Wednesday 29 June 2011

What’s hot in online travel marketing right now?

By Gina Baillie
June saw leading marketing, e-commerce, social media and sales execs from across the States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean convene for EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing Strategies for Travel conference in Miami.

There were some interesting lessons learnt about what’s hot in online travel marketing.

Flash Sales
The debate about whether to work with flash sale sites really hotted up.  Using a new live polling feature we found out that 53% of the audience had worked with a flash sale site.  However, 60% found there overall experience to be negative and not to be repeated, 20% found the experience positive and but would not repeat it and the remaining 20% found the experience positive and would definitely repeat it.  Interesting!

The flash sales sites represented (Travelzoo, SniqueAway, Ideeli, Hautelook, Jetsetter) all put forward some very strong arguments to work with them.  All have substantial databases, primarily of affluent travellers.  Both Shirley from Travelzoo and Heather from Jetsetter highlighted the ability of each of their brands to know what their database wants and to reach them (for example by email) in the way that generates the optimal response.

Philip J Grote from comScore highlighted that 48% of new phones bought in the US are smartphones.   Thanks to new flexible pricing tariffs without contracts, they are becoming more accessible to all.  He emphasized that travel suppliers currently dominate the mobile advertising landscape – OTAs have yet to catch up (however Expedia is doing very well in terms of traffic to their app and mobile site.)

Providing fuel for the on-going great app debate, Philip cited that consumers spend more time using mobile apps rather than browsing the mobile websites (81% versus 47%).  Indeed, John T. Peters from Rand McNally quoted that the average iPhone user spends about 40 minutes per day using apps (appsfire). 

Social Media
Good news - It’s possible to measure social media ROI!  No, really it is!  Barbara Pezzi from Fairmont Raffles directed the audience through how to use Google analytics and other tools to add meaning and significance to the effort put into social media (in far too much detail to share here unfortunately!).

Jennifer Stafford from HomeAway shared her top 10 social media mistakes.  Here are my top 3 favourites –
1) Not setting social media program versus campaign goals – Program goals should drive tactics
2) Talking at your audience - Your audience wants to know they are being heard and wants you to talk WITH them
3) Not having a social media crisis plan – what is your plan of action when a disgruntled customer uses social media to broadcast your social media mistakes?

Re-visit Human Behaviour
Leonard Brody from gave an insightful presentation about the importance as marketers, of re-visiting human behaviour.   In the last 15 years human behaviour has radically changed and for the first time ever, vast groups of people can readily interact quickly and easily with other vast groups of people.  

Did you know that the average westerner spends two thirds of their day interacting virtually with people via the web?  Leonard highlighted the need for travel marketers to consider the fact that customers now have two identities:  1) their virtual self, 2) their physical self.  Consumers act differently online as their virtual self in comparison to how they act offline or face-to-face. 
As a marketer this is an important consideration.   What are the characteristics of the virtual self?  Consumers in a virtual space are more trusting.  They share information more readily.  They are likely to build relationships more readily but many relationships are weaker ties.  Education, wealth, and age can all be interpreted by a person’s social graph.

Lastly, Leonard added -  why is Steve Jobbs so successful?  Because he has made a business out of studying human behaviour and then building products/services around such behaviours.   It has certainly worked for him!

I think the travel industry needs to take note as It's all too easy to get bogged down with the tactical side of marketing.   Without a clear understanding of who you are communicating with, opportunities in the travel industry risk being overlooked by travel marketers.  

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Practice What You Preach- Twitter Competition!

We think we've learnt lots from our social media conferences. So we're launching a Twitter competition for a free silver pass to our next event, TDS North America.

The event is to be held on September 19-20 in Las Vegas. In line with the conference location, we're asking our followers and friends to tweet their best "only in vegas" story or quote:

Some examples: "only in vegas would you find a man made beach next to the pool"
                        : "only in vegas can you get take an indoor gondola just for the sake of it"
                        : "only in vegas could you marry your colleague and divorce within 24 hours"

Be as outrageous and as fun as you can be and don't forget to use our event hashtag #eftamerica else we won't count it! For more information on the event and what you'd be winning, you can see

Best of luck, we'll be announcing the winner in the forthcoming weeks!

Thursday 9 June 2011

Confronting the Social Buying Dilemma!

By - Marco Saio - Industry Analyst!

The Expedia-Groupon partnership has finally stirred me to acknowledge and poke an inquisitive stick at the new 900 lb gorilla in online travel: the social buying phenomenon.

During this period of strained supplier-OTA relations and Google search domination, the concept of group/social/daily/ buying (insert buzzword bingo here) further adds another interesting and disruptive dimension to the online distribution power struggle.

The group buying trend is flourishing very rapidly, this is unquestionable, the question though is how will this affect new business models for travel suppliers and now OTAs?. 

Let’s dig deeper and consider the potential benefits and risks facing suppliers using basic scenarios. The four biggest group buying companies for travel deals are; Groupon, LivingSocial, Coupons Inc and Gilt Group.