Online

Paint with numbers

People might be tempted to stereotype statisticians and other data crunchers as being heavily math leaning, if not somewhat lacking of the artistic gene.  Not always so.  The telling of an easy-to-comprehend story from a complex data set is really a skillful art.  It is the same thing with finding creative ways to use the sometimes massive quantities of information in a database.  Out of the box thinking can provide new value to users in ways they never imagined.

Take the folks over at CruiseWise.com.  They dared to color outside the lines and developed a neat little port crowd calculator widget.

That could be a point of differentiation in the commoditized world of online cruise booking.  As one of history’s greatest artists/designers Coco Channel said “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

Cruise iPhone app now available to cruisers

The countdown, converse and cruise app is now available for download in iTunes.

Named “Always Be Cruising” it is part fun, part function for fans of cruising.

Adam M. Goldstein, President & CEO Royal Caribbean International calls the app “the marriage of the cruise countdown clocks.”

The app includes not just a countdown to cruise timer with over 200 ship images, but also a “who is cruising” social feature.  You can make friends before you even start the cruise by creating your “cruiser” profile and exchanging messages and helpful tips for the best cruise experience.  The countdown clock also makes a ship horn sound when launched, followed by the soothing sound of seagulls and ocean waves.


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Thomas Troward (1847-1916) said “The law of flotation was not discovered by the contemplation of the sinking of things.”

And likewise idea of creating the first app for cruisers was contemplated in an early Cruise Market Watch post.  It grew into a full-blown goal after talking over the concept with Yachts of Seabourn Vice President of Marketing, Adam Snitzer.  Thanks to a lot of help and partnership with mPlugged, cruisers around the world can now enjoy its functionality.



Carnival FunHub is Like A Dream

DSC01255When my wife and I moved to Miami we fondly told each other “it’s like a dream.”  The dream kept growing, as she is now working on the Carnival Dream’s set-up in Montefalcone, Italy.  Scheduled for its first sailing Sept. 21, it will be Carnival’s largest ship.  As if these two things weren’t enough to get excited about, CruiseMarketWatch.com is eager to experience the new on-board technological features, dubbed the “FunHub.”

The FunHub creates the cruise industry’s first on-board social network, along with access to ship’s services, facilities and daily activities information.

Guests can:

  • create a personal profile to meet and interact with others on-board
  • create groups based on interests
  • find details about the Dream’s numerous on-board activities
  • browse food and beverage offerings
  • learn about ports of call and excursions
  • access weather updates
  • read biographies of key shipboard personnel and see ship maps
  • receive cruise director announcements
  • participate interactive polls

I think this is a really smart, forward looking move (in fact, one I preached about in an Sept. ’08 blog post and subsequently developed similar features into our own iPhone application for cruisers that is waiting iTunes review).  I applaud the year-long collaboration involving Carnival’s hotel operations, marketing, IT and guest experience departments.

In addition to FunHub portals, access to the FunHub is available on any guest computer or Wi-Fi enabled device free of charge.  Internet access to sites outside the FunHub is available with purchase of a special Internet package.

Follow Carnival’s Dream Team of 12 I/S managers here http://www.dream-startup.net/.


Online traffic for cruise travel May 2009

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand as measured by the number of visitors to online cruise websites.

For the month of May 2009, U.S. online search for cruise travel is estimated at 9.8 million monthly unique individuals. This represents a -15.5% decrease from the month prior (typical for the season) and a 3.2% increase over the same time last year (May 2008).

The chart below illustrates the unique visitors to cruise sites by month over time.  Reflected in the chart is the decline in demand beginning in August 2008 (below previous year levels), the steep increase in interest beginning in January 2009 and a waining into the summer months albeit slightly ahead of the same time last year.

Online traffic search for cruise travel









The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line websites.Online traffic search for cruise lines








The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line booking sites.

Online traffic search for cruise booking sites









Source: Comscore


The Tipping Point for Cruise Industry and Social Media

twitter_icons_256You would normally worry about seeing the words “tipping point” and “cruise” used in the same sentence.  No such worries here.  The phrase tipping point, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, refers to when small numbers of people (or businesses) start behaving differently and that behavior ripples outward until a critical mass or a ‘tipping point’ is reached, changing the world.  Contemplate some recent activities of cruise lines:

  • Disney Cruise started delivering podcasts on iTunes.
  • Yachts of Seabourn announced CEO Pamela Conover would be tweeting from Venice Italy for the launch of the new Seabourn Odyssey.
  • Royal Caribbean posted a job opening on LinkedIn, with a position requirement of having at least ten LinkedIn recommendations.

