Editorial content and social commerce are two important factors that will be driving the future of luxury, says Tablet Hotels’ Laurent Vernhes, chief executive of the luxury travel booking site cum social network.
Tablet Hotels caters to connecting audiences for whom luxury travel is about finding distinctive experiences. The brand operates based on two criteria: unique editorial content that guides the quality of each destination and reviews from its customers.
“Our customer’s average age is 40 years, and the average purchase price is for 2.5 days at $900. For our customers, luxury is about lifestyle. We leverage the lifestyle aspect as an important aspect of our brand because this is what connects and ties our audience together.”
“For instance, after a trip, users are asked to review the hotel which they booked with us and their opinion is shared with our network, this keeps like-minded users connected and the authenticity between the brand and its clients. Customers know they can rely on a trusted network of like-minded people.”
What makes the Tablet Hotels model unique is that the site is optimized with social media to enhance the lifestyle experience. It conducts contests with users making submissions for the best travel story or photograph which are then featured on the site.
“Luxury clientele either are or think of themselves as sophisticated; they like to connect with other like-minded people who also reflect these same attributes. We find that our clientele has a lot of unique experiences to share that only strengthen our brand.”
“The way we see it is: we can display content based on the key element to show who these people are. The more information users can see [about] who is behind the content and reviews, the more of a connection for the brand people build. We have a database of 800,000 people, the brand at our level is still small enough that people self filter and that there is a lot of consistency with the content. As we grow we are making sure we are not loosing track of the consistency for people to have a chance to define themselves.”
“ Transparency of the internet led to rate comparison; this means marketing today to luxury clientele is about true values and the substance of the product ”
According to Vernhes, today’s consumer has access to an insurmountable knowledge about brands and this transparency no longer supports the marketing of the kind of fantasy stories usually associated with luxury marketing. The result is that luxury brands today have to seek to provide real substance.
“In marketing, it is tempting to try to control things. Social media adds another layer of transparency because it creates venues for communication that are completely out of control – everybody can see what’s going on. But we have found success in this transparency.”“The biggest influence of the internet over the hotel rooms is rate comparison. Customers who check rates on Tablet also check rates on Expedia or whatever other site. Transparency of the internet led to rate comparison; this means marketing today to luxury clientele is about true values and the substance of the product. We utilize that substance through the feedback and content that we create on our site.”
Tablet Hotels does not invest in paid media but rather has built the brand through word of mouth and relied on its proposition of transparency instead to achieve success. Despite an economy that has still not fully recovered, the company forecasts that it will receive over $80 million in gross bookings in 2010.“Besides search engine marketing, word of mouth is our number one source for new customers. We learned that our clients had a lot of insights to share, so we integrated this into our brand model, today our customer’s feedback is what represents the brand and this trust and value impacts sales positively.”