Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Can Social Media help combat the demise of brand loyalty?

At EyeforTravel’s recent Social Media & Mobile in Travel event in San Francisco, Lee McCabe from Facebook quoted Jim Abrahamson, CEO, Interstate Hotels & Resorts - “We’re going to see the death of brand loyalty”

McCabe highlighted the fact that people are travelling more than ever, income levels are rising and technology has enabled customers are planning and sharing their travel ideas and experiences more and more, inspiring others to travel.  It should be a great time for travel brands and yet in reality the travel space has become more complicated and many execs are feeling the pressure.
Does brand loyalty exist in this hyper-competitive space?  What should travel brands be prioritising to win customers and compete?

McCabe highlighted that brands should focus on building good connections with their customers and work on turning them into influencers.  He advised that taking the approach to build connections on Facebook as quickly as possible through sweepstakes and competitions, is not the right way.   Instead brands need to invite their existing customers to be fans on Facebook and encourage them in turn to influence those in their network to also become fans. 

With developments such as Facebook Graph Search, the influence of a friend’s network with play a stronger role in their decision to purchase.  Encouraging customers to share their travel experiences post their stay is often a forgotten tool in the travel marketers armoury to help to further influence travellers at the dreaming and planning stages.

It can certainly be said that the connections a brand has will become more and more important in the near future.  In addition, customising message and ensuring consistent connectivity across multiple devices will play an important role in influencing a customer’s decision to choose your brand.
Facebook will be sharing more insights into the above at EyeforTravel’s TDS Europe Summit in London, 23-24 May.  Feel free to drop any questions you may have to them to me (

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Research into Collaborative Marketplaces in The Travel Sector

I have spent the last few months (alongside my day job at EFT), researching the space of collaborative marketplaces and peer2peer websites. Essentially, this means the selling of a product from one consumer to another (using a platform or website) to exchange or buy direct without a business driving the transaction. The emphasis of these brands are that they are “green,” and “eco” and induce a sharing type attitude. 

As a brief introduction to the topic, you don’t need to look far to see examples of the p2p model, simply because these companies are not new. Ebay and Amazon are prime time early adopters of the p2p model, and are now two of the biggest retail outlets on earth.

So, what does the travel industry have to offer in this space?  At first thought, some of us might not think of any. But the truth is that the travel sector has one of the most rapidly expanding p2p networks in the world under the name Airbnb. The ethos is very much the opposite to hotels- it’s about sharing, caring and meeting new people in exciting places. Yes, Airbnb does take a hefty cut from both those listing and those receiving, which means there is a business driver behind the model. However, all in all, it works a little like Ebay, where by you reach to someone about their property and then liaise and work out the logistics. It just so happens that Airbnb has a great interface to facilitate easy transactions between two individuals.

Besides Airbnb, who else is experimenting in p2p? Most travel industry professionals will be familiar with car-share websites like Zipcar or even City Car Club. These models (whilst not exactly p2p) have a great ethic when it comes to greener car usage too. New kid on the block Whipcar takes the borrowing to another level, whereby you can borrow a car from your neighbour or someone in the local vicinity. You’ll be fully insured against damages and theft in the same way as you are with a mainstream organisation. So what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one besides you generally won’t get the same quality of vehicle and it may well smell of stale smoke. You also don’t necessarily get a cheaper price than via the likes of Avis, Sixt or Europcar for example.

So why have we been looking into the p2p space? Well, many travel brands have indicated a concern over the growing market share of collaborative networks and websites. In fact, Avis bought Zipcar earlier this year for a reported $491.9 million.  BMW has also stepped into the space with its “BMW Drive Now” efforts. But what will happen in the hotel space? And is there room for p2p flying networks? Who knows!

We are keeping a close eye on this area with a view to commissioning a report about peer to peer marketplaces.  We’d love your feedback and thoughts on this, so please post them below or send me a tweet to @rosieakenhead

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

How is the sudden increase of mergers and acquisitions going to shape travel, in 2013 and beyond?

Priceline buying Kayak, AirAsia merging with Expedia, Delta investing in Virgin Atlantic, TripAdvisor buying Jetsetter….to name but a few.
This sudden flurry of company acquisitions and buy-outs in the travel space, coupled with the always-connected online and mobile consumer demonstrates how travel is moving at a faster pace than ever before.
Take these two examples. Can we identify key clues which indicate the direction the travel industry is pointing for 2013 and beyond?
Priceline buying Kayak:
Take Priceline’s unexpected move of purchasing Kayak end of last year– this immediately raised the importance of hotels and other travel related companies to have multi-channel digital marketing strategies and to not rely too heavily on Priceline or Google’s strategies.  Multi-channel and digital strategies emphasise the importance of presence on social channels (Facebook, Twitter – or RenRen, Weibo for the increasingly lucrative Chinese consumer) and that brand building through these is essential.
This acquisition also suggested that Priceline may be using Kayak as a way to bypass Google and consequently save up to $1 billion annually that it spends on Google – after all, Priceline is one of Google’s biggest customers, having spent $375.2 million in online advertising just in the third quarter of 2012.

