Caution, Care and Continuing to Connect: A Discussion with Grand Junction
As we all adjust to our new normal, we at Bound are here to help through every step of the process. Our new series will highlight ways that our clients continue to connect with their audience – both locals and visitors – and their approach to destination marketing during this time.
We continue our new series by shifting focus from urban to rural. We dive into how Grand Junction, CO has used Bound to analyze visitor traffic changes and better connect with their out of market audience while continuing to support their local community and partners. For Grand Junction, their COVID response hasn’t been a complete change from the norm, but rather, an evolution. “We’ve evolved the purpose of our website to assist the community with their needs” shared Elizabeth Fogerty, Director for Visit Grand Junction, “while still adjusting our strategy to keep Grand Junction top of mind for future travel planning.”
First Response Updates and Content Planning
Like many DMOs, Grand Junction’s initial response to COVID-19 was to pause ads targeted to their fly markets and to update their general website content.
Grand Junction was already using a Bound banner to promote their visitor guide to website visitors with high page engagement and wanted to continue to promote the guide, but updated the banner to shift the focus to future travel inspiration. While the standard, visitor guide banner typically drives great engagement, the new, inspiration-focused version doubled the normal click through rates.
In addition to banner personalization, the Grand Junction homepage hero has also been a key focus for the team. Typically, the hero content targets key fly markets with personalized content that references daily direct flights. The team at Grand Junction shifted this content to share a more general visitor guide promotion message that resonates with a broader audience, while working on a new campaign strategy for the space.
Roam From Home
The team worked quickly to develop their new ‘Roam From Home’ page. The page was designed to focus on beautiful outdoor images and experiences and to engage digital visitors with moments of escape. Once launched, they updated their homepage messaging to direct visitors to the new page. Fogarty shared:
“This has been a powerful way for us to continue to inspire website visitors and keep Grand Junction top of mind for future travel. Pausing paid advertising, yet still driving website visits to inspire future travel, will position Grand Junction for a successful recovery.”
The Grand Junction team also used Bound to alert visitors affected by potential changes to their attraction offerings. When City golf courses added resident requirements to play, Grand Junction launched a fly-in on related pages to ensure that out of market visitors were aware of the new requirements, and to show locals that this information was being shared.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Additionally, the team worked with partners to find ways to support the local community. As Fogarty noted “During times of crisis, a DMO turns inward to assist the community for recovery. Getting the community organized and providing them the support they need will get them positioned for welcoming guests sooner and more successfully. Our website is a critical platform to host the COVID information, from hospitality business hours of operation to new content displaying Grand Junction’s health and safety protocols so visitors can see what businesses offer the services they are looking for.”
This desire to help inspired their Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative. The Grand Junction team worked with hospitality, retail, and other service industry businesses in their community to create a spreadsheet for businesses to share their current hours, offerings, or if there were temporary closures. Businesses could also share any online or virtual options, like gift cards or other ways to offer support.
Once the Grand Junction team had collected this information, they targeted their in-market visitors with a fly-in promoting the initiative and linking directly to the spreadsheet. Historically the in-market has had lower click-through rates, but engagement on the Neighbors Helping Neighbors content has been exceptionally high.
Audience Shifts and Next Steps
One of the ways the Grand Junction team typically plans their targeted content is by using Bound’s audience reports to monitor audience traffic, engagement, and conversions on their digital travel guide along with travel guide orders. Fogarty shared that these reports and insights have been integral to their COVID response:
“Bound has provided us sound advice and actionable insights that assisted us a great deal in deciding how to pivot and adjust our marketing initiatives in the most responsible way, while continuing to drive quality page engagement.”
By mid-April, it was clear that their audience had dramatically shifted from its normal breakdown. Their Drive Market, which typically only accounted for 20% of all traffic, increased up to 23% of traffic. While many of their fly markets saw decreased traffic, key targeted cities in California went from 12% up to 19% of traffic.
The biggest change by far was how traffic entered the site. Previously, most traffic entered the site from digital ads which continue to be paused. Referrals from key state websites also decreased. However, referrals from social sites went from 17% of traffic up to 54%, with the majority of visitors specifically entering from Facebook.
Earlier this year Grand Junction had expanded their banner campaign to separately target visitors entering from social site referrals, testing their visitor guide content against a banner promoting a 2020 bucket list article. With the increased visitor traffic they were able to determine that while the visitor guide banner had the highest engagement, this social referral traffic was unlikely to convert on a guide order, and instead viewed the digital guide. The team is now planning further updates to better promote the digital option as well as test new types of content to make the most of this increased traffic.
For anyone else struggling with the daily changes in travel at this time, Fogarty shared: “During times of crisis, the challenges often seem overwhelming and can feel paralyzing. My advice is to take one small step at a time and after a few weeks, you will look back and see just how much you accomplished – more than you thought you could.”
For Grand Junction, they know that while their future strategy might change, it will continue to be driven by data. Fogarty noted when planning for future content they will “continue to utilize Bound to assist in understanding our audience, from A/B testing, to adjusting messaging to drive specific engagements, to learning more about who our potential guests are and how they behave on our site.”