informa
/
Feature

Choice Hotels Rolls Out Web Analytics

The hospitality industry franchisor increases online market share by applying business intelligence to its hotel brands' Web-based promotional efforts.
Choice Hotels, the franchisor of such brands as Comfort Suites, Sleep Inn, and Econo Lodge, is using business intelligence to boost its online marketing -- including keyword campaigns and online banner advertising -- and to better analyze traffic on its e-commerce sites.

"We had no real system to analyze data. Information was pulled from file logs," says Chad Calimpong, manager of search engine optimization at Choice Hotels. That was 2004. And with eight brands and more than 5,000 hotel sites worldwide, the company needed to bulk up its data analysis to become more competitive.

That same year the company deployed SiteCatalyst, a Web analytics technology developed by Orem, Utah-based Omniture. The program utilizes on-demand data, with clients using JavaScript to tag Web pages or online marketing campaigns. By utilizing click data, users communicate directly with Omniture's servers to receive real-time data through various Web-based dashboards.

In the past, the company had "no effective ways to break down Web site traffic," Calimpong says. For instance, if Choice Hotels devoted a full Web page to a "summer special" for one of its brands, the company couldn't tell how long site visitors were staying on that page, or how many views were converting into bookings. Choice Hotels also had no way to determine if the page should be marked as a landing page to increase the number of bookings. According to Calimpong, SiteCatalyst gives users specific site traffic information to help them measure, for instance, if only 30 percent of visitors to a page are converting. This way the company can make appropriate and timely changes, he says.

Online keyword campaigns -- available through most search engines -- can help companies drive visitors to Web sites. However, such a campaign can prove inadequate -- and costly -- if the company does not know which selected keywords are yielding the desired results.

Choice Hotels now relies on SiteCatalyst to learn more about its keyword campaigns. The company may run a national campaign for one of its brands -- MainStay Suites, for example. All keywords are linked to a search engine, so users at the company can employ SiteCatalyst to view which words are yielding the most bookings on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. This way the company can adjust buys -- purchases of specific keywords -- if it determines that certain words aren't performing.

Since employing SiteCatalyst, Choice Hotels has increased its market share in the destinations and accommodations space to a top five rating, according to information from online traffic measurement firm Hitwise. Before the deployment, the franchisor was not in the top 10.

Still, user adoption of SiteCatalyst has been slow within the company. And the program doesn't offer all the granular views of data that Choice Hotels would like to see, says Calimpong. A user, for instance, can't see banner ad campaign information that occurs post-impression. Such a metric would show whether potential customers actually make bookings after clicking on ads. The company relies on other vendors to satisfy at least some of those reporting needs.