I think it is safe to say the term “tipping point” wholly applies.

Why Now?

Ten years ago (April 1999) Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It was a call to arms signed by a few thousand people (including me).

The manifesto declared the web would require businesses to engage consumers at their level and really listen and react to their voices.  Consumers had reached the tipping point of web usage in 1998 – 26.2% of U.S. households had Internet access.  Today, 16% of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing blog.1

Why Get In?  B.C.O.N – Branding, Customer care, Opportunities and Networking.

Branding. Product evangelists can spread the good word farther, more effectively and more efficiently.  Compare the initial interest as measured by Google search in two new search engine launches.  The small start-up Wolfram Alpha garnered nearly as much initial interest as Microsoft’s bing.  The former used blog buzz and resulting news coverage, the later has upwards of a $100 million ad budget.

Your brand online can be more like the transparent, friendly, one-to-one human connections you expect with family and friends than the faceless issuance of a corporate press release.

Customer care. What I see developing is traditional customer service departments breaking down and going social.  There will come a day when, if I say something bad about Bank of America on Facebook, I’ll expect someone from BOA to contact me and make it right.

Opportunities. Social media is leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs in the long tail of niche.  Bloggers for little or nothing provide information in topical areas that big media can’t cover.   It is no longer a news or broadcast business – but an audience business and audiences are made up of millions of small groups.

Demos are dead.  Are you female 18-35?  If you are reading this blog, you are more likely a member of the cruise community with an intense interest how lines market and communicate.  It is about shared values not age or stage. Want to create something for everyone?  Welcome to the middle of the road.

Networking. Email usage will decline like “snail mail” has in favor of “wall to wall” posting on social media networks like twitter and Facebook.  From a marketing perspective, direct mail and “email blasts” (I’ve always hated that word) will give way to engaging with consumers where they live online.  Direct marketing will be become Network marketing.  Foreverism, from trendwatching.com, means the relationships being created virtually today are lasting and lifelong links.  Isn’t that more powerful than a one-off email blast?

How to Get In? L.E.A.P – Listen, Encourage, Advocate and Participate2

Listen. Don’t monitor.  That means hear what customers think about your products, services and the competition.  Discover within the conversations emerging trends and do something with that instant feedback.  Tweak your product, respond to complaints – get your hands dirty by getting in the mix. Dazzle customers by acting.

Encourage. Develop new ancillary products and features that allow people to do more of what they already like to do.  Facilitate making your customers experience around your product and brand even more fun and easy (contact me, I have some ideas).

Advocate. Show support for social activities, sponsor local tweet ups, social media events and contests, bring new services to light, partner and create opportunities.

Participate. The 10 commandments as so well put by Lon Safko of Fast Company:

  1. Thou Shalt Blog (like crazy).
  2. Thou Shalt Create Profiles (everywhere).
  3. Thou Shalt Upload Photos (lots of them).
  4. Thou Shalt Upload Videos (all you can find).
  5. Thou Shalt Podcast (often).
  6. Thou Shalt Set Alerts (immediately).
  7. Thou Shalt Comment (on a multitude of blogs).
  8. Thou Shalt Get Connected (with everyone).
  9. Thou Shalt Explore Social Media (30 minutes per week).
  10. Thou Shalt Be Creative (go forth and create creatively)!

You can find more on how the cruise lines are engaging on the Social Media page of Cruise Market Watch.  The landscape is an ever-changing fluid environment, so if you notice a cruise line doing something new please alert me and I’ll update the page.

1 Society for New Communications Research. 2 The acronym LEAP was liberally borrowed from my friend Harish Bharadhwaj


Cruise demand strong in online web site search

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand as measured by the number of visitors to online cruise websites.

For the month of April 2009, U.S. online cruise search is estimated at 11.4 million monthly unique individuals. This represents a 5.4% decrease from the month prior (typical for the season) and a 13.7% increase over the same time last year (April 2008).  

The chart below illustrates the unique visitors to cruise sites by month over time.  Reflected in the chart is the decline in demand beginning in August 2008 (below previous year levels) and the steep increase in interest beginning in January 2009. 

april-091

It is very interesting to note that the total number of annual cruisers worldwide is estimated at 16 million.  With cruise websites getting monthly traffic of 11 million unique U.S. visitors there seems to be a considerable amount of interest/research being conducted.  A portion of this is apparently not resulting in bookings, suggesting some unmet potential for the cruise lines.

