Hotel Online  Special Report

Executives at HSMAI Internet Marketing Strategy
Conference Urge Suppliers to Measure Customer
Behavior; Identify Industry Need for More
Universal Standards
New York City (May 9, 2005) – The importance of using Behavior Analysis to effectively communicate your product to current and potential customers was discussed during the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Internet Marketing Strategy Conference in New York City last week. In order to successfully measure customer behavior industry experts agree that going forward, there is a need for more universal standards in hospitality as a whole.

The conference took place in conjunction with TravelCom Expo and featured the formation of the Travel Internet Marketing Organization (TIMO), an umbrella group and advisory board designed to leverage the synergies between existing and future special interest groups related to Internet marketing in hospitality travel and tourism.

Ron Andruff, President & CEO, Tralliance Corporation, presented an update on the .travel domain name, including the registration and authentication process for travel suppliers.  The keynote address was delivered by David Johnson, a partner at Peppers & Rogers.  He stressed the importance of leveraging data to learn about your customer in order to create personalized experiences leading to loyalty.

Two interactive sessions highlighted hot business and leisure topics and featured a versatile line-up of panelists. Both panels were moderated by Bill Carroll, Visiting Assistant Professor, Cornell School of Hotel Administration and CEO of Marketing Economics, a consulting firm specializing in travel industry pricing, distribution, yield management and strategic planning.

The first interactive session, titled “Tricks of the Trade: How Suppliers Measure Performance”, featured the following group of panelists: Tim Claydon, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, JetBlue Airways; Steve Fitzgerald, Vice President, Hotel Relations & Operations, Hotwire; Gino Giovannelli, Vice President, Interactive Solutions, Carlson Marketing Group; and Jens Thraenhart, Executive Director of Marketing & Strategy for Fairmont Hotels’ Private Residence Club division, Fairmont Heritage Place. Some of the session’s most intriguing highlights were as follows:

  • Giovannelli noted the importance of identifying the behavior that they are trying to drive when measuring their current visitors’ behavior. Giovannelli also encourages travel suppliers to take an open channel approach, directing guests to book their travel whichever way they prefer, discouraging suppliers from promoting any specific channel or forcing technology on their potential customers.
  • Claydon brought up the advantage of JetBlue having 100 percent direct bookings rather than going through any other websites, which allows for more accurate behavioral analysis and encourages greater communication with their customers, and accurate feedback. Claydon warned, however, that if suppliers ask their customers for feedback they should be prepared to listen and act on their suggestions in a timely manor. “Customers will be upset if you ask them for feedback and then don’t address any of the issues that they revealed,” Claydon suggested.
  • Fitzgerald noted the need for more universal standards within the industry, which would better identify supplier and customer needs, diminishing leakage and more wholistically measuring results.
  • In conclusion, Thraenhart noted that the true value of measuring performance in the future is in personalization. Specifically, in understanding and successfully predicting customer behavior and as a result, building relationships with your customers that by spending money where your individual guests value it most.
The second interactive session, titled “Exploring the Metrics Mystery: Unique Perspectives on What You Should Measure and How to Measure It”, featured the following group of panelists: John Squire, Vice President, Product Management, Core Metrics; Daniel Taras, Vice Prisident & Sector Spec., iPerceptions Inc.; John Ardis, Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Value Click; Dan Hess, Senior Vice President, Comscore. Some of the session’s most intriguing highlights were as follows:
  • Squire noted the importance of suppliers focusing on the Customer Lifetime Value when analyzing the total cost of the campaign that it took to result in the purchase.  For smaller, independent properties, Squire suggested they identify an analytically savvy employee and help them grow internally: “If you don’t have an internal person using your metrics, you’re missing out,” Squire stated.
  • Ardis agreed on the significance of Customer Lifetime Value, urging suppliers to stop focusing on only the consumers they are converting today. “Collect information from as many of your guests as possible to help you best understand and serve your customer and act on what you’ve learned,” Ardis notes. 
  • Hess addressed the issue of suppliers being consistent and taking a wholistic approach with customers, noting that having a great online presence is important, but in order to obtain customer loyalty they need to make sure that the customer experience that they are offering is as good from beginning to end. 
  • In conclusion, Taras noted the magnitude of the value of Behavior Analysis that can help translate data and in turn, predict the user’s behavior. Suppliers can use this data to understand what content can effectively capture the user’s attention. “This will help convert the attitude of the 70% of visitors to their web site who are not there to buy, and once they buy once they are much more likely to buy again. Whatever the cost of that is, it’s worth it,” Taras explained. 
The mission of the Travel Internet Marketing Organization (TIMO) is to be the global travel industry’s voice as it relates to Internet by increasing awareness of issues, opportunities and trends as it relates to Internet marketing and distribution in the hospitality industry.  TIMO, which is chaired by Jens Thraenhart of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Gino Giovannelli of Carlson Companies, shares best practices of different travel verticals in different global regions – currently between the Hotel and the Cruise Internet Marketing committees.  Members of the TIMO Advisory Board will represent the discipline at key industry events and conferences in an effort to educate senior management and the industry at-large and will strive to recommend standards that can be adopted and applied on an industry-wide basis as well as be an advocate for ethical online practices.

HSMAI is an organization of sales and marketing professionals representing all segments of the hospitality industry.  With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry, and bringing together customers and members at 15 annual events.  Founded in 1927, HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising nearly 7,000 members worldwide, with 38 chapters in the Americas region.


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Also See: Executives at HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Strategy Conference Urge Partnerships Between Hoteliers and Third Party Intermediaries, Search Engines; Support Best Price Guarantees on Brand Web Sites / April 2004
HSMAI Internet Marketing Committee Formed; Hotel Company Internet Executives Unite to Increase Awareness of Issues and Practices Relating to Internet Marketing / Aug 2003

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