Advertising Unlimited: When X+1 = ∞ (Infinity)

The old adage that fifty percent of advertising works without knowing which fifty does has been rendered all but obsolete thanks (or maybe not) to a suggestively named online platform targeting company called x+1 that claims to "serve the right message, to the right person, at the right time, and pay the right price."

A Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy (more the lack of) finds that the analytical skills of data handlers like x+1 is transforming the internet into a place where people are becoming anonymous in name only. Nevertheless,  it reveals the nearly infinite ability of marketers to craft targeted messages to consumers by culling information from an eerily vast and deep array of behavioral and personal data.

Another company, Demdex, offers "turn-key audience management solutions" which help websites build behavioral data banks that tap a variety of online sources with results that, rather incredibly, can offer results such as a person's spot in a corporate hierarchy!

One outcome of such accurate (and intrusive) data mining, collating and profiling is the ability to customize offerings both in terms of price and offerings depending on a customer's demographics. And some consumer directed websites like Capital One, the credit card company,  have been doing so using x+1's technology to offer the "appropriate" credit card. That enabled the card provider, in one instance, to zero in on a potential customer's love of travel and was, accordingly, shown only one card on the Capital One website: a "VentureOne Rewards" card!

There are several take-aways from a marketing standpoint for hotels and hospitality companies thanks to such specialization. An obvious one is where company websites reflect offerings within the facility that fit the behavioral pattern of the potential guest such as say a restaurant outlet specializing in organic food for the health conscious or the availability of hi-tech amenities like an entertainment center or streaming Internet
Radio for the techno-interested guest.

The journal article also notes that the "technology raises the prospect that different visitors to a website
could see different prices as well. Price discrimination is generally
legal, so long as it's not based on race, gender or geography, which can
be deemed "redlining." Hotels already price-discriminate, known as revenue management, but the technology can add a new dimension in terms of charging based on room and amenity preferences beyond,  the by now common practice of charging based on availability and the booking window.

For now, it appears that this highly targeted outreach to potential guests is likely to be the preserve of the big guns in retail and, before long, hospitality due to the high cost of seeding websites with the technology. However, as has been the case with almost any new technology in the internet era, it won't be long before new entrants and greater usage bring project costs down thereby enabling even single asset hotel companies to really know their customer; then it likely will become an essential part of a hotel's marketing program.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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