Travelling with Ryanair isn’t nice. I think we can all agree with that. Aside from all their crafty charges I never feel more like a battery hen than when I’m being herded onto one of their flights, scared witless that my hand luggage won’t pass the dreaded width and height dimensions test. Yes, we’ve all been there, furiously taking out a towel from our cases and trying to wear it as a turban. No? Just me then.
But what about booking at flight with them online? Is it the same awful experience that you feel when you’re boarding one of their planes and wish you’d booked with Easyjet? Let’s take a look at their purchase funnel and see.
1. The Crafty Credit Card Charge
After selecting your flight destination and dates you’ll be presented with your ‘total’ cost. However, you’d better make sure you can pay by debit card because you’ll need to fork out an additional 2% to pay by credit card. Cheeky I’m sure you’ll agree, but many other online travel retailers do the same (Easyjet charge even more).
2. Opt-in Alert
After agreeing to pay the extra because you simply cannot afford to pay for your flight by debit this month, you’re then taken through the very lengthy experience of being up sold an array of extras, the first being travel insurance.
What galls me about this is that they force you to opt out rather than asking if you want it in the first place. Looking at their product it’s clear it’s not the most competitive on the market and I found single trip travel insurance for up to 20% cheaper than their quoted price.
3. A cheeky text message charge
You’ll then be asked if you want a text message confirming your flight details for the princely sum of £1.69. Aside from being a complete and utter rip off, the text message is completely unnecessary because you’ll receive an email with the exact same information. Why charge for a text message that most other providers give you for free?
4. Not taking no for an answer
After opting out of the travel insurance you’d think that would be the end of it. Think again. You’ll then be presented with an ‘important message’ about why you should buy expensive travel insurance with Ryanair.
What I love about this is the completely unnecessary ‘did you know’ ‘facts’, especially the useless piece of information that ‘insurers in the UK deal with 6,500 medical emergencies a week’. What the hell does that tell you? Why also do Ryanair think it appropriate to remind you that you should get travel insurance even after you’ve deliberately opted out of it?
5. Trying to sell you more useless products when you just want to complete your purchase
After being up-sold unnecessary text alerts, guilt tripping you into buying expensive travel insurance, plus the obligatory priority boarding and reserved seating, you’d think your next step would be payment right? Wrong. You’re then taken to a page which first tries to sell you a phone app claiming to be cheaper than O2, Vodafone and Skype. Highly misleading of course because it will depend entirely on what international tariffs you have with your mobile network provider.
Surely that’s the end of the incessant up selling? The way this is going you might expect them to flog luggage..
…which they do. After the briefest of investigations I found the same American Tourister carry luggage sold at Tesco’s for an eye-watering £12.50 cheaper than Ryanair’s
rip off offer.
We then move on to car hire from Hertz:
I have nothing against Hertz but they’re hardly a budget provider. It’s akin to walking into ASDA and being sold caviar (well not quite!). if you’re buying a ticket from Ryanair you’re not going to want overpriced travel insurance, luggage and car hire! Manoeuvring through to the check out is like a Tough Mudder assault course.
6. Asking you if you want to gamble to win your ticket for free
Yes, I’m not kidding. The last page (which thankfully is the payment screen), asks if you’d like to gamble £2.49 to win your ticket!
‘All this for free’ you’re told, parading the ‘prizes’ like a ‘Price Is Right’ carousel. I don’t know about you but I’d rather win a trip to Guantanamo Bay than take a Ryanair flight. What I really don’t like here is that they’re clearly preying on a vulnerable audience who can’t afford to splash the cash and might be desperate enough to wastefully gamble £2.49 to win a flight, car hire and a cheap bag.
So the verdict is clear. Buying a Ryanair ticket is almost as bad as boarding a Ryanair flight. The only difference here is that you can easily close your browser and decide you’re happy to stay in England, rather than being stranded 40,000 feet in the air being charged for going to the toilet.
I’ve since been pointed to the following site which confirms my thoughts.
This is my first ever Christmas where I have the pleasure of hosting my boyfriend’s family, which include his mum, sister, and two of his nieces who are 15 and 9 years old. Coming from a Jewish family I never really celebrated the big J’s special day and as a youngster missed out on the obligatory present giving and festivities. To make up for my lost Christmases I’ve decided that this year should be the perfect Christmas. Great food, great company and most important of all, great presents. For Terry’s 9 year old niece I planned to buy the must-have toy of the year (shhh, don’t tell!), the new Furby!
