Booking.com, part of the Priceline Group, is the world leading OTA (Online Travel Agency), with over 1,100,000 room nights reserved on the website every day, and it provides an interesting case study on how to maintain a leadership as a digital brand.
The booking.com reservation service is offered for free.
According to SimilarWeb statistics, the website experiences over 271 million visitors per month and over 400 million visitors during peak months.
Direct traffic to the website, responsible for over a third of traffic, demonstrates the high awareness to the brand among consumers.
Booking.com's marketing strategy focuses on the value the Booking.com brings to its consumers, which is typically based on pricing, room selection, and an easy-to-use product.
In relation to online marketing, Booking.com is investing efforts in performance advertising – targeting consumers who are using search engines in order to find customers at the moment that they have a very clear intent.
In addition to its global approach, the company is focusing on specific local campaigns in its three Core Markets: USA, Japan and China.
Booking.com's success can be explained by several factors:
- Website UX – emphasis on smooth experience, with a focus on personalization. Offering complementary services conveniently, providing a one-stop-shop. For example, On May 2016, Booking.com launched Booking Messages interface, a chat-inspired communication platform that enables customers and accommodation providers to connect with each other from the moment a booking is made. The Booking Messages interface features automatically pre-translated templates for certain predefined requests, including arranging check-in and check-out times, as well as questions about parking and bed preferences—all in real-time and with a familiar, chat-like interface.
- The significance of brand awareness – most of the Booking.com’s traffic is led by direct traffic, a result of high brand awareness. The company is investing in brand awareness via digital and traditional marketing, localizing its messages and media channels on its key markets, and creating collaborations. In addition, the company invests heavily in content marketing through a variety of digital assets and social media.
- Mobile emphasis – the company is responding to the shift towards mobile with apps and tools, aimed at leisure and business travelers, as well as partners. On July 2016, Booking.com launched the Booking Experiences tool, claimed to “allow travelers to discover the best a destination has to offer, all through a mobile device”. Booking Experiences is managed entirely within the Booking.com app. According to the company, the app will ultimately harness Artificial Intelligence technology to predict individual traveler intent and create a personalized in-destination experience on demand. Once travelers have booked a stay in one of the first cities to offer Booking Experiences, via a single QR code in the Booking.com app a traveler can get instant booking access to all of the participating venues and attractions in that destination, eliminating the need to book in advance or wait in lines to buy tickets.
- Loyalty programs – the company is responding to the competition with a loyalty program, including a collaboration with payment cards companies. Booking.com launched a loyalty program for business travelers on October 2016. The program, Booking.com Travel Rewards, offers 10 percent discounts on select hotels and other perks. Five bookings bring access to “exclusive discounts and travel perks for future trips,” the rewards program states. Booking.com Travel Rewards members who achieve at least five bookings earn the “Genius” label, and get access to the program’s separate customer service phone line. Other perks include “late checkout priority exclusively” for Geniuses, and, at select properties, freebies such as welcome drinks and free airport shuttles.
- Segmentation – creating services that are specific to segments and answering unmet needs, such as business travelers. Booking.com launched the Booking.com for Business platform in 2015 to service unmanaged business travelers (travelers whose companies don’t have a formal travel policy). The company said that 1 in 5 bookings on the website is for business travel. The Booking.com for Business allows travel managers and assistants to book on behalf of others. Travelers are also given exclusive access to special deals and complimentary extras at select properties. When you book a hotel on Booking.com, the site asks whether the prospective booking is for leisure or business travel, and if you select the latter and go ahead with the booking, an invitation for a free upgrade to Booking.com for Business arrives by email.
- Offering added value for partners / customers – the company leverages its vast amount of data, to offer unique services for partners, including, data analysis and management tools. The company’s consumer-focus leads to collaboration with competitors – such as TripAdvisor and travel agencies. In June 2016, Booking.com launched two free, on-demand, data-driven products to its accommodation partners worldwide.The tools, Booking.com Analytics and the Opportunity Centre provide actionable data and advice delivered in real time, powered by a customizable dashboard. According to Booking.com, “our partners are hungry for more data and actionable insights to help them increase the revenue they make via our platform. These new tools provide our busy partners with access to relevant data and advice when it’s convenient for them”. It’s all about hyper-customised content delivered in real-time so our partners can take their businesses to the next level.”
Clearly, booking.com understands the importance of attracting both accommodation providers and consumers and is constantly offering benefits and added value in order to succeed in doing so.