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The 7-Step Checklist to Launching a Travel and Hospitality Media Network

Fueled by data collaboration, commerce media networks have risen in popularity due to their ability to drive new revenue streams for the enterprise, strengthen strategic business partnerships, and improve customer experiences.
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The hype around commerce media networks has shown no signs of slowing down, and establishing one is top of mind for many executives who want to use their own first-party data to command a share of advertising spent with other publishers. It makes sense — 88% of brands feel influenced by retailers to buy advertising on their retail media networks, with Walmart, Dollar General, Kroger, Home Depot and many others launching networks to great success. Travel and hospitality companies such as Marriott, Airbnb and have already launched their own media networks, creating a domino effect that is expected to inspire other companies in the space to follow suit. 

Fueled by data collaboration, commerce media networks have risen in popularity due to their ability to drive new revenue streams for the enterprise, strengthen strategic business partnerships, and improve customer experiences. These platforms open access to new insights between multiple partners, improve engagement with new and existing customers, generate competitive differentiators, and increase brand awareness and exposure to a wider audience. Consumers all the while benefit from enhanced and more personalized offers across more of the brands they love.

To effectively launch one, however, is no small undertaking, especially in an industry that is sometimes stuck with legacy systems and a fluctuating economy. That said, travel and hospitality companies have rich and unique datasets that supply an optimal foundation for launching their own media networks. Before doing so, businesses should be able to check off on seven fundamental components to ensure they’re ready to take the commerce media plunge. 

The Beginner’s Checklist

  1. Data Scale. Without scalability of first-party data, media networks cannot succeed. Companies should possess 15-20 million unique customer records, in order to stand up an in-house advertising business. Studies show advertisers’ investment in a media network requires access to an audience of 6 million or more. 
  2. Privacy and Consent. Privacy protection is necessary to ensure customer data is collected, stored and used in compliance with partner policies and privacy regulations. Companies must be transparent about how customer data will be accessed and protected, and set controls to ensure customer data is not compromised or misused in data collaboration settings like media networks. 
  3. Data Acquisition Strategy. The more a network expands and grows its dataset, the more demand there will be from advertisers. Developing a strategy to grow and strengthen your data, whether through acquisition of new loyalty members or card holders, along with a plan to enrich your first-party data, needs to be a consistent approach to drive value. Stronger data creates more targeted audiences, which will result in better media performance and stronger insights. 
  4. Market Demand. A brand’s first-party data should fill a marketplace demand for advertisers. Demand will accelerate when a network offers the ability to collaborate data with others in a secure, privacy-compliant environment. Collaboration also allows a network to engage partners with advanced activation strategies that drive more efficient and effective audience targeting, better performance and customer insights. 
  5. Differentiation. A brand’s owned assets are highly desired by advertisers and can drive significant margin growth for a network's bottom line. Brands should leverage what is uniquely theirs, whether it’s first-party data, exclusive collaboration opportunities, or creative advertising units that may be online or in the hotel, store or service app. The ability to stand out and hold the consumers attention is what advertisers are hungry to buy. 
  6. Tech Stack. Key layers in the technology stack, such as data collection, data hosting and processing, audience builder and measurement tools, must be present, whether they are internal or outsourced.
  7. Vision. Before launching a media network, brands need a vision and a “crawl, walk, run” roadmap to achieve it. The phases may evolve in order to stay competitive, but the vision should always put the customer first and avoid risking loyalty and brand trust for the sake of monetization. 

Learn From Retail

Situating themselves across these seven areas primes travel and hospitality brands to launch their own commerce media networks, but preparation doesn’t end there. Luckily, retail has provided a robust playbook for other verticals to learn from and iterate upon. 

For instance, closed-looped measurement may be a challenge for non-retail networks which cannot track an “in-store” purchase. Incorporating an identity framework within the media network can connect dots across the customer journey to provide attribution measurement. Creative approaches like last-click attribution, tagging, or metrics that show intent to purchase can also help meet the measurement needs of partners.   

Advertisers are looking for scale and performance when determining where to place their bets.  Commerce media hopefuls must understand what KPIs they are trying to meet and what they can deliver in return.

Own Your Space in the Market

Travel and hospitality brands are differentiated from other verticals for two main reasons: they understand more behavioral insights about their consumers, and they have a majority of customers who are already authenticated. These are people who opted in to giving personal information like a phone number or email in exchange for increased value from these brands, such as discounts or member-only offers. 

It’s these types of rich insights that make a media network unique and appealing. For example, data from an airline whose customers are frequent flyers to tropical destinations could appeal to hotels in coastal cities. Or, a hotel could attract local restaurants who are keen to serve offers to hotel guests who often utilize hotel-exclusive discounts at nearby culinary experiences on their trips. Offering partners consumer insights they can’t obtain elsewhere will drive the pipeline for demand.

Enhance Privacy Protections

To ensure privacy continuity in data collaboration settings like commerce media networks, companies can implement a range of measures, including privacy-enhancing technology, data encryption, and data access controls that are configurable by partner and use case. These measures remove individuals’ personally identifiable information from being disclosed and protect data from unauthorized access, theft or misuse.   

Following this framework will allow travel and hospitality companies to begin their commerce media network journey and achieve enduring value for their entire enterprise. Companies that embrace data collaboration will be well-positioned to thrive in the years to come, delivering enhanced benefits to their customers and partners, while driving growth and profitability for their own businesses. 

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