Online Marketing: Future Challenges for Hotels

By Kristie Willmott Group Director of E-Business & Customer Development, Jumeirah | January 27, 2012

The year is 2020; driven by technology undreamed of today, the world of hotel marketing is unlike anything we can imagine. As marketers what will our role be? Will we have any role at all? If the changes in the last five years are any indication, these are wonderful questions to ponder.

Here in the present, we can safely say online marketing has come of age; if it was cutting edge yesterday, it's the norm today. But, what about the future? What can we expect, what do we have to do to be relevant to the consumers of today and tomorrow? Perhaps the only thing we can say for certain is that as long as technology continues to change at blinding speed, our biggest challenge will be just to keep up.

It is estimated that more than a billion global consumers shop online. For most of them it's nothing new, they've been doing it for years now. The Internet has been fully embraced, not by just the young but by everyone. Two-thirds of the 72 million Baby Boomers are online, about the same percentage as the following generation, Gen X. Many of the 60 million-strong Gen Y, our newest customers, have already abandoned such "outdated" communications as email because it's too slow, laborious and restrictive. Consumers and advertising savvy from birth, as the eminent Lalia Rach has observed, for them it's video cellphones and text messaging, iPods, smartphones and UTube. Along with the Internet and email, communications today are dominated by satellite radio, wifi, DVR's, a seemingly endless stream of new portable devices and digital multi-tasking, the simultaneous use of multiple media, as watching TV, playing online video games, talking on the phone and text-messaging. Tomorrow, who knows?

Once upon a time, consumer marketing was simple; the choices were advertising in broadcast and print media, billboards, direct mail and public relations. There were relatively few broadcast outlets to choose from and it was fairly easy to determine what newspapers and magazines our customers read. No longer; technology has changed the rules completely. Consumers are unplugged, completely mobile and in control of what information they receive, when and how they receive it. They expect to be able to interact with us at any time, day or night. They are able, and do by the millions, to engage with other consumers to share ideas and opinions in real time.

Clearly, one challenge for the future is to stay on top of the technology and create ways to use the latest concepts and devices to our advantage. There is little point to sending emails to an audience that is tuned in elsewhere. We need to communicate our message via the technology our customers are most apt to be using, including the latest visual, video and audio systems and devices. As a number of experts have advised: "We need to learn the language and use it." Given the rate at which new technology is pumped into the marketplace, this is no easy task.

Perhaps more important, however, are the ways consumers' decision-making, attitudes and values are being changed by their use of technology, and how this impacts our ability to and success in communicating with them. One of the most interesting themes is what trendwatching.com and other marketing analysts have referred to as "Transparency." Like it or not, we, as marketers, are naked, and it's not likely we'll have clothes to put on anytime soon.

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Coming up in March 2018...

Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.