Hey there Sea Changers and welcome back. Today I feel that I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this latest post as I discuss how to sell travel online. Yearp… this is a massive niche and one that can definitely be explored from so many angles – starting with those who simply wish to sell travel packages online to the avid traveler who is looking to fund themselves as they skip around the globe. I mean, where does it all end?
Ok, so I am maybe being a little over dramatic here – I think I need to travel a bit – so as usual, let’s break this down into some manageable chunks so that if this is something that you think you would like to start an online business around, you will have some idea as to where to start.
And before we begin, just some statistical facts for you around this niche that I found during my research:
- The proportion of direct website bookings is 66.7%, marketplace bookings 9.1% and bookings made through agents, affiliates and local tourist offices 24.3%.
- 51% of US travelers said that once they decided to go on a trip, they would spend less than one week conducting research.
- Sunday and Monday are the biggest booking days. Bookings then slowly drop from then and plateau between Wednesday to Friday before dropping dramatically on Saturday.
- Travelers who book their activities ahead of their trip spend 47% more on lodging and 81% more on transportation than those who wait to book in destination.
- For family travelers, 95% said their priority was keeping their families entertained and happy.
- 70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly.
So, on that note, let’s check it all out…
How do we get started?
Now the statistics I gave you above are simply an insight into buyer behaviour – and we can expand on this later on – but as usual, before we get started, let’s just confirm whether there really is a market for this online. Based on my initial research and the travel behaviours of most people I know, I am confident that there is. However I would hate to convince anybody to start their own online travel business and have it fall away due to lack of interest. So as usual, let’s see what people are searching for:
What are people looking for?
To start let’s just confirm our market numbers:
1. Number of monthly searches
As we are looking to see if there is an interest in the purchase of travel related goods and services online (so we can sell them), let’s start by checking for purchase related searches. You will need to find yourself a good keyword tool (I use Jaaxy) and enter in the keywords that best describe your market. In this case, let’s start with the basics:
Ok, that’s pretty good – early 1 million searches. Let’s break it down a little:
Another great result… Over 5000 searches per month looking to purchase flights online. That certainly opens up a number of options for affiliate marketers. What about hotels?:
Same – now another direction just to give you an insight into the variations available to us here:
Wow – huge search numbers – although not surprising really as something like insurance is extremely easy to sell online as there are no tangibles to them – just an outline of what you get for the price.
2. Search Trends
Another important aspect of online sales and niche selection is to check that interest is maintained over time. To gain an insight into this let’s check out how the searches for travel related products are trending online.
Ok, so right off the back, interest in flights and travel insurance is not as low as what the above graphic alludes to – it is just that surprisingly, interest in booking hotels online has trended much higher over the past 5 years. So what else does this tell us? Well let’s break it down:
- The online booking of hotels is a huge market.
- Interest in online booking and purchase has not reduced over the past 5 years – meaning that it is an evergreen niche.
- There are minor spikes in interest during the year – although this should not be unexpected due to holiday season and school holiday travel habits.
All in all, I really see a good opportunity here.
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What is our niche?
Ok, now the fun part begins – In the stats and screen dumps above, we can already see some of the interest in different niches within the travel market and I believe that if you are to succeed, you will need to carefully select a sub-niche in which to commence your online journey. There are literally hundreds of different areas you could explore here – and off the top of my head, some examples include:
- Family travel
- Business travel
- Budget/luxury travel
- Travel activities
- Sports travel
- Weddings/Honeymoons – a HUGE market
- Travel gear/accessories
- Guided travel
And that is just a few – all of which can be marketed from the point of view of a traveler, or simply as a means of supplying travel requirements to those who need them most. I also see the opportunity for some high ticket items here as well. As you start to think about this, the question to ask yourself is whether the content you are covering is too large to cover effectively. The risk here is that if you start with a niche that is too broad, you may not be able to cover everything to the level required or to become authority on the subject – which you will need to be if you are going to convince people to purchase from you and not their travel agent. Don’t forget, you can always add a new section to your site as you grow as well.
As you work through narrowing your targeted niche, consider the following:
- Are you able to solve a problem – Most people undertake searches on the internet to solve a problem – see next section.
