Expedia: A Marketing Plan

Executive Summary

Marketing is a major activity that drives firms to success. Appropriate marketing strategies are critical in bringing in consumers. There are several methods used by companies to enhance marketing initiatives. Some firms have opted for traditional print and broadcast strategies. These companies have been hiring creative minds to further expand the scope of these conventional methods. In addition, firms have decided to directly reach the consumers through various promotional activities and roadshows.

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Expedia has been using the mentioned strategies to become more known to the public. But the Company’s focus has undergone a major shift. The marketing team of the company has recognized the need to take advantage of the Internet as an advertising tool. Online advertising has become a popular and successful instrument to introduce firms to the mainstream market. The scope covered by the Internet is vast and encompasses other market segments. The challenge for Expedia is to create a master plan to exploit this clear advantage.

Business Objectives

Expedia seeks to become a player in the travel industry. Travel has been an important segment that provides business opportunities and other similar activities. The Company estimates that firms engaged in passenger bookings generate approximately $17 billion annually. The initial success in the U.S. market has led Expedia to expand in another huge market overseas. In the next years, Expedia plans to pursue this expansion and explore other emerging markets that are expected to increase demand for online bookings.

There are methods used by Expedia to further expand the Company’s scope in the global market. Improvement in operational efficiency is regarded as a primary concern. Given the nature of the business that is operated by Expedia, it makes sense for the Company to improve on marketing strategies. With the demand for travel increasing, the players in the market have continuously improved and enhanced business efforts. Among the aspects of business, marketing is viewed as the most critical. Since the industry is competitive, such initiatives will boost the capacity of the Company to succeed.

Marketing Goals

Expedia has identified marketing as a catalyst to success. This perspective is further explained by specific marketing objectives to be implemented by the Company. The main goal of Expedia in advertising is to make a shift from the traditional platforms to the Internet. The latter is considered cheaper and combines technical and creative capabilities. The main focus of the firm’s marketing team is to develop concepts that will allow Expedia to be introduced both in controlled and uncontrolled markets.

With this general marketing objective, the Company intends to become a major player in markets where flight bookings have been increasing. For instance, the emerging markets in Asia and other parts of Europe are critical in the firm’s long-term success. Moreover, the marketing strategy will provide the Company an opportunity to target certain markets. It is evident that some executives have preferred the Internet to other information sources. Other travelers have also realized that the Internet is a convenient tool.

Business Situation

The firm’s strong and weak points define the current state of Expedia. The future of the Company will be determined by available opportunities and threats in the market. There are several strengths Expedia has that led the Company to this level of success. The most compelling part of the Company that has provided success is the brand. The branding strategy of Expedia separates the Company from the competition. Aside from branding, Expedia has invested heavily in the firm’s product development. The results are evident in the influx of Expedia products catering to different markets.

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Expedia believes that customers have the power to make choices. Hence the product lines of the Company are targeted to different client preferences. Unlike other booking firms, Expedia provides modified products and services to satisfy the needs of consumers. Moreover, Expedia has established partnerships with suppliers. Hotels and airline companies are the primary anchors of Expedia operations. The Company has been in constant communication with suppliers to ensure that quality services are delivered.

Expedia, however, needs to address some weak points that can lead to business risks. In the industry where Expedia operates, the proliferation of ideas is pushed. But some individuals and groups abuse this notion and resort to piracy. Patents and copyrights have to be established to prevent such acts. In addition, the Company has been dependent solely on the capacity of its partners. When hotels and airlines fail, Expedia will also receive a red mark. Contracts, where Expedia is involved, specify commissions even in off-peak seasons.

In terms of opportunities, the online booking industry provides several. There are markets overseas that are still untapped. These locations are proven to deliver consistent travel demand. For Expedia, global expansion appears to be an inevitable endeavor. The advent of the Internet is another development that is being monitored by Expedia. The Company depends on the Internet’s stability to deliver information. Traveling has also become a necessity among different market segments and entities.

