Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tracking your customer?

In recent post, Who is your customer? we briefly reflected upon the differences of priority that New Zealand's two main Travel Media companies place upon advertisers when comparing them to the growing scrum of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).

Pete Blackwell, CEO of AA Travel has suggested that their priority is their tourism business subscribers; for the OTAs, it is the consumer. Jasons Travel Media appear to be singing from the same hymn-sheet.

A couple of reader comments that were made on the post, questioned the outcomes of advertising with Jasons and AA when compared with OTAs. This view is a nagging irritation to both AA and Jasons that are pitching their advertising combos as valid sources of referral business.

The response from Kevin Francis - CEO, Jasons Travel Media (pictured) is worth repeating here:
"Unsurprisingly, I don't have the same view. There has been considerable research undertaken by a number of organisations, including Google, about the purchasing behaviour of online consumers and where they actually first come across a property or other travel related entity.

All the research shows that less than 40% of these online consumers even actually purchase online, in NZ the number is closer to less than 30%.

I'd think it would be important to understand where your online bookings actually originated, Google call this the Zero Moment of Truth. OTAs do not feature highly in this, whereas travel media sites feature very strongly. In fact, in the government's official visitor monitor survey RVM, was visited by 26% of all visitors arriving from outside NZ/Au researching on NZ, OTAs did not feature.

At Jasons, we've been undertaking research through Colmar Brunton and online specialist research companies to seek to understand the behaviour of consumers both online as well as offline, particularly print.

Our research shows that not only is print very much still used, over 20% of the people that found a property in the Jasons Motel, Hotel and Apartment Guide then booked though an OTA.

OTAs are not just freeloading from us though, the single biggest threat I see is how aggressively OTAs are bidding on an operators own brand name, thus cannibalising a booking or visit that would have come to the operator regardless. OTAs are not going to be paying good money to Google for search marketing unless they are turning these brand queries into bookings and making money. Every booking made on a brand term through an OTA is one you should have had anyway, even worse, it takes the consumer away from you and presents a whole slew of competitors to you in an easily comparable way, hardly what I would recommend.

Having spent five years leading a digital search marketing agency, I'm very familiar with the landscape and it's not good enough to just look at the last click and make assumptions.

Attribution and Signals of Intent are the buzz words and there will be a lot more work undertaken to help operators understand where their customers are really coming from, this is not just a local NZ issue.

I'm always happy to have a discussion on this hot topic as it's a quite misunderstood landscape out there."

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