- Is it a subject that you have an interest, or knowledge in– I am guessing that you are in this post as you know about, or have an interest in travel or travel products. If you don’t have either of these, maybe consider another market as, to be honest, you might struggle to produce solid content if you don’t know much about them – or worse, have no interest in them – and trust me, people will know immediately if your information is not up to scratch or even worse, can put the enjoyment of their travel at risk.
Let’s investigate this a little further by discussing the problem solving elements of niche selection.
What problem are we solving?
If this is a niche that you are interested in, you may already know what it is that you are trying to sell. If not, then maybe start to look at it from the perspective of solving problems. This, added to your area of interest is a great way to work out exactly what you think you might like to base your business upon.
Think about your own search behaviours when you are online – I would hazard a guess that most searches you do are in order to solve a problem. Now think of these in a manner in which someone might have problems within the greater travel niche such as:
- You know what you need a new lightweight carry-on travel case but don’t know which one is best.
- You have a problem and need a solution – I.e. “I need to go to my cousin’s wedding in Bali but can’t afford to pay a fortune for flights and accommodation”.
Your goal here is to determine just what problem/s you are trying to solve for your readers. This maybe one problem that spans your site or differ for each post that you write. For example, if you have chosen travel ‘equipment’ for your niche, then problems might be:
- Matching products to age – They want to know what the best accessories are to keep a child occupied during travel – you would outline these with recommended products to match.
- Which to buy – There are a number of travel bags to hold push-bikes – but which is best?
In these cases, people would be searching for those topics based on having a problem and needing a solution. Your site would outline and review the best options for them.
Alternatively, if your site is about choosing the best hotels in a certain city, then you would be addressing problems such as:
- Where to stay on a budget with a family
- Best hotels with business facilities
- Honeymoon options
You would then be outlining the best hotels for each need including
- In house entertainment
- Wedding/honeymoon packages
- and so on
And of course, if you are solving these problems whilst traveling, you will also assist your readers with a YouTube video showing them around or even staying there to write your review (and if you get a decent enough following, the hotels will let you stay there for free!)
Note: You do not need to identify every possible problem that your readers may have straight away. In many cases, the more you write, the more ‘problems’ will present themselves so initially you really just want to make sure that there are some that may need solving as we have found here.
How are you going to convince them to buy?
Now that we know our niche (or are at least working on it) and have an idea of the types of problems that we want to solve, there is one last thing to consider which is the issue who we are actually targeting and their consumer buying habits. We already know that people do a great deal of their travel spending online so the last thing to consider is the online purchase behaviour of your targeted audience. Let’s use an example.
If you are looking at setting up a travel blog for the budget traveler, then you will need to consider exactly who will be looking at your site. The first group that comes to mind is backpackers – they generally like hostels. But what about families? Oh, and don’t forget the startup business travelers who don’t have the corporate gold card up and running just yet. Your sales/post pitches not only need to match the needs of the problem that your site visitors are looking to solve, but also target them specifically as well. Some examples include:
- Those that are looking for the most cost effective option will want to know what is the best bang is for their buck based on their individual needs. Families will most probably not want to know about hostels and budget business travelers may not really care if there is a water slide in the pool. That is not to say you can’t target them all with the same hotel, just make sure you have all bases covered.
- Those looking for advice and assistance will want to know that your information is sound and not going to put their holiday, safety or finances at risk.
- First time travelers will generally want to know everything about the products you are discussing or promoting as they are either nervous about their purchase or simply want the best – I know, massive generalisation here but I have seen it in action…
- If you are dealing with frequent travelers on the other hand (like I was in a previous job) – Just make it as easy as possible to get from A to B – give them the information and let them get on with it.
So at the end of the day, even though we do have purchaser behaviour on our side, to be successful in travel products online, consider the following:
- Solve problems without purchase – That’s right – write your posts in a way that actually makes it easier for people to do their research and buy elsewhere – by doing this, you are solving problems and helping readers out. If they trust you, they will be more likely to return next time and buy from you then – especially if you follow up with posts on similar or compatible products that might interest them!
