After the pandemic: How Big Bus Tours bounced back bigger than before



Last week, Oban hosted a webinar to highlight how one leading brand in sightseeing – Big Bus Tours – was able to bounce back bigger and better than before the pandemic. Our guest speaker was Louise Aldridge, Head of Digital Marketing at Big Bus Tours. The company is the leading brand in open-top sightseeing and operates in 25 cities in 15 countries. Here, we list eight key insights from our webinar. Read on to find out more.



#1: Payment methods vary by country

Online payment methods vary around the world. For example, customers in Germany don’t use credit cards in the same way that they do in the UK. Only about 20% of Germans have a credit card, compared to 67% of people in the UK. Big Bus Tours responded to this by providing localised bank transfer options for German customers at the checkout – increasing conversion in the process.

The lesson? Take time to understand the payment landscape in your target markets and tailor your online payment options to drive conversion.



#2: Smart bidding behaves differently across languages

If you’re using Smart Bidding – i.e. bid strategies in Google Ads which use AI to optimise for conversions or conversion value in each auction – then it’s important to understand that it doesn’t behave the same way across languages and countries. This is because volumes – from which AI generates learnings – tend to be lower in languages other than English – so bear this in mind.

The lesson? Finding the optimal blend of Smart Bidding and manual bidding is a balancing act and will require testing and iterating. If you’re running a multi-lingual campaign, prepare for Smart Bidding to work differently across languages – so tailor your approach to each market.



#3: Post-Covid, the world is a different place

Post-pandemic, the world is not necessarily the same as it was before. Your target audience has almost certainly evolved, with new habits, motivators, and preferences. Your competitor set might have changed as a result of some brands emerging more strongly than others, or industry consolidation.

The lesson? Revisit your audience personas to check if or how they have changed post-pandemic. Consider what this means for your content creation and media buying. Research your competitors to see how they have changed too.



#4: Customer advocacy is vital

Customer advocacy took on a greater urgency after the pandemic, as travel and tourism (and other) businesses sought to reassure customers. For Big Bus Tours, that meant a renewed emphasis on optimising its Google My Business listings and making sure to respond to customer reviews. More importantly, it also meant learning from customer reviews – not just replying to them – to understand concerns and pain points so the business could adapt accordingly.

The lesson? Make sure you have a strategy in place for responding to customer reviews. If you’re present in multiple locations, make sure your Google My Business listings are fully optimised and up to date.



#5: Make sure your content reflects Google’s latest changes

Google’s MUM update – MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model – aims to answer search queries by using AI to improve online search capability. (You can read Oban’s previous explainer here.) Ultimately, MUM is about understanding search queries in greater depth than before, and supplying the best possible answers in whatever content format that might be. This means that, more than ever, your site content needs to be thorough, informative, and well organised. It also means you shouldn’t overlook your video and audio content, since MUM is able to recognise and organise pictures, videos, and audio in addition to text.

The lesson? Revisit your content strategy to understand how well your on-site content answers the semantic queries your audience may be searching for. Consider the entire path to purchase – do you have content for each stage of the funnel? Do key messages or tone of voice need to be tweaked post-pandemic? Do you have the optimal blend of written, audio, and video content?



#6: Mobile UX is essential

For Big Bus Tours, a large majority of online traffic takes place on mobile. This is true for many brands, especially those in travel and tourism, whose target audience is travellers on the go. Brands have understood the importance of mobile UX for many years but it’s worth revisiting this area to make sure your mobile experience really is as good as it can be. For Big Bus, this meant integrating payment options with the booking calendar to shorten the booking funnel (among numerous other improvements).

The lesson? Keep reviewing, testing, and iterating the mobile experience you’re offering customers. Is the mobile user journey from start to finish the best it can possibly be? Have you tested this across markets?



#7: Constantly iterating your campaign will pay large dividends

Big Bus Tours’ paid media campaign is huge. It would be more accurate to say campaigns – over 120 of them to be precise, targeting multiple locations in multiple languages. With such large-scale activity, in such a cut-throat competitive environment, it’s essential to keep iterating the campaign. That means constantly reviewing results and optimising campaign elements in a continuous process of improvement. Small incremental gains on a regular basis add up to a significant competitive advantage in the long run.

The lesson? Don’t stand still. Make sure your reporting dashboards are set up to measure the metrics that actually matter to your business. Respond quickly to fluctuations in results. Continually test different campaign elements, and don’t overlook the cumulative impact that small improvements can make over time.



#8: Local In-Market Expertise is essential

Big Bus Tours is operational in 25 cities in 15 countries. Each city has its own characteristics – different seasonal peaks, competitor sets, weather conditions, source markets, and market challenges – which means each city requires an individual paid media approach. When you’re present in multiple markets, it’s essential to understand the specific nuances of each location – and not to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Failure to understand each target market can lead to missing the biggest opportunities and incurring costly mistakes.

The lesson? Use Local In-Market Experts to help you navigate the cultural, linguistic, and digital nuances of your target markets.


. . .

To find out how Oban’s LIME network can help accelerate your brand’s international growth, please get in touch.


Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

Skip to content