Hotels.com Matches Sales Revenue to Augmented Reality Tool
Hotels.com recently launched an augmented reality (AR) website, dubbed "Virtual Vacation," which has helped increase revenues for the brand.
In his keynote presentation, which took place on the second day of the InterACT! Conference, Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing for Hotels.com, discussed the site, which was designed to make virtual vacations a little more "real."
Earlier this year, he said, Hotels.com set up the microsite, which allows people to use their web cameras and computer microphones to convert a special "glyph" or marker on print and email advertisements into 3D-animated versions of 10 U.S. cities, including New York City, Denver, New Orleans and Las Vegas.
The AR program uses Hotels.com's claymation character "Smart" to guide people through the cities. While touring, users can take part in various activities, such as getting married in Vegas or riding a bull in Denver, Walia said.
In addition to the virtual activities, the AR technology also taps into Weather.com and Metromix.com to include real-time weather and activity updates for people planning their vacations to one of the 10 cities. Users can also take a picture of themselves in the virtual cities to share on social networking sites.
Hotels.com promoted the AR technology through a print advertising campaign aimed at the technical and travel markets. The company also utilized PR and social media.
The results were impressive.
"We received 277 million media impressions related to this campaign, which is the advertising equivalent of $14 million," Walia said. "We essentially got $14 million of free advertising." Customers also spent an average of eight minutes interacting on the site, he said.
But that's not all. Since the AR website was launched in May, Walia said it has generated the following for the brand:
- traffic to Hotels.com increased 26 percent;
- transactions were up 36 percent; and
- registration to its "Welcome Reward" program increased 32 percent.
Walia said Hotels.com can attribute the transactions to the AR site because it integrated its booking engine into the site to monetize the experience.
What are the next steps for Hotels.com and its use of AR technology?
"I think the future of online travel is virtually visiting cities before traveling to them," Walia said. "Today we can do virtual tours of hotels or look at pictures online, but I believe the experience will get more enriched for consumers ... Our program is just a glimpse into the future."