Case study: Cleartrip – How the brand travels through social media

IndiaSocial Case Challenge – edition 1

Category: Long-term Initiatives

Winner of Position #3

Title: How the Cleartrip brand travels through social media

Share a little about your organisation

Launched in July 2006, Cleartrip is one of the top online travel companies in India with a claimed 35% market share. Based on a straight forward premise of “making travel simple” for its customers. Cleartrip has recently launched Cleartrip for Business , a product that claims to change the way India Inc. travels.

Offering convenience, choice without confusion, multiple payment options, competitive prices and exclusive destination information, Cleartrip promises a customer oriented approach.

Paying testament to service excellence, Cleartrip was adjudged India’s Favourite Travel Website at Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ India Travel Awards 2010. Other accolades include the recognition of being adjudged as one of “India’s Best Companies to Work For” in the 2010 Study, conducted by The Great Place to Work® Institute, India, in partnership with The Economic Times where we won a Special Award for “Unique Company Initiatives – Employee Events and Social Networking”.

We have retained the case-study in first person, as submitted by Cleartrip, using our discretion to edit, compress, add links etc.

Executive Summary

Cleartrip has upheld integrity and transparency as foundational values of our brand. Embracing these values has made it incredibly easy for the brand and the organization to have an active social media presence–tapping every viable social media touchpoint we can to engage customers in dialogue and share with the online world.

Background

Cleartrip’s web marketing strategy is still evolving and it sees the web as just one part of the overall marketing strategy. Cleartrip’s initial marketing strategy relied heavily on print and television advertising to build brand awareness and search advertising to drive traffic. After establishing a threshold of brand awareness using traditional media, Cleartrip now use online display ads for brand building and product launches, something we were not previously investing in.

Approach/ Strategy

Please share details about the initiative stating clearly the strategy, objectives, goals, the duration, resources and budgets allocated.

We’ve always been early adopters of social media tools with a blog, customer forum, Twitter presence and Facebook page. Social media marketing is easy if you avoid the cardinal sin of using the platform to deliver a sales pitch. It’s counter-intuitive, because marketers want to sell; but the key to success here is not to be selling, but to be building relationships and encouraging conversations around the brand.

Stakeholders

Which stakeholders did you engage through this initiative and how? How was/ has this initiative been received by them so far?

We believe that for any social media strategy, the customers (or the end users of the product) are really the most relevant stakeholder to engage. Our social media strategy has been built around this belief.

We’ve used our various social media touchpoints to gather feedback and improve products, provide troubleshooting, offer customer service.

We have multiple cases where extremely irate customers ( the Cleartrip episode by Kiruba Shankar , post 1 and 2) have been vocal on their blogs or Twitter and we’ve successfully reached out to them, taken care of their problems and turned them from complainers to evangelists. Our openness and willingness to admit our mistakes (the Kiruba incident, post 1 and 2) has established a high level of trust and prefrence among savvy users of social media (1). The proof of this lies in the level of chatter around the Cleartrip brand as compared to other brands:

cleatripgraph

(chart from http://blog.socialwavelength.com/tag/cleartrip-social-media/)

(Also see this video)

About the initiative

Share details about your activities, touch-points that you created/ channels you used to reach the stakeholders.

We have used the following channels/touch-points to announce product launches, share interesting information/statistics related to the travel industry, educate the customer about this segment, share our opinions on happenings in the online travel segment and the online world at large.

  1. Cleartrip Blog
  2. Cleartrip Customer Support Forum
  3. Twitter
  4. Facebook

Impact – Outcome

What was the impact achieved vis-à-vis goals set? How did you measure the impact/ results?

Social media is too new, but we would say the key measure here should be how much “chatter” is being created about the brand. On Twitter, for instance, Cleartrip far outstrips its competitors as the most referenced and recommended online travel brand. This “chatter” demonstrates that we have a high degree of engagement with our customers.

There are three key ingredients to executing a successful online marketing strategy

  1. Understanding the options: there’s an ocean of options in online marketing and it’s critical to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all these options, because if you pick the wrong option, you’ll just be pissing away money without meeting your goals.
  2. Using the right tool for the job: since there’s a lot of options, you need to make sure you’re aligning your budget with your goals and using the most appropriate tool to meet your goal. If your goal, for instance, is to double your traffic, search advertising is the best tool and your spending should reflect that.
  3. Measuring and tweaking: since online media are so highly measurable, one would do well to lay out the metrics for a campaign in advance of launching the campaign and then constantly looking at the data for patterns. Simple things like words and colours should constantly be tweaked, tested and measured to see which creative execution is best at meeting goals.

Learnings

What were the key learnings? Positive and things to do better; share any challenges you might have faced.
In our opinion, it isn’t really necessary for a brand to be present and firing on all cylinders on all web marketing outlets. Again, this comes back to the brand’s overall marketing goals at a specific moment. If the goal is brand-building, display ads, viral and social media are good tools; whereas, if the goal is traffic-building, nothing beats search advertising.
Being present on all outlets at all times can actually be very confusing because all web marketing is highly measurable when compared to traditional marketing.

Because it’s all so measurable, marketers may find themselves drowning in a glut of data and unable to measure cause and effect.

What Next

Where is the programme/ initiative now? Where will it go from here?
We’re fairly happy with how all our social media initiatives are faring. The next challenge for us here is to scale the initiatives up and get a little more organized with respect to how we use these media as a company. Until now, all of the effort has been unstructured with ad-hoc support from various team members as necessary. Moving forward, we need to get more structured and involve more people from within the company in connecting with customers via social media.


Reasoning

What in your opinion makes your programme/ initiative/ activity a case-study/ best practice case.
The key thing that sets Cleartrip apart is our willingness as a brand to enter the realm of social media without fear. Most brands, established or new, are always concerned about “negative” brand feedback in social media channels. Cleartrip has never shied away from negative feedback. Starting with our blog and then in our forums, Twitter and Facebook accounts, we’ve always been open and welcoming of all feedback. There’s nowhere to hide on the internet and we look at all negative feedback as an opportunity to improve our products and services.

Strategy and Execution

Team Cleartrip.com

Factsheet

Name of the company: Cleartrip Travel Services Pvt. Ltd.

Number of Employees: 101-500

Category: Internet – Online Travel Agency (OTA)

Case submitted by: Hrush Bhatt, Founder and Director, Product and Strategy

Website: http://cleartrip.com