Sunday, June 14, 2009

With Travelocity's New Email Push, You'll Really Never Search Alone

Expedia is pushing behavioral advertising and now Travelocity seemingly has ramped up its email and online marketing based on consumers' online-search habits.

In the past 19 days, I've received 13 Travelocity emails alerting me to Baltimore air and/or hotel offers, and when I visit, I see a big banner ad across the top of the page with the headline, "Baltimore For Less! Newark Departures, Round Trip from $98+ per person."

Am I Baltimore-centric? No, I have never flown into or stayed in Baltimore.

But, I did conduct a lot of searches last month for Baltimore hotels on Travelocity and Priceline (which sent me two emails, as well) when researching a blog piece and stories about Travelocity dropping out of the Baltimore market for merchant-hotel sales because of hotel-tax concerns.

So, it is ironic that Travelocity is pinging me about Baltimore hotel deals although the online travel agency has exited the city's market to a great extent.

It turns out that most -- if not all -- of the hotels in Travelocity's Baltimore hotel emails are outside of the city proper in places like Columbia and Linthicum, Md.

So, the moral of the story from a business standpoint is that Travelocity is getting more aggressive in its email marketing.

And, consumers should be aware that Travelocity is vigorously tracking your search and booking behaviors, giving new meaning to Travelocity's pitch that "You'll Never Roam Alone."

I have no evidence or reason to believe that Travelocity is selling cookie information to third-parties for advertising purposes, as Expedia is doing, but Travelocity indeed is using this data for its own marketing efforts.

The Travelocity emails contain opt-out language for consumers unhappy with being a marketing target, although Travelocity could display this more prominently.

There's one cool thing about both the Travelocity and Priceline promotional emails for Baltimore: They both feature search widgets within the emails.

Perhaps Travelocity, Priceline and other online travel agencies have been doing this for awhile, but I don't recall seeing a search widget as standard equipment in these types of emails before.

Travelzoo's Top 20 deals newsletter, for instance, doesn't contain a search feature, but then again, including such a tool might dilute the worth of links from Travelzoo's advertisers. And, of course, Travelzoo is a deal-publisher and not an OTA.

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