online ticket bookings

Beyond the hype, Nigerians are really online.

Question is, are Nigerian airlines (and businesses generally) really there to effectively serve them and boost sales online?

Unfortunately, this study found them to be just scratching the surface and missing the mark.

From about 80 million to an astounding 103 million internet users in Nigeria between just 2017 and 2018...

Obviously, there’s no sign of this trend slowing down anytime soon.

Unlike Nigerian airlines, Sweden’s TravelStart is not only taking advantage of this enormous opportunity to outsmart and claim more online ticket bookings…

They’re also delivering an unmatched data-driven customer experience to boost sales. 

So...

After investigating how TravelStart is achieving more in Nigeria than its home country of Sweden…

I created this case study to reveal how Nigerian Airlines (Air Peace, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, etc.) and other local companies can directly acquire more customers online to boost revenues.

Sight tight.

3 key things you’d learn (drawing insights from TravelStart) by reading to the end are:

  • Why you must create a seamless online presence experience.
  • How to accurately track/monitor your website visitors.
  • How to use data to personalize offers, increase conversion, and boost sales online.

Those are just the key things you’d learn.

Other nuggets I found in researching this article are a must-know for any company seeking to acquire more customers online.

Ready to dive in?

Good.

Let’s start with Nigeria’s incredible online penetration.

Nigeria's Increasing Online Presence

Out of Nigeria’s rough 200 million population, around 103 million (over 50%) of them now have access to the Internet.

Now, put that into perspective: Lagos (9 million), Kano (3.6 million), and Ibadan (3.5 million) are the three most populous Nigerian cities.

Meaning that...

Having a physical business presence in all of these cities combined, including Port Harcourt (1.1 million) and Abuja (<400k) would not get your company in the reach of the number of people online.

I did the math, and as you may guess, the top ten cities in Nigeria are still below 20 million in population.

That’s not even the exciting thing.

While you’d need offices in each of those cities (and maybe sections of them) to stand a chance of covering the entire city…

You don’t need five or more locations to reach the over 100 million Nigerian people online.

In short, you only need one presence that delivers an exciting experience…

You need one customer-centric website.

It’s now the only thing closest to reaching and selling to more people in Nigeria.

And that’s precisely what TravelStart is using to trump Nigerian airlines, attract, and close more online ticket bookings.

Just one customer-focused website:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Nigerian Website

Now, the question is, who is TravelStart and how are they doing it?

Since you asked, I’d answer promptly.

 

Who is TravelStart?


Stephan Ekbergh, a former DJ and Swedish entrepreneur founded TravelStart in his home country of Sweden in 1999.

Going by when the company created it's Nigerian Facebook and Twitter handles, they expanded into Nigeria around 2011.

However, despite expanding into Nigeria after over 10 years of its founding…

TravelStart now gets more website traffic in Nigeria than its primary domain.

See for yourself:

Nigerian airlines

TravelStart's Sweden Traffic


Now, see its Nigerian traffic estimate:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Nigerian Traffic


Also, TravelStart entered South Africa since 2006, where its Founder now lives and runs the company from, yet the traffic it gets in SA is still shy of Nigeria’s:

Nigerian airlines

TravelStart's SA Traffic


As you can see, if you combine what TravelStart gets in traffic in its home country (Sweden) and main operating base (South Africa)...

Nigeria still trumps both.

That’s simple maths: 295k > 150k + 140k.

In fact, SEMrush estimates TravelStart gets over 700,000 unique monthly visitors in Nigeria alone.

Nigerian airlines ticket bookings

TravelStart's Nigeria Traffic

Moreover, did you notice something very inviting about the above traffic estimates? 

If you look closely, while the traffic in Sweden and SA are fluctuating, the one for Nigeria is continually increasing.

Which is a clear indication that...

If TravelStart generates sales based on the volume of traffic to each of its websites, its Nigerian revenue should be one of the highest contributors to its estimated US$4.6 million annual revenues:

Nigerian airline ticket bookings

TravelStart's Annual Revenues


And trust me, with all the interesting digital marketing tactics used by TravelStart (which I’m about to reveal), that is likely the case.

In short, TravelStart has a firmer grip of delivering scalable online experiences to its customers than all the Nigerian airlines combined.

It’s quite a shame, because (as you’d see) most people searching to book airline tickets online in Nigeria are hoping to get something better directly from these airlines.

So, you may ask...


