According to a recent survey conducted by Schofields, more than 40 per cent of travellers under 33 prioritise ‘Instagrammability’ when choosing their next holiday spot. Across all markets, the travellers’ growing appetite for experiences that go deeper and farther beyond the established destinations are a unifying theme. The greater the lengths that travellers go to for the creation of these faux-spontaneous images, the more contrived and antithetical it feels to the spirit of travel.
Global mobile commerce was up 40% and in 2019, experts predict that 70% of ecommerce sales will come from mobile transactions.
Search engines already favour mobile-friendly sites in their rankings, and search is a critical channel for the hotel sector. It’s increasingly important for brands to localize their mobile site content for specific regional audiences—from providing contact information of local properties in native languages, to offering payment options that reflect the preferences of regional customers.
Hoteliers must also create engaging, authentic in-language digital experiences that will satisfy the expectations of their guests in mobile-dominated markets.
Opportunities to leverage newer technologies like VR (Virtual Reality) in the hotel industry is the way to go forward. Imagine experiencing glimpses of your holiday experiences or stay at a resort or city hotel from the comfort of a VR room set up in a hotel lobby promoting experiences for different segments, for different hotels in the group and even for the same hotel itself. Locational experiences, adventure sports, relaxational therapies, entertainment and much more can be experienced by potential guests – thus making this a powerful marketing tool using immersive technology.
To understand this better, watch the Cannes 2017 award winning ad-film on how VR Vaccines (Brazil) battled childrens inherent fear of the injection shot.
Online search is now the first step for a majority of travellers, with some consumers visiting up to 38 sites before booking a ticket. Yet the travel industry must adapt to newer digital marketing strategies to win over potential customers.
The key to success is delivering ultra-precisely targeted content, leveraging personalized re targeting combined with AI and deep learning.
A single customer looking to book a trip can visits hundreds of travel pages each day. The search often takes weeks before the final purchase is made. This means there’s a ton of data flying around that digital marketers need to make sense of.
The number of digital travel touch points grows rapidly, as travellers look for better offers via search engines, booking apps, online travel agencies, and deal sites. However, 39% of leisure travellers and 45% of business travellers believe that they use too many websites to find flights. In addition, 43% of leisure travellers and 51% of business travellers apparently want to spend less time searching for flights.
Airfare, hotel and car rental providers can reduce this overload by serving brand awareness and personalized offers at precisely the right time. This moment is where AI and deep learning can change the game for digital marketers in the travel industry.
In the same breath as the mantra ‘new is always better’ seems to make sense, it also unearths the realisation that it may at times be the wrong advice to be following.
In the lightning pace of today’s society, it may seem like guests are shouting at you to constantly provide something new, something upgraded, or something that excites them. And only a fool would fail to listen to their customers.
However, the way in which you deliver what your guest wants doesn’t always have to be completely reimagined. New marketing strategies aren’t always the answer – and aren’t always necessary. Yes, new technology and data gives you greater insight and more potential to impact prospects, but there’s a lot to be said for sticking to tried and true advertising principles.
We’re talking about taking lessons from ‘Mad Men’, street vendors, and vintage travel posters. Here’s what you could do with your hotel advertising now – that worked perfectly in the past.
Give your brand a narrative: You need to recognise the need to tell your story succinctly. Make your brand statement clear from the outset of any marketing activity you employ. Humans love nothing more than a good story; one that makes them feel. Once they ‘feel’, they’re more likely to act which is exactly what you want – the action being a booking. Advertising of yesteryear was very much focused on this and it’s driven companies like Coca-Cola to global success. Have the time and patience to craft a story for your hotel brand that will ignite the imagination of your potential guests and make them familiar with your business. Think of ways to present your story with some originality and uniqueness so you can stand out from the almost literal wave of ‘oceanfront’ hotels, for example.
At the same time you need to recognise people nowadays have ever shortening attention spans, so you need to tell your story succinctly. Make your brand statement clear from the outset of any marketing activity you employ. Consistency is key. If people are only going to be looking at your hotel for a short time and catching glimpses here and there of your brand as they research, you need to make sure the picture you paint holds the same message. This way, travellers will more easily recognise you and have some confidence in your ability to deliver a great guest experience.
