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The Marriott Flywheel Experience

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Insight 

The hotel category is all about bookings—Marriott wants to keep its rooms and beds occupied! Today, there’s a new way people book hotels—Online Travel Agents (OTAs) have become the ubiquitous go-to when travel beckons. In fact, proprietary agency research shows they are the fifth most influential touchpoint in deciding where to reserve. The problem is that OTAs cut into Marriott’s bottom line. So getting people to book directly on Marriott.com is essential. 

Cheap rates are both a strength and Achilles heel of OTAs. To beat them at their own game, Marriott provides a suite of benefits and services that surprise and delight travellers once they discover and engage with them. Guaranteed lowest rates on Marriott.com is only the beginning.   

Then there’s Marriott Rewards, which wields great influence. That same proprietary agency research showed that when travellers are enrolled in a loyalty programme, it greatly influences their decision making. After all, people covet their points and will go to great lengths to maximise their status, earnings, and the spoils that result. Therefore, encouraging travellers to sign up for Marriott Rewards is the gateway to ensuring future bookings.   

Finally, there’s a hotel brand’s mobile app, which is the eighth most influential touchpoint in deciding where to stay. Therefore, getting Marriott’s app downloaded is mission critical. Making the app’s experiential benefits known and used during a guest's stay plants the application in their phone, making future reservations as easy as a tap tap tap 

Strategy 

These challenges require a behaviour change strategy—one that short-circuits people’s newly learned tendency to just ‘make all my plans on Expedia’ (or on Kayak, Priceline, Truvago, or whatever other OTA is enjoying popularity at the moment.)  Importantly, influencing behaviour means taking to heart that tried and true communications planning axiom of delivering ‘the right message, in the right place, at exactly the right time’ to maximise relevancy and impact. 

So what’s the right place from a media perspective? Well, TV and magazine ads might help build brand reputation, but they aren’t the channels that drive actual travel decision making in moments-of-truth. People now spend over 60% of their daily media time across two or more mobile devices—so Marriott’s e-comm efforts in circumventing OTAs, driving app downloads, and increasing loyalty programme enrolment has to be mobile first and live across whatever mobile device the traveller signals they are using at any given time.  

The right messages and times require taking personalisation to even greater heights than what any other brand has done in the hotel category before. And that means understanding exactly what stage of the decision-making journey people are in, and customising Marriott communications in real time to match traveller motivations and actions in each. This includes the planning, booking, and pre-arrival stages—while also taking into account whether or not the traveller is an existing loyalty program member, as well as if they have the Marriott mobile app already installed on their device or not.  

Execution 

To bring its strategy to life, MEC created an all new, device-agnostic solution designed to reach travellers with personalised messages in each phase of their journey to facilitate direct bookings, encourage loyalty enrolments, and drive mobile app downloads. 

The agency turned to the most widely visited destination in all of mobile: a cross platform partner offering industry-leading granularity of real-time data signals. Enter Facebook. In partnership with them, an always-on, customised messaging system was born and christened Flywheel—because it truly functions on the fly, spinning out personalised messages at critical moments. Flywheel identifies where travellers are in their journey based on data signals and delivers the most relevant message. An advanced targeting system that fuses Marriott first party data with a myriad of Facebook data signals fuels Flywheel’s functionality. Here are some illustrations of how the solution works…on the fly:  

• Traveller searches for a NYC property on Marriott.com, but doesn’t book a room: Flywheel creates and delivers an ad featuring multiple NYC properties with easy “book now” functionality 

• Traveller books the Marriott hotel in NYC but isn’t a Rewards member: Flywheel creates and delivers an ad that references their reservation at the Marriott NYC and highlights the benefits of joining the Rewards program before their stay begins 

• Traveller is already a Rewards member and reserves the Marriott NYC property, but doesn’t have the Marriott mobile app downloaded: Flywheel serves an ad unit that highlights the benefits of installing the mobile app, such as making checking into the hotel easier 

Results 

Flywheel’s results were truly amazing, surpassing goals across each of the brand's e-comm objectives: 

• Direct hotel bookings: 326% higher booking volume in 2016 versus 2015 

• Enrolment in Marriott’s Rewards loyalty programme: delivery of the most efficient enrolment CPA across all channels by 218% 

• Downloads of Marriott’s mobile app: install CPI is 518% lower in 2016 versus 2015.  

Flywheel has been so successful in the United States that it has quickly become Marriott’s data-fueled, real-time gold standard, proving just how effectively a 21st century interpretation of ‘right message, right time, right place’ can deliver exceptional business results. 

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Brand:
Marriott International
Category:
Travel/Airlines
Region:
Brazil
Canada
Colombia
Mexico
Peru
United States
date:
June - December 2016
Agency:
MEC
Media Channel:
Mobile,Online
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