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March 12, 2009

Real-world e-Marketing Implementation: Insights from global agencies


Four top online agency leaders sharing their thoughts and insights about e-Marketing

With all the complexity of the search-shop-buy process for travel, tourism and hospitality companies to master, the challenge for online agencies has also dramatically increased. These marketing, communications and creative agencies help build brands, find customers, manage reputations and convert awareness into profitable purchases. They are also expected to keep up with technology and guide their clients in its relevance, use, application and return on investment (ROI) expectations – which is a big “ask”.

This afternoon I sat in on a round-table session with four leaders of top global agencies who are big players in travel, tourism and hospitality. The more that travel goes digital, the bigger a role these online agencies play when compared to traditional print and broadcast creative agencies. They had some interesting insights, war stories and warnings about the future.

What are the key advantages of online media? It’s a quick and responsive medium, for example, in disposing of perishable inventory, changing copy or creative materials based on performance data.

What is the difference in marketing tourism products and services compared to those in other industries? Social media is much more relevant and effective in promoting a destination, even more than paid advertising.

How is it different to market to a travel consumer as opposed to other consumers? They tend to be early adopters in terms of technology, which makes it a challenge for travel companies to keep pace with the technology and the implementation of it.

What is a primary challenge you face in creating online experiences in tourism? There is an inherent tension between the choices you want to offer to consumers (and that they want and expect) versus the “perishability” of the product you have to sell before it’s value disappears (like empty beds in a hotel or seats in a tour bus).

Are branded company websites no longer the most valuable online presence? Companies need to keep a balance of a centralised, branded website, distributed participation in social media, and promotional (campaign oriented or time-bound) websites

Do videos raise conversion rates in tourism? Yes, if you have an audience segment that is known to consume video. Video is working well for retail more broadly online, and tourism businesses can watch their experiments and innovation and choose models that seem to work.

How do companies monitor and track their brand appearing in cutting-edge social media? Twitter integrated into Google will make a real difference, and should be coming soon in 2009. This will, however, remain a challenge more broadly.

One other interesting source of innovation is coming from labs.lastminute.com. One important pilot is “nru” or “near you” - a mobile application for GPS-enabled mobile phones that shows bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, events that are near to where you physically are in a city. Available in London only, but a test market that should be expanded to other cities in 2009 and 2010.

Round-table participants:

  • Justin Cooke, MD, Fortune Cookie (UK) Ltd – build a lot of websites for big travel industry companies
  • Kais Makhlouf, VP of strategic partnerships and emerging platforms for Nurun – big global agency, based in Canada
  • Marco Tosi, MD, LBi IconMedialab – big, European and American online agency, headquartered in Amsterdam
  • Isabell Wagner, MD (Germany), bigmouthmedia GmbH –  specialists in SEO, display and affiliate marketing
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