What Exactly is TravelStart Selling?


On the surface, the company is just an online aggregator that lists online tickets from different international and local airlines. 

However, when I investigated closer, I found that its Nigerian business thrived on three things:

  • Cheap flight deals (which aren’t necessarily cheap).
  • Convenience and experience (the differentiator).
  • Data-driven digital marketing (the connector).

In reality, Nigerian airlines beat Travelstart on the first, but on the 2nd and 3rd items listed above, TravelStart is miles ahead of them.

And should only get better.

I’d tackle each item at a time.


TravelStart’s Online Positioning


Since this is an online case study, we’d stick to how TravelStart wants potential customers to perceive her online.

To do that, let’s review the company’s main website title and meta description (e.g. what are they trying to rank for?):

online ticket booking

TravelStart's Site Analysis


As you can see from the snapshot above, “book cheap flights” is the primary keywords TravelStart targets in Nigeria.

And their meta description adds gloss to that:

We search and compare flight prices across all airlines so you don’t have to do it yourself! Book cheap flights...

So, are they hitting that target?

Yes. Absolutely.

They’re on the first page of Google (and other search engines) for that keyword, organically:

Nigerian airlines

TravelStart's Primary Keywords


Look at the related search section, what do you see?

Again, TravelStart Nigeria is the top related search term for “book cheap flights

Meaning that they’re now almost synonymous with that keyword on the search engines.

As if that isn’t enough, across all its social media platforms, TravelStart preaches the same thing.

On Facebook:

TravelStart online ticket booking

TravelStart's Facebook Page

On Twitter:

Nigerian Airlines Booking

TravelStart's Twitter Page

And how has this online positioning paid off?

The stats speak for itself:

Not to mention others like Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

With such intriguing numbers, TravelStart’s online position is remarkable and succeeds in attracting the kind of traffic it seeks, which are:

Nigerians looking to book cheap flights online.

I believe their research must’ve revealed how we as Nigerians love and search for awoof (a slang for cheap deals).

Clearly, the company is feeding and swelling bigger on that.

And their web traffic sources confirm it:

Online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Traffic Sources


By targeting and positioning for a specific keyword, TravelStart is getting more traffic via search (53.97%) and directly (31.68%).

However, they also know other crucial things…

Which you should, too.

Online positioning may bring you the traffic you seek, but it’s never enough if you hope to turn those visits into leads and sales.

Thus, the second (and most important ingredient) item...


Creating a Distinctive Online Experience


Customers are forever demanding.

In the past, just having an online presence (a website) was enough to wow them.

Today, they crave something above that, they want...

A smooth online experience.

Don’t blame them though, it’s your most predictable chance at moving their hearts and wallets.

In short, creating an online experience is no longer a trend, it is here to stay.

According to Oracle, 86% of customers would pay more for a better experience, but just 1% of them feel businesses meet such expectations.

No wonder, Founder & CEO of Amazon (valued over a trillion dollars), Jeff Bezos, had this to say:

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we’re the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.

If Amazon, a company generating billions of dollars, prioritizes creating a smooth online experience, ask yourself…

How much does my company value this revenue-spinning aspect?

However, back to TravelStart.

Are they delivering a distinctive online experience?

Once again, yes, and

Absolutely!

They may not know everything, but at least they’re crushing one over-significant consideration:

When someone visits your website (especially your homepage), they want to solve a problem.

Your job?

Don’t make it difficult for them to do so.

In short, don’t even allow them to think about how to take action.

That’s what TravelStart does so excellently well:


online ticket bookings

TravelStart's User Experience Analysis

By preaching and attracting website visitors using the key phrase “book cheap flights,” they give visitors exactly that on the landing page.

See how the text, layout, instructions, and UI creates a smooth experience that allows users to get exactly what they asked for?

NO NEED for fancy pictures.

NO NEED for long unnecessary texts.

TravelStart knows that, according to expert UI designer, Stev Kruj, in his book, “Don’ Make Me Think:”

If something requires a large investment of time - or looks like it will - it’s less likely to be used.

So, they make it super fast for potential customers to take action.

That’s not all...

After taking care of the most crucial aspect of their business (getting people to book online tickets before they change their minds)...

TravelStart’s website follows up with two similarly essential things.

  • Re-assures the customer.
  • Gives them more browsing options to familiarize with your brand.

