Expedia gets creative with the affluent traveller

INTERVIEW: If over 80% of around 10 million affluent customers are willing to pay over $400 for a hotel room, then understanding exactly what they are looking for and targeting accordingly really can make a difference. Little wonder then that Expedia has the spotlight on this target group.

As the biggest online travel site in the world, Expedia attracts a variety of demographic groups, one of which happens to be the luxury segment. In fact the company has recently found that 21% of its audience fit into this category, ranging in age from 25-54 with an income of more than $100,000.

As this affluent traveller looks for compelling experiences, an insight into their profile target group is vital. And this is exactly what Expedia aims to achieve. “We’ve done a lot of research to better understand what our customers are looking for, and where, and have used these insights to inform our product offerings on the site,” Noah Tratt, global vice president of Expedia Media Solutions.  Just one example of this is in the cruise area of the site where a search for ‘luxury cruises’ will deliver targeted customised results. “We have a comprehensive advertising strategy that encompasses all segments, but because we’re the largest online travel site, naturally we’re going to get a large number of luxury travellers just based on sheer value.”

EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta put some questions to Tratt to find out more.

EFT: Can you elaborate on how does an affluent customer goes about travel planning and buying process? What stands out?

NT: We have some great insight on how both travel and non-travel brands can successfully reach this key demographic. There are some key data points we’ve found for the Expedia luxury audience, against the Internet average. And you can see there are some big differences, especially when it comes to purchasing.

When it comes to hotels they are looking at 4-5 star hotels and are 80% more likely to pay $400 to $499 a night.

As far as destinations are concerned:

•    70% more likely to book an international package.

•    39% more likely to book a vacation of 10 or more days.

•    58% more likely to book multi-destination trips versis a single destination and more likely to travel to Bermuda, Caribbean, Belize, Costa Rica & Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

Their habits are a consideration too. Just take a look at these results:

•    32% are more likely to travel without children

•    75% are more likely to be business travelers also.

•    38% more likely to book 31 or more days in advance, 44% more likely to book 8-14 days in advance and, 24% more likely 3-7 days, 20% less than 3 days.

•    66% more likely to book a package over $2,500 to $5k.

EFT: How does your marketing mix differ when it comes to this group of customers?

NT: We know many customers want to plan their travel from beginning to end, but brands have difficulty targeting the customer with multiple trip options.

Earlier this year, we worked with MGM Resorts to help them effectively reach their customer. MGM has a large portfolio of Las Vegas hotels, providing a great the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell to existing customers. But it was unable to do so as they didn’t have a tool that could integrate offerings from across its hotels to tell the whole brand story.

As a solution, MGM Resorts worked with Expedia to launch a custom microsite, planyourvegas.com, which featured all that the 13 MGM Las Vegas properties have to offer, including hotel accommodation, dining, entertainment and activities.

EFT: That’s interesting. So what marketing initiatives have resulted in improving upon the planning and buying experience of this group?

NT: We’re not only committed to helping our advertisers reach their target audience, but also providing customers with the best on-site experience possible.

We’ve instituted a number of advertising campaigns for higher-end brands targeting the affluent audience like Marriott and the Netherlands Tourism Board.

With MGM hotels we, as already mentioned, created a dedicated planning site to provide a rich and immersive experience for the customer. Planyourvegas.com featured easy planning, shopping and booking for multiple-trip elements (hotels, entertainment, etc), special offers and engaging content, all designed to strategically align with a brand’s initiatives.

EFT: What are the major challenges in optimising the on-site experience of this group? How do you ensure they find the right trip?

NT: Let me highlight three of our approaches to the planyourvegas.com project so that you can see how we approach things.

1.  We didn’t serve the planyourvegas.com creative to everyone or drive all users to the itinerary planner; we wanted to ensure we were reaching customers at the optimum time in the decision-making phase

2.  We did not target consumers who had already demonstrated that they were ready to book. In other words if they were already looking at Las Vegas flights, we would not have targeted them with the Planyourvegas ad 

3.  To ensure consumers could reach an informed decision, Planyourvegas provided a MGM Hotels’ solution at every price level, as well as entertainment within MGM properties. 

The overall goal was to convey that consumers could have the complete Vegas experience at their hotel and plan in advance to ensure they were able to expand this across multiple verticals, food, nightlife, entertainment and so on.

EFT: Once you’ve secured the booking, how retain an affluent customer?

NT: We focus on instituting a strategic and highly-targeted product and marketing mix.

Ad units like wallpapers and rich media allow luxury brands to showcase their product within a microsite setting - incorporating photos, custom content and video – which allows our users to interact with the brand.

We created a variety of theme stores that highlight travel components, including hotels and activities, one of which is luxury-themed. Other themes include adventure, romance, family and so on. These themed stores encourage consumers to explore and interact with brands on the site, consume content and provide a more engaging experience overall.

EFT: How do the searches of affluent customers differ from other target groups?  

NT: The campaign examples provided highlighted the overall experience via photos, videos and activities –everything but the price.  Exclusivity, experience and luxury are key for the affluent demographic and to attract these customers a brand’s creative should reflect that.

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