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As summer arrives, travel appears poised to bounce back in a big way. While vacationers make their plans and get their packing lists together, Marriott has a new way for brands to reach travelers during their journey.
In a first for the hospitality industry, the hotel brand is partnering with Yahoo to launch the Marriott Media Network. This will allow advertisers to reach brands across Marriott’s digital and physical properties.
How will it work?
- Whole journey: Marriott will offer curated content experiences where brands can showcase products and services to travelers during a purchase, pre-arrival and during their stay. When the network is fully-deployed, Marriott will be offering inventory across display, mobile, video, email and digital out-of-home (meaning, in-room television and digital screens). Marriott plans to use anonymized data from bookings and searches on its digital channels to target ads, and will pilot this month with advertisers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
- What’s the reach? Initially it will be in pilot mode, available in the U.S. and Canada. Eventually, Marriott has plans to expand it to travelers globally to encompass more than 164 million members in Marriott Bonvoy, the company's rewards program. In all, Marriott says it has 8,000 properties under 30 brands spanning 139 countries.
- Full stack: The partnership with Yahoo spans supply and demand side. Yahoo’s supply side platform is serving as the access points for advertisers seeking to purchase inventory. In turn, the Yahoo ad sales team will lead demand generation and sales across Marriott paid media and the Marriott Media Network, using Yahoo’s demand side platform.
Why does it matter?
It’s a sign of how digital advertising is evolving. Flush with third-party data, advertising technology and lots of users, platforms like Facebook have been the go-to option for brands seeking to reach customers over the last decade. But with rising customer acquisition costs, privacy changes by Apple and the forecast demise of the third-party cookie, brands are seeking new avenues to reach consumers.
This is leading to new advertising solutions beyond social platforms. Among the most popular are in-house media networks created by consumer marketplaces. Under this model, a marketplace uses customer data to target ads that are displayed within the marketplace itself. After the success of these models from Amazon, Walmart and Kroger, retailers like Nordstrom and Michaels launched their own media networks in the first quarter of this year.
The Marriott Media Network is bringing this concept to travel, where large audiences visit platforms to book and manage trips. It allows Marriott to offer advertisers new ways to reach travelers – an audience that is often in discovery mode with discretionary funds available. Going beyond advertising future bookings, a media network can allow advertising for products that travelers may be interested in, such as personal care items, weather-specific clothing or experiences in the locale they are visiting. As Marriott put it, “Marriott's audience has intent, and travelers will be in the right mindset when receiving these offerings.”
In turn, the ability to leverage anonymized data that will help to curate the content will allow a more focused experience for travelers, Marriott says.
Equally, it's notable that Marriott's rewards program is involved. In this new wave of digital advertising, first-party data, or data collected directly from customers, is key. Loyalty programs, such as rewards programs, are key to gathering this type of data.
From airlines to hotels, rewards programs have long been a mainstay of the travel industry. The media network points to how they can play a role in powering digital experiences, as well. Here's a quick breakdown:
- Marriott recently redesigned its Bonvoy app. In the first quarter, downloads rose 70% over the first quarter of 2019, Skift reported.
- Bonvoy also helps Marriott go directly to travelers when they book. In the first quarter, the company reported an increase in direct digital bookings of 14% over the first quarter of 2019.
- Bonvoy helps Marriott offer links to services beyond its hotels. Even before the network, Marriott had a deal with Uber that allowed customers to earn points.
Linking a media network with a rewards program could allow Marriott to add content alongside the perks Bonvoy offers. In the future, it's not hard to imaging them being linked together. Meanwhile, the rewards program is likely providing data that powers the curation of content.
With the resumption of activities like travel after the pre-pandemic lull, there will be lots of focus on whether business is returning to pre-pandemic levels. But it's important to remember that these in-person activities are also returning to a world that is more comfortable in digital modes, and one where new business opportunities exist within that digital ecosystem. Look for the companies that power these experiences to behave more like tech platforms, as well.
Trending in Marketing
New advertising opportunities are being beta tested for in-store audio and product demos.
Retail media’s fast growth isn’t only limited to increasing spend. The advertising itself is also poised to appear in more places beyond ecommerce marketplaces, and even beyond the web.
The latest example comes from Walmart Connect, which is the retail media arm of the world’s largest retailer.
Walmart shared details on testing that it is completing for in-store retail media. To this point, Walmart Connect has been considered the advertising platform for Walmart’s ecommerce site. But these tests indicate that’s poised to expand.
Stores present a potent opportunity for Walmart. It has 4,700 big box locations around the U.S., and customers returned to them in droves last year. In 2022, 88% of the retailer’s customers visited Walmart stores.
Walmart Connect already has already dipped a toe into in-store advertising, with a TV wall, self-checkout ads and integrated marketing. The new pilots aim to take a step further.
“The next frontier of retail media is in-store experiences, and it’s one we’re excited to chart,” Whitney Cooper, head of omnichannel transformation at Walmart Connect, wrote in a blog post on the new tests. “But it’s still an emerging opportunity for us, as we continue to test what serves customers best and which solutions are scalable to Walmart’s size.”
Here’s a look at the two new offerings currently under beta test:
Walmart suppliers will be able to integrate product demos into campaigns across in-store and digital environments.
Product demos aren’t new to store floors, but Walmart Connect is seeking to give them an update that blends digital and physical experiences.
“Part of our test is how to enhance the omnichannel experience by bridging the physical back to digital: For example, by pairing a demo cart with QR codes that link back to a curated Walmart.com landing page so customers can find inspiration and shop their list all in one spot,” Cooper wrote.
Walmart is currently offering 120 demos at stores each weekend, and plans to scale to 1,000 by the end of 2023.
Walmart Connect will now offer advertising placements on Walmart’s in-store radio network. Suppliers will have the option to purchase ads by region or store, enabling targeting of key markets.
“This is the first time brands will be able to speak directly to Walmart customers through this medium,” Cooper writes. “These ads also create a new upper-funnel touchpoint for brand marketers and out-of-home (OOH) buyers to create awareness, because in-store audio is about connecting with customers wherever they are in the store — they don’t have to pass the brand in the aisle.”
With the tests, we’ll be watching for how this advertising is measured, and whether Walmart Connect is tracking impact across different types of formats, and not just a single campaign.