The next sections of their website tackle those:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Experience Analysis


Okay, okay, you may still ask…

What if I do all these and my website visitors don’t take action?

Again, TravelStart took that into consideration (which is the area I weep for Nigerian airlines).


How TravelStart Increases Conversion & Sales Using Data-Driven Digital Marketing.


A study by SalesForce (which generated revenues of US$10.48 billion in 2018) revealed that...

It takes about 6-8 touchpoints to even get a sales-ready lead.

That is, your website visitor(s) may need up to 6-8 reminders before they move their wallets.

Your job is to use those reminders to move their hearts, first.

Online, never forget to: move hearts before trying to move wallets.

With so much noise on the Internet including the bazzilion of notifications craving for people’s attention across WhatsApp, Facebook, phone calls, Instagram, Twitter, etc…

People may just leave your website to attend to one of these notifications just when they wanted to take the action you crave.

At that point what do you do?

Allow them to walk away and abandon your website?

NO!

Thanks to data-driven digital marketing, businesses can subtly remind website visitors to come back and complete actions they didn’t finish up.

Apparently, it was for this very reason the Co-Founder of the billion-dollars SalesForce said:

The future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every possible channel: phone, email, chat, web, and social networks.

Customers are discussing a company’s products and brand in real-time. Companies need to join the conversation, too.

Curious if TravelStart does this, too?

Again, yes, and…

Absolutely.

In short, this is the area where they leave all Nigerian airline companies to the dust.

I mean all of them.

To demonstrate, just follow what happened to me when I didn’t complete my ticket booking on the TravelStart website.

I found them after performing a search on Google with the keyword: “cheap flights in Nigeria:

Nigerian airlines

TravelStart's Primary Keywords


I landed on their homepage but didn’t complete the following ticket order:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Primary Keywords: "book cheap flights"


The next morning, see what greeted me in my Gmail:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Data-driven marketing


I wasn’t ready to take action yet.

So, they persisted, this time as I went to watch some match reviews on YouTube:

Nigerian airlines

TravelStart's Growth Marketing


Getting interesting?

There was even more in the pipeline as I browsed other websites across the Internet:

online ticket bookings

TravelStart's Growth Marketing


So, how are they able to keep track and re-engage website visitors to increase conversion and boost online ticket bookings?

Some tools they use include (but not limited to):

  • Google Analytics
  • Remarketing tags
  • Google Floodlights
  • Facebook pixels
  • Criteo/DoubleClick
  • Etc...

Wondering how exactly the above tools work?

Once someone visits the TravelStart website, Google Analytics installs a cookie on their web property.

If the right settings are made (which TravelStart does well), the visitor is automatically added to an audience list.

For each new step taken on the TravelStart website (like visiting another page, clicking a button, etc.)...

A website visitor is automatically added to a new audience list relevant to that step.

This could be done by setting up destination goals in Google Analytics and linking the same with Google Ads.

Then, on the background, TravelStart has launched campaigns targeting ads to each of those audience lists to bring them back to their website and complete their order.

Also, they create Facebook custom audiences and run ads targeting each of these audiences, too.

By creating Facebook custom audiences, they can re-engage web visitors across Instagram and Messenger, too.

Then, via Google Ads, Criteo/DoubleClick, or others, they can retarget relevant display ads to prospects almost on every site on the Internet.

And even on YouTube while they watch videos online.

Thus, reminding us of what SalesForce’s Co-Founder said:

The future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every possible channel: phone, email, chat, web, and social networks.

Customers are discussing a company’s products and brand in real-time. Companies need to join the conversation, too.

That’s just a top-level overview of how they’re able to re-engage potential customers across the Internet to come back and book more online flight tickets.

Had I bought that ticket before deciding to create this case study, I should’ve been added to another audience lists, the most vital one…

Their email list of subscribers, where they’d upsell other relevant offers directly to my inbox.

This time, without ads.

Trust me, over 700k monthly unique visitors and more than 468k Facebook fans is no mean feat…

TravelStart is killing it online in Nigeria.

And as you’d soon find out, they’re leaving Nigerian airlines to the dust.

However, as impressive as they may seem, they can even do it better by:

  • Installing Google Tag Manager to manage all site tags and reduce website loading time (I found it loads slowly).
  • A/B test their landing pages to personalize offers (using a tool like RightMessage, Optimizely, etc.)
  • Improve website copy (I found some flaws there - my thoughts, though).
  • Implement exit intent to immediately capture relevant information of web visitors just when they’re about to leave by offering a coupon code or the likes.
  • Create and publish more relevant contents to attract top-level sales funnel prospects.
  • Build links with more websites with higher domain authority (the only area Nigerian airlines win them. Although that’s because aggregators like TravelStart are the ones linking for sales commissions.

