What does UGC need to deliver? Facilitate a purchase decision or rather provide value?

Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 SpecialHow are travel suppliers embracing travel 2.0 trends? Is consumers' participation being monitored and responded to by suppliers?

Published: 06 Mar 2008

Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Special

How are travel suppliers embracing travel 2.0 trends? Is consumers' participation being monitored and responded to by suppliers?

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is one company, which is quite proactive in this arena.

Starwood's Director, Sheraton Interactive Marketing, Jeff Mirman believes that travel 2.0 has made tremendous strides in the past 12 months.

"We are very aware of the trends and new technologies/capabilities that are currently available and will continue to monitor them as we are always looking for ways to create a better guest experience or an improved means of communication. Our strategy is to listen to our guests, users and hoteliers in order to make educated decisions on what technologies/travel 2.0 ideas/strategies to implement. If they are right for the brand/company and they support our research, then we would potential incorporate them moving forward. As far as changing the suppliers perspective, I believe that most suppliers will continue to be cautious in taking advantage of many of the innovations," he told EyeforTravel.com's Ritesh Gupta.

The new SPG.com highlights the synergies between the award winning loyalty programme - Starwood Preferred Guest and Starwood's forward thinking and innovative web strategies. The focus is on using innovative web strategies to display and serve them based on each unique member.

Assessing the role of such "innovative web strategies" in building connect with consumers/ members, Mirman, a speaker during Social Media Strategies Travel 2008 Conference in San Francisco, said, "Starwood strongly believes in innovation, especially regarding connecting with its guests/consumers in a way that best works for them."

"A great example of this would be an area of the newly designed spg.com and some of her new features. Our team worked very hard on this in every area – from research to production – and we took into account new technologies and innovation. The My SPG application for example enables consumers to customise their SPG.com homepage with the tools and features that best fits their needs from Account information to Stay history, offers and more. The new site focuses on functionality/ideas based on interests, i.e. hotels, destinations, etc…Having their own page enables us to talk to them in a manner that is not interruptive, but focused and targeted, meaning that we show them information that is pertinent to their preferences," shared Mirman.

From consumers' perspective, when do consumers seek out UGC in the buying cycle and what do people actually look for in consumer generated content?

"I believe that this is different for different types of purchases – Consumers will be seeking different types of UGC at different times (destination vs hotel vs flight) – in addition different types of consumers will look at different times based on (demographics, placement, etc…). I could easily see a lot of research focusing on different ethnographic groups and their research/UGC habits and purchase intent. So, I think that this is too big to answer at the moment," said Mirman.

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