- Provide the intangibles – One major disadvantage when it comes to travel online is that we can’t really know what ‘fun’ looks like for different people. Your posts will need to cover this information in a manner that puts minds at ease. A good picture of a happy family swimming in the pool, or a businessman working in the hotel lobby will go a long way here.
- Know your audience – A big mistake many make here is to target the product and not necessarily the buyer. This is especially important around the world of travel. It is very easy for example to get carried away explaining how great a cruise is because it is cheap and visits the best islands all the while forgetting that your more ‘mature’ customers will probably not want to go during the kids travel free promotion. The same goes for high end options… Expensive doesn’t always mean safe or appropriate. Make sure you do your research on the buying behaviours of those you are targeting before writing your posts.
Tip: Still not sure? Have a look and see what others are doing. It might just help you with some ideas.
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How do we sell travel?
Ok, now we come to probably the most important aspect of this whole online selling caper in that we need to consider how we are going to sell products we have decided to promote. Depending on the product, there are a number of methods you can use to do this. Let’s explore them below:
Affiliate programs are setup directly by companies or marketplace platforms (Amazon, Ebay etc.) that allow you to join and then refer traffic to them via customised affiliate links. In short, this means that you will write about travel products and then refer your readers to a link where they will purchase directly from the vendors. The vendors then pay you a commission for the sale.
Affiliate programs are especially good for travel as most of the large travel sites do offer these meaning that you can refer your readers to well-known and trusted sites in order to gain commission from the sales. Normally as this stage I would outline that to find affiliate programs in the travel space, you simply type “affiliate: travel” into your search engine:
However, as we can see above, there is quite a range. So as per our keyword searches earlier within this post, let’s break it down a little and check out hotels:
Again, there is a large amount to choose from – and many of the top brands and travel sites are represented as well. Maybe just one last look from a different angle such as luggage:
So, as you can see, there are plenty of options in regards to affiliate programs for travel related niches. As you search through them all, you can check it all out and find programs that:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have quality products – your brand can be severely damaged if you promote poor quality or unsafe products.
- Have solid payment and customer service arrangements.
- Pay decent commissions.
- Have good testimonials covering commission payouts and quality of product.
- Whether they have high ticket items you can promote on the side.
In most cases, you will need to apply for the program before you are allowed to promote their products – don’t take this step lightly or you will be rejected. Affiliate programs will generally want to know:
- Your website name.
- Traffic levels.
- Why you want to join – (so I can make money by selling your suitcases is unfortunately not generally a good enough answer).
- How you plan to promote their products.
One thing to be aware of here I guess is to keep in mind the issues we discussed earlier in regards to selling travel related products online. You need to make sure that the programs you choose can be trusted and that the consumer is comfortable that they have recourse if something goes wrong. For this reason you will need to make sure that your chosen programs are going to resonate with your readers and your niche. That said, some marketplace programs such as Amazon and EBay can give you access to these types of products and as they are more trusted, then they maybe worth a look for sure. Some Amazon examples are as below:
Dropshipping is something that may be of advantage to you in this niche if you are working with physical travel items such as luggage, pet carriers and accessories etc. This process is similar to affiliate marketing in that you are generally promoting the products of others without the need to actually hold any inventory. With affiliate marketing, you are paid a commission on whatever price the vendor sets but do not manage any customer service, sales processes or post sales requirements. The main difference with dropshipping, is that you perform the following (there are a number of variations to this but this is the guist of it):
- Strike a relationship with a wholesaler.
- Promote the product for whatever price you see fit – often via a marketplace site such as Shopify, Amazon or Ebay.
- Manage the sales processes and customer service.
- Send the final order and payment to the wholesaler for packaging and shipping.
The money that you make is effectively the difference between whatever you managed to sell the product for and the wholesale price that you owe the vendor. The other advantages of dropshipping over affiliate marketing is that:
- You own the customer list – which is another means of building an effective email list.
- You control the cost of the product and hence the profit margins.
- You can control when you put things on ‘sale’, group them in packages or increase the price for high demand items.
The disadvantages however are the extra workload in handling payment and any ongoing customer service requirements.
