30/10/23 // Written by Laura Jones

Changing tides: How cruise companies can use digital marketing to target a new generation of customers

It’s no secret that the past few years have been somewhat turbulent for those within the travel industry and cruise companies are no exception to this. As the travel and tourism sector begins to heal and look to the future, it’s important for brands in the space to continue to grow their reach and bring in new customers.  

Cruises have been around since 1901, when the Prinzessin Victoria Luise first set sail, and prove to be a continually popular choice for many travellers. However, the benefits of cruising haven’t always been seen or understood by younger generations, something that the industry is working to change.  

With a huge amount on offer for those who choose to holiday on a cruise, from multiple destinations, dining experiences and onboard entertainment, brands need to change tact with their marketing to appeal to a new wave of travellers.  

Digital tactics to attract new audiences  

Previously known to use more traditional forms of marketing, such as physical brochures and direct mail, cruise companies are incorporating more digital into their roster and, when done well, are reaping the rewards. Using these digital marketing tactics, cruise companies can tap into previously untouched markets and entice a newer generation of travellers to dip their toes into the world of cruising.  

In this article, we take a look at some of the tactics available to cruise companies when looking to attract younger generations aboard their vessels.  

1 – Social media

Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest. The list of social media apps seems to grow every day and each different platform offers the potential to reach new and relevant audiences. And with over 50 percent of Gen Z spending over four hours a day on social media, it’s the perfect place to connect with a younger audience.  

While incorporating social media into your digital strategy might be nothing new, or feel particularly ground-breaking, there’s a difference between simply having social channels and having a social presence. The travel industry and the brands within it benefit from having access to highly visual and aspirational content that makes them perfect for social media marketing. 

But how can you effectively tap into this? Posting without thought as to how this fits into your brand and the audience you’re trying to attract won’t help you long-term and may ultimately damage how you’re perceived online. Understanding what you’re trying to portray and who you want to engage with is vital in creating a social media strategy that delivers real results.  

Social media marketing can be broken down into two clear tactics – organic and paid. Organic social refers to any activity on your platforms that isn’t paid advertising. Paid social uses data and a platform’s targeting capabilities to create targeted ads helping you reach new audiences. To create a social strategy that really packs a punch, your organic and paid social should work together in harmony. While it can feel tempting to focus your efforts on one branch and do it well, they both play an important role in attracting, converting and retaining customers.  

Creating a strategy that harnesses both tactics effectively is something a skilled social media agency can support with. But to get you started, here are some quick considerations to help your social hit the spot: 

Quick tips for organic success:  

  • Make sure your platforms reflect your brand identity. Consider your tone of voice and what content will appeal to your target audience.   
  • A social page with out-of-date messaging, poor-quality imagery, or a lack of activity is one sure-fire way to turn off younger customers.  
  • Post fresh and engaging content that effectively conveys who your brand is and your USPs. 
  • Showcase the best features of your cruise liners: what onboard amenities are likely to attract younger audiences and create social content on these.  

Quick tips for paid social campaigns: 

  • Using extensive targeting capabilities, you can tailor your ads to people depending on age, location, preferences and much more. You can use this to create a highly targeted campaign for younger generations.  
  • Your paid creatives and copy need to be on point and relevant to the generation or audience you’re hoping to engage with.  
  • Use the data from your campaigns to identify what’s working and what is missing the mark. Adjust future campaigns accordingly to make the most of your paid social budget.  

2 – Influencer marketing  

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere, and for cruise companies, this is just the beginning. In the bid to engage with younger generations, incorporating influencers within your marketing allows you to tap into highly relevant audiences that your brand might not reach without.  

How you choose to use influencer marketing can be tailored to your brand and what identity you want to portray. For some businesses, going big like Virgin Cruises has, targeting well-known names to reach a wider audience, is the answer. For others who want a more targeted approach, working with micro-influencers might be more appropriate for your brand.  

From family travel influencers to solo female travellers or location-specific influencers, you can choose content creators who reflect your brand’s ethos and the niche audiences you’re hoping to connect with. By tapping into influencers with potentially smaller follower numbers but a higher engagement thanks to their curated content, you can reach audiences who are more likely to engage with your brand.  

Influencer marketing doesn’t just mean content for social channels, although imagery and reels showcasing your cruises are a vital part of your digital strategy, this type of marketing isn’t just about visual content. When planning bucket-list travel, or researching a new type of travel like cruising, people often turn to blogs for information, tips and itinerary ideas. Having your cruises featured on travel influencers’ blogs is another important tactic in your toolbox.  

3 – Content  

The saying content is king might be a cliché, but clichés often exist for a reason. Content is a pivotal part of any digital marketing strategy, no matter what sector you sit in. When looking to attract new, younger customers, cruise companies need to create content that taps into this.  

Consider the potential barriers to cruising that younger generations may have and provide useful information on your website based on these, such as:   

  • Create content surrounding misconceptions about cruises. 
  • First-time cruisers may be overwhelmed by their choices. Provide helpful guides on your destinations and recommendations on how to pick where to visit first. 
  • Write articles detailing the highlights of your cruises, from the destinations to the food. 
  • Have a clear and easy-to-digest FAQ section. 
  • Showcase customer reviews and testimonials on your site. 

Armed with an array of helpful and inspiring content, your website is ready to support potential first-time cruisers.  

Having relevant content for your target audience is only half the battle. Without proper SEO your content will sit on your website, failing to reach the new generation of travellers you’re hoping to attract. Using stringent keyword research, implementing E-E-A-T principles, and applying technical SEO, your site should start to see a boost in organic traffic. However, in a competitive industry such as cruises, seeing results from your SEO efforts can feel like an uphill struggle. As a specialist SEO agency, we can support our clients in the sector to develop an effective SEO strategy that will help you stand out in a sea of competitors.  

4 – Remarketing  

We’re all partial to making an online purchase on a whim from time to time, something that retail brands can factor into their marketing strategy with flash sale emails and discount codes. For big-ticket items like cruises, companies can’t rely on their customers to book a cabin because they feel like it. With a more complex customer journey, including researching competitors and balancing budgets, buying a spot on a cruise is anything but an impulse decision. Brands need to factor this into their marketing strategy, understanding that their average customer will teeter back and forth before finally committing.  

Tactics such as remarketing are therefore a useful tool for brands to add to their digital strategy. Using personalised ads, you can target people who have previously interacted with your brand, such as clicking on a cruise on your site. Remarketing helps you reach customers at different stages of their purchasing journey. Keeping your brand at the forefront of their minds and working across a number of different platforms, remarketing means you can create multiple touchpoints for potential customers.  

This is particularly relevant for first-time buyers, such as Generation Z, who may have a longer customer journey when considering purchasing a cruise compared to others. Your personalised campaigns can tap into the potential barriers preventing them from booking their first cruise and help guide them through to conversion.  

Working with a specialist travel marketing agency  

We work with leading names in the travel industry like Exodus and cruise providers, including cruise.co.uk. Understanding the unique pain points brands in the travel industry face, we have the experience needed to help you excel in a challenging market.  

For cruise companies looking to expand their customer base and reach younger audiences, there are several digital marketing tactics we can use to support your goals. Whether you’re looking to launch an influencer marketing campaign or refresh your website content to appeal to new customers, we can devise a strategy that aligns with your evolving business direction.  

If you’re a cruise company looking to adapt your online digital marketing, get in touch with one of our friendly experts to start your journey.