Be as visual as possible: capitalise on the sense of wonder and awe great visuals can instilin travellers. It allows them to imagine themselves in the destination. In the past, travel posters and billboards had to accomplish this when there was very little else to rely on. Examine some of the best examples you can find and take a similar approach to any design or imagery you use for your hotel. Always keep in mind what kind of brand you are and who you’re trying to attract – then match this to the visuals you use.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on stock images too much or poor quality photos that make your property look dated.
Don’t waste time on dead ends: The best marketers have historically understood you can’t be everything to everyone; they knew when to push and when something was a lost cause. A lot of people may show interest in your hotel while they research for a trip. You need to identify which of these look right for the markets you usually attract and convert at a high rate. If they fall outside of your criteria, your efforts may be wasted. For example, a business traveller might not be the right fit for your all inclusive package including surf lessons.
By the same token, if a guest’s interest is peaked and they match the profile of your usual clientele you need to nurture this relationship. Make contact with them through online remarketing or email (or whatever is most relevant to their initial interaction), giving them a little more information, highlighting your best features and solidifying your business offering. By maintaining a connection, you can stay top of mind when the traveller decides to make a purchase decision.
Zero in on your guest personas: Traditional marketers would often work towards a niche, targeting their products very specifically to a preferred segment. You need to do the same. How specific you are is up to you. You may simply identify millennials as your target or you could go further and target travellers who work stressful jobs if you’re a resort, people on health fads, or adventure junkies if you’re located in rugged terrain etc.
It doesn’t matter who your key audience is, just as long as you know who they are and develop a strategy to get their attention.
Online marketing in the hospitality sector has a lot of buzz words associated with it. Here’s what 3 of them mean:
Authenticity: “People like people”. Online, this means that users look for the “human” touch and social media is where they find it as opposed to a company’s website. Make sure you don’t fall in the trap of creating “standardised”, “automated”, “impersonal” content. It is very easy to do, but don’t expect any effective results: everyone and anyone can do this. Creating “personal”, “human” content is unique to your brand or business, and this is what will engage your fans, help you create a relationship with them. This is a very important point for hotels and restaurants as it is essentially a “people” industry.
Brand: Your hotel or restaurant brand is what makes you stand out on the market, what communicates your USP. It is important that your brand stands out as much online as it does in your dining rooms or hotel rooms. This can be done through the content you share, the tone of voice or even thanks to design. There is so much content shared online that in order to drive revenue and maximise your assets, you need to make sure it is your strong brand that is recognisable and visible.
Content: Before setting up your social media accounts, think about what type of content you will publish – video, pictures, text, GIFs… Any restaurant or hotel can publish pictures of their rooms or of their menu. You have to think of the content that will stand out, authentic content that relates to your brand and your positioning. There are so many luxury establishments that publish very low quality pictures for instance or even budget properties who publish very high quality content. One rule: never over-promise and under-deliver.
Some tips for creating social media content include:
- Do not over post
- Create content that has broad appeal
- Create a call to action
- Avoid political or diverse posts
- Use promotional posts but not more than two per week
- Post on a schedule and be consistent
- Leverage events.
It is not as difficult as it might seem to trigger an emotional response with your hotel marketing ideas. Even the typical guest room and pool images that hotels use appeal to emotions. The trick really becomes how to play an emotional ‘trump card’, one that generates a stronger emotional reaction, so your property sticks out from the rest.
In the hotel industry, storytelling can be your trump card. From making your message more memorable, to making your content more exciting and emotional, storytelling is what can drive more business through your website.
The first step in integrating stories into your hotel marketing ideas. Instead of focusing on the features of your property, start focusing on the benefits, experiences and emotions those features generate. For example, a pool isn’t just a pool. It’s a place where children can play, families can connect, and adults can relax.
The second step is to start telling these ‘stories’ in as many ways and places as possible:
Write Copy that Connects– Language can turn a typical hotel website page into an emotional story. For example, ‘Planning Your Stay’ can be a helpful page that informs travel shoppers about some of the amenities of your hotel, and some of the sights and attractions they can enjoy nearby. But ‘Prepare for Your Adventure’ infuses the emotion of discovery and a sense of the experience they will have.
Put People in Images– If there is one thing that’s common in hotel marketing images, it’s the absence of people. Adding people to at least some of your images instantly tells a story, illustrates an experience, heightens emotion and sets your site apart from the rest.
Let Customers Tell Their Story– User-generated content(UGC), both written and visual, can be your best source of storytelling. From the reviews that guests leave, to the videos they post on social media, UGC speak volumes in emotional, experiential ways.