The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line websites.

share-09









The following chart represents traffic for the top four visited Cruise Line booking sites.

share-2




Source: Comscore 

World’s first iPhone application for cruisers

Wanted – 288,000 cruisers with an iPhone. That is the estimated number of annual cruise passengers who currently own an iPhone. How do we get there? First, let me state 100% market share is unreasonable – even being the first in a niche and having a really cool product.

iphone3gjpg1There will be 16 million cruisers in 2009, so lets assume 90% own cell phone and 2% have an iPhone or iTouch1. The maximum total market potential in 2009 is 288,000 or about 24,000 per month. Assuming 10% success that is 28,800 user sign-ups per year.  FYI smartphones are growing at an annual rate of 21%.

What is the marketing plan?

a) Talk about the app to everyone I can at Seatrade (Cruise Shipping Miami) conference
b) Develop social media relationships using Twitter, Facebook etc,
c) Drop the low $1.99 cent price point for version 1.0 for travel agents who are participating in the Cruise Pulse Survey Panel and bloggers interested in reviewing the iPhone application.2   All version 1.0 users will receive free upgrade to version 2.0 which will have more sophisticated “who’s cruising” features and launch about two weeks later.

What exactly does this thing do? Not ready to reveal, but I welcome your guesses in the comments field below. The app will be submitted to Apple store soon. You can pre-register now to be notified when we make the app live. We will also provide a flash demo at www.alwaysbecruising.com when launched.

Stay tuned; I’ll be posting progress reports and user numbers here.


1Estimated number of iPhones and iTouches at end of 2009, 60 million, about 2% of cell phone market. (1)

2Hello bloggers! Are you interested in reviewing the Always Be Cruising iPhone application?

www.cruisemarketwatch.com, teamed up with Mplugged.com to develop the world’s first iPhone application for cruisers. We’re looking for a few good bloggers who would like to receive it free (only an iPhone required). All we ask is that you use it and review it.

What does it do? You will have to try it to see. If this sounds like fun, go to www.alwaysbecruising.com and enter your name and email address. (We’ll never use your information in any way other than to get the iPhone application to you). One confession, these pennies come out of our pockets and we just can’t afford to give the app away to everyone. But if you are a blogger with an iPhone and the cruise bug, expect your notice to download the app in you email first part of June.

Cruise retains strong year over year online search growth

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand and online search market share. For the month of February 2009, U.S. online cruise search is estimated at 11.9 million monthly unique individuals. This represents a 17% decrease off the January 2009 high.  Versus last year, online search for cruise is still up a solid 8.8% versus February last year.

% Change for February ’09
vs Last Yearvs. Last Month
Total Internet Traffic3.7%0.2%
Total Cruise Search8.8%-17.6%

 

Percentages in the charts below represent the approximate share of all online cruise traffic.

Chart 1 – % of traffic for top Cruise Lines from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)

feb09cruiseindex

 

 

 

 

Chart 2 – % of traffic for top booking sites from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)

feb09cruiseindex2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Google Analytics

 

 

 

Cruise online search sees dramatic increase in January

Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand and online search market share. For the month of January 2009, U.S. online cruise search is estimated at 14.0 million monthly unique individuals. This represents an astounding increase of 47.8% versus last month and 15.0% versus the same month last year.  This seems an indication that the Internet has come of age for the cruise line industry, and the recent proliferation of cruise deals across the Internet and traditional media have prompted a lot of window shoppers.  This is good news for the cruise industry, as when the broader economy begins to stabilize the window shoppers will begin to convert to cruisers.

 % Change for January ’09
 vs Last Yearvs. Last Month
Total Internet Traffic4.0%0.6%
Total Cruise Search15.0%47.9%

 


Percentages in the charts below represent the approximate share of all online cruise traffic.

Chart 1 – % of traffic for top Cruise Lines from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)

jan09cruiseindex1

 

 

 

 

 

Chart 2 – % of traffic for top booking sites from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)

jan09cruiseindex21

 

 

 

 

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Sources: Comscore, Google Analytics

 

 

 

 

January 2009 Cruise Index Update

Is the bottom in?  Our monthly Cruise Search Index reflects change in cruise demand and online search market share. For the month of December 2008, U.S. online cruise search is estimated at 7.3 million monthly unique individuals. This represents an increase of 3.8% versus last month and 0.2% versus the same month last year.  This may be an early signal of stabilization after four consecutive months (Aug-Nov) of year over year declines.

% Change for December ’08
vs Last Yearvs. Last Month
Total Internet Traffic3.7%-0.1%
Total Cruise Search0.2%3.8%

 

Percentages in the charts below represent the approximate share of all online cruise traffic.

Chart 1 – % of traffic for top Cruise Lines from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

Chart 2 – % of traffic for top booking sites from all cruise related traffic (click to enlarge)