Gentle ocean breeze, white powder sand, Mai Tais hand delivered to an umbrella protected beach chair – yes indeed, there’s nothing like a week’s vacation in the Mexican Riviera. I’ve included a picture of my hotel here just to help those of you currently struck at your desks to find the motivation to take your own trip sometime soon.
But what, you might be asking, does any of this vacation boasting have to do with internet marketing (the philosophical foundation of our special onedegree.ca). Lots, it seems. To outline this point, I have included here “Michael’s 4 Internet Marketing Lessons from my Mexican holiday”.
Lesson 1: Travel Review sites are really just fancy words for “Blogs” about travel.
I use www.tripadvisor.com and I love it. Do you remember when your only source of online information on a hotel came from the hotel chain itself? It was the sound of one hand’s thunderous self-applause. Well, now there is a real-time forum for discussion on virtually any hotel or resort in the world, along with rankings and pictures and real people to ask questions to who just got back from where you are thinking of going. The consumer value of user generated content in the travel industry has turned 60 year old grandmothers from Wichita into blogging machines without them even knowing it. Move over Paul Theroux!
Lesson 2: The traditional travel industry still hasn’t realized that the Internet has changed its business model forever.
My wife (who is also an Internet professional) really wanted to use the local travel agent. She argued that she was really nice and helpful and close to our house. My wife even started the search for our holiday with her and got prices and availability options. But what came apparent very quickly is that as we wanted more information over a period of days, the restrictions on the agent’s working hours and availability became a huge bottleneck in our search, and eventually we turned to the Internet to get all of the information we needed in real time (in this case using www.selloffvacations.com). Even still, my wife was committed to booking with the local person. Unfortunately, we made our final decision to book a special available deal on Saturday morning and she didn’t work on the weekends. We had no choice but to book our holiday through the “always open, always on”, Internet travel service. That industry will not survive without changing.
Lesson 3: Internet “Middlemen” are out-smarting than the traditional end Merchant.
You would think that the resorts themselves (in our case, the Iberostar ) would be financially motivated to try to do a better job of nurturing an active travel community, and of communicating with the customers using their resorts. It’s the furthest thing from reality. All the information we got about the trip, the resort, and the travel itinerary, we got from the Internet middlemen (listed above). In fact, when we sent two emails to the resort to ask them for some specific things, they did not reply to us (or do the things we asked, for that matter) and instead just put us on their email newsletter for resorts in Europe.
Lesson 4: Offline Marketing still has lessons for online marketers.
We met some ex-employees of our resort who were actually staying there as guests (a good sign). They told us the most fascinating things about human behavior on the all-inclusive resorts and how they have created effective marketing tactics to influence guest behaviors toward their customer “use-cases”. Let me give you two examples.
First, it seems that North Americans go to resorts with the intent to consume as much alcohol as humanly possible. While most Europeans won’t touch a drink until the afternoon, many North Americans start drinking at 10am and keep going all day. What happens is that in their exuberance they forget that it’s 35 degrees out and that they haven’t exercised in 10 years and then totally hammered, start frolicking in the waves and playing beach volleyball. The net result is a significant number of strokes and accidents (not to mention fights). So, instead of banning drinking for overweight North Americans until 3pm, they have an elaborate system of the appearance of unlimited alcohol without the consequences – like filling most drinks with mostly ice and loading drinks with sugar to slow people down and even watering down the drinks until late afternoon.
Second, North Americans will eat anything they can all day. The resorts have noticed this and have come up with a menu that caters to this crowd without offending their European guest’s tastes for the finer meals. They have all day “inexpensive” carb-filled items constantly out (hotdogs, fries, pizza, etc.) and get the North Americans to fill up before the finer meals in the evenings. My beach friend shared with me that at their resort, even though North Americans eat a 30% higher volume of food, the Europeans actually cost the resort 40% more in food costs.
What I couldn’t help but to be reminded of with these examples is the sophistication of traditional marketing. It made me reflect on tactics that Internet marketing companies could use to take guide their customer’s bad behaviors (or geo-socio uniqueness) into our own use cases. We certainly still have a lot to learn from those who came before us. Well, that’s it for my Internet Marketing holiday lessons. Feel to share any of your own and for gosh sakes, get out in the sun, you are looking pale.