Priceline's Jeffery Boyd is going out -- from the CEO post, at least -- at the top, and the guy with a banker's demeanor will come to be viewed as a rock star of online and mobile travel. We don't know about groupies, but there certainly are a ton of imitators.
With the announcement that Jeffery Boyd will cede his CEO role at Priceline in January, and now that Priceline has officially overtaken Expedia in gross bookings, it’s worth looking back at how Boyd helped change the world of travel in his 14 years at Priceline.
1. Booking Basics
On the best online travel sites booking a hotel has been streamlined, and there is now more choice for travelers in how to do it. Virtually the entire online travel world has copied the way Booking.com, which Boyd’s Priceline acquired in 2005, informs travelers about how many people are viewing a hotel right now, when the last hotel booking for a property took place, and that there are no cancellation fees for certain bookings.
Travelers have been given more choice on whether to prepay for a room, pay at the hotel, or stay at an apartment, hostel, vacation rental, or B&B instead of a hotel. Because Booking.com exclusively uses the pay-at-the-hotel model, Expedia began offering it as an option last year, ending its near-total reliance on the prepaid, merchant model.
2. Hotels, Hotels, Hotels
Priceline and Booking.com weren’t the first online travel companies to see the lucrative potential of the hotel business: Hotels.com and Expedia did that. But Boyd and Booking.com showed how focusing on the agency business model, taking a lower commission (at first, at least), and scaling a business by becoming one of Google’s largest search engine marketing customers, could lead to wildfire-like global growth.
3. Bidding for A Hotel Room
Priceline’s Name Your Own Price bidding product — later de-emphasized — led the way in offering travelers steep discounts on rooms, cars, and airline tickets when the name of the supplier wasn’t revealed in advance. It provided a way for suppliers to get rid of inventory in an opaque way, and the model was emulated in divergent ways by Hotwire, Expedia, Travelocity, Lastminute.com, and many others.
4. The Power of Mobile and Same-Day Hotel Bookings
Boyd obviously didn’t lead the mobile revolution, but he was the first one to point out that travelers would change the way they book hotels, with many travelers hopping in a car or getting on a plane, and booking a hotel only once they arrived at a destination and were perhaps within a few miles of a hotel.
This changed behavior has turned into incremental business for online travel agencies, taking business from hotels that relied on people walking up cold to the front desk to ask for a room.
5. Beyond Silicon Valley
Boyd, in his business suits and with his corporate demeanor, proved you don’t have to be a scruffy, jeans-wearing resident of Silicon Valley, or constantly drop F-bombs, to be an Internet pioneer.
Boyd took a brand under duress and trading for a handful of dollars after the Internet/tech bubble, and turned it into a behemoth with a market cap of $54 billion and a share price of around $1,065 the day after the big CEO-succession announcement.
6. The Power of Focus and Execution
When travel metasearch emerged a decade ago Boyd disparaged it. When the media business became the next big thing, and when Groupon-like flash sales permeated the online travel landscape, Boyd, Booking.com and Agoda stuck to the script, focused on A/B testing and execution, poured money into Google, and kept building the hotel business.
OK, when the time was ripe Boyd mellowed on metasearch and acquired Kayak, but it’s seen as a great marketing vehicle for — you guessed it — Booking.com and Agoda.
7. William Shatner and Advertising
Boyd’s Priceline signed up William Shatner as spokesman in the late 1990s, and young people will be forgiven today if they know him better as The Negotiator than as Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk.
Countless online travel companies, including startups, have signed on celebrities, garden ornaments, and even animals to tout their brands without rising to Shatner’s stature.
Boyd and Priceline brought home the power of advertising as a brand-builder, and this contributed to today’s crush of TV advertising crowding the networks and cable channels.
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Photo credit: Priceline's outgoing CEO Jeffery Boyd speaking at PhoCusWright in 2009. Ed McDonald / The PhoCusWright Conference