With an increasing cost of sale due to consumer booking behaviour shifting to a reliance on third party vendors, InterContinental Hotels Group looked to CJ Affiliate to drive an increase in direct-to-brand bookings.
There has been a fundamental shift in the way customers book hotel rooms. Perceiving them as better value, many have become reliant on online travel agents. But in reality, the commissions charged by online travel agents means that this shift in consumer behaviour has increased the cost to both hotel owners and consumers.
Yet according to InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) own research, brand loyalty remains a key driver when booking directly with a hotel brand. In fact, IHG’s research showed that far fewer members of their customer loyalty programme, IHG Rewards Club used online travel agents, compared with non-members.
To achieve the best possible value for money for their customers and themselves, IHG needed CJ Affiliate to help them maximise the number of customers booking directly through them, rather than via more costly altervatives.
The primary goal of the affiliate strategy for IHG was to increase the brand’s direct bookings by challenging the existing booking pattern of guests. This would bring down costs for hotel owners and customers alike. To achieve this, the teams at CJ and IHG set out to achieve the following objectives during 2016:
- Increase direct-to-brand bookings
- Increase the acquisition of new IHG Rewards Club members
- Represent value for both IHG and their customers by keeping the cost of sale below that of online travel agents
- Build stronger commercial partnerships with publishers to encourage long-term programme performance
Together with CJ Affiliate, IHG created a pricing initiative that offered guests the best market price if they joined and booked directly through IHG Rewards Club. This Lowest Price Promise campaign was launched via IHG’s European affiliate programme, drawing on collaboration between various teams across IHG, alongside CJ’s technical capabilities, knowledge of the affiliate space, and international publisher network.
To increase direct bookings and challenge guest’s existing booking pattern, the teams at CJ and IHG devised a new-to-market campaign with content partner Head for Points. The exclusive venture, leveraging the power of the content model to inspire and advise as a springboard for generation of bookings, was set to run alongside existing, high-performing cashback and voucher site campaigns.
The pricing campaign succeeded in increasing channel shift away from online travel agencies and towards IHG’s direct online channels. Further, because the campaign leveraged a discount that was exclusive to members of IHG’s loyalty scheme, it drove a significant increase in enrolments into the IHG Rewards Club. Consumers were convinced that direct-to-brand bookings offered them the best value.