To ensure continuous business success, Expedia has to evaluate the threats. There are several barriers in the market considering the success that online booking firms have experienced. Travel is a seasonal activity that has off-peak seasons. During this period, the volume of travelers significantly declines. During this period, the revenue of the Company is expected to decline. In addition, threats to travelers affect volume. Events that affect travel decisions are uncontrolled circumstances that can change the pace of Expedia’s growth.

Industry Analysis

Understanding the industry requires the evaluation of aspects that revolve around the markets. Porter (1980) introduced the concept of five elements that seek to analyze the competition in the industry. The threat of new entrants involves market openness to new players. Despite strict regulations, online booking firms have increased in volume. The substitute for online booking refers to the traditional methods of travel. There are still travelers who prefer going straight to travel agencies instead of booking online. But the level of threat that substitutes provide is minimal when compared with other barriers.

The bargaining power of the consumers relates to buying capacity and preference. Consumers have been meticulous when choosing online booking firms. The issue of value for money is often emphasized in this process. The bargaining power of the suppliers highlights the ability of suppliers to meet the demand of clients. Expedia has reputable partners that can guarantee top-notch service. Based on these elements, competition is indeed existent in the online booking industry. The level of competition is intensified by the influx of market players and changing consumer preferences.

Value Chain

Value-adding is an important process that improves the products and services of the Company. The additional value provided to the services is important in controlling the market. There are two value-adding activities that the Company provides to up the quality of services. The first involves the provision of perks and privileges to clients. Services provided by Expedia are clustered into ranges. Each brand has advantages provided to clients. Perks are added to increase the value for money. In addition, the added value motivates brand loyalty and a strong following.

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The other value-adding activity performed by Company is customer services. Other online booking firms assume that customers are self-reliant in navigating their sites. Although Expedia knows that its clients are capable, providing added customer service is necessary. A 24/7 service is installed to address the queries of clients. The Company also provides after-sales services for customers that have suggestions and future transactions.

Marketing Opportunities and Threats

There are several opportunities for marketing provided by the Internet. Expedia can use the Internet to promote its products and services with reduced cost and improved efficiency. The Company’s website is the best tool that can be used for marketing. It is the main avenue where clients can access the services provided by Expedia. On the Company’s website, it is important to include the views of the customers. Testimonials will be accommodated to further improve the services provided by the firm. In addition, a suggestion and a comment box will be provided for clients to input their views on Expedia.

The Company can use the Internet to keep clients informed about the changes in Expedia. This is needed because Expedia intends to provide some perks and privileges to loyal customers. Moreover, the Company can publish articles in some reputable Internet travel magazines. Contributions to these platforms are crucial in introducing Expedia to the market. The presence of search engines will also be recognized. Expedia has had a partnership with MSN since operations started. The Company can acquire advertising opportunities in other engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Expedia, however, is faced with problems when focusing on the Internet as the main advertising platform. The Company’s website is vulnerable to groups that thrive on copying ideas. Since Expedia’s website is open to the public, exposing it to these groups is problematic. Another problem seen on the Internet is that some households lack suitable access. Some customers are affected when the navigation of websites is slow.

The Internet has several problems in controlling useless information. This threat is evident in the proliferation of spam information and other irrelevant advertising. Groups to perform scams and other similar activities also use the Internet. Expedia will be a challenge to maintain the integrity of the information that is presented on the website. In addition, competition on the Internet is also as intense. There are companies that are willing to spend just to appear on the first page of search engine websites.

Market Targeting and Segmentation

Positioning refers to the perceptions developed in the minds of the target market. The process entails the creation of an image of the brand and the entire firm (Trout and Rivkin, 1996). Market positioning is purely procedural and relies on the completion of stages before making further improvements. The initial stage involves the definition of the firms’ target market. There are three important segments that are being targeted by the Company. These comprise students, young professionals, and business executives. These three groups are the most exposed to the Internet.

