Is "Billboard Effect" a thing of the past?
A study of about 50,000 online travel shoppers in 2014 found that users who browsed hotel sites tended to ultimately purchase their hotel stays via intermediaries.
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The behaviour was not true in reverse. Internet users who began their browsing on OTAs and similar intermediary sites tended to purchase hotel stays through those intermediaries, too.
The study’s results suggest a shift in consumer behaviour since 2009, when Chris Anderson, an associate professor at Cornell University, published a study about Expedia and hotels in the JHM Hotels: his study found that the appearance of a hotel chain on the first page of results on Expedia coincided with a rise in reservations through JMH Hotels’ own websites.
His follow-up April 2011 study at InterContinental Hotel brands found a similar behaviour: for every commissionable hotel reservation that came through Expedia, there were between three and nine reservations at an IHG-related website that were influenced by the hotel having been listed on Expedia.
The studies were touted by Expedia and others as proof of a so-called “billboard effect”, where OTAs pull double duty as a kind of search engine marketing tool for hotels’ own websites.
Between 2012 and 2014, the number of people who exclusively visit hotel sites has come down from 12% to 10%. Whereas people who visit exclusively intermediary sites have gone up from 48% to 60%. People who go to both types of sites have dropped from 40% to 30%.
People who in 2012 were willing to visit both domains are in 2014 opting disproportionately to use intermediaries exclusively.
How many visits happen at intermediary sites and how many visits happen at hotel sites? 82% end up at an intermediary shop for browsing, while hotel sites get 18%.
Here is another look at the data. What happens between two consecutive visits? If you went to a hotel site, where do you go later? Do you go back or go somewhere else?
Some people repeat visit hotel sites. That demographic has increased from 57.4% to 62.9% over two years, but the repeat visits for intermediary sites is fairly high: 90%.
If you go to an intermediary site, there’s only a 10% chance your next visit will be a hotel site.
The data is expected to be released sometime between late 2015 and February 2016, said Cindy Estis Green, CEO at hospitality analytics consultancy Kalibri Labs and a co-organizer of the conference.