Work to be done for Booking.com

Brandreview provides strategic insight into the positions brands occupy in the minds of consumers. Each month, Validators takes a closer look at a different industry. We kick off with the travel industry, mapping the mental market position of 8 travel brands. Brandreview is part of the Consumer Behavior Monitor, an initiative of Validators and VU Amsterdam to measure the effect of a crisis on consumer behavior since 2020. In this article you can read the main outcomes, in the workshop more depth is given.

The purpose of research is to capture the perspective of consumers. This is a step that is often skipped, because it is often reasoned and measured from the brand itself. But by starting precisely with the consumer (rather than the brand), you get to identify what is really relevant to the target audience. What do consumers base their choices on when buying travel? Validators came up with 13 key needs (Category Entry Points) for booking travel. Of these, the chart below shows the two most relevant and least relevant needs.

Figure 1: Top 2 CEPs with highest and latest relevance within travel

'I want to be able to book easily' top reason for booking
Topping the list is the need "I want to be able to book easily. This was cited by a whopping 72% as the main reason for choosing a travel company. Furthest behind and perhaps a niche market in the travel world is 'Going on vacation alone' with only 16%.

Market shares in travel industry
As a next step, the brands linked to each need are measured by consumers. So for "easy booking," the link is made to which brands are easy for consumers to book. This maps an association network of needs and brands. By looking at a brand from a consumer's need, it turns out that a brand does not always compete with the most obvious alternatives within the same industry. To still be able to map how a brand performs within this "market," mental market shares are calculated and compared with actual buying behavior as a measure of real market share (see figure below). This analysis provides a valuable prediction on future consumer buying behavior.

Figure 2. Mental versus real travel industry market share

First strategic exploration in the travel market
Figure 2 shows that TUI claims mental leadership, but Booking.com is the most purchased and winner in real market share. TUI is nicely balanced - its mental market share is almost the same as its real market share - and thus manages to retain consumers. Booking.com, on the other hand, has a relatively low mental market share, but the largest real market share. This is a vulnerable position. People are clearly still booking through Booking.com right now, but as soon as other brands that are more top-of-mind manage to improve the path to their brand (by removing physical barriers) Booking.com will quickly lose share. A brand gains market share when it is considered in multiple categories. Market position in needs (CEPs) are the knobs for marketers to turn in their strategic marketing plans. The needs assessments reveal clear opportunities and threats in most industries.

If you want to grow in (mental) market share as a travel brand, you would do well to be top of mind in the top relevant situations for choosing a trip. That's the direction your long-term communications should be focused on. Through our validated brand research, you gain strategic information to form a marketing strategy so you can continue to grow as a brand.

Vacations Alone
Within the "Holidays Alone" category, Booking.com has the largest mental market share at 30%. The brand has strongly positioned itself in this need in the consumer's brain. However, only 16% of consumers consider 'Only on vacation' an important category. This makes it difficult for Booking.com to gain mental market share. For that, they would be much better off focusing on more relevant CEPs that appeal to a larger audience.

Figure 3. Mental market share distribution CEP Only on vacation

Classic competition or is there industry blurring
What you don't always realize is that competition on a need is often not exactly in the same playing field. For example, a museum may compete with a movie theater when it comes to the need "I want to be visually stimulated in my free time. Because of this, as a brand you can't always have the market share figures of such a party in focus. With Brandreview, Validators jumps into this gap. In the needs of the consumer, brands Booking.com, Landal and ANWB are each other's competitors, while in classic branches this is not so classified in market shares. In those situations, we look at, for example, current buying behavior of respondents.

Competition in the travel industry is similar to other service industries
For the travel industry, average competition varies by category between 1.5 and 2.3. This means that half to one and a half brands are also considered in addition to your own. With this, the travel industry has a fairly average competition score comparable to other service industries. Competition is fiercest in the "choose from wide range" category, making it a difficult need to be truly distinctive in as a brand. The combination between competition score and relevance provides good tools for marketers to grow a brand!

Set up Brand Review
In 2018, VU Amsterdam and Validators launched the Institute for Brand Analytics. The goal of this collaboration is to make brands steerable and market shares measurable in the minds of consumers. After four years of research on over 300 brands, we arrived at a method that could measure the strength of brands and make predictions about market share. Starting in August, a specific industry will run each month as part of the Consumer Behavior Monitor. First, an online qualitative preliminary survey tests consumer needs (CEPs) and then a Brand Review measurement.

Want to know and learn more? Sign up for Brand Review Workshop
If you want to learn more about Brand Review in the travel industry or want to learn more about growing your (mental) market share and the science behind it? Then enroll for the online workshop we are co-hosting with MarketingTribune on Thursday, November 10.

More information? Please contact Jelmer.Wit@validators.nl

This article can also be read at MarketingTribune.