On November 4, Expedia CEO Peter Kern was interviewed on CNBC about the company's recent uptick in stock price (jumping from a recent low of $138 a share in August to $181 a share in early November). CNBC's Seema Mody asked Kern pointedly what the driving factor was for the increase.
In response, Kern cited numerous things, including the great hosts and properties available through Expedia's lodging portal (a feature similar to Airbnb).
But what flew under the radar is really what sealed the deal for the longstanding travel company.
From Kern: "We've done a great job making sure everybody knows about [the properties] and what the great experience is like. People are having great experiences and we think that will keep happening."
Expedia isn't selling airplane tickets, cruises, travel packages, or lodging. They're selling experiences. Just take one look at the Expedia website and the message is front and center: "Awaken your senses. Experience the world around you once again with epic trip ideas."
In a time when experiences of all kinds are hard to come by, given lingering COVID-19 restrictions, it's the promise of a satisfying experience that really resonates with customers.
Mat Zucker wrote about this in-depth in Forbes last year, and much of it still holds true. (I urge you check it out--there's great advice for business leaders looking to leverage experiences in their selling strategy.) The real magic of experience is selling, to paraphrase Anil Paranjape of Wharton Magazine, a journey.
"An experience is more than the sum of its product and service," he wrote. It offers a spark for emotional uplift, a gateway to some measure of happiness, and the possibility of fulfillment.
You might say it's easy for Expedia to sell experiences--flights, hotel rooms, and cruises are all canvases on which experiences can be created. But the same can be said of merchandise, like a can of 7UP.
When I was a kid, I loved drinking 7 Up--not because it was the best soda on the market, but because the company's marketing campaigns painted the picture of a gloriously happy person sipping 7 Up in the rain. Message: When you drink 7 Up, nothing can get you down. That's what I wanted to experience.
Back to Expedia. While I love that Kern mentioned experiences in the interview, I think he under-sold it. After all, most of us don't go to Expedia because we enjoy sitting on airplanes or in hotel rooms. We go to Expedia to create an unforgettable experience.
In sum: Sell experiences, not products.