What does this mean for Travel 2013 and beyond: The travel and hotel industry is incredibly fragmented and everyone is vying for space.  This is reflected by the big OTAs merging in the battle for supremacy.  Could this mean that smaller travel companies need to be even more innovative to compete, or should they be placing more effort in to looking at how to partner with such giants? 
Air Asia and Expedia:
What I found interesting about this was that ‘AirAsia Expedia’ appointed Kathleen Tan, who previously served as AirAsia's Group Head of Commercial and Senior Vice President in China since 2004.  Is it just a coincidence that they chose someone with a strong background in the Chinese market, or could this be a sign of things to come, suggesting and reinforcing AirAsia Expedia’s intention of placing an even bigger focus on penetrating the Chinese market.  This would make sense as the Guardian (among many) have recently reported, the “Chinese become world's biggest-spending tourists - Chinese tourists spent $102bn on foreign trips last year, outstripping travellers from Germany and the US” (
What does this mean for you in 2013 and beyond:  There has been a lot of press on the growth of China as a soon to explode huge player in the travel industry – everyone wants to know how to penetrate this market.  Should this be an area to focus your distribution efforts?

The travel industry is booming.  2013 is set to have more apps, more online personalisation, more mobile friendly websites and more choice.  Smaller companies are going to have to place significant effort in building their brand through multi-channel marketing.  Ultimately, mergers and acquisitions mean more data and more reach, so as the travel giants battle it out, as a consumer, you can expect great things from travel.
The flurry in mergers could also be a reaction to the pressure and expectation the industry has around Google's travel plans.  The launches of Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder caused a stir, years before they even got released.  Maybe the key players ‘merging and acquiring’ is in the wake of the prospect of a big entrant like Google making waves in the online TA space.
As a competitor, expect to be integrating slick, targeted and personalised marketing into your distribution strategies. To make sure your strategy is on track for success in 2013 and beyond; make sure you attend the 9th Annual  Travel Distribution Summit,Asia 2013

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Hyper-Personalization – Is your company ready?

At EyeforTravel, we are often asked what the future holds for travel marketing.  In my research ahead of EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing Strategies for Travel conference in Miami, the buzzwords for 2013 have been mobile and also personalization.

What’s interesting to me is the rapid development of the technology that facilitates personalization.  Personalization means going far beyond just acknowledging that they’re a valued customer.  Understanding what it is the consumer wants, needs and indeed when they want to hear from you and how, sets brands aside from their competitors and wins sales.  Even more intelligent brands are integrating social data, booking patterns, anticipating wants and needs to inspire customers and sell travel products that are highly targeted to them, that they might not have realized were on offer if it wasn’t for the right marketing message at the right time. 

You can only do this however, if the tools you have permit.  Thankfully such tools are advancing.
A great example of this is Facebook’s “Unpublished Posts” feature – something until recently only available for adverts appearing on the right hand side of a user’s page. Now, posts targeted to specific segments can be published on to their newsfeeds, without appearing on other users’ newsfeeds or the Page’s own feed. This means that relevant content will be delivered directly to the user where they’re most likely to see it, without the danger of alienating the rest of your audience, which could result in them clicking the dreaded “unsubscribe” option.

Personalization, requires an integration of your marketing efforts, and data is at the heart of this. Existing data must be leveraged to build robust databases that can then be added to as more information is collated. Though it is certainly a dire warning not to go too far when it comes to personalizing your content, Target’s story of how they used algorithms to work out a young girl was pregnant before her father knew, shows that with careful analysis of patterns and data, you can determine a lot about your consumer – but remember, as Spiderman’s uncle Ben once told him, “with great power, comes great responsibility”.

So where does the future of personalization lie? In further personalizing the consumer’s experience; at every level. Websites will become fully adaptable to their visitors, so a sun-worshipping beach body will be greeted with an entirely different page to an adrenaline-junkie adventure traveler. The messages, calls to action and offers all being adapted to the individual based on their data. Even Search is becoming more and more personalized, Google’s alogorithm learns what it’s users are searching for, and engines such as Bing are allowing users to integrate their Facebook accounts to power their personalized search – and thereby opening the door for even more relevant, targeted advertising.

Utilizing these tools, you can create a comprehensive personalization strategy with marketing that users will not find intrusive but genuinely useful. Dancing that fine line between helpful and creepy will help instill loyalty to your brand, which will drive sales and in turn provide more data for your personalization strategies, marking you out in the consumer’s eye as a cut above the rest.

To find out more about Hyper-Personalization as well as other key Online Marketing strategies why not check out our Online Marketing Strategies for Travel: The Americas & Caribbean 2013 (June 4-5th, Miami) where Ritz-Carlton, Virgin Atlantic, Avis and many other top travel brands will be presenting the latest developments in Online Marketing in the travel space.