Macdonald Hotels are an award-winning chain of hoteliers that operate 45 hotels across the UK that offer AA Rosette dining and exclusive Spa sanctuary facilities. As well as offering a great range of hotels, Macdonald also has a Resorts range which offers superior self-catering accommodation in the UK and Spain. Scottish digital agency Equator are responsible for managing Macdonald Hotels’ affiliate marketing activity.
In a recent survey conducted by remarketing specialists SaleCycle, a massive 81% of consumers interviewed said they abandon their travel bookings online due to a myriad of factors (price, booking process too long etc.). Macdonald Hotels sought to task the affiliate channel with addressing this issue on a low-risk CPA (cost per acquisition) basis. They were also keen to have key onsite promotional offers (Best Rate Guarantee and Free £10 Credit with direct bookings) incorporated into the solution.
Equator approached Ve Interactive whom it already had a strong relationship with through its use of a number of their key retargeting tools such as VeGenie and VeContact. Equator sought to utilise some of Ve Interactive’s new technology and the team there proposed VeChat as a suitable tool. VeChat is a custom overlay tool that reduces abandonment within the shopping cart by providing merchants with an opportunity for real time re-engagement with customers before they leave your site.
The idea was to implement VeChat on the checkout page for Macdonald Hotels. The overlay would be triggered when customers got to a certain stage in the booking process and chose to abandon their basket. Equator was mindful of a number of factors prior to the implementation of VeChat. It did not want to adversely affect the user’s experience on the Macdonald Hotels site by serving them up disruptive or irrelevant messages. Key points addressed here were making sure the overlay contained both a relevant and enticing message, and also ensuring the overlay artwork aligned with the brand’s look and feel.
Secondly, Equator looked to ensure that VeChat wasn’t necessarily intercepting sales generated by other affiliates who had initially driven the customer to the Macdonald Hotels website based on the ‘last click’ principle. We worked with Ve Interactive to ensure the cookie governing VeChat is session-based and runs on a 60 minute window. That way they would only be attributed for sales that occurred within this limited timeframe once the overlay had fired.
From a technical point of view, the implementation of tracking for Ve Chat was relatively straightforward. As the team at Equator also built and manage the Macdonald Hotels website, our development team handled the technical aspect of things in conjunction with the IT support staff at Ve Interactive.
A major consideration during the implementation of VeChat was ensuring that the finished overlay aligned with the Macdonald Hotels’ onsite aesthetic. We wanted something that echoed the premium look and feel of the Macdonald Hotels experience and worked closely with the design team at Ve Interactive to ensure these standards were met. Once we signed off on the overlay design, we set about communicating the main booking direct message as per Macdonald Hotels’ instruction. This included the Best Rate Guarantee and £10 credit awarded for all direct bookings on Macdonaldhotels.co.uk.
An agreed trial period and commission rate was then agreed with Ve Interactive, and after a period of fine-tuning and final testing Equator were able to launch in late November 2014.
Since the launch of VeChat Equator have experienced a great response on the affiliate programme. Overall the tool has generated 17% off overall bookings generated via the affiliate channel, with 20% of revenue being attributed and an ABV that is £49 higher than the programme average. Most impressively, it’s experienced an average conversion rate of 11.7% which is more than double the programme average. Using Affiliate Window’s Assisted Awin tracking, Equator was also able to determine the number of bookings Ve Chat played a part in but was not the last click referrer. Oliver Harris, Digital Consultant for Travel & Leisure at Ve Interactive, adds – “From an accommodation perspective we are mindful of the ever increasing 45+ hotels within the UK as well as the marketing power of the OTA’s. It is typical for customers to have multiple tabs open at any one time when conducting their research and going through a booking process with a particular website. VeChat is activated on the checkout page for Macdonald Hotels as if a visitor makes it this far, they have clearly shown a strong intent to make a reservation so this is a critical moment to re-engage. We look forward to optimizing Macdonald Hotels' campaign as-well as working with Equator in the near future”.