Orbitz Director of Mobile Marketing Talks Attribution and More

Since 2005, Paul Rattin has done it all at Orbitz Worldwide, from online marketing to business strategy and business development. Now, Paul serves as Director of Mobile Marketing and leads the mobile marketing function for the Orbitz & CheapTickets brands. He is responsible for developing the mobile strategies for app acquisition, activation & engagement. In addition, Paul’s responsibilities include aligning all of the digital marketing strategies across mobile browsers & apps and driving campaign optimization in the mobile environment. Paul will take the stage on July 28 at Mobile Media Summit Chicago to talk attribution. Before he does, Mobile Media Summit’s Paran Johar caught up with Paul for a quick chat.

Paran: Travel is one of the best use cases in mobile. What type of traffic does Orbitz see on mobile web and app, and what data might be a surprise?

Paul: We don’t typically disclose mobile stats publicly, but we have shared that 34% of Orbitz Worldwide hotel bookings in Q1 2015 came through mobile devices. Orbitz users are definitely adopting and leveraging our mobile experiences across their various devices.

As you mentioned, there are many use cases that warrant travelers downloading the award-winning Orbitz app on their devices. Our apps allow users to search and book hotels, flights and cars while providing in-trip itinerary access as well as alerts for flight delays, baggage claim information and gate changes. While apps are showing great growth, the majority of our mobile traffic still comes through our redesigned mobile websites that leverage responsive design and provide access to hotels, flights, cars and packages.

Like many other eCommerce companies, we see tablet traffic most resemble desktop customer booking characteristics while smartphone browser and apps tend to see more close-in and last minute travel. In fact, the majority of our same day hotel bookings take place via a mobile device. In terms of growth across devices, we have started to see tablet slow while smartphone continues to explode.

What may be most surprising is that for Orbitz, customers are doing more than just window-shopping and booking last minute travel on mobile. Through mobile, we see strong booking volumes across a broad spectrum of products, destinations, price points and advance purchase bands. As a whole, we believe that we have done a good job giving travelers the tools they need to research and book on a mobile device but we know there is still work to be done to give an even better experience.
Paran: At Mobile Media Summit Chicago you’re on a panel talking mobile attribution. Can you give us a preview of your thoughts on making attribution work in the mobile environment?

Paul: The evolution of mobile has broken the marketing attribution models that we have become accustomed to. Users are now bouncing back and forth between smartphone apps, smartphone browsers, tablet apps, tablet browsers, laptops and PCs to research and book travel. Given the importance of proving out marketing ROI, understanding multi-touch attribution across channels and experiences is a requirement.

For marketers, the value of a signed-in or recognized user across experiences is gold. It’s important to partner with your Product team to develop a strong value prop that encourages users to sign in. Sign-in should be messaged prominently across all of your experiences and the process to sign in should be simple and painless. That said, the task of getting all users to sign in can be challenging or even impossible so you may need to find other solutions to supplement your attribution efforts.

There have been some exciting new third-party offerings within the last couple of years that can assist marketers in seeing customer paths to booking and understanding which channels are positively driving performance. If a third-party solution is leveraged, my best advice to marketers in this area is to maintain diligence in whatever solution is pursued. Given that the technology is still developing, the measurement, attribution logic and user links don’t always work as well as more established tools, so it is important to continually monitor your data and trends for consistency.

Paran: What are the things marketers should keep in mind regarding how consumers use mobile web vs. mobile apps?

Paul: First and foremost, users want a consistent experience across all brand touchpoints. The look and feel of your brand between your desktop site, mobile web, and mobile apps should be similar. That may sound obvious but you would be surprised by the number of brands with desktop experiences that look completely different than their mobile web and mobile apps. Additionally, users want the brand to remember their various interactions across devices. As an example, for signed-in Orbitz users, we provide recent search activity for our products across all touchpoints so users can quickly and conveniently access searches. This means that if they do a search on the app, it will appear in recent searches when they go to the desktop or mobile website. These two simple things will increase the frequency of your user’s cross device behavior and make it more likely that you will be able to capture the customer booking.

It is also important for marketers to understand the fundamental differences in how mobile web and mobile app users behave and how this may impact your campaign customer lifetime value (CLV) calculations. App users tend to become your most loyal customers that return directly to your app to transact, while mobile web customers tend to be more transient in their behavior and thus need to be reacquired through paid channels. The fact that there is virtually no reacquisition cost on the repeat bookings made through an app can have a significant impact on your mobile app install (MAI) campaign ROI calculations. So a key takeaway for mobile marketers is when comparing efficiency of MAI campaigns to traditional paid customer acquisition campaigns, be sure to include a complete view of customer lifetime value that includes future cost needed to reacquire a customer. You likely will be surprised at how much better the CLVs of your MAI campaigns look relative to other paid acquisition channels.