For anyone that has had to source the ‘must have toy of the year’ for Christmas day, my sympathies go out to you. It’s a stressful process, and can become a bit of a battle. Back when the internet didn’t exist I might have had to queue outside Hamleys waiting for the doors to open and preparing for fisticuffs with anyone that tried to impede my quest for the Furby. These days you can shop from the comfort of your own home, removing all the stress of the high street. Surely the task of buying a Furby online would be child’s play…
I began my search one winter’s day in November on the well known search engine Google, typing the keyword ‘furby’ into the browser, expecting a raft of offers for the furry little toy. As I clicked through the sponsored links, to my dismay, every retailer was out of stock! My first choice was a pink and purple Furby, not one in stock. I then thought yellow might be a good colour, none of them were in stock either. I wondered would white be a good option, it might get dirty but it did look cute. Sadly there were no white Furbies either. No Furbies anywhere!
What I wanted to know was why all these retailers were advertising against the search term ‘furby’ but didn’t have any to sell. These are some of the largest retailers in Britain, including John Lewis, Argos and Tesco. I continued my search for the best part of two weeks, still with no joy. During this period I tried all manner of tactics to get hold of the elusive toy. I even considered getting a blue one, for a girl! I know, crazy! I tried ‘click to collect’ on Argos, which allows you to reserve your goods and collect them at a time that is convenient to you. I’d reserved my Furby to collect from the Victoria branch and as I traipsed there on my lunch break I thought how great it was that I could buy something online and pop down the high street to collect it. To my dismay, when I got to Argos I discovered that it hadn’t been reserved at all, only the 4 AA batteries that I had also set aside. Imagine making a consumer go to a store, telling them the goods have arrived, and then allowing them to walk away empty handed without so much as an apology. Thanks Argos!
I also tried ’request stock alert’, which is a way to alert the retailer that you’re interested in buying a specific product and want to be emailed or texted when the product is back in stock. I haven’t received either in two weeks. And before you say anything, they could at least have sent me an email after a week to say that the bloody toy was still not in stock and they would alert me as soon as it arrived*. It’s a little thing called CRM that all major retailers ‘apparently’ employ.
What’s even more galling is Amazon’s paid search ad which claims to have ‘low prices on Furby’; when I clicked through I discovered that I would have to pay upwards of 30% more than the recommended retail price to get one those furry buggers. Ebay was no better, with loads of greedy resellers trying to make me bid more than 40% more than the recommended retail price. Two of the supposedly cheapest online retailers provided an even worse experience than the traditional high street.
Some of the other paid search ads I came across included the rather unhelpful www.stockinformer.co.uk which allows you to check inventory across all major retailers selling the Furby. The title of their ad reads ‘£47.99 – Furby – In Stock’. Guess what? There are no Furbies in stock at £47.99! Another unhelpful ad uk.toyssale.com, an arbitrage website, linked to Ebay and Amazon with incorrect prices all over the place.
You can imagine that by this stage I would have given up. I decided instead to try and get it on the high street. I popped in to Argos a second time, without clicking to collect, and got the last white Furby for the lovely Lily (and now I see that white was the right colour for a girl named after a white flower). Ironically my high street experience turned out to be less painful and much quicker than my online one.
I’m aghast that with the advancements in paid search, and the amount of money these major retailers must be paying their media agencies, that they aren’t using data feeds and automatically pausing keywords for products which are out of stock, and advertising the correct price of the goods in the ad copy. For a start the’re wasting money. But more importantly, they’re leaving the consumer with a very poor experience. I’ve since decided to do the rest of my Christmas shopping offline.
*Since writing this article I have received an update from Tesco telling they still don’t have the toy in stock.
Whilst surveying my book recommendations on Amazon I chanced upon a recent industry publication entitled ‘How Brands Grow’ by Byron Sharp. The premise of the book is to disprove many the marketing principles many of us live and die by today. The main points can be summarised as follows:
- Competitive brands generally have a similar customer base
- Paying premiums for low reach media is a waste of money
- Price promotions do not grow your customer base
- The largest percentage of a brand’s customer base will only make a purchase once or twice a year…
- …For this reason over investing in already highly loyal customers or retention schemes and neglecting to reach new buyers or casual buyers is a folly.
Byron Sharp goes on to make many other interesting observations, all heavily reliant on data but I wanted to concentrate on the ones above, mainly for their pertinence to the digital space. Before I go on, ‘How Brands Grow’ is a landmark publication and well worth a read for anyone in marketing.
For many years us digital folk have lauded the channel’s ability to target a brand’s potential customers more accurately than any other channel. Recently there has been an overwhelming amount of noise about ‘big data’. Part of the lure of big data is the ability to target acute groups of people like 54 year old women in Mill Hill who read gossip magazines. Byron Sharp might see this strategy as pointless, especially seeing as he thinks ‘it’s wrong to assume that a brand appeals to a particular type of buyer’. This must mean that ‘paying premiums’ to the likes of Bluekai and Exelate is a bit of a waste of money. I myself have witnessed highly targeted campaigns under performing against high reach low cost media buys. This is partly because the cost of the data outweighed the media spend (ridiculous I know) and the other reason being that cookies don’t scale. There aren’t many 54year old women in Mill Hill reading gossip magazines, and so once you’ve exhausted this particular audience segment you have no where else to go.