To find dropshipping suppliers online, you can enter searches such as “luggage: supplier” into your favourite search engine:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location.
From here you can search through and find programs that:
- Offer dropshipping services – Not all product suppliers offer dropshipping as a service – this may just mean that you need to organise the shipping yourself after it is delivered to you.
- Have experience and are helpful – If they are not helpful and/or appear inexperienced then you can expect the same when you are trying to process sales.
- Have acceptable fees – most dropshipping wholesalers will charge a small fee for the dropshipping service – just make sure it is not so high that it eats into your profit margins.
- Provide fast shipping – One disadvantage with dropshipping when dealing with vendors is that the customer is yours, not theirs hence sometimes shipping priorities are not where they should be – make sure shipping times are acceptable.
- Have quality products – as with affiliate marketing, don’t sell rubbish.
- Have a good name – do your research and see what others are saying about them.
Offer feedback, reviews, use etc.
The two options listed above are designed to be run anywhere with a laptop, meaning that you can certainly set these up and run them from anywhere in the world – in fact, this may help with your credibility if you are writing from absolute experience in regards to a particular hotel or accessory etc. If you are planning on actually traveling and looking for ways to earn an income, then there is another way that you can earn some cash. Many travel bloggers and vloggers make good money by providing reviews, feedback and comments in regards to your experiences when on the move.
The trick here is to gain a good following (which will take some decent time – this is a saturated market unfortunately) so that as you are writing about your experiences you can not only make money from affiliate links as above, but you can actually be paid by those you are reviewing to review, use or promote their products. The usual process here is that a hotel company will notice you writing from their resort and will contact you to write about it and stay there for free. But keep in mind, these arrangements can sometimes call in to question your integrity. I mean if you are being paid to review a resort, the bill payers tend to expect a decent review – which can be hard of you are staying in a flea pit.
And as you continue to build a following – you will soon attract the attention of the travel accessory companies who will want to pay you to simply take your photos whilst wearing their jackets, shoes or carrying their luggage. However, in the interests of keeping it real, remember that in order to gain a good following as a ‘traveler’ and attract the attention of cashed up companies, you will need to do some serious traveling – on your own dime.
What do we need to do?
Ok, so now that we have an idea in regards to our niche and know some of the problems that we can investigate, we need to choose and setup the media that we intend to use to sell our product. This can include:
Build a Website
If you are looking to build your online business as an affiliate marketer, supplier or even as a travel blogger, you will most probably need a website. Websites allow you to solve problems via blog posts and videos that people can view in order to identify the solutions that they need. Usually, this process is fairly straight forward in that you build your website, write posts (on the differences between certain types of carry-on luggage for example), then provide links so that your readers can view/purchase the relevant materials from your links.
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Promote on Social Media
When it comes to travel, there is probably no more powerful tool than Social media. It has the power to reach thousands and allows you to target specific segments if you choose the correct platform. In terms of travel products online, a good platform to start with is FaceBook where you can discuss items with your audience.
However, if you are looking to set yourself up as a travel blogger, Instagram and YouTube will be your absolute best friend – some even use these platforms without a website. These are the platform that are good for visuals such as pictures and/or videos showing you traveling, using products, sitting in resorts and so on. And again, if you are able to build a following during your time on the road, this is where you will be noticed and paid gazillions to wear the right products – well enough to fund your travel anyway…
Join like-minded groups
One thing that you may notice about many travelers is that they either:
- Make friends on their trips that they want to keep in touch with
- Like to relive and discuss their trips
- Like to research everything they can before they go.
And in general, much if this behaviour is undertaken within social groups usually found online. By getting involved with these groups you can really get a great understanding as to what they are struggling with, what information they seek and what products they are looking to buy. Below is an example of cruise related FaceBook groups:
Note: Many of these groups will not allow you to spruike or promote your sites directly, however if you can interact and demonstrate your knowledge then people will ask you directly for the information. At the very least, as above, it is a great way to get ideas and insight into what people in this area really want to know about and what they are buying online.
And there it is – How to make money selling travel products online. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, need some advice or have any experiences to share.
Do you want further assistance with any of the above or need help to build your own travel product related website?
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Until next time
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