The company needs to analyze the perception of the consumers on services provided by the Company. Expedia has to stand out as a provider of value for the money of clients. This process involves the determination of preference and other aspects that affect choice. The selected market segments will serve as the foundation of Expedia’s clientele. The three groups have the capacity to access the Company’s website and browse through the products. Moreover, these groups are the travelers in the market.

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In targeting the mentioned groups, the Company is using some basic criteria. As stated previously, the three groups require most of the traveling as compared with other market segments. Students require traveling because of different school seasons. Young professionals consider traveling as leisure that needs to be enjoyed. Moreover, executives travel because such needed for business. These groups have the financial capacity to travel at least twice a year. In addition, the groups targeted regularly use the Internet as a platform for their daily activities.

Marketing Action Plan

The formulation of the marketing plan requires basic assumptions. These are preliminary presuppositions that will be the basis of the strategies to be discussed in the succeeding sections. The market plans assume that all figures presented in the annual reports are accurate. This is done to determine the impact of the marketing plan on the company with established precision. Figures are important because quantitative illustrations improve perception. These numbers have to be showed to guide the Company in framing the target outcomes and preferred improvements after implementing the marketing plan.

Although collaboration is needed, the marketing group will be the department in charge of the planning and implementation of the plan. The marketing group identifies the specific roles that other groups will assume to avoid confusion. Most of the tasks will be carried out the marketing group along with the approval of minor change that is required in the plan. The marketing group will be further divided into smaller teams and provided with responsibilities. This is a basic assumption because there are tendencies that other departments intervene, which in effect will cause disharmony and will eventually dampen the efforts in the marketing plan.

Combining the different aspects associated with marketing is vital to the company. The development of a marketing plan entails strategies that are designed to ensure consistency in the quality of performance. The first aspect that has to be considered is the price of the product. Despite the high quality of inputs used by the company, the price of the services has been competitive. The company has to devise better strategies to reach the lower echelon of the market. This means increasing demand and extending the market beyond the current targets.

Promotional activities have to continue using all the options available. There are two methods in which promotions are highlighted. The provision of perks for clients is a basic necessity. Loyal customers have to be accorded with miles programs and other similar privileges. The other form of the promotional tool involves discounts on booking rates. The Company is considered as the middleman between travelers and players in the tourism industry. Discounts are needed to encourage the passengers to continue traveling.

Expedia also needs to focus on other marketing aspects that deal with online processes. Customer service is expected to be intensified as the demand for services increases. At present, the Company has installed a reliable customer service team. The group is tasked to guide customers in using the website of the Company. Moreover, Expedia has to include technical services. This is will allow clients that have no experience in Internet users to browse on the services provided by the company. Unlike other booking agencies, Expedia directly links the clients to the airline, hotel, and restaurant partners of the firm.

The technological infrastructures of the Company undergo continuous improvements. This is done to ensure that the Website meets the demand of the industry. Technology in communication dissemination changes and the Company has to keep up with the developments. The website is maintained and ensured with protection software. Expedia believes that the integrity of the Company has to be maintained through these security mechanisms. Personnel is in charge to monitor problems on the website. In addition, specialists are tasked to ensure that advertisements online are delivered to the market.

A marketing audit is considered a vital component of marketing processes. Brownlie (1993) stated that it is the initial stage in undertaking managerial initiatives in marketing. The focal point of the marketing audit is its design which ultimately determines the process in performing such a method. A marketing audit is a systematic and comprehensive approach that evaluates the marketing initiatives of the company. This is manifested to identify possible problems in the organization, personnel, and marketing activities.

Expected Results

Results are part of every initiative. In the planning process, the framers of the marketing plan will map specific desired outcomes that are considered realizable. The marketing plan identifies both general and detailed results. In this section, however, it is more appropriate to discuss the former than the latter. The most important concern of the marketing plan is to improve the awareness of the consumers and prospects on the services of Expedia. Even potential consumers will get to know the benefits that the Company’s services provide including the possible changes that can affect their travel experiences positively.

