Expedia casts fresh light on mid-funnel traveler behaviorNews / OnlineBy Sean O'Neil | November 18, 2015Share This article was originally published on “Half of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half,” is the famous quote from decades ago by Philadelphia department store owner John Wannamaker.That sentiment is still relevant today, particularly in the “mid-funnel”, or how travelers behave in-between when they first start looking for inspiration and when they type in their credit card number for a booking.On November 18 Expedia Media Solutions, the advertising arm of the tech giant, cast a little bit more light on this murky research area for travel marketers in a new Traveler Attribution Study presented at the Phocuswright Conference in Florida.The company partnered with MillwardBrown Digital, an agency, to collect 75 million instances of clickstream data in the travel website ecosystem 45 days prior to hotel and flight bookings. The goal was to isolate where users started their trip research and how their interaction with key touch points influenced where they transacted.The focus was not on search versus non-search behavior, but instead on how travel sites — like online travel agencies (OTAs), metasearch sites, and supplier sites — play together in affecting traveler decisions.Some consumers prefer to cross-check rates with OTAs even if they have a preference for ultimately booking with a supplier. As these consumers try to feel more confident about booking direct with a supplier, they may visit an OTA for a little bit more context.Many marketers fear that OTA visit. Their inclination is to try to use marketing to steal back share from the OTAs.But a different way of looking at this purchase path activity, argues Expedia Media Solutions, is that this particular type of consumer prefers to book direct with a supplier, yet needs more confidence before making a decision to book.The issue then becomes making sure that a brand gets its “fair share” of bookings — and that the customers who prefer to book direct aren’t lost to another supplier’s site.For instance, let’s say a consumer starts their trip research at Marriott.com. How can you make sure they make they are booking direct through that site and don’t end up booking through Hilton.com instead?To keep a fair share of supplier-direct business, marketers may choose to buy advertising products on an OTA that helps shoppers feel more confident to book direct.While not spelled out in the research, the data is presented as support for the effectiveness of Expedia Media Solutions’ array of advertising and media products, such as display ads promoting the value of hotels at a particular destination or messages saying something like “X number of consumers have looked at Brand X hotels at this destination in the past 24 hours”But even marketers who aren’t interested in doing that may find the data intriguing for how they think about their campaigns and how they assign credit to channels or partners that drive the most transactions.It might also prompt rethinking among travel suppliers about how they create experiences that prompt consumers to retain and recall their sites and come back ultimately to book through them.It also underlines the usefulness to suppliers of adopting sophisticated algorithmic attribution methodology, something that many travel suppliers of significant size still don’t fully embrace.“Listings are research,” said Wendy Olson Killion, director of product management and product marketing, who presented the research. “Consumers use OTA and meta listings to help gauge whether an individual hotel offer or destination is a good fit for them, including among consumers who prefer to ultimately book direct with a hotel or airline.”Share this quote The Traveler Attribution Study is free to download. More details will be released on the Expedia Media Solutions blog on Thursday November 19. Killion will be at the Expedia Partner Conference in Las Vegas in early December, where many suppliers will be attending, too.