Eco-Advantage Blog

October 18, 2006 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Carbon-Free Travel: Expedia, Terrapass, and the 3rd Button

I recently switched my online travel bookings from Travelocity to Expedia. Why? Because of a small, but innovative partnership Expedia launched with Terrapass, a company that offers consumers a way to “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions from driving or flying, for example. The money goes to fund renewable energy projects such as wind farms. You’re paying to reduce emissions somewhere in the system equal to those you created.

The deal with Expedia is simple. When you book your flight, you’re offered a range of “Activities & Services” such as ground transportation or sightseeing tours, including a Terrapass branded offset. Neutralizing my carbon footprint for my upcoming flight from New York to Chicago (for a speech at the Sustainable Innovation Conference) set me back a whopping $5.99. That’s a great deal for peace of mind.

But more importantly, it’s smart marketing from Expedia. For a segment of green consumers, like myself in this case, the one-click offset option makes the difference in brand choice. The green pitch is the “3rd button” after the major concerns of price and quality (see more on the 3rd button in Green to Gold). When price and quality are equal, a green benefit can push a consumer onto your side. Online travel services are the perfect market for this play — the services are nearly identical since everyone has the same flight data and fees are similar.

But my question is why Terrapass is hard to find on the Expedia site. It falls a few deep in a list of extras you can purchase, well below the scroll — and it’s only offered after the purchase. Expedia could likely use this offering as more of a competitive weapon. If the offer of Terrapass is the deciding factor for some niche (and other add-ons like ground transporation are basically commodities like price and quality), than Expedia could use this one, seemingly small difference to steal market share.

In this case the green strategy has perhaps been underplayed. But, heavily marketed or not, it’s a very smart partnership, and the kind we’ll continue to see more of.

 

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