The market shares of the company are a major concern. Marketing plans are usually designed to expand the market and increase the shares. The goal of the marketing plan is to experience a significant increase in the market share. The percentage has to positively impact the Company and the views of other stakeholders. The marketing plan needs to be the foundation of communication arteries established by the company and the customers. It is imperative that the lines between stakeholders are always open. Such practice will improve the distribution of vital information helpful in making quality decisions.

It is important for the marketing plan to motivate other departments to perform. Naturally, the success of the marketing initiatives will be reflected in the other entities. Logically, the success enjoyed by the marketing will push the other departments to perform at the same level. The marketing plan has to cause a domino effect that highlights the innovativeness and competitiveness of the marketing plan. These are the general results that the plan needs to attain.

Evaluation Process

The company can use several methods to evaluate the impact of the marketing plan. Perhaps the most important consideration in this process is the assessment of the marketing plan that needs to be approached systematically. This means that the evaluation requires planning and identification of inputs that will be used. The conduct of the assessment needs to be determined. Dates have to be underlined so that the entire process will not be stalled. The evaluators have to be oriented with the process and the tools that will be used in the evaluation. Procedural approaches to evaluation have to be emphasized and addressed.

Another vital evaluation tool is market research. This is more accurate and can determine various aspects that the company desires to know. In market research determines the response of the customers to the marketing initiatives of the company. This is usually done through a survey where company personnel will ask customers about their views. The central question of the survey highlights the capacity of the advertising methods manifested by the company to influence the decision of the respondents. This will be supported by several queries on aspects that affect the perception of the customers on the main question.

Budgetary Requirements

The marketing department will require a boost in the budget allocated by the Company. The budget needed for the marketing activities is allocated among three basic areas. These include market research, advertisement, and promotions. In conducting market research, the marketing team will require funds to support the undertaking of surveys and data analysis. Acquisition of the survey instruments and mechanisms will serve as the primary sources of expenses for this section. Employee training is also an aspect that needs to be considered in drafting the advertising budget.

Expenses for advertisements cover most of the budget allocated for marketing. At present, the focus of the budget is on the development of the website. This covers the majority of the budget required for the initiatives. To give a rough figure, at least 40% of the intended funds will go to the website. The second part involves online placements. The focus of Expedia is to advertise to Google, Yahoo, and MSN. The partnership of Expedia with MSN is essential. In addition, Google is a cheap option since it charges only $1.5 per click. In the entire marketing budget, at least 25% will go to placements and other related options (Drummond and Ensor, 2001).

Approximately 15% of the budget will go to promotions. The traditional methods include freebies, discounts, and free samples. Other successful promotional schemes include prizes and coupons. The other parts of the budget will go to website enhancement and maintenance and employee training. The website has to be continuously improved and checked to ensure the credibility of information available for consumers. Focus on employee training will be included in the budget. The training will involve basic customer services and technical skills. This shows the dedication of Expedia to get in touch with its clients.

Plan Timetable

The goal of Expedia is to improve the marketing plan every quarter. The team is provided 3 months to derive a marketing concept from their creative minds. The conception period will take 2 weeks. This includes consultations and brainstorming. The development stage pertains to the drafting of the actual plan. Previous methods are incorporated with other ideas. By the second month, the plan is ready for implementation. The results of the plan will then be documented for future evaluation. In the 3 months, the cycle will be manifested and changes have to be included in the next quarter.

References

Brownlie, D. (1993). Marketing Intelligence and Planning. “The marketing audit: A metrology and explanation.”

Drummond, G and Ensor, J. (2001). Strategic Marketing Planning and Control. London: Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd.

Porter, M. (1980). Competitive Advantage: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. New York: Free Press.

Trout, J. and Rivkin, S. (1996). The New Positioning: The Latest on the World’s Number 1 Business Strategy. New York: McGraw Hill.

Expedia, (2008), 2006-2007 Annual Report, Web.

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