Sharp’s next point about price promotions is particularly relevant to digital media. Price promotions are often a mainstay of any direct response campaign, and prerequisite for any affiliate marketing efforts. Byron Sharp makes the point that price promotions don’t have a lasting effect on sales. No big surprises here. Having overseen many price lead campaigns the big sales spike is always followed by a sharp decline once the campaign has run its course. Brands are often forced to compete on price online because it’s all too easy for customers to switch websites at the click of a button, but the longer term effects of price-cutting are more often than not destructive. Online marketers often use incentives as a tactic to improve sales volumes as a quick fix solution, not really thinking about longer term implications.
Investing in customer loyalty by re-targeting prospects or existing customers is another mainstay online media tactic that we all employ to improve conversion rates. Sharp would argue against re-targeting existing prospects, and to focus attention on growing the prospect cookie pool by finding new customers on an ongoing basis. Reaching a new audience requires a certain amount of data to implement, but not the smorgasbord of customer data that is available to us.
Is big data the panacea we suppose it to be or have we over egged the omelette? This all depends on what role we think digital media plays in the advertising mix. A lot of the digital channels and tactics we employ today are a suitable condiment to a much wider marketing strategy but many of them do not grow brands. This includes re-messaging, price promoting and behavioural targeting. Before anyone shoots me down I’m not in any way underplaying the potential of these tactics to play an important role in a person’s decision making process. In the industry there is a lot of emphasis on targeting and data and less perhaps on finding new customers (or prospecting). The challenge with prospecting is often one of measurement. To plan measure and evaluate this correctly you would would need to apply metrics that are more meaningful than reach and frequency but less empirical than sales and revenue. A final few words on big data. Today’s market is cluttered with data providers who have oversold the powers of targeted media, this will change in time. Data is only powerful when you can do something with it, and we are often in danger of focusing on the small stuff over the big stuff. As more media channels become digitized, growing brands in an online environment will not just be a ‘nice to have’, but a requirement. On that note I shall return to Amazon to see what other literary treasures I might find. Thanks for reading.
- The New Use Cases of Big Data: Marketing (talend.com)
What with the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee soon upon us, you might think there couldn’t be much more to celebrate about. You’d be wrong. The viewable impression metric has arrived! (cue the erection of bunting and the arrival of a deviled egg platter). For those of you who are not digital media geeks some explanation might be required before you burst into rapturous applause and scoff down your coronation chicken.
The metric that we use to trade display media is the impression. An impression happens when an online advert is served to a website and is ‘seen’ or viewed by the user. Or so you might think. The advert doesn’t have to appear on the website (it may load after the user has vacated to another website) and it doesn’t need to appear ‘in view’ (meaning that it might load on the page but the user has scrolled down or up and has missed it). Both these scenarios are pretty common. So common in fact that according to some reports up to 68% of display adverts are never seen by the user. In effect most of the impressions that advertisers buy are never even seen, let alone clicked on. This is hardly a surprise considering the volume of ads that are served and the ease of which it is to ignore them.
So what I hear you cry! A huge number of TV ads are never seen too. Think of how many people leave their living rooms to go to the loo or put the kettle on during Corry (not me, I’m more of a Glee man). Whilst this might be true, advertisers are paying because the ad is available to be viewed. This doesn’t translate online as many ads are not available to be viewed, and are often served so far down a web page that they are hard to find, let alone see. This is the main reason that brand advertisers are not investing more money in display. Not only does no one click on the damned things (except in error), but most ads aren’t seen either.
Publishers like Facebook are desperate for brand dollars. After all 63% of all media is spent on branding. The drive to justify the brand impact of display media is critical to the future growth of all content providers online, especially Facebook (who have managed to dwindle us with an entirely unmeasurable metric called ‘engagement’ for too long). We are all chasing this quest to find out if online display really packs a punch, we are searching for the truth and won’t rest until we know.
The viewable impression, which seeks to measure impressions that have actually been viewed is regarded as one answer to solving this issue. If we know that our ads have actually been seen then surely we will be one step closer to understanding the broadcast impact (or limitations as the case may be) of online media. Some detractors of the viewable impression have argued that this will simply force publishers to raise their rates. Well I say so what! Surely advertisers will be happy to pay for ads that are actually seen. Furthermore, with all this talk of attribution, surely the most important missing piece is to understand the impact of ads that are actually viewed and their potential role in the purchase funnel. All attribution models right now account for impressions whether they have been seen or not which is a complete waste of time. Giving credit to a view which has not really been ‘viewed’ is like awarding Barack Obama the Nobel peace prize (yes, that happened too).
