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TripAdvisor‘s Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Messing may speak for a brand that speaks to over 250 million unique users in 21 languages every month, but she’s spent the last few years charting a strategy to speak to even more.
Ms. Messing has guided the brand voice as the company split from sister brand Expedia and forged a path of its own — one that’s seen both its stock and its unique users rise. And she’s done it while building trust with users and hotels alike, no easy feat for a brand that was one time perceived to be an enemy of properties.
Messing will speak October 9 about harnessing the power of user data to build a travel brand at the Skift Global Forum on The Future of Travel. Skift caught up with Messing to learn more about how TripAdvisor is targeting its users and encouraging them to share more. An edited version of the interview appears below
Skift: TripAdvisor is the 900 pound gorilla of travel content right now. Once you’re at this size, what challenges remain?
Barbara Messing: Of course there are opportunities to deepen engagement with existing users. TripAdvisor has 260 million unique visitors, but there is a still a vast number of people who don’t begin their trip here or who don’t know about the brand.
Skift: Has the value proposition changed?
Messing: TripAdvisor delivers a better version of the destination because we have the reviews and opinions of our community. Over the years we’ve received 170 million reviews and opinions. Their insights and wisdom make it unique and successful.
Skift: How do you encourage good feedback from users?
Messing: We have the community help us through encouraging votes. That’s been incredibly helpful because people can vote and the people who’ve been voted up receive emails from us to tell them how they’ve helped other travelers.
Skift: Will you use the data you have to personalize the experience for travelers?
Messing: The wisdom of crowds is great but wisdom of your friends is nirvana. If you can match your friend’s interests it is wonderful. It makes the experience better. I still believe it’s a valuable tool for us on TripAdvisor.
We are testing a product called “Just for You” that gives you more personalized recommendations in a market. You can select location/amenities/room types that are most important for you, and we can serve you up hotels that help meet your needs. If we know you’re looking for a certain geographical area we’ll send you recommendations of things to do, or other places to stay where your friends have stayed.
We find CRM [customer relationship management] to be a great channel for us. When we know what you’ve been looking at we can provide content to make that trip better for you. Even if you don’t have a trip in mind, we like to provide content based on consumer behavior about things you might like. It gives folks a unique view on travel based on our data about users.
Another area is around reviews and content collection. We’ve redesigned the work flow to focus on their work, rewarding their efforts based on their contributions.
Skift: Do your forums still matter?
Messing: Forums are insanely useful for someone planning a trip. They respond to a person planning a trip within hours, and there’s an opportunity to take that work and republish it.
Skift: Do you worry anymore about being liked by hotels?
Messing: The world has realized that online reviews are an incredible part of how people make decisions. There may have been resistance to this transparency from brands, but the work has changed. The best brands use feedback to make themselves better, whether it is good or bad. I get excited when hotels read the reviews every day with their team or respond to issues as they come up.
The feedback is only going to make your business better.
See the complete list of speakers and topics at the Skift Global Forum