Put a Face on Your Team– Visitors like to know they are dealing with real people. Sure, a ‘Bio’ tells a story, but an image adds to the emotional connection.
Create Stories Everywhere – Take a moment to read the descriptions you have of your images, both on your website and those that appear on OTAs. Do they tell a story? Or do they simply put into words what’s in the picture? Instead of ‘Fitness Room’ try ‘Give our fitness centre a workout.’
According to Google, the ‘Mobile Tipping Point’ was crossed back in 2015 when more people made searches on their mobile over their desktop. Mobile searches have reached nearly 60% of total website visits for the first half of 2017. With the smaller screen-size, organic results are shown much further down below the fold on mobile, making it even more vital to position yourself highly.
There are many SEO practices and tips but here are just 4 from the latest algorithm updates to optimise your hotel website’s ranking on Google both today and for improvements scheduled in the near future?
Be Mobile Friendly
Google is a constantly evolving animal and you must play by their rules, so keeping abreast of the latest Google algorithms is essential to get the top spot on the SERP’s.
Google rolled out an algorithm in spring 2017 which favoured ‘mobile-friendly’ websites over those only suitable for desktop. This means getting a mobile website is not ‘just a phase’, it’s now an essential part of maintaining website traffic.
Load Your Site Quicker
For mobile in particular, users want content to load quickly, under 2 seconds in fact. According to KissMetrics, 47% of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Scale down on heavy content as much as possible (such as images, videos & interactive maps), not only for a cleaner and easier-to-digest appearance, but also to keep site weight to a minimum.
Content & Language
Meta descriptions and meta tags must be paid attention to. These pieces of text appear in SERP’s as the title and small excerpt of preview text underneath, therefore they need to be carefully crafted to appeal to potential guests, and Google.
Mobile SERP’s naturally provide much less space to sell your hotel in so your message needs to resonate with users across all devices.
The main take away points for creating Meta copy are:
To use keywords liberally but never sacrifice on quality – if it doesn’t make sense, it can’t be included.
Use descriptive language and imagery to entice users to click – this is particularly easy to achieve with hotels and travel in general.
Employ psychological techniques – fear/urgency tactics such as rapidly diminishing room availability, and conveying exclusivity at your hotel are effective in getting users to click.
Showcase enticing rates and special offers – numbers attract attention because they are easier for the brain to process, particularly helpful for smaller screens.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool for every company. It displays all the vital pieces of information about your hotel such as address and contact number, as well as user reviews , property images, and most recently, Google Posts – among other features in the ‘knowledge panel’.
Making sure you have claimed your listing will help make your hotel the most prominent result for brand related searches. It also gives your hotel the opportunity to appear as one of 3 businesses displayed for non-brand related search queries so make sure you’re optimizing this feature, to ensure Google displays your hotel above others.
53% of consumers said that good service would keep them loyal to a hotel brand, even if they could get a cheaper deal elsewhere. Meanwhile, 40% said good deals and 39% said a rewards scheme would result in greater loyalty.
This shows that long-term loyalty is possible for travel brands, but the key to achieving it is delivering a service that takes into account the individual’s needs. So while personalisation is somewhat of a buzzword at the moment, it’s certainly something that consumers value.
This is reflected in the reasons certain brands are favoured by consumers. The second-most favourite, Booking.com, was chosen because of its ability to personalise and tailor offers based on previous behaviour. Similarly, the biggest factor cited for British Airways was its superior rewards scheme. Outside of these, there are a few standout examples of brands succeeding when it comes to loyalty.
Hilton and its Hilton Honours Program is particularly good, mainly because it allows consumers to make use of points in situations unrelated to the brand. Members can use them in restaurants and in shops, and even pool points to share with family and friends.
Marriott is another hotel chain that is similarly innovative, this time using a beacon-driven loyalty scheme to allow people to earn rewards based on where they are.
When it comes to the opportunity for customer engagement, the travel industry already has a head-start – because who doesn’t get excited at the prospect of going on holiday? But while travel consumers might naturally be more inclined to engage, this also means there is greater opportunity for brands to get it wrong. Delays and disruptions might mar a travel experience, but how a brand deals with it can make or break a customer relationship.
Travel Brands need to do the basics as below:
- Consumers prioritise pragmatic needs, such as honesty, authenticity, value, and good service. Brands that do not meet these expectations (or view them as standard) run the risk of losing trust.
- Customer-centric brands create deeper relationships. Offering something of value (on top of the expected) can be the key to generating longer-term loyalty.
