Skift Take

Expedia is doing some smart things. Focusing on luring repeat customers and thereby limiting payouts to Google can't hurt.

The introduction of a revamped Expedia Group loyalty program, consolidating four brand programs into one, will likely be delayed until 2023, but in the interim the company is focusing its U.S. TV advertising on getting signups for its existing Expedia.com Rewards.

Since May 1, an Expedia.com TV ad called Lemons has attracted 91.6 percent of Expedia Group’s estimated $15.6 million in U.S. national TV ad spend, according to TV measurement and analytics and firm iSpot.tv. (See the ad below.)

The spot is eclectic as it depicts scenes of people running in lemon costumes, a dancer with lemon images on his jacket and pants, an elderly man soaking in lemons in a spa-like pool, and a couple standing outside their convertible with a road sign showing they are in the northern Italian town, Limone sul Garda.

The message is about travel and exploration, of course, but also about the alleged allures of Expedia member pricing. The script says:

“Lemons. Lemons. Lemons. Lemons. Look how nice they are. The moment you become an Expedia member, you can instantly start saving on your travels. So you can go see all those lovely lemony lemons. And never wonder if you’ve got a good deal. Because you did.”

In the next images in the ad you see, “Sign up for free. Save with member pricing,” and then “Expedia, Made to Travel.”

The backdrop is that in April 2021 Expedia.com added 25 million members to Expedia Rewards simply by automatically enrolling customers instead of making them sign up for the program.

Five months later in September 2021, the company announced that it would take its disparate loyalty programs for Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz, and eBookers, all of which worked at cross-purposes using different technology platforms, and combine them into a solitary program.

With the goal of introducing the single Expedia Group rewards program in 2022, members would be able to earn and burn points on everything from flights to hotels, and for the first time at the company on vacation rentals.

At an investor conference in June, CEO Peter Kern said the consolidated program, called One Key, would likely be introduced in the beginning of 2023. The goal of the new program would be to simplify Expedia Group’s reward messaging and technology, and to spur repeat customers and increase their lifetime value to the company.

In May, Expedia Group said that One Key for the first time would enable members “to earn and burn points on any of the Expedia Group brands, like Expedia, Vrbo, Hotels.com and more, and on any of their travel products, including air, hotel, vacation rental, car, and cruise.”

Expedia Rewards, which is the focus of the Lemons TV ad, enables members to redeem rewards on select hotels, car rentals and activities, subject to availability. The program recently reduced the redemption rate from 140 points to 100 points per dollar.

Expedia Group declined to say how many members are in Expedia Rewards, but said the its four loyalty programs combined have more than 150 million members.

One of Expedia’s goals may be to gain some ground on Booking.com, which has emphasized its Genius loyalty program over the last few years. Airbnb doesn’t have a loyalty program — and you can make the argument it doesn’t need one.

We found Expedia member pricing of $185 per night for a room with a queen bed for a stay at Yotel Times Square in New York City July 20-21. Expedia.com said it was a 50 percent savings.

Booking.com had the same room type for the same night for $212.

From May 1 to July 11, according to iSpot.tv, Expedia attracted 17.3 percent of all travel website TV ad impressions in the U.S., and that mark put Expedia third behind Booking.com and Trivago, which is an Expedia Group brand.

Booking.com’s most-viewed ad during the period was Idris Shares His Peace of Mind while Trivago’s most popular one was Checking Out, iSpot.tv said.

Expedia.com was responsible for 19.5 percent of U.S. national TV ad spend among online travel agencies, iSpot.TV said, behind the most prolific spender, Booking.com. iSpot.tv estimated that Booking.com spent $18.2 million to Expedia.com’s $15.6 million.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Expedia Group has five loyalty programs based on public statements made by CEO Peter Kern. Expedia has four loyalty programs. 

Update: This story has been updated to add information about the future One Key consolidated loyalty program, as well as changes to Expedia Rewards.

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Tags: advertising, airbnb, booking.com, expedia, loyalty, online travel newsletter, rewards, trivago, tv, videos

Photo credit: An image from an Expedia.com TV ad, Lemons, emphasizing its member pricing.