Simon Bullingham, managing director at Journey and group managing director at Creative Network, looks at the real marketing trends you should be focusing on this year.
Adopting an ecommerce outlook
Hoteliers need to approach their online presence like retailers do. Online, you are effectively selling rooms as your product and retailing an experience. Everything in ecommerce is geared towards the product, funneling all content and calls to action towards the sale itself. Therefore, we need to look to the retail industry for inspiration on how to run a successful online experience, borrowing their techniques to engineer an energetic ecommerce website which retails your bookings.
Getting your data organised
Guest data can sometimes be rather cluttered, and many hotels don’t have a robust system for capturing information to help build up a picture of their guests. For example, do you know how often a guest books with you, how they found you, their favourite drink or other preferences, such as wake up calls or newspapers?
This kind of data will not only help hotels be smarter in terms of tailoring the customer experience, but also in terms of email marketing. It can be the difference you need to produce personalised content and narrow down exactly what your potential guests want to receive in their inbox. For example, if a recurring guest visits at a certain time each year, you can target them ahead of time and offer special rates or deals. This kind of personalised customer service doesn’t go unnoticed and often plays a key part in securing repeat bookings.
Revolt against the OTAs
Hotels in the past have relied heavily on OTAs (Online Travel Agents) to fill available rooms. Whereby it originally worked in their favour, OTAs have since taken over; securing a strong foothold in the market that has threatened the hoteliers’ relationship with the guest as a result. This has proved a costly affair with OTAs benefiting from a large cut of the rates.
Hoteliers need to become smarter in their creative approach to drive traffic away from the OTAs and instead, increase the number of direct bookings through their own site. A hotel’s website is often the first experience a guest has with them, so a good impression from the beginning is imperative. A large part of this is giving them confidence that you are offering them the best rates available. It’s a simple thing, but making sure your potential guests don’t feel like they have to shop around for the best deal, can be the difference between clinching that direct booking and sending them back into the hands of the OTAs.
Getting personal with content
Personalised digital experiences could be a real differentiator for hotels willing to put in the effort. This not only personalises your potential guest’s experience, but it also creates a lasting impression. Hotels can serve up specific content for any channel and any device, but how many are really making use of technology in this way? Through geo-location, for example, you could show website visitors in Cardiff different content from those in Aberdeen. This kind of personalised experience reflects positively on you as a brand and shows potential guests how far you are willing to go to help them.
Reducing reservation abandonment
Engaging the attention of online guests is a difficult task in itself, however sustaining their concentration is a whole different challenge to contend with. Hoteliers need to think of creative ways in which to prolong a potential guest’s time on their website and minimise the risk of their withdrawal from the booking process altogether. Guests are most likely to disengage if they think they can get better rates elsewhere. So, you need to be quick here, and react with pop-up reminders positioning yourself as the best rate on the web. Again, borrow from ecommerce sites, as this innovative method means you can positively regain engagement and drive your potential guests towards completing that booking.
Become a storyteller
Hoteliers are starting to realise the need to move away from endless blocks of boring text, and instead engage with clients using compelling videos and captivating narrative. Visual content allows you to become the storyteller, and grasp the attention of your guests, which in turn will help to drive direct bookings.
There are so many amazing ways we can use technology and digital marketing to deliver an exceptional experience online. Next year, try to think about smarter ways to embrace what’s available to engineer a more ecommerce-led hotel experience online, designed around funnelling as much quality traffic into your booking engine as possible.
Journey is the hotel marketing agency, working with hotels and tourism clients to increase occupancy and bookings, create engaging brands, revenue-driving websites and campaigns that convert.
For more information please visit www.wearejourney.co.uk