There are of course many technical challenges to measuring whether an ad is in view as most ads are served through iframes. This is set to change however, and I think we’ll see more publishers allowing their ads to be tracked as in-view. We may then be closer to that ever unknown truth about display media and it’s real impact as a branding vehicle and a broadcast medium. We may even find out the unimaginable, and that might not be a bad thing in this opaque world we call advertising.
- Industry Continues Push for Viewable Impressions (adweek.com)
- We Need A New Way To Define Ad Impressions (businessinsider.com)
- How to ‘insure’ your digital media activity (nathanlevi.com)
- Clicks Don’t Count! (neurosciencemarketing.com)
- Study: For Display Ads Clicks Have “Nearly Zero” Correlation With Conversion (marketingland.com)
- For Display Ads, Being Seen Matters More than Being Clicked (ComScore)
A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the web looking for a suitable holiday destination and decided upon Miami. Whilst I was in research mode I visited a couple of websites which told me what the weather would be like, I looked at a couple of dodgy ‘things to do in Miami’ information sites, and then I dealt with the hell of trawling through every travel aggregator that exists, and that includes Google, which now with its acquisition of the ITA and its partnership deals with the likes of Expedia and Bookings.com, gives you pricing information in its search results. I won’t bore you with why I think the travel sector above all others, presents the most complex and convoluted purchase cycle for the user, that distinguishing whether or not you are getting a good deal is almost impossible, and that every aggregator seems to be an affiliate of the other to the point that there is no dissimilation between any of them. Travel rant over.
Now back to my Miami trip. I decided upon a particular hotel, made the booking and all was well again. To my amusement and eventual frustration the hotel I’d booked decided to advertise to me on every website I visited for the next two weeks, I’m still getting them now! I thought this might be a one off, but a week ago I needed to buy a new fridge – Appliances Online have been targeting me ever since, with banners full of fridges. It’s like every brand has decided to jump on the re-targeting bandwagon and are now pestering us users without even questioning that we might have found a cheaper deal elsewhere – “and that’s why I didn’t buy your bloody fridge Appliances Online” (I must sort my rage out, perhaps my trip to Miami might make me feel better). It seems ridiculous that in the era of the social web there is no way for me to tell Appliances Online to stop pestering me because they’re not as cheap as they think they are. Or to tell the Miami resort I’m due to stay at that I’m a customer, not a prospect. Frequency capping and segmenting prospect groups should be considered display re-targeting 101. Allowing your prospects to engage with you in-banner should also be pre-requisite. Surely the feedback would be extremely valuable to any advertiser. (Facebook is the only platform where you can feedback that you find an advertiser irritating, and whilst I think Facebook could improve the feedback categorization they provide, how many advertisers actually question how many people find their advertising repetitive and stop doing it. Facebook don’t allow you to frequency cap so I’m constantly feeding back that I find the advertising repetitive, but that’s another story).
That’s not my only beef. It appears that certain re-targeting technologies (you know who you two are) are intent on capturing the ‘last click’ regardless of how invasive it might come across to the user. With privacy coming under greater scrutiny it seems bizarre that advertisers would want to bombard prospects and customers this way. Even more bizarre is that they don’t actually want to tell people who have visited their site anything new. Spray and pray methodology is alive and well in most behavioural targeting strategies, and what a shame that is.
Don’t get me wrong, re-targeting is a great strategy, but it’s so often tracked in a way that excludes prior media channel interactions. If we look at my Miami example above, the dodgy information site I visited which told me all about the great beaches I could see would get no credit for driving my purchase decision at all. With more and more brands using tag management as an all encompassing measurement tool, what rules are being set to give credit to re-targeted ads, if any? Display re-targeting is a false economy if it’s not measured correctly and its poor execution is in my opinion contributing to a huge amount of distrust with web users. Re-targeting should also be a very small component of a larger media strategy, prospecting is where the real smarts sit and where planners should be focussing more of their attention.
I’ll leave you with my top tips on best practice for display re-targeting:
1. If you have a CPA deal with a re-targeting technology stop now, you’re more than likely paying double what you should, if not more
2. Insist your re-targeted ads are frequency capped and have an end date
3. Segment your prospects into those that have purchased and those that have not and set exclusion rules for customers, especially loyal ones who don’t need selling to
4. Segment your prospects into different ‘lapsed’ groups and have a different messaging strategy for each
5. If you are using tag management technology set appropriate rules for re-targeted ads, they should be given the least credit (in my opinion). If you want to work out how much credit they should be given work out the overall incremental uplift from re-targeted activity, this will give you a truer reflection of what you should be paying
Miami here I come. And yes, I will be speaking with the hotel owner about their online media tactics.