Jul 11, 2019 in Education

Digital Marketing: Montblanc Retreats

Business Objectives, E-Business Models And Marketing Strategy

Company, Core Product and E-Business Model

The Mont Blanc Retreats (MBR) is a provider of the lodging and related services in the industry of tourism and hospitality. The company is a small distributor and utilizes the affiliate marketing business model in its operations. It has implemented a set of digital marketing solutions, including a company website and the listings on the websites in the Chamonix valley. The core product offering is the provision of accommodation in the Mont Blanc area. The company’s value proposition is the quality services that are tailored for the customers who value comfort.

The MBR Website, Revenue Model, and Marketing Mix

The MBR company’s main marketing tool is its website in the English language, targeting the customers outside France and Switzerland. The objectives of the website are limited to informing the customers about the product offerings. The affiliate revenue model is utilized, which is based on the commission per booking. The 8Ps marketing mix should aim to improve the value proposition and to achieve the marketing goals in relation to the target market. The following mix is proposed, which is both strategic and feasible: Product:
  1. Improve the quality perception for the core product. This would include presenting the information on the attractions and resources that are commonly associated with the product, for example the summer and winter activities in the Chamonix valley area. The climate and culture of the region should be highlighted, in addition to describing the high-end value of the environment of the chalets i.e. the swimming pool, outdoor terrace, fireplace .
  2. Provide the possibility of locating the product within the region. This means each chalets should be easy to locate on the region’s map, with help of an integrated digital Web.2 google map listing all the accommodations and their types
Place: The website is the main place where the product can be found and it should list both the lodging information and advice for an ideal vacation. The website should provide the information about the Chamonix valley with convincing descriptions and photographs or videos; include the sales promotion, enhance the relationships with tourists with help of sign-up features; increase the customer interactivity, and add a number of additional features, described within this paper. Price: the higher-end price and commission level should be maintained when targeting affluent customers. It should be coupled with a strong proposed value and an indication of an excusive service for the customers such as providing the service in their preferred language. Promotion: special offers should be made available to invite repeat customers and prolong the relationships with the customers. Contests, games, and sweepstakes are some of the tools to engage and keep the customers, for example in related to the currently offered discounts. People: a customer service approach needs to be integrated. This would entail involving the customers in the activities of the website and motivating the employers to be part of the organizational culture and brand. Process: the marketing planning should be based on testing and confirming the viability of the tools that generate leads and result in sales. The order processing time should be minimized to a couple steps, and the booking requests must be quickly confirmed. Physical evidence: The website should include the contact information and evidence of the physical presence of the company and its services. Programming: the marketing plan should have a timeline and the benchmarks confirming progress toward achieved results.

The Sostac Model

The SOSTAC model is placed at the basis of the digital marketing framework: Situation Analysis: The MBR should capitalize on the available resources to increase its online presence and brand awareness. As the e-marketplace allows for a variety of tactics to be implemented to reach and retain the customers, the company can focus on its website and social media, rather than the listings on affiliate sites. Objective: The 5Ss goals are as follows: 1) Increase the sales via the website, by introducing the booking buttons and implementing the marketing campaigns such as the Google AdWords; 2) Create a landing page, which is a one-place description of services, linked to the sites where customers are present ; 3) Ensure effective communication with the customers. Indicate that the phone button online is in fact a skype-call button; 4) Add an e-newsletter, instead of distributing print booklets and promotional materials. This would save costs and ensure efficiency in the use of resources for the marketing campaigns; 5) The website should be rich in content. This would guarantee the longer visitation time to the website, translating to increased sales. Strategy: The company’s credibility is not evident. Its website strives to appear credible with the elderly adults and has a traditional website design. Also, its brand highlights the comfort of retreats. The company may rebrand its website to include a flashy logotype, convincing design, and an enticing tagline that communicates the dedication to service. Afterwards, it may promote the website url on affiliated sites, search engines, and social media. Tactics: In addition to the tactics outlined in the 8Ps, the marketing mix needs to be detailed within a schedule of digital marketing activities. It needs to incorporate both the website marketing activities such as an e-newsletter and the social media activities such as the Facebook Ads campaign as well as the cross-posting of the company’s information on the various digital directories and social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Actions: An action plan needs to be implemented within the established schedule. The company personnel needs to be trained in the social media marketing sphere. Also, an external SEO consultant may help optimize the website and improve its ranking in the search engines. Control: The user-friendliness of the website can be tested with the website usability testing. At least two data analysis tools should be implemented and may include the Google Analytics and the surveying of the customers. The performance can be improved with the benchmarks that help compare the performance of the MBR and its competitors.

