Marketing strategy is important for shipping companies

Brand differentiation is not just for industry giants. Learn why a marketing strategy is a must for your ferry company.

Many liner operators, especially smaller ones, do not see the value of developing a marketing strategy. In fact, the managers of these companies are often too busy managing day-to-day operations to be interested in the subject. However, brand differentiation is not just for industry giants.

All the companies in the passenger and ferry shipping market are gradually realizing their digital transformation. It is only a matter of time before each competes for potential customers on the Internet. And you, do you really want to be the latest? Then start working with an online marketing platform designed for tourism that allows you to perform Growth Marketing.


Who does not intend to maintain their company and develop their business?

This is the index of the points you will find in this article:

  • Promote differentiation
  • Ferry passenger segmentation
  • Motivations of ferry passengers
  • Ferry passenger purchasing behavior
  • Online marketing
  • The benefits of your own website
    • Boat excursions
    • Regular lines


Promote differentiation

Adopting a good marketing strategy is very important for brand differentiation, especially in an industry where companies offer similar services, such as ferry transportation. In fact, brand recognition and differentiation allow service companies to stand out and remain competitive.

Therefore, there is a double advantage in developing a promotional campaign, you can attract more customers (increase your turnover) and at the same time strengthen the brand awareness of your business (getting more credibility), with a minimum investment cost. You just need to be creative and know what are the exact expectations of the consumers of your service.

Ferry passenger segmentation

There are several types of services for ferry operators: simple passenger transport; roll-on roll-off transport of vehicles and passengers; excursions and tours. Each service requires a different level of organization and different technical and structural skills.

In fact, the big difference is that the consumers of these services have different purchasing behaviors. It is then a matter of adopting marketing strategies adapted to each segment. But how do you segment your market?


Motivations of ferry passengers

You can use the “trip purpose” as the basis for your segmentation and then focus on the segments you find most interesting. For example, there are two main types of travelers: regular customers who travel by ferry from one island to another for work or other personal reasons; or tourists, more interested in full services that include, for example, a meal on board or excursions.

We can also segment the market more precisely, identifying more travel motivations: tourism, leisure, visits to family or friends, interests, business and others. These motivations will influence the form of travel requested by your customers. Some will be looking for a value-added service (such as a guided tour, a meal included or even accommodation), while other customers will be looking for a simple transportation service from point A to point B at the most affordable price possible.

Ferry passenger purchasing behavior

As mentioned above, the buying behavior of your potential customers is influenced by the reason for their trip. In fact, there is a relationship between passengers’ travel patterns and the extent of services they are likely to purchase on board the ship.

  • Residents (or repeat customers) provide you with a steady stream of revenue throughout the year, especially if you are successful in encouraging loyalty (by offering loyalty programs or discounts), but are reluctant to ask for additional services.
  • On the other hand, passengers traveling for tourism reasons are those who are looking for more added value and are more favorable to buy onboard services, so it is thanks to them that you can generate the highest turnover.

This is where the importance of marketing lies. Because to capture these foreign customers, you must distinguish yourself from your competition and get their attention first. Check out our blog posts for more information on tourism marketing, to understand the stages tourists go through as consumers.

Online marketing


Nowadays, when we talk about marketing, we also talk a lot about e-commerce and digitalization, as they are becoming more and more important for consumers. The best illustration of this phenomenon is undoubtedly the development of mobile solutions for reservations and cancellations.

In addition, online marketing is the best way to reach a wider range of consumers. And this is so because on the Internet there is no limitation of space or time to show your content, a content that can be accessed at any time of the day. Today, almost everyone searches for information online, as the Internet has no borders.

For this reason, a Growth Marketing strategy is essential when a passenger transportation company decides to position itself on the Internet. Because there are several actions that can be taken to stand out from the competition and fight for a niche with your products and services. Actions that will allow you to attract more users to your website and convert them into customers.

The benefits of your own website

In a highly competitive sector such as the ferry transport service in the Mediterranean area, taking the initiative can be decisive. For now, only a few companies, mainly the most important and commercially important ones, have a website developed enough to attract, convert and close a sales opportunity. However, the development of a web site is essential, even for smaller companies.

And it is not enough just to have a basic website presenting the different routes proposed. We are talking about an effective website, a website that is a complete and fully customized sales platform to attract, convert, close and delight your customers. That is, to be able to host the most up-to-date online strategies to boost your bookings.

How? Differentiating your services. Positioning what you offer.

First, we can differentiate two services that ferry companies can provide: boat excursions and/or regular lines. As for the boat excursions, the objective is to sell directly through your website, thus having more control over your distribution channel. And this also means having your own booking engine. With respect to the regular lines, the important thing is to to be technologically independent. In other words, avoid tour operators as much as possible.

Boat excursions

When a ferry company decides to organize excursions around an island or to visit some wonderful beaches, it is preferable to use your website as a sales platform instead of selling tickets directly at the ticket office or through travel agencies. Of course, the ideal is to mix all distribution channels to ensure maximum visibility. However, the solution that allows for the best ROI is the direct online sales, and it has its advantages:

  • Booking is done in advance, long before the ship departs, which is not the case when customers buy their tickets directly at the port, just before departure. There is then the possibility to predict the capacity (number of passengers), and thus organize the trip more efficiently (with respect to provisions, for example) and without delays.
  • Selling directly from your website allows you to assess whether your products and/or services are competitive enough. Assess your strengths compared to your direct competitors and implement changes to build customer loyalty with what you offer.
  • The most important thing: selling through your website allows you to attract customers from all over the world. In other words, a website can be translated into as many languages as you want to attract customers. Your website can be the open window to the world that allows you to be accessible anywhere, anytime, and that is a considerable advantage compared to a physical box office at the port.

Regular lines

With respect to regular lines, the objective is different. It is more about be independent from OTAs (online travel agencies). Selling tickets online directly on your website gives you greater control over your passenger shipping business. Because selling through online comparators (meta-search engines) or OTAs has many disadvantages:

  • The commission rate, which in the end is much more important than the cost that could represent the creation of a functional website that allows you to sell directly.
  • OTAs that have control over your company’s image. This makes it difficult to control not only the image customers have of you, but also the message you send and this can lead to a critical decrease in sales volume if the OTA’s own image goes through a bad patch.
  • In addition, OTAs have control over prices, i.e. they decide the pricing policy regardless of your position. It is even more advantageous to offer a 10% discount to customers who book directly on your website, which is often an additional reason to buy.
  • Small companies do not have visibility on OTA websites. Over time, larger companies either eliminate them as competition and take over all market shares or absorb them.

The situation that ferry companies are experiencing today is the same as the one that hotel chains have been experiencing in recent years. If you allow us a piece of advice, or rather a set: be independent, have your own online channel, take the initiative and be solely responsible for making decisions for the future of your company. 

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