April 26th, 2011

W Hotels earns highest L2 Digital IQ Index score for hotels

26 Apr, 2011

Delta Air Lines outperforms competitors and other travel industry stalwarts when it comes to success online according to the first-ever L2 Digital IQ Index: Travel. The Index measures the digital competence of 89 travel brands across airlines, hotels and cruise companies. The Index follows similar L2 studies of such industries as automotive, pharmaceutical, and specialty retail.

Authored by Scott Galloway, New York University clinical professor of marketing and founder of L2, in partnership with the George Washington University School of Business, and highly-reputed, integrated marketing agency ISM (specializing in travel), the Index evaluated the digital efforts of prestige travel brands across four criteria: Site (35 percent, including booking, loyalty programs and interactivity); Digital Marketing (25 percent, covering search engine optimization, email marketing and display); Social Media (20 percent, specifically Facebook, Twitter and YouTube); and Mobile (20 percent, defined by compatibility and applications). Each brand was scored against more than 350 qualitative and quantitative data points, and assigned a Digital IQ ranking of Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged or Feeble.

The following brands, considered “prestige” by virtue of their market leadership, price, ratings and reach, ranked in the top 10, earning Genius or Gifted status:

Top Ten Travel Brands
1. Delta Air Lines
2. Southwest
3. American Airlines
4. W Hotels
5. Hilton Hotels & Resorts
6. Westin Hotels & Resorts
7. Continental Airlines
8. Lufthansa
9. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
10. Inter-Continental Hotels & Resorts

Delta topped the list, providing consumer convenience across digital platforms. Delta was the first airline to offer check in and flight status on Facebook, and lets travelers book directly from its wall. Delta’s customers can also book tickets through the airline’s mobile site and have access to mobile boarding passes and 24/7 customer service through its Twitter account, @DeltaAssist.

The Index showed a number of iconic brands faltering online, among them Regent International Hotels, Park Hyatt, Orient-Express Hotels and Japan Airlines.

“We believe digital competence will be one of the primary drivers of shareholder value in the travel industry moving forward,” says L2 founder Scott Galloway. “However, while the industry has been transacting online for years, brands are just now beginning to unlock the power of engaging their guests via social media.”

In the words of Gary Leopold, president of ISM, “Digital aptitude will separate winners from losers. This ranking aims to provide an actionable metric that travel companies can use to determine where they will achieve the greatest return on incremental investment in digital.”

Key Index findings include:

There is significant low hanging fruit online in the industry. At present, only 28 percent of travel brand sites incorporate social media sharing, only nine percent include user reviews, and only 60 percent incorporate video.

There is a direct correlation between Digital IQ and the average time a consumer spends on a given site. Genius sites hold user attention for an average of 6.2 minutes, while Feeble sites average only 3.4 minutes.

Facebook is the new preferred platform of the travel industry. While traffic to brand sites in the study was down 8 percent March 2011 vs. March 2010, travel industry Facebook pages grew 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and 78 percent of the brands registered Facebook as a top-8 source of referral traffic.

Average Digital IQ by category demonstrates a direct relationship to the amount of revenue airlines and hotels book online. Collectively, airlines demonstrated the highest average Digital IQ of 113 and register 48 percent of their revenues online.

The iPhone is the portable electronic device of choice. Fifty-six percent of brands in the Index host a mobile site and 48 percent have an iPhone application.

“Incredibly, many travel brands are not utilizing Twitter and Facebook to quickly address consumer complaints,” says Stuart Levy, assistant professor of tourism & hospitality management at GWSB. “Companies cannot afford to wade into the social media current -- they must dive in with a strategy to listen to, react, and engage with consumers."

Conclusions for each travel category include:

· Airlines lead the travel brands in the Index. They occupy the first three spots in the rankings and represent six of the top ten. Airlines are adept at leveraging social media to enhance the overall flying experience, moving well beyond in-flight Wi-Fi. Through Twitter, airlines offer customer service, deals, and surprise and delight experiences.

· There is a relationship between the Digital IQ of hotels and growth in Average Daily Rate. In a recession that has led even high-end hotels to drastically cut prices, those that are excelling digitally are better poised to rebound and recover rate.

· Cruises lag in the digital arena with 70 percent (11 of the 16 brands in the study) characterized as either Challenged or Feeble. Many have poorly designed sites with limited capabilities and often no e-commerce. Royal Caribbean is the one exception, nabbing “Gifted” classification.

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