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Users who make online travel decisions prefer consumer-generated content, shows study

5 May, 2007

A recent study has found that a majority of travelers who seek online help depend heavily on and trust a brand that responds to consumer-generated reviews (input).

The study titled Consumer-Generated Content in Travel, conducted by Compete Incorporated, reveals that travelers are increasingly turning to their peers as a valued research source and encouraging travel marketers to join them in this dialogue.

Compete Incorporated scrutinised consumer-generated initiatives from Sheraton Hotels, TripAdvisor and Southwest Airlines to help travel marketers know how to balance creating exposure with maintaining control of the conversation.

The study concluded that consumer-generated content (CGC) influences over $10-billion people a year in online travel.

Consumer-generated content has emerged as a critical source of travel information, with a growing number of consumers finding it more credible than professional reviews or information from travel companies.

The other findings by the Compete Incorporated study include:

Sheraton Hotels – In late 2006, Sheraton transformed its website into a social platform, a ‘Global Neighborhood’ for travelers. This, the study showed, led to 50% of Sheraton shoppers remembering seeing the social functionality reported it as being valuable to their experience, with 57% reporting consumer-generated content having a positive influence on likelihood to book.

Southwest Airlines – The Southwest’s ‘Wanna Get Away Sweepstakes’ micro-site used consumer-generated videos to create a viral buzz and engage consumers in its marketing campaign. The result: Strong awareness, with 20% of Southwest.com visitors claiming recall/awareness of the ‘Wanna Get Away’ promotion; enhanced image, with Southwest shoppers giving the company high marks for an innovative marketing approach and encourage these types of marketing efforts.

TripAdvisor – (Brand management on third-party sites). As the leading destination for consumer-generated travel reviews, TripAdvisor demonstrates the opportunity for brands to respond directly to consumers. The study showed that peer opinions are highly valued, with 82% preferring consumer reviews to a hotel’s description of itself. Of those interviewed, 58% said a supplier responding on TripAdvisor would put them in a favorable light.

According Gregory Saks, director of Compete’s Travel Practice, consumers want brands to have a role in their conversation. If brands remain genuine and transparent in their CGC strategies, travel marketers can become a powerful voice in the conversation and engage with consumers in an entirely new way, he says.

The research by Compete Incorporated was based on its panel of 2 million consumers and behaviorally targeted surveys to precise consumer segments.




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