into different niche markets in order to better serve potential customers, you should also pursue opportunities to educate your customers on what products and services are available to them. For example, when conducting niche research in the online cruise space, we found that generic “cruise’ searches made up approximately 40 percent of searches by Asia-Pacific consumers, with generic “river cruises” making up 32 percent. This result shows not only that the vast majority of Asia-Pacific consumers aren’t sure exactly what type of cruise they are looking for, but also that they are unaware of what types of cruises are available to them.
King of Competition
Determining where you’re placed in the market and understanding the competition is important in order to compete, optimize your website and grow your customer base. By knowing and understanding the competition, you can learn from them, observe their tactics and, ultimately, outgrow them.
It’s interesting to note that branded search volumes for “cruise” relating to travel in the Asia-Pacific is again dominated by the Australian market, which corresponds directly with the top location search terms. This also further indicates a trend toward domestic cruises.
Branded search terms do not always correlate with the largest and best-ranking websites, indicating that there is room for smaller brands to enter the market through exceptional advertising, whether that be through online, television, print form, etc.
For example, while MSC have almost doubled the amount of natural inbound links of the second best-performing cruise website, Carnival, they only just scrape into the top 10 branded search terms. So while their website arguably provides the most engaging information and resources, consumers don’t necessarily think of them first when conducting branded searches.
Obviously, understanding the demographics of your potential customers is important to better target your market, online messages and content. But understanding what consumers search for is also important in optimizing your services and products. For example, as many Asian guests have limited vacation entitlements, they are mostly selecting short duration cruises, which can be clearly seen in search data with 57 percent of cruisers searching for shorter cruise durations.
This search trend has penetrated the market with cruise lines offering more short term cruises. Carnival Cruises, launched 133 cruises for 2016–2017 with an increase in short breaks at sea, including seven weekend getaways.
Your entire target audience may not always directly correspond with the people searching for your products and services. According to the 2015 Cruise Industry Outlook, the average global cruiser is 49 years old while the vast majority of those searching for cruises online are well below that age; 14 percent are 35–44, 22 percent are 25–35, 19 percent are 18–24 and the remaining 26 percent are unknown, leaving only 19 percent being aged 45 or older.
Gaining a better understanding of the language and phrasing consumers use when searching is essential when wanting to rank highly in search results. By matching the language, keywords and phrasing on your website with the language your target audience uses when searching, you are far more likely to rank well for those same queries.
Like many markets, Asia-Pacific cruisers are most often searching for a good deal.
While mobile search is now a huge player and searches made via mobile and tablet are growing within most every market, searches for “cruise” by Asia-Pacific consumers are still primarily made via desktop, with a total average of just 37 percent of searches for “cruise” conducted on mobile devices over the last 12 months (and tablet searches making up just 6 percent).
This is a trend seen in most markets. It’s also important to take a look at the difference between the initial search and the last search before purchase because, often, mobile searches are conducted for initial research purposes but not used as heavily to make final purchases.
Launching Your Campaign
Understanding seasonal trends in the online market can help to better plan activity and prepare for launching your next campaign. Knowing when your target audience is conducting the most searches helps to plan and push your campaigns, content and online and offline messaging.
Using search volume data for the keyword “cruise” relating to travel throughout the Asia-Pacific, we were able to determine seasonal activity, calculated by the average number of monthly searches over the past 10 years. As expected, seasonal search activity varied greatly from country to country.
Tips for Conducting Your Own Search Analysis
In order to gain better insight into your industry and analyze search patterns, keyword, trend and competitor data should be collected using a combination of sources, thoroughly analyzing the collected information to identify key categories and a more comprehensive understanding of your online market.
Search volumes should be analyzed in order to discover and explore key categories within the industry and to develop a better understanding of niche markets within the sector. Competitors should be ranked by their performance in natural search for the online market as a whole.
Key events, seasonality and platform trends should all be examined to identify patterns and to gain insight into the industry. Analysis of the keyword data set should be undertaken to develop a linguistic report of the market and to further understand the language your audience uses when they perform a search.
2 By the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) http://www.cruising.org/about-the-industry/research