Target Market Profile And E-Crm Strategies

Target Market Segments and Outreach

The market segmentation reveals two segments: 1) a 1.9 million segment of the elder affluent European adults, who travel in the summer and which main characteristic is an interest in comfortable accommodation and outdoor activities such as golfing; 2) a 2.1 million young adults interested in the Chamonix valley as a skiing destination. Currently the MBR mainly targets the elderly, because of its brand’s emphasis on the retreats and comfort. Also, the website’s language is English, therefore the company fails to capture the target customers whose main languages are French and Russian. So, while the MBR is well-positioned to target both the elderly and the young adults, it fails to target and reach these potential market segments. This market is captured by its competitors, including the Sno Station, where the MBR also lists select accommodation offers (as per the paper’s instructions). Therefore, the MBR may re-capture this segment by re-orienting its brand and marketing activities to reach the young travelers segment. This may necessitate providing additional winter discounts on the accommodations, to ensure the suitable prices for the youth segment.

Social Media Strategy and Web.2 Tools

While the MBR company has a Facebook and Twitter accounts, it does not fully utilize the social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy. The purpose of the social media should be to invite the social media participants to the website, to let them be part of the company’s culture, to generate own content, and to share their experiences about the MBR services. The web.2 technologies are available to generate and promote user content and to syndicate content via the sharing buttons. They simplify the cross-posting of the content on personal sites and blogs and allow for the commenting and sharing. The company may encourage the website users’ participation by providing the incentives such as free nights at the chalets for the most active or randomly selected social media participants. The MBR  may capitalize on the following social media strategies: 1) Build the communities on Facebook and Twitter; 2) Feature the user-generated content about their Chamonix vacations; 3) Distribute own news stories on the social media; 4) Post the information on upcoming events and promotions; 5) Share the customer reviews; and 6) Conduct surveys and post their results online.

Electronic Customer Relationship Management (E-CRM)

The MBR’s customer relationship marketing appears to be limited to collecting the customer information (CI) contained in the email. The CI can be used to better service the customers, complete their requests, and ensure that their wishes have been met. In other words, the MBR website has limited functions for maintaining the CRM initiatives. The E-CMR can be introduced by adding the customer registration feature on the website. Such a feature would allow to gather the full information on the clients, conduct research, and plan the marketing activities.

Calls to Action, Customization, and Direct Marketing

The MBR website’s design and functionality is limited to presenting the information. It needs to add the calls to action and to “push the buttons” of the customers to book with the company. The only website section that has an action call is the “last minute deals” feature. Yet it is not clear from the website’s information which properties are listed as a last-minute deal. Once this information is available, the calls to action can be expanded, for example “book the featured property now not to miss the 60 % discount”. Because of its design, the website lacks an immediacy that would help close the deal with a potential client. Also, in its current state, the visitors to the website cannot personalize and customize their experience i.e. create a “wish list” of properties or vacation activities. There is no indication about the direct marketing activities. To remedy the situation, the MBR should encourage the website visitors to subscribe to an e-newsletter or direct mail campaign.

Online Presence Evaluation

Online Strategic Value

The MBR online presence has the informational value for the website visitors. For example, instead of a visit to the company’s office, a customer may search for the accommodation online and review all the available options. The customer is then provided with the option to inquire about the select accommodation. Yet it is not clear from the information on the website how the service is delivered and if the customer receives a confirmation letter upon the inquiry and successful booking. The MBR may increase its online value by incorporating the online booking, secure payment, and the online confirmation without the redirect to another website or email account.

Information and Content Design

The website does not make it clear that the content is updated and does not list the updated year at the bottom section, as is a conventional method. The services information is efficient and located in the upper section of the website, where it is visible i.e. “chalets”, “apartments” etc. The content within the sub-pages is well-organized and makes it easy to find an accommodation of interest. The major drawback of the website’s content design is the lack of interactivity. The website’s content is not described as copyrighted. An email contact information is provided in the place of the conventional copyright sign at the bottom of the website. The website’s structure is not dynamic, making the online experience into an uninteresting search for information rather than an active pursuit to learn useful information about the advantages of select products. Thus the customer is led away from participation, instead of getting excited about booking and going to the Chamonix. The online content is limited to text and photographs. The images are oversized once clicking on them, so they do not contribute to a positive user experience. The text is of an informative nature and requires rewriting to add more interesting accommodation and activity descriptions. The website lacks the flash files i.e. the dynamic images and videos. It does not utilize cookies, while the cookies could allow to add interactivity, for example click on the dynamic images such as website-based advertisements in form of the calls to action. Among the advantages of the website are the following: a) it is well localized and searchable in the engines. It has 64 indexed pages that can be viewed on site:http://www.montblanc-retreats.com as well as working html pages with no apparent url issues. It has a responsive design and can be viewed from mobile devices. The website’s information design can be improved with adding a mobile booking application. The website has contemporary html script and the meta-tags on the homepage i.e. “rent ski chalets and apartments…”

Navigation Design

The website is well-organized in terms of navigation. The users may simply contact the company to book a service, or click through the pages to review all the information before purchase. The click-though rate is 4 for the core product, ending with the option to inquire rather than book. There are limited navigation tools, and the available ones can be improved with the moving-up arrows and the buttons to book a service while on the second sub-page. Also, once the property listing page is reached, it is not clear how to “enquire” or “book” it unless the user clicks on the “prices” link. The internal search function is efficient and the search engine responds to the combination of search terms. The site is not overly “deep” yet larger than a landing page, which is an optimal size for an effective company website.

