There’s a real disconnect between the way brands – in particular, travel brands – target their consumers in the online versus the offline worlds.

For instance, if an airline wanted to advertise cheap flights in Newcastle via a poster or billboard campaign, basic common sense would dictate that they check the departure airport printed on the ad was the nearest one to the people who would see the ad.

But for some reason, these same brands seem to forget about the importance of making ads relevant to people based on geolocation when the campaign moves online; the same airline might well end up targeting a potential holidaymaker in Newcastle with a banner for a super-cheap flight to Ibiza – but one that leaves from Heathrow, which would mean adding an expensive journey and effectively cancelling out the discount, not to mention risk disappointing the customer when they read the small-print.

To avoid mistakes like this, the travel industry needs to start joining up the dots to create a far more accurate picture of who its customers are, what they’re doing and what the best way to catch them at the perfect moment is.

The best way to go about this is to use the data already available about the audience to deliver adverts interestingly and intelligently.

This means making sure messages delivered locally are actually relevant to people that live there – as well as more general tips like ensuring people who have just booked a city break to New York aren’t targeted with car hire ads for their trip to one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world.

Any company that isn’t retargeting intelligently and doing dynamic prospecting is not making the best use of the technology available these days – and that’s a lot of companies.

The travel industry lags behind other areas such as retail, which was one of the first to jump headfirst into ensuring the right message reached people at the right time.

Retargeting companies focused on online retailers who wanted to remessage online store visitors with products they had already browsed. This was a relatively straightforward process and it gave retailers an early understanding of how digital could really help their businesses.

However, more complex transactions such as travel need more advanced technology that can build more complex dynamic creative and use data more intelligently to profile users’ precise requirements.

It’s only relatively recently that this technology has been available, but travel operators now have exciting dynamic marketing tools at their disposal that can predict where a user is likely to visit, can include dynamic creative that can insert images and text that are relevant to the age and gender of the user – like including an image that reflects their interests (backpacking, cruise, city break etc), can establish the best time, location and device that is most effective at driving visitors to the site, as well as identifying a user’s language and changing the text of an ad to reflect this.

This technology can even create reactive campaigns in real-time based on the weather. If there’s one thing guaranteed to get us thinking about a sunny getaway, it’s an unexpected cold snap or downpour – imagine being able to show people adverts for a week on a beach as soon as it starts raining? Drinks brand Diageo is already using this technology to great effect: last year it launched a series of ads using real-time weather triggers to advertise Pimm’s when the temperature reached 16 degrees or higher, as well as telling people where their nearest pub with free seating was.

Not all campaigns are created equal, though. In a recent campaign we created for Thomson, we found that engagement with the same campaign varied significantly across different areas, demographics and times of the day – sometimes going against the outcomes we would have anticipated. For example, one might expect to get the best conversion rate from big cities, but we found many small towns that returned a much better rate of engagement with our ads.

It’s vital when planning a campaign to look carefully at factors like these to figure out how best to target different types of people depending on their location, lifestyle, and when they’re likely to see the ad.

Brands can then analyse this data to see which areas of the campaign are working best, learn from the data and tweak the campaign as they go along. It’s not rocket science, but it does involve ingenuity and skilled data analysis to create a unified view of your customers and what kinds of messages they’re likely to be receptive to: this is the key to truly ‘zoning in’ on would-be holidaymakers.

This article first appeared in TravelMole

By Paul Goad, founder of Crimtan