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Chinese tourists lead development of global cross-border mktg

Cross-border marketing development is booming, as international tourism has continued to grow for six consecutive years since 2015. The number will keep increasing over at least the next ten years. A statistic indicated that there were almost 1.2 billion international tourists in 2015, and it is expected to reach 18 billion by 2030. The international tourist receipts are also expected to grow from USD 1,260 billion in 2015 to nearly USD 2 trillion by 2026, an increase of more than 50 per cent.

Frankly, I am not surprised with these figures, as all of us can witness how ‘travel’ turns to an indispensable part of our lives, like for holidays, graduation, honeymoon, retirement, etc.. Tourism has become a ‘necessity’ to some extent, and our contribution to ‘tourism’ has created tremendous travel-related business opportunities for the market and also contributed to the overall global economic development.

According to the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) data, it shows that the direct contribution of international travel and tourism was three per cent of global total GDP in 2015, about USD 2,230 billion. This number is forecast to rise by 4.2 per cent in the next decade to around USD 3,500 billion in 2026. In 2015, the total tourism receipts (direct and indirect contribution) accounted for about 10 per cent of global GDP, equivalent to USD 7,200 billion. In a regional level, Asia and the Pacific were the most popular, receiving nine per cent more international arrivals, more than double of the global average increase of four per cent in the first half of 2016.

It is expected that by 2030, the Asia-Pacific region will host the world’s one-third of the international tourists. Across the Asia-Pacific region, China attracted the largest number of international tourists, followed by Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Japan. The tourists visiting these five places accounted for 57 per cent of international tourists in the Asia-Pacific region. The data shows that the top five international visitors of the major tourist cities in Asia, such as Singapore and Bangkok, were from other cities in Asia; for example, Hong Kong contributed the most tourists in Bangkok. In 2015, up to 1.5 million Hong Kong visitors in Bangkok contributed more than USD 100 million.

Among Asian tourists, Chinese tourists are the key to the development of cross-border tourism. In 2015, Chinese tourists were the world’s top spenders in international tourism receipts with spending around USD 290 billion, which is approximately equivalent to Singapore’s GDP. Compared to the second-ranked American tourists, Chinese tourists spent nearly more USD 180 billion than American tourists. More noteworthy is that currently only five per cent of China’s 1.4 billion population have passports, which are about 70 million people.

Assuming there is a slight increase of one per cent in the number of passport holders, the overall spending will increase by USD 52 billion. Today, in order to seize this group of affluent Chinese tourists, consumer brands as well as government departments and institutions are trying to interpret the behaviors of Chinese tourists.

It is estimated that a Chinese tourist goes abroad nearly two times a year on average. Tourists from Mainland China spend an average of almost a quarter of their income each year. Late 90’ and 60’ spend more sumptuously than 70’ and Late 80’: they spend the most on shopping accounting for up to 35 per cent of their total spending, followed by hotel accommodation (21 per cent), and traffic (14 per cent). Their travel mode is gradually changing.

The tour companies no longer run the show, while backpacking and half backpacking will be a major trend. The Chinese tourism experts estimated that it has been a booming backpacking trend going on since 2015, and will last for ten years. 95 per cent of Chinese tourists brought smart phones while travel, and 80 per cent of these people said that they used the mobile apps to arrange itineraries. This behaviour of highly dependent on the smartphones is the key to the vigorous development of big data, also the basis for companies to master the cross-border marketing business opportunities.

Some people said, “Get mobile data, then you get the world.” Compared to computers, smartphones collect more personalised and comprehensive online user behavior effectively, so it is easier to build a big database and receive data including advertising ID—IDFA/GAID, mobile phone operating systems, user’s locations, and so on. All of the above have become the big data cornerstone of cross-border marketing that allows to efficiently target at international tourists. With this stable foundation, the artificial intelligence can have in-depth and accurate understanding of the habits and preferences of international travelers in three different stages of tourism (pre-trip, during-trip, and post-trip) by analysing the data, and to create a better conversion rate for brands.

