Over last few years, hotels.com emerged as leader among online hotel bookings services. How do they stand out in a highly competitive and homogenous market like online booking services? What marketing challenges they face in building brand awareness?
Breaking through homogenous market – service customisation!
For services it is crucial to enhance positive variability through tailoring and customisation (Iacobucci, 2014) . Hotels.com search options are especially customised to suit individual needs – such as travellers with disabilities, children or pets (Top Ten Reviews). They also offer a variety of filtering/sorting options to help customers find exactly the right hotel for them.
Hotels.com also adopted a risk-free cancelation policy – customers do not pay charges for changing or canceling a hotel booking. Again this gives their clients additional freedom to change their hotel booking if necessary. We all know that plans change!
Now we can also receive booking confirmation or hotel address directly through our smartwatch! Hotels.com new app gives customer great flexibility to access booking services through any mobile device, anywhere and anytime. Their “on the go” and “last minute deals” options allow to find hotels around current location or even while flying. These unique app features enable hotels.com to better respond to various customer needs (Mobile Marketing Association, 2014).
Reassuring customers – communicating tangible cues!
Customers often find it difficult to deal with online services because of the uncertainty element and lack of physical evidence to evaluate the service provider (Iacobucci, 2006). Booking hotels online can be a frustrating experience for many. How can online booking sites persuade customers to trust them with their accommodation? hotels.com communicates service quality and speed with a number of tangible cues – extensive amenities and hotel details, guest reviews, photos, and rewards (Ruskin-Brown, 2006). Key factor on which hotels.com truly stands out is their claim of more than 14 million genuine and honest hotel reviews. This figure significantly increase their credibility in eyes of traveler. They also provide customers with detailed pictures of the hotel and extensive . The result is – trust in the brand and growing number of retained customers.
It is well known that people factor is inseparable from the service (Ruskin-Brown, 2006). In case of online services like hotels.com , customer interact mainly with their web-site or app. Yet, customer-service still play an important role in building a positive customer experience. Indeed, hotels.com use customer-service as another key differentiator from competitors. They ensure quality customer-service by selecting and training their staff to be truly helpful over the line (Effie Worldwide, 2015). Their customer service is also easily accessible, with their 24/7 and toll free line. Indeed, if anything goes wrong with hotel booking, hotels.com can count on their customer-service for successful service-recovery.
Another important P of marketing mix that hotels.com constantly leverage is – promotion. Indeed year after year they invest into big campaigns, which successfully allows them to build a strong brand awareness and increase traffic of their web-site (Jay Chiat Strategic Excellence Awards, 2014) . Effie Worldwide’s case study revealed that Captain Obvious ad campaign resulted in- 25% grow in web traffic, 30 % of growth in new visitors and 20 % growth in retained customers. The results are impressive.
Their comprehensive reward program also stands-out from competitors such as Priceline.com or Orbitz.com . Majority of loyalty programs require 25 nights for every point, and have a number of policy limitations. hotels.com keeps it smart and easy – they offer reward points for every ten nights spent! In so far, Welcomerewards® is among the most straightforward loyalty program designed.
Indeed breaking through huge numbers of online hotel booking services isn’t a straightforward task and requires constant search for opportunities to better serve customers.
Lolita Romanoff – 213004575
wordpress username: lolaromanoff
Effie Worldwide, 2015, ‘Making the invisible choice the obvious choice’, Travel and Tourism Finalist, retrieved 23 April 2016, <https://www.effie.org>
Hotels.com, 2014, ‘LP SWOT Analysis’, Business Source Complete, pp. 1-7, retrieved 24 April 2016, EBSCOhost.
Iacobucci, D 2014 Marketing Management (MM4), South-Western, Cengage Learning, Mason.
Jay Chiat Strategic Excellence Awards, 2015, ‘Hotels.com the obvious choice’, retrieved on 23 April 2016, <http://www.warc.com/>
Mobile Marketting Association, 2012, ‘Hotels.com global campaign’, retrieved on 23 April 2016, <http://www.mmaglobal.com/case-study-hub/upload/pdfs/mma-2012-200.pdf>
Ruskin-Brown, I 2006, ‘Marketing Your Service Business’, Business Source Complete, retrieved 24 April 2016, <http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=83a5049f-877b-46ac-80f5-b88dcd19c68b%40sessionmgr4001&vid=9&hid=4213>
Top Ten Reviews, 2016, ‘Hotel booking services reviews”, Top Ten Reviews, retrieved on 24 April 2016, <http://hotel-booking-services-review.toptenreviews.com>