Leveraging the Internet to Drive Key Objectives
By Jacki Kelley Yahoo! Category Development Officer, Travel | May 19, 2010
The Internet has revolutionized the way consumers make travel purchasing decisions. In fact, according to a recent comScore Media Metrix study, more than 55 million consumers used web searches to research travel throughout the month of July 2006 alone. Moreover, the majority of those who conducted a web search booked travel online. According to Forrester Research, the Internet makes up one quarter of all travel sales today and is projected to grow to just under 50 percent by 2010, making Travel second only to computer software and hardware when it comes to overall category growth.
Lodging companies have made significant strides in harnessing the Internet to leverage distribution and make it easy for consumers to research, compare and buy from their desktops; however, when it comes to building brands on the Internet, opportunity exists. With broadband penetration projected to reach 83 percent of U.S. households by 2008, the opportunities to leverage the medium, engage consumers, drive preference and manage channel distribution has never been greater.
Understanding, engaging and motivating consumers has always been at the heart of marketing initiatives. Today, the consumer is in the driver's seat like never before and technology is helping to facilitate the conversation. As BusinessWeek recently reported in its story entitled, "It's a Whole New Web," "It's no longer all about idly surfing and passively reading, listening, or watching. It's about doing: sharing, socializing, collaborating, and, most of all, creating." Our industry has much to gain with this new phenomenon - dubbed Web 2.0 - because intrinsic to travel is the desire to experience and share.
Social media is at the center of Web 2.0, where people around the world create, share and discuss their experiences, opinions and content. From creating blogs about interests or hobbies to experiencing family and friends' adventures by sharing photo albums and video clips, consumers are creating social communities. The phenomenon of social media adds an exciting dimension to the way we search the Web and will be fascinating to watch as it grows.
It is clear that giving consumers this much power can cause marketers some trepidation, but engaging consumers is not about completely ceding control of your brand; it's about creating a meaningful conversation. Brands are searching for the "holy grail" in de-commoditizing the industry and what better way than to showcase experience and sharing of collective knowledge instead of discounting.