St Austell Brewery: Reclaiming the staycation
- An integrated digital strategy to increase direct room bookings for St Austell Brewery venues, whilst reducing dependency on Online Travel Agents and providing ownership of their relationships with customers throughout the journey. The strategy was seeded from the genuine truth based on St Austell’s positioning – a local brewery, situated in the heart of the West Country, with expertise in the area, and what it has to offer.
- Increase the profitability of venues by reducing reliance on OTAs (e.g. Booking.com).
- Lower cost-of-acquisition - OTAs take a 15% commission meaning the target was to keep the CPA under 15% to get a better investment on spend.
- Increase overall occupancy rates of St Austell’s accommodation throughout the year
- Like much of the travel industry, St Austell was reliant on online travel agents (OTAs) to drive room bookings to their estate of pubs and accommodation across the South West. Whilst this was effective at increasing overall bookings, it comes at a price: high commission fees and the opportunity to build direct relationships with customers. The customer experience up to the point of booking had been very transactional, with little autonomy to inspire, persuade and drive bookings directly.
- There was a clear gap where they weren’t able to communicate the right message on the right digital channel throughout the purchase journey. They wanted a strategy that enabled the brand to create and nurture their own relationships with potential customers.
“Owning the moments that matter”
- The strategy combined paid search, paid social advertising, and SEO to ensure that St Austell was present across the digital channels that holidaymakers use as they research, plan, and book a holiday in the South West.
- This combined strategy firstly reduced the dependency on OTAs, but also allowed St Austell to take ownership of their customer relationships over the longer term and communicate their brand and unique venue offerings on their own terms.
- We optimised and drove traffic towards each venue’s individual website, rather than St Austell’s main website, to build up their digital ecosystem and win more visibility in the search results, in turn, providing better long-term value.
Overview of the market
- The St Austell venues are all located in the South West of the UK. They saw a huge spike in demand during the easing of restrictions post-Covid, with holidaymakers limited to staycations in the UK, and the South West being a popular destination for these types of trips.
- The strategy needed to retain that interest and desire post-pandemic, encouraging people to keep booking staycations in the region over holidays abroad.
- We used market insights to drive the strategy and align it back to the findings. For example, against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, holidaymakers have been searching for better value. So, the role for St Austell was to inform holidaymakers about cheaper accommodation options and free things to do.
- The strategy focused on older, active couples whose main motivation was to ‘get away from it all’.
- Insights from Visit Britain* reported that UK holidays are becoming more popular than overseas, because they’re cheaper. Holidaymakers are searching for value and we know that affordability is an important decision-making factor, given the current cost-of-living crisis. They’re looking for more affordable activities, and free things to do, whilst still enjoying some time away and connecting with nature. They enjoy walks, exploring heritage sites and tasting local foods.
- The campaigns were based on the common interests of these audiences, such as dog-friendly getaways, cosy Autumn trips and exploring the outdoors.
- We incorporated both Meta and Instagram for the paid social advertising, as these channels are frequently used by the target audiences.
Venue positioning and prioritisation
- There were two main challenges - the budget and amount of venues. With 26 venues across the South West, we needed to find a way to allocate the budget across all venues, as well as individualising the activity for each venue.
- The most efficient way to use the budget was creating campaigns for 4-8 venues per quarter for SEO & Meta, and using ‘always on’ paid search which covered all venues with unique messages.
- We created a venue matrix, tagging the attributes for each, such as if it’s dog-friendly, sea-view rooms and parking facilities. With this information, we were able to prioritise the venues in a data-driven way, considering both business priority, and whether they fit the campaign themes.
- The integrated strategy has driven exceptional results since it launched in January 2023:
- 35% year-on-year increase in room bookings
- Lowered CPA from 15% to 9% per booking
- 54% increase in organic conversion rate for optimised vs. non-optimised sites (1.27% vs 0.82%)
- All optimised venues have seen keywords improve for the target categories, including dog-friendly and accommodation/hotels. This drove non-branded traffic to increase by 24% YoY, increasing visibility further up the customer journey.
- 154% increase in PPC conversion rate
- We are looking forward to taking these learnings into future campaign work for St Austell.