Websites Have Become Far Too Complicated!
Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010
Wednesday, 4th August 2010
IN-DEPTH: Interview with Matthew Petitjean, director of e-commerce and online marketing, Wyndham Hotel Group.

Marketers believe that they are just at the beginning of how integrated marketing can be measured especially as they add new channels such as social media and video sites in their marketing mix, and the market shifts to delivering more and more personalised content on multiple devices such as mobile and iPad than ever before.

The industry seems to always be one step behind the data tracking on the newest touchpoint innovations so there's always a need to invest /iterate on channels before you've got the data to know it's working and will pay back.

Overall, each online channel has a role to play. There is a tendency to measure the return on investment within channels but with the evolution of web analytics and targeted media networks a lot more can be done. Web analytics and marketing automation systems have responded with more sophisticated software. One can understand the stand-alone contribution as well as the interaction within campaigns and across multiple channels. One is able to measure both the short-term payback and impact on life-time value.

It is being highlighted that the approach of marketers has shifted towards tracking all marketing touch-points and monetising across all online channels at once and not each in a silo.

Matthew Petitjean, director of e-commerce and online marketing, Wyndham Hotel Group, says successful marketers are already doing this.

"The barrier to more marketers doing this may be due to a need for organisational change. If you foster an environment of trying to proving effectiveness in a silo it is the whole that fails. Data accuracy/ integrity are put at risk when marketers are measuring in a silo. A measure of true performance needs to be included, and the value of each message along the way. Organisations that are structured with this in mind are the most successful," says Petitjean, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010, to be held in Chicago (13-14 October)

Petitjean spoke to EyeforTravel's Ritesh Gupta about the benefits of creating an integrated data platform, pairing offline and online results, and much more. Excerpts:

How do you assess the efforts to create an integrated data platform so one can understand the user's path from trip planning to buying, where they engage and spend time? Also, how do you think this eventually helps in working on an integrated marketing approach?

Matthew Petitjean: Consumers do not go to one travel site and make their decision; and the number of (and types of) sites they go to in order to plan a trip is only increasing. Most travel sites start with a core competency and try to build out from that. They tend to do the core competency well and the others mediocre. This is true with a lot of companies and products, not just travel websites.

There is a reasonable picture of what types of sites travellers visit during their trip planning. This array and types of sites has opened up marketing opportunities that match reasonably well to the purchase path. It also makes re-messaging more effective.

Marketers say that pairing offline and online results in a better ROI as offline keeps you top-of-mind and on-line drives the direct response for an overall better performance. To what do you think offline advertising plus online can enhance brand search navigation and improve both SEO and PPC click performance?

Matthew Petitjean: Online and offline advertising do work together today in travel and many other industries. They work best for organisation that can manage an integrated marketing plan. If the objectives aren't clearly defined, or conflict with each other, than the effectiveness of both is sacrificed. If the goal of the offline campaign is to improve branded search or natural search and the two organisations are aligned to that goal, neither will succeed.

How do you assess the outlook of websites today and how have they changed? How do you think social media features and rich content is being embraced today to fully tie together the inspirational and functional aspects of planning a holiday?

Matthew Petitjean: I think websites have become far too complicated. Some of the most success websites (and products) are simple to use and respond to the needs of the core customer - anyone up to debate Microsoft and Apple?

Rich content is key high in the purchase funnel for selling a destination and again low in the funnel to see if the property matches what the consumer is seeking. ("This is the destination for scuba. I want to scuba like that. Will this hotel fulfil my needs of that type of scuba").

Travel reviews are clearly the most effective form of social media in travel and more and more sites are integrating reviews. Google is even mashing them into maps...very powerful. Just think if price and "book now" are integrated; Boom, we have a new channel.

Recent research out shows that in May, for the first month ever, social networks received more visits than search engines in the UK. Specialists point out that comparing social networking traffic and search engine traffic is flawed. What's your take on this?

Matthew Petitjean: This is a total Internet traffic trend, not a travel trend. Social Media is here to stay and will be part of the Internet in some shape or form for a long time. I don't think we are close to a point when a large audience will be starting travel planning on facebook.

Travel marketers want to connect with known travel shoppers, especially during the window that they're "in-market" to book. Remarketing based on recent browsing and shopping behaviours makes this possible, and it works. Travel marketers can reach travellers in the vacation planning and shopping process with point of sale marketing, and if they don't book right then, marketers can now extend campaigns across the Internet. How do you assess the situation?

Matthew Petitjean: This is a great opportunity and really encompasses the idea of a holistic marketing plan that targets customers all along the purchase funnel. I have seen re-targeting be very successful. The idea needs to, and will, expand as technology evolves. It may also help markers recognise value of each programme and how it contributes to the big picture rather than a silo view.

Experts say social media is one of the many tools consumers use to make their travel decisions, so they don't expect it to take the place of traditional online travel channels. How do you assess the utility of traditional online travel channels?

Matthew Petitjean: In order for non-travel social media platforms to become a starting point for travel planning, they have to provide information or a service that is unique and valuable to the consumer.

Vertical niche social media platforms will accomplish that faster than broader platforms. The broader platforms have a lot of work to do high in the funnel before they can move down and capture business. The shift is more likely to occur with search engines. Bing has invested in travel and Google has just acquired a travel platform.

They have the advantage of pulling together data from multiple sources, and combining it with valuable data such as maps and POI data.

Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010

Matthew Petitjean, director of e-commerce and online marketing, Wyndham Hotel Group, is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010, to be held in Chicago (13-14 October). The two-day event will feature over 60 speakers, including the ones from Hilton, Wyndham, Travelport, Lufthansa, Expedia, Google and from many other such organisations of repute.

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