— I hope you don’t mind me asking right out of the gate, but how do Skyscanner users find amazing deals?
— Flight prices are generated according to complicated algorithms that only the airline companies themselves fully understand. Skyscanner sidelines these algorithms entirely, finding only the most worthwhile offerings and making them available to the public. Over our twelve years in operation, we’ve established our own set of rules for how to always get the best deal. The most important thing is to book early. Book at least two or three months in advance, with six months being ideal. Secondly, people should be flexible in planning their itinerary.
With us, users can find out in just one click what day of the month or even year has the lowest prices for their destination, and what neighboring airports have to offer. Likewise, it’s important for travelers not to automatically ignore offers with connecting flights, to be open to traveling in fall or spring, and never book flights around holidays. The closer people follow this advice, the less they pay out of pocket. A determined Skyscanner passenger might be holding a ticket that is two or three times cheaper than what the person in the seat next to them paid.
— The Internet is chock full of stories on the secret methods travel search engines employ to generate prices based on the perceived financial standing of each customer. What can you say about these claims?
— Why did you only branch out to Russia after having already operated in Europe for six years?
— How well is Skyscanner adapted for Russia?
— Where does the Russian segment stand in Skyscanner’s wider market?
— What was the hardest part about growing Skyscanner in Russia?
— What’s the biggest difference between Skyscanner and its competitors?
— What advice would you give to other companies looking to enter the Russian market?
— When companies enter the Russian market, they often use a carbon copy of the marketing strategy they employed in other countries. A common misstep is organizing contextual advertising through AdWords, and using the things that worked in AdWords in other systems. Companies translate the key words they need and then carry over that questionable syntax into Yandex.Direct. This, of course, does not achieve much. I think people are drawn to this strategy because advertising with an unfamiliar service makes the process harder to analyze, manage, and improve on. Our experience has shown that contextual marketing is vastly more effective when tailored specifically to the search engine it is going to be featured on.
We even did a little test recently, on two different search engines, and got back categorically different results. From the day we launched operations in Russia, we were working hand-in-hand with Russian specialists who knew the ins and outs of their market. From the very start, we sought out solutions specifically designed to work in that particular market. In the end, Yandex.Direct turned out to be worth every penny, despite its seemingly high prices. It is, as of right now, our most effective advertising and promotional tool.
— How does your expansion strategy in Russia differ from that of other countries?
— The Russian online ecosystem is quite different from other countries, so international marketing tools must take a back seat to Russian ones.
The media mix therefore diverges markedly, along with other promotional methods (editor’s note – a media mix is a comprehensive company marketing plan spanning all available channels). For example, we cannot use the same methods that we use in other markets to optimize automatic contextual placement, so we must look elsewhere for solutions.
Another aspect unique to the Russian market at this stage is the relative ineffectiveness of mobile advertising. The opportunities for native ads are quite limited compared to what we work with elsewhere. But this isn’t to say Russia doesn’t have its own unique benefits. Our advertising campaigns on VK and the Yandex Advertising Network are the most crucial elements of our media mix, and the success we’ve already had with them completely eclipses equivalent international services.
— How do you evaluate which marketing channels are the most effective? And how do you then apportion your marketing budget among them?
— The one indicator that has been valuable to us across the board is our advertising return on investment, or ROI. Our goals for ROI fluctuate depending on our monthly or yearly plans, but generally speaking we strive to always maximize ROI and split up the budget between channels based on actual performance.
We utilize a variety of channels geared toward every section of the conversion funnel. The goal of the funnel’s top section lies in increasing brand recognition and building awareness among a wide audience. We approach these tasks through web media ads rather than traditional media (such as television and outdoor advertising). A company’s reach using web media ads is already further than with television, not to mention the improved RTB targeting and programmatic platform management that comes along with them. We also strive to not just stick with the status quo, but branch out and experiment with other methods. For instance, just last year we tested out Yandex’s contextual media advertising solutions with fantastic results.
We address the bottom sections of the conversion funnel through contextual advertising and remarketing. This is where Yandex.Direct, with its Advertising Network and search functions, comes into play. Ever since the first days of Skyscanner’s entrance into the Russian market, Yandex.Direct has been one of our most crucial advertising channels.
Regardless of a channel’s position in the conversion funnel, we always use different conversion attribution models. Another one of our main focuses is each customer’s lifetime value (CLV or LTV) for the media mix as a whole.
This way we are able to precisely formulate our monthly goals based on ROI and turn every marketing campaign into a profitable one.