Lessons From the Concierge

Concierges were always one of my favorite things about a hotel. If you didn’t have a friend in the place you’re visiting, the concierge could be counted on to steer you to great restaurants and uncover worthwhile activities.

Along came the Web, making the hotel concierge about as obsolete as a lobby landline. Consumers rely on the Web to deliver information, recommendations, and reviews for trips and activities, whether in an unfamiliar city or their own neighborhoods. Travel sites have thrived by helping users customize trips, providing travel-related content to enhance the booking experience, and up-selling purchases with car rental and hotel reservations from their partners. Restaurant review sites make it easy to select the right place to grab a bite.

Other types of companies can benefit from consumers’ penchant for researching their plans online. Interactive marketers can now couple the concierge concept with the Web’s convenience to deliver value as they promote their products.

A microsite from trendy Dutch stroller company Bugaboo does just that. At Bugaboo Daytrips, users can browse a world map to select a day trip relating to one of over a dozen different cities.

The trips are beautifully presented on unique city maps, each created by a local artist. They range from an afternoon of Baby Loves Disco in Chicago to a trip down a medieval alleyway in Barcelona to pick up a pair of personalized slippers. Naturally, the microsite links to product information and the Bugaboo brand site.

A branded, interactive concierge is a perfect fit for mobile technology as well. Back in 2003, automaker Nissan and mobile marketing company AvantGo launched the Maxima Mobile Concierge to promote the Nissan 2004 Maxima. The affinity marketing campaign delivered local entertainment and travel content to consumers’ PDAs in 25 U.S. cities, along with branded Maxima banners that linked to a mobile microsite.

Strollers and cars are appropriate for a travel and local entertainment-oriented applications for obvious reasons. But any number of products could effectively adapt the theme. A vitamin water maker might provide an online concierge specializing in spa resorts and activities that promote inner balance and good health. Marketers promoting hiking gear could focus on trips off the beaten path. How about a city-specific shopping concierge, sponsored by a credit card or a good pair of walking shoes?

Whatever the product, the idea is to present it the context of how it can be used, highlighting its benefits and differentiating features. Adjoining content should be of real consumer value and suitable to an individual’s lifestyle, not unlike what an offline concierge would strive to deliver his clientele.

Rich media technology, such as widgets, the latest online ad craze, provides an opportunity to create ad-based concierge tools and feed in up-to-date information to keep recommendations current. To extend a campaign and introduce a controlled targeting strategy that includes travel, niche, and industry-specific sites, marketers can transform a trip advisor site into a complementary ad that offers a sneak peek at the application.

Or you could forgo the microsite and build an interactive ad that features the tool exclusively and drives consumers to an existing branding destination. Relevant in information and engaging by design, this type of application is well suited to expandable banners. A local media buying strategy in conjunction with region-specific creative would further boost the concierge theme’s relevance.

Internet users expect a lot from their online experiences, and particularly from marketing and advertising. As with a good hotel, expectations are high. Take a cue from the knowledgeable man behind the desk and help visitors uncover a travel experience that meets their offline needs, online.

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