However, despite the above flaws identified in my investigation, TravelStart is still doing greatly revenue-wise:

Nigerian airline ticket bookings

TravelAtart's Annual Revenues


At US$4.6 million estimated annual revenue and just 400 global staff, they’re doing well for their efforts.

Now, over to...

What did I learn from them?


What Nigerian Airlines (and companies) can learn from TravelStart


I discovered something disheartening in conducting research for this case study:

It appeared Nigerians prefer to book online flights directly from the airline companies, as against using aggregators such as TravelStart, WakaNow, etc.

Like to know the things I found?

Good.

Nigerian airline companies are not delivering the online experience sought by potential customers.

In short, they’re not even close.

Doubting me?

My discovery process was as follows:

When I started with general research using the keyword “book flights online,” many Nigerian airlines were far too below on the search engine results page:


Nigerian airlines

Search result: Book Tickets Online Nigeria

As a way to compare, I researched the “top airlines in Nigeria.

Still, there was no Nigerian airline company targeting people at this top-level of the sales funnel with relevant content.

See the result I got:

nigerian airlines

Search result: Top Airlines in Nigeria


Even when I tried searching directly for a known Nigerian airline company, Air Peace, they were still not top of the results page:

Nigerian airlines

Search result: AirPeace Online Booking


However, in all of these, the related search terms I found showed that more Nigerians are looking to book flights directly from these airline companies.

Just take a look at the related search terms:

online ticket bookings

Top Related Search Terms: Books Flights Online

As you can see from the above snapshots, the searches that have the highest volume reveals that people would prefer to do business directly with Nigerian airline companies.

But, are these airline companies taking advantage?

No.

Capital NO!

I’d use one example (there are countless others) to illustrate.

Starting with my favorite airline, Air Peace.

Unlike TravelStart that knows exactly what they’re trying to rank for online, the question to ask is…

What is Air Peace trying to rank online for (what search keywords are they targeting)?

When I analyzed their homepage info, I was somwhat left confused...

nigerian airlines

AirPeace Site Analysis


The above snapshot demonstrated two flaws (amongst others):

  • Air Peace doesn’t know exactly know who their website is optimized for or targeted at, and
  • They definitely hired a bad SEO.

How did I determine that?

Very easy.

A website’s title and meta description should be complementary,  logical, and targeted at one key phrase.

Take for example the case of TravelStart, their site’s title and meta description made sense and was logical, yet targeted:

Title: “Book cheap flights. Compare and Get… TravelStart

Meta description: “We search and compare flight prices across all airlines so you don’t have to do it yourself! Book cheap flights...

Doesn’t that make sense?

Good.

Now, see what Air Peace has…

Title: “Home | flyairpeace.com”

Meta description: “Book flights to Abuja, Lagos, Owerri, Enugu, in Nigeria with Air Peace Peace miles…”

Are the above title and meta description logical, sensible, or targeted?

NO!

I mean, if you were just searching for a flight (and didn’t know of Air Peace), would you be typing any of these in a search engine…

Home | flyairpeace.com, or

Book flights to Abuja, Lagos, Owerri… as one word?

Once again, NO!

Unless, of course, you were a robot.

The worst thing?

Air Peace just stuffed their home page with meta keywords (which is so 1990s).

In short, even if meta keywords still counted…

Would a real human being be typing any of these stuffed into Air Peace’s site as a single word?

“Flights to Abuja, Flights to Lagos, Flights to Owerri, Flights to Enugu…”

I doubt.

TravelStart doesn’t have any meta keywords (let alone stuffing lots of them), which goes to show its irrelevance.

My take?

Air Peace needs to fire or demand better from their SEO manager (and their entire digital marketing team, as you’d soon find out).

However, despite these primary flaws, does Air Peace manage to get enough traffic to their website?

Yes.

And you may ask, why?

People are craving to do business directly with them (apparently, to avoid extra charges imposed by aggregators such as TravelStart, WakaNow, etc.).

You can tell from this snapshot:


online ticket bookings

Top Related Search Terms: Books Flights Online

Yet, even if you overlook Air Peace’s online positioning flaws, struggle, and still drag yourself to their website; what do you get?

