When it comes to markets, few are more competitive than New York’s tourism industry. More than 61 million people visit the Big Apple every year, and there are thousands of brands and businesses that have sprung up to help them take a bite out of it.

So, how do you stand out from the crowd and set yourself apart from aggressive competitors whose brand recognition and massive advertising budgets have turned them into household names?

That was the challenge facing Major Tom when we worked with the New York-based interactive experience, THE RIDE.

Along for THE RIDE

THE RIDE is the next generation of sightseeing experience. Interactive by nature, THE RIDE takes visitors on an immersive multimedia adventure tour through the streets of New York City.

It’s a thoroughly modern approach to a well-worn industry, and one that demanded a modern approach to marketing in order to set itself apart from well-established competitors who had been running tours in the Big Apple for decades.

THE RIDE approached Major Tom to engage our digital marketing services in order to raise brand recognition — and ultimately increase ridership.

A big challenge in the Big Apple

Though it undoubtedly offers a unique experience for visitors to enjoy, THE RIDE was up against stiff competition in New York’s thriving tourism industry.

As you might expect for one of the world’s most iconic urban destinations, New York is filled with major players, including tour operators that boast global brand recognition and lots of brand cachet.

There are also a growing number of online travel agents who leverage huge marketing budgets to capture travellers seeking destination information through their proprietary platforms. Finally, there are local tour operators who collaborate through initiatives such as the NY Pass to gain visibility within the city itself.

This fiercely competitive landscape is the one in which THE RIDE wanted to make an impact, and challenged Major Tom to help them punch above their weight, increasing their visibility as well as ticket sales and revenues.

Starting the engine

In order to elevate THE RIDE above the competition, it was vital that we laid the foundation for success. This began with building an outstanding website that focused on user experience and strong search engine optimization.

But alongside the improvements made to the website, the right strategy was vital in order to help the company stand out from the crowd.

From the outset of the campaign, Major Tom began an extensive process of discovery to find out about every aspect of THE RIDE. By working closely with the client, we were able to develop an in-depth understanding of their audience, which in turn enabled us to identify the right tactics, technologies, and techniques to reach them.

Putting strategy into action

The tourism industry has evolved and so too have modern tourists. Today’s visitors are increasingly sophisticated, and come armed with thorough research and an in-depth understanding of the industry. They not only know how to sniff out a great deal on an experience, but they have also become adept at tuning out unwanted messaging and advertising that falls flat.

As a result, it was vital that we took a holistic approach to THE RIDE’s digital marketing, one that would combine a variety of tactics in order to serve visitors with the right information, at the right time, and on the right platform.

The first step — search engine marketing campaigns in Google AdWords and Bing Ads. The volume of searches for tourist activities in New York is enormous, so it was key that we refined the list of targeted keywords to best reach those likely to book with THE RIDE.

Next, we layered on paid social, running acquisition campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, extending the client’s reach and better communicating the brand’s fun and lively experience to the audience.

Here, we used a mix of lookalike audiences, email retargeting, and a comprehensive retargeting campaign running on both Google Display Network and Facebook to segment audiences.

Taking the tour

In order to take on established brands and big-spending tour operators, we knew that every aspect of THE RIDE’s digital strategy had to be working in harmony. Our aim was to take a holistic approach, combining social media, SEO, content, and finally paid advertising to create a seamless campaign.

Paid advertising was a crucial component of our strategy, but up against organizations with bottomless budgets, we had to come up with a new way to help THE RIDE stand out from the crowd online.

To achieve this, Major Tom created a custom geo-fenced campaign within GDN, targeting key ZIP codes in New York around tourist locations — such as Times Square and the World Trade Center — and set bids to 100% mobile. By zeroing in on a unique segment of the audience who would be interested in THE RIDE, we were able to generate significant awareness on the ground through a mobile campaign that focused on smart use of budget instead of excessive spend.

The results speak for themselves

Throughout our campaign, Major Tom has worked closely with THE RIDE to not only deliver results now, but also to continually refine our methods in order to set our client up for long-term success.

Thanks to the strategic setup we implemented across the various facets of their digital activity, THE RIDE can now identify the exact marketing campaign — and ad — that preceded a booking, whether it was the same day, weeks ago, or months ago.

This allows for optimizing spend by channel. And, after conducting several real-world tests, the client has realigned a substantial amount of marketing spend and increased sales with more precise targeting.

Some of the other highlights from the campaign to date include:

  • Facebook campaigns have seen fantastic results. By continuously updating our targeting methods, we’ve seen constant incremental improvements in ad exposure leading to bookings.
  • In Google AdWords, we delivered a transaction rate that was two to three times above average.
  • Overall, ROAS (return on ad spend) including agency fees was 307% with standout months reaching ROAS of 700% +.
  • The year ended very successfully for THE RIDE surpassing digitally attributed revenue targets by 32%.
  • In 2018, media dollars have been shifted out of digital to focus on other initiatives, however even with a decreased investment, the trackable eCommerce ROAS continues to pace at an average of 350%.