- Transparency is key when it comes to data-sharing. Personalisation can help to improve the customer experience, so it is important to communicate this value-exchange clearly with consumers.
- In-the-moment technology can take brands to the next level. VR, AR, and chat-bots can enhance and improve the travel journey, engaging consumers when it matters most.
A website should be modern, aesthetically pleasing, inviting, and be able to show off your property. It is hard to remember that these small things can matter more than the expensive design things, but do not give in to marketing peer pressure. Usability beats trends. Make sure your most profitable revenue channel is more than just a pretty face. Also also remember to avoid the pitfalls below:
- Missing Address & Phone Number
- Fluffy Homepage Taglines
- Putting music on your website
- Cannibalizing Your Own Traffic
- Poorly Embedded Videos
- Bad Photography
- Press Releases
- The Dreaded Restaurant & Spa Menu PDF
- One Call to Action
- Bad Booking Engines
Just as great brands cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with their customers, great salespeople cultivate a deep connection between their company and their client’s business. To borrow a term, the best salespeople are brand evangelists.
Guy Kawasaki first adopted the term “evangelism” into the business world by applying it to an innovative approach to sales, marketing, and management. Evangelism, as he defined it, means “convincing people to believe in your product or ideas as much as you do” because evangelists believe that what they offer is truly helpful and valuable to others.
Brand evangelists — that is, great salespeople — build up support within a market for a brand so that it becomes the brand leader in its category.
Importantly, brand evangelism is not another one of the customer-centric or customer-driven sales approaches that have become popular in recent years. Customer-centric sales and most other sales improvement approaches are pursued for the sole purpose of increasing sales. Brand evangelism is about engaging customers in a way that produces stronger and more valuable brands and sustaining long-term business success for their companies and their clients.
This is what great salespeople do.
Creating a Value Proposition
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged and a belief from the customer that value will be appealed and experienced. A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services. Benefits help in creating a value proposition for the guest. Hence to create a value proposition for a guest, the product/service must be first seen from the guest’s perspective rather than the organisation’s perspective.
The value proposition is, by definition, different than a company’s mission statement. A mission statement talks about how the company is going to offer a product or service to a specific market segment, while a value proposition explains why the people/companies in that market segment should want to engage with that business.
Value is innately subjective. Different people value the same thing differently.
For a restaurant, you must establish the value proposition that will best resonate with your target customer base. Make sure that the value proposition permeates through each part of the restaurant. For example, if your value proposition is simply “great seafood and the largest selection of white wines in the city,” then all restaurant employees should focus on delivering that value proposition. The wait-staff should lead with this statement at each table they serve. The kitchen should have a consistent menu of popular and unique seafood, and must also try to add a unique, seasonal choice. The wine-waiter should do the same—highlight the wide selection, but suggest special “pairings” of wine with featured seafood.
Deciding on the value proposition also helps with its focus. You might have a fantastic kitchen staff that makes great-tasting food, but you can’t be all things to all people. No single restaurant has the best steak, chicken, fish, wine, beer, appetizers and dessert. Any restaurant that tries to be the best at everything will find that they have spread themselves too thin. When you create an appealing value proposition for your restaurant, you are creating a reason for people to choose it over other options.
Keep in mind that your value proposition does not necessarily need to be food-related. For example, if you’re running a beach bar, your value proposition could be “sun-downer cocktails” or “beach games” or “trendy local live musical performances”. Different people value things differently. Some people may not be interested in beach games, but you need to research what your guests may want and use the answers in creating your value proposition.
In summary, to ensure that your value proposition is successful, you must strategize such that the value as perceived by the guest is actually greater than the actual value in the product or service you are offering.
An up-sell is to get the guest to spend more money – buy a more expensive model of the same type of product, or additional features that relate to the product in question. A cross-sell is to get the guest to spend more money by adding more products from other categories than the product being viewed or purchased.
Say the guest is planning a special anniversary dinner with his wife at your hotel. He comes to reserve a table in your restaurant for a 3 course table d’hôte dinner with a bottle of domestic house wine. You offer:
- A three course table d’hôte seafood dinner in the private gazebo on the restaurant lawns with a bottle of champagne ~ Up-sell, same product family, more expensive
- A couples Swedish Massage at your spa followed by a 3 course table d’hôte seafood dinner in the private gazebo on the restaurant lawns with a bottle of champagne ~ Cross-sell