More confusion.

Just look at their homepage:

online ticket bookings

AirPeace Home Page

After dragging yourself to the above page, what exactly does Air Peace want you to do?

Seriously, I for one, couldn’t tell.

  • No explicit and friendly instruction to guide visitors to take action.
  • No atom of personalization (confirming they’re yet to research who their primary customers are online).
  • Color mismatch.
  • Poor UI and no atom of UX.
  • Poor web copy (some of the worst I’ve ever seen).

etc…

Don’t just take my rantings for it.

Other people (mostly aesthetic UI designers) have written on how bad the Air Peace website looks.

For example.

I found insightful recommendations from all of the above articles.

However, none focused on designing to generate sales by guiding prospects through a sales funnel.

Talking about sales, Air Peace is dropping loads of online ticket bookings and revenue by giving deaf ears to delivering customers an online experience.

Just see what customers are saying about them:

nigerian airlines

AirPeace Customer Experience Reviews


Just to quote the first review:

This airline is the worst ever, I had a very terrible experience...

No wonder they have only 20k Facebook fans, compared to TravelStart’s 486k.

Isn’t that gap mind boggling?

With that, I guess I’m not the only one ranting about delivering customers a smooth online experience to boost sales online.

Remember again: Online, you must move hearts before trying to move wallets.

Wondering how to move hearts online?

Give them a smooth online experience. It’s that simple.

However, it was the second review on the above snapshot that prompted me to do this case study:

“Rubbish airline, booked 7am flight only for it to arrive at 16:30...”

When I saw the above review, I was curious, what could be the cause of that?

In my quest to discover, I plugged the Air Peace directory into one of my research tools.

Guess what I found?

There are no basic website remarketing/tracking tools installed on the Air Peace website.

  • No Google or Criteo/Doubleclick remarketing tags
  • No Facebook pixel code.
  • No visitor interaction monitoring tools such as HotJar or the likes.
  • No web personalization tools (Optimizely, RightMessage, etc)

Which means they’d likely not have automatic audience sets created on Analytics.

Thus, why they could not follow up with a customer that booked a flight by 7 am only to get any follow by 16:30:

“Rubbish airline, booked 7am flight only for it to arrive at 16:30...”

I’m a digital (growth) marketer, and I know for sure Air Peace is throwing money away by taking these things for granted.

To make things even worse, if you manage to scroll past the first section of the Air Peace website, guess what you’d see?

Some of the most verbose (and worst conversion-focused) words I’ve ever seen on a website that doesn’t add any value to any specified target audience:

online ticket bookings

AirPeace Poor UX Web Copy


To emphasize, if you wanted to book a flight online, would you choose Air Peace for this reason:

We are committed to the concept of Total Quality Management in which every function of our airlines as well as support organizations is performed and audited to ensure stringent...

Makes any sense?

Solves any problem related to why you should book flights online with them?

Targets or optimized for any keywords?

No! NO!! NOO!!!

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have those verbose words (that doesn’t even help the customer online).

After all, they’re free to say whatever they like.

At least, they could put that in their ‘About Us’ page for those that care to get there.

That’s where TravelStart has theirs.

That’s where we (at DigitalSprout) have ours:

DigitalSprout Growth Marketing Agency

About DigitalSprout


I could go on and on.

But, the main thing remains.

Air Peace and other Nigerian airlines are not delivering a smooth online experience to customers.

And for that, they’re gifting away online ticket bookings to aggregators.

They’re losing customers, even as you’re reading this.

However, the question is, are you?

Is your company doing enough to grow your income online?

Are you giving your prospects and customers a smooth online experience to move their hearts and wallets?

Yes?

Good.

No?

Take the few things you’ve just learned and put them into practice.

Goodluck.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliations whatsoever with TravelStart or Air Peace (at least not yet). This case study was my way of spotting opportunities for Nigerian brands to get more customers and increase revenues online. You can, however, get in touch with me here.

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Victor Eduoh

Victor is DigitalSproutNG's B2B Content Strategist & CX Expert, leading the agency's initiatives to help companies deploy data-driven customer experiences that drive business growth.

  • Aligba says:

    Well researched report.

  • […] For example, I detailed how TravelStart uses part of this strategy to acquire more online airline ticket sales than Nigerian airline companies in this case study.  […]

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