Usability, Accessibility, and Data Exchange

The website’s accessibility is not apparent. It does not have the option to enlarge the text for the visitors with the visual impairments. Also, it does not have the necessary color contrasts. The site’s rate on the usability can be assessed as 2 out of 10, considering that is has 1) an online brand with complementary colors and 2) the homepage’s contact option, that precludes the need to browse the site. Its accessibility can be improved with the user-friendly fonts, contrasting colors, the option to enlarge text, a simpler layout, a feature allowing the users to correct the text, deceased length of the mega-title. The website would require a complex data exchange after implementing the online transaction tool. Currently there is no statement on the privacy of the information provided by the users.

Traffic Building: On-Site And Off-Site

Search in the Engines

The website has a positive rank in the google and bing search engines, when utilizing the search term “retreats in Chamonix”, whereas it does not appear on the first pages in these search engines when utilizing the term “chalets in Chamonix”. It is not in the search results when searching for the “vacation rentals”. Compared to the competitor websites, the MBR has a low position in the search results. It has seven unique domain links and only the website’s main page instead of the sub-pages is linked to other domains. In comparison, the TripAdvisor has more than a 100 thousand domain links, the Peak Retreats has 71 domain links. The google page rank for the MBR site is 1 out of 10. The website is found mainly via direct access. Only 27 % times it was accessed through the links, and 25 % visitors found it via the search engines. In view of this information, it is clear that the link-building is required, in addition to internal linking and social bookmarking in niche sites, to increase the website’s rank and visibility.

Google Trends and Insights

The Google Insights show several key terms that have been popular in the past decade, for example “Chamonix hotel”, “Ski Chamonix”, “Mont Blanc” and “Meteo Chamonix”. In addition to France and Switzerland, Belgium, the UK, Norway and Sweden have exhibited a consistent interest in these terms in the searches. This information can be useful for building an effective SEO and SEM strategy.

Onsite and Off-site Traffic Building

The MBR has no social media links on the website, although it has a Facebook profile. Adding the Facebook button to the website could improve the website’s interactivity and boost sales since the users prefer to view the company as a community rather than a merchant. The text on the website is not well-optimized for the search engines. It lacks the headings and sub-headings for an improved onsite structure to generate the traffic. There is no indication in the search engines that the MBR uses off-site traffic building tools such as AdWords or AdSense . Also, the MBR chalets could be marketed on other accommodation websites and travel blogs on Wordpress and Blogger, to increase the traffic.

Performance Measures For The Proposed Strategies

The proposed performance measures are as follows: 1) use the Google Analytics to gather the data on the website visitors and their interaction with the website; 2) create a landing page to measure the conversion and bounce rates and the number of visitors, generated by the digital marketing campaigns; 3) verify the target market engagement rate by reviewing their comments on social media pages and by counting the social sharing instances; 4) conduct the user experience surveys online.

Final Recommendations

Marketing Strategy

The marketing mix should aim to improve the value proposition and to achieve the marketing goals in relation to the established and new target market i.e. the elderly travelers and the youth. The attractive features of the core product, the accommodation in the chalets, as well as related summer and winter activities, should be highlighted throughout the marketing campaign on all the promotional platforms. This would improve the value of the service for the customers. The digital marketing strategy should aim to improve the website as the place of the company’s interaction with the customer. The value proposition needs to highlighted, by ensuring the communication efficiency in the language of the target clients and be complemented with other quality indicators. The website should encourage the customer staying time online with help of the activities such as games and contests. The company’s digital marketing strategy needs to cultivate the brand awareness. The digital communication tools such as an e-newsletter can further help promote the brand among the customers. In order to measure the progress toward achieving the marketing goals, the company management needs to establish the benchmarks, a timeframe for the marketing activities, and train the personnel in the digital marketing and social media tools. The MBR should focus on recapturing the market segments which it failed to reach in the past i.e. the young travelers who mainly visit the Chamonix in winter for a skiing vacation. Its current target market, the traveling adults who visit in the summer should also be retained. For ensuring the efficiency in the online marketing via the website, the MBR needs to implement the Web2 tools, more fully utilize the social media, and encourage the customers to share online their product experiences in order to build a lively community around the brand. In addition, the e-customer management tools should be utilized for the efficient customer relationship management and the collection of the customer information.

Website

The MBR is confronted with the task to revitalize its website as a digital marketing tool. The company needs to prioritize the customization and personalization of the website, to ensure a positive customer experience and facilitate the interaction with the website. The online booking and payment options should be added and be complemented by the copyright and privacy information. Other key website features include the relevant and interesting content, online surveys, and the integrated Web2 tools to post, share, and syndicate the online content. It is recommended that the company should improve the website content structure as well as the online images and text. The website navigation can be modified to allow the customer to book the company services while on the homepage, sub-pages, or the landing page. For enhancing the website rank in the search engines and traffic to the website, the MBR should improve the links to unique domains, add key terms in the online text, optimize the internal website structure, and generate online content on the travel related websites and blogs.

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