TripAdvisor is introducing Sponsored Placements to its Experiences division - specifically, to qualified Bokun suppliers - following similar rollouts of the program to its Hotels and Restaurants sectors.
With Sponsored Placements, Bokun suppliers have the opportunity to merchandise their products for free around the TripAdvisor site. The high-visibility placement is designed to help suppliers highlight their products, drive traffic and increase bookings.
The Sponsored Placements will live on TripAdvisor’s main Things To Do page, as well as on product category pages in clearly marked sponsored locations. There is no fee or additional signup required for new or existing Bokun-connected suppliers.
Eligible Bokun suppliers must have a highly reviewed product (a three-bubble rating or higher) and be “in good standing with TripAdvisor,” says Ben Drew, the company’s vice president of business development and strategic initiatives, meaning they’re up to date with things like payments to both the platform and Bokun.
Some products with no bubble ratings will also receive exposure to introduce travelers to new and interesting products.
The Bokun bet
The announcement clears up some confusion around whether suppliers on Bokun, which TripAdvisor purchased in April 2018, were receiving preferential treatment on the platform.
At the Arival Conference in September, TripAdvisor president of attractions Dermot Halpin said Bokun suppliers would be "emphasized" on the site, which president and CEO Steve Kaufer clarified wasn’t exactly the case at The Phocuswright Conference in November.
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Indeed, Drew says, the introduction of Sponsored Placements does benefit Bokun suppliers but has no effect on the TripAdvisor sort order. “No bias is being introduced or anything like that. This is purely merchandizing placement,” he says.
“Any supplier can continue to work with us, regardless or irrespective of the software they choose to use. These are just marketing placements that will be presented around the site. The actual ranking and popularity index as we have it on the site is completely unchanged.”
Drew says in the future, there is potential to turn Sponsored Placements into ad units or monetized ad units for all suppliers - not just Bokun ones - similar to what the Hotels and Restaurants businesses offer.
“We’ve seen a very big success there [with Hotels and Restaurants] and have a great track record. There’s definitely an opportunity for that that exists, but for the time being this is a benefit to suppliers at Bokun,” he says.
“This is an opportunity for us to merchandize Bokun suppliers, and to do so without a tool, making changes or compromising sort order. TripAdvisor is unbiased and remains that way, and as Steve [Kaufer] has said, it’s very important for us to keep that.”