To take a real example, in order to build up the brand image and encourage Chinese tourists in Hong Kong to increase the usage of its credit card, a credit card brand targeted to deliver mobile ads to Chinese tourists while traveling in Hong Kong. The first step was to identify Chinese travelers in Hong Kong by detecting the users’ phone language settings and online behaviors, and then based on the users’ different online behaviors and habits and the result of consumer data analysis, to put focus on delivering ads on the mobile phones of potential consumers.

Vpon optimised the advertising strategy depending on variables such as operating systems, Internet access, personal interests, and so on. We found that the ad engagement rate of iOS users was better than that of Android users, people turning on data roaming on their smartphones got a higher click-through rate on ads, and shoppers were more likely to engage with ads than food lovers or travel enthusiasts were. Finally, through multi-dimensional targeting and continuous ad strategy optimisation, the click-through rate of the campaign increased by nearly 30 per cent.

Another example of a positive result is from the hotel industry. The world’s largest hotel group attempted to attract Chinese tourists to become members through mobile advertising and thus to build the long-term relationships. With monitoring the real-time mobile data, Vpon optimised the campaign from diverse approaches. Specifically, in terms of time, the media budget was allocated during the evening hours, while avoiding the morning or commute hours. As for geographical locations, the mobile ad was delivered to the mobile devices detected in the first-tier cities with high-income and more potential international tourists, cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and the eastern coastal cities.

Regarding ad creatives, the mobile ad were mainly the interstitial ads with the highest conversion rate, and reduced the usage of banner ads and native ads. As for the operating system, the ad strategy put focus on the Android phones with higher conversion rate. The number of conversions kept increasing due to the optimisation, reaching a significant increase of 40 per cent and effectively raising the number of registered members.

More importantly, these data are not one-off or one-way, which change through continuous tracking and interaction. With accurate audience tags added in the data management platform (DMP), Vpon has more comprehensive understanding for each international tourist, and the retargeting also comes into being. Regardless of where the target audience is, the brands can reach them continuously, not only increasing their brand loyalty and engagement rate, but also clarifying the audience profile in the database.

For example, a retail brand uses retargeting to deliver ads to international travelers who are interested in the brand, and the feedback and behavior of the target audience will be collected, labelled accurately, and then analysed, including whether and when to click on ads or shopping, how they get online, media, and so on.

Big data creates marketing accuracy, and finds the most suitable entry point in all travel scenarios for all industries. However, big data is not a panacea, which has to meet the brand’s goal and strategy to maximise the effect. In the ‘before-trip’ stage, the cross-border marketing is suitable for national tourism bureaus, hotels, travel agencies, and airlines to deliver ads to the target audience who once searches destination information, local accommodation, and traffic information.

For the ‘during-trip’ stage, the solution aims for retailers, credit card issuers, and any companies who would like to reach international tourists, because at this stage tourists are easy to be attracted to the shopping information in the nearby area. The cross-border solution features the O2O (Online to Offline) deployment which can significantly encourage tourists to use the brand services while traveling in the destinations. Finally, in the ‘post-trip’ stage, the solution is suitable for retargeting customers who have once shown interests, so that brands and consumers can establish long-term relationships.

For those who want to seize the opportunities of international tourism business, using big data-driven cross-border marketing is inevitable. Only through data can a brand create an ideal ROI. It is important to take advantage of the big data of smartphone users to accurately reach the target audience, and to reach them based on different stages of their entire journeys to successfully unlock the potential of big data.

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Victor Wu

As the CEO and co-founder of Vpon since 2008, Victor Wu is responsible for development and implementation of business strategies, managing businesses cross nations and regions and leading the team to provide world famous brands with mobile marketing solutions. He also successfully raised two runs of venture capital funding of US$ 17 million in total. Prior to the establishment of Vpon, Victor held system engineering and marketing positions for an extended period of time at IBM, where he led IT system planning and designing teams to work with many financial institutions, including ABN AMRO, ING Group, and UBS with annual sales over millions US Dollars.