L2 Thinktank has applied its marketing intelligence brain to metasearch, coming up with an overview of the state of metasearch. The focus is on how hotel brands can leverage metasearch to enjoy an advantage over the heavy paid search spend by OTAs.
The overview of user habits show that the metasearch vertical in travel is extremely popular in China - emphasizing just how important that particular market is to the maturing metasearch ecosystem, while also showing how much market growth is still available in developed countries.
In fact, both OTAs and brand-direct websites are suffering at the hands of metasearch growth.
Each must now consider how metasearch plays into a particular strategy, and while large OTAs can simply buy their way into the metasearch market, hotel brands seeking to emphasize direct bookings must now seriously play the metasearch game to ensure that more clicks are going directly to them then to a third party.
The report goes on to focus on breakdowns of each of the larger players: TripAdvisor, Kayak and Google.
For TripAdvisor, the results on the listings side show that hotels are not taking advantage of completed listings to ensure that potential guests can reach them through several channels. For clarification, the measured brands here are the ones that list on L2's brand index.
This is a very simple addition that should make it easier for guests to connect directly with the hotel - why would a hotel not want to have its website, phone number and e-mail on one of the world's most popular travel sites? By opting out, the hotels are basically pushing the potential guest to either search via TripAdvisor's own metasearch functionality or onto an OTA to book there.
Of course, hotel brands are able to position themselves on TripAdvisor's new metasearch functionality as a service provider so guests can book direct. However, L2 looked at the top three placements in this area, and found that only 42% featured somewhere in the top three.
Meanwhile, Expedia controls 21% of the top spots and Booking.com controls 27% of these spots. The top performers on the hotel brand side were as follows:
Kayak also presents an ongoing opportunity for hotel brands to engage directly with consumers, who searched over 1.6 billion times last year. Yet 96.4 percent of the listing results are controlled by OTAs, with brand properties showing up in only 64% of markets where the brand was present.
The spread pans out like this:
Last year's rollout of Google's local Carousel product is another area where hotel brands are able to compete head-to-head with OTAs. Essentially also a metasearch product, Google's Carousel presents a top band of engaging images for hotel searches.
Users can then select from organic and paid searches, in addition to Hotel Price Ads that allow guests to see prices directly. After selecting dates, users can then go and book that particular stay.
With up to 20 results per search, it's important for brands to be in the first eight in order to capture the highest chance of conversion.
Overall, in this particular report, the OTAs are winning the metasearch battle as far as placement. If hotels want to siphon traffic away from the commission-hungry OTAs, then they must bid into proper placements to bring the consumer on-site directly.
In many ways, the metasearch shift is beneficial to brands who want to compete directly, as there are more ways to ensure placement than simply bidding on AdWords. Of course, OTAs will take note as consumers move from OTAs to meta, and that will increase competition - and raise prices - for premium placements.
The full report can be viewed here.
NB: Maze image courtesy Shutterstock.