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Aug 20, 2010 12:00 AM
Vic Walia, Senior Director of North American Brand Marketing for
Hotels.com presented the evolution of their company’s
successful marketing study and strategy. Hotels.com is part of the
on-line travel bookers industry, which is a definite commodity
category. Competitors include Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline
with Hotels.com being the lowest spender in the group.
1). They first identified their target customer as being 39-49 years old with a propensity to travel – business or pleasure.
2). They came up with five elements of differentiation to establish their value proposition for their targeted market;
a. Loyalty program called Welcome Rewards equating to 1 free night for every ten paid nights. Any number of different trips and/or hotels can be used to accumulate the 10 paid nights.
b. A toll free phone line (800-2-hotels) operates 24/7 with access to listings and reservations at 85,000 hotels. While booking can be made on line, they feel that clients want access to a person.
c. Risk free booking policy
d. Lowest price match guarantee
e. Customer review capability. More than a million client reviews of their hotel experience are available on line.
3). They next chose media channels where there competition was not advertising, such as;
a. Advertising in major airports,
b. Shuttle buses to/from airport parking,
c. On flight airline magazines (partnership with American Airlines),
d. Hang tags from the rear view mirror of rental car (Hertz partnership),
e. On coffee cups and cup sleeves at the airport, and
f. News video advertising targeting business travelers in hotel
4). The clay cartoon character, “Smart,” was chosen not as the spokesman for Hotels.com but rather an advocate for the Hotels.com experience. He appears in all printed, URL, television, and video advertisements.
5). Augmented Reality (AR) videos were prepared on the ten most popular cities in the United States to visit and vacation. By going to virtualvacay.com the prospective customer can view and “experience” each of these metropolitan meccas before making reservations. The Hotels.com marketing team was delighted to see that the average visitor to the augmented reality website was spending 8 minutes there.
However, the expanded and future use of augmented reality is on hold because the bounce rate was too high. It turns out that most customers do not have webcams, which are necessary to interact with the AR videos.
Walia feels that the continued advancement of smartphones will add to the utility and practicality of AR. He hopes that the future smartphone capability includes a prospect holding his phone up to a hotel and the room rate is retrieved.