Monday, March 23, 2009

Meta-morphosis: TripAdvisor Metasearch Displays 'Brand'-New Stuff

Travel agencies and airlines long-complained that metasearch tools don't allow for branding and differentiation, but now TripAdvisor's new flight search tool is heeding their messages.
TripAdvisor started displaying airline and online travel agencies' branding messages within its flight grid. Again, I'm not talking about ads served above or off to the side of flight-search results, but messaging within the flight grid.
When I searched for an LAX-JFK flight, TripAdvisor displayed a flight bookable on, with the tag line, “This is How to Fly;” the same flight through Travelocity, with the tag line, “You’ll Never Roam Alone;” and the Virgin flight through Expedia, with the tag line, “Go With Confidence.”
With OTA booking fees tossed aside, at least for now, merchandising and differentiation is key.
That's because, as is par for the course, all three companies offered the flight for the same fare, $259.
But, at least, for the first time that I’ve seen, the airline and the two OTAs had a chance to get their branding message across.
Baby steps, but significant nonetheless.
So, I agree with what Yen Lee said in the UpTake Travel Industry Blog that there are still huge opportunities in metasearch and transforming metasearch tools into something that offers a better consumer-shopping experience is key.
And as Rick Seaney of FareCompare and Susan Black of Chimney RockPartners commented, it looks like unbundled, a la carte or standalone (you pick the word) airline products, from lounge access to Perrier Jouet, may be the next sweet spot for the channel.
It puts the onus on companies like TripAdvisor, Kayak, Travelzoo, Farecast, FareCompare and Mobissimo, to display these disparate offerings in a consumer-friendly manner.
Not easy, at all.


Scott Hyden said...

Dennis, one thing that this can lead to is also to say 'student flights, click here' to send niche customers like those of STA Travel to our site without sending unqualified leads. We have been in the game with one or two metas only, perhaps more are now open to this.

Scott Hyden
STA Travel

Anonymous said...

Dennis, perhaps now more of the metas will allow niche marketers like us to clarify our brand proposition, such as 'student only'. We have a proposition that matters to a niche, but can only support qualified clicks. Glad to see this direction is gaining traction.
Scott Hyden
STA Travel

Brian Payea said...

Hi Dennis -- There's room in the "brand bubbles" for airlines and OTAs to add more differentiation messaging as well. Glad you liked it.

Brian Payea

Yen said...

Dennis, i have always thought Kayak had a good shopping UI for flights, but after crushing/buying everyone else, perhaps a little competition will be good! good to see TripAdvisor bringing something new to the game.

it would be GREAT if - as an industry - we get better at helping consumers buy based on factors other then price. i think Bryan and the flight folks at TripAdvisor have done a nice job coming out of the gate.

look forward to your thoughts on - they have some interesting new features too