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Holiday Inn Express aims to drive mobile bookings via advertising

March 6, 2013

InterContinental Hotels Group’s Holiday Inn Express is one of the first brands to advertise on Yelp’s mobile application as part of the company’s ongoing effort to drive bookings.

InterContinental Hotel Group is running a month-long advertising campaign within the Yelp mobile app. As mobile continues to clock in last-minute revenue for hotels, Holiday Inn Express’ campaign shows how the channel is growing in importance for marketers.

“IHG continues to expand the breadth of its customized products for existing and emerging mobile and Web platforms, creating relevant ecommerce tools,” said Michael Menis, vice president of web and interactive marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group, Atlanta.

“IHG has already made significant strides in the mobile app space, with apps for IHG’s seven existing hotel brands and for the Priority Club Rewards loyalty program available on iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire,” he said.

“Our mobile marketing strategy is to engage with travelers and raise awareness for all our hotel brands via platforms where they are searching for information. We have a test-and-learn approach with emerging mobile and Web platforms, which provides us the opportunity to explore new and existing revenue driving channels. With advertising opportunities like Yelp, we monitor and measure the effectiveness of guest interaction, and optimize engagement toward increasing bookings through our mobile channels.”

Mobile bookings
Per Mr. Menis, IHG netted $330 million booked through mobile devices in 2012, up from $2.4 million in 2009.

The Holiday Inn Express banner ads are appearing in between pieces of content in the Yelp app.

The ads feature a picture of the Holiday Inn Express logo and copy that reads, “Best price guaranteed or your first night is free.”  A button on the right-hand side of the banner encourages consumers to book their stay.

When consumers tap on the mobile ad, a loading page pulls in the Holiday Inn Express mobile site. The homepage is set up with big buttons to drive quick reservations, and information is defaulted to show the current date as the check-in day.

Consumers can then use their device’s built-in GPS to find nearby hotels or enter a specific city or airport.

Results can also be sorted by availability, rate or rewards program.

The site then pulls up a list of hotels sorted by distance. Each hotel listing includes contact information and photos of the hotel.

There is also a call-to-action along the bottom of the page that encourages consumers to download the Holiday Inn Express app.

When users tap on it, they are automatically redirected to Apple’s App Store to download it.

“As more and more consumers turn to Yelp’s mobile applications to discover great local businesses while they’re on the go, it makes sense for us to offer brands an opportunity to get in front of this highly engaged audience,” said Preston Junger, head of display sales at Yelp, San Francisco.

“Yelp has been offering brand advertising on our mobile Web site for over a year, and now we are enabling brands to advertise directly on our mobile application,” he said. “Now brands can decide which platform best fits their needs.”

Mobile revenue
Mobile bookings are becoming table stakes for hotels with consumers relying on their devices to help them find last-minute travel information.

Therefore, running an ad campaign within an app such as Yelp – where consumers are looking up similar information – is a smart way for Holiday Inn Express to drive revenue.

Besides InterContinental Hotels Group, Taco Bell and Miller Lite are also running mobile advertising campaigns within Yelp in March.

InterContinental Hotels Group, Taco Bell and Miller Lite are the exclusive advertisers within their given vertical, meaning they will all share the total ad impressions running during the month of March, per Mr. Junger.

The ads do not currently target specific categories.

Beginning April 1, Yelp will open up its mobile inventory for all advertisers.

The new display advertising opportunities with Yelp underscore the importance of mobile for local merchants and businesses.

In last year’s initial public offering, Yelp cited mobile as key to the growth of the company. In fact, its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for its IPO noted that if consumers choose to use Yelp on mobile instead of on desktops, advertisers may drop off of Yelp’s Web site (see story).

“Mobile continues to be one of the top priorities for the company and we’ll continue to explore ways to deliver the best consumer experience,” Mr. Junger said.

“Yelp’s mobile app was used on 9.2 million unique mobile devices on a monthly average basis during the fourth quarter of 2012, and approximately 45 percent of all searches on Yelp came from our mobile apps,” he said.

“In addition to reaching the Yelp consumer on desktop, Yelp’s mobile platform will be a great way for brands to reach an active and engaged audience of consumers.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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