Analytics: Travel Marketing's New Road Map

By Steve Morse General Manager, Travel & Hospitality, ClickSquared | January 27, 2012

Today's travel and hospitality marketing environment is driven by a dynamic flow of information that grows more diverse and complex by the day. With interactive and Web-based tools delivering more power to guests in the reservation process than ever before, expectations around responsiveness and personalized service continue to increase. As a result, marketers face numerous operational challenges as they try to manage an unprecedented number of guest touch points and interactions. Complicating matters, most of these marketers have large numbers of guests and every guest presents different and dynamic needs.

For example, a customer in the travel industry expects the marketer to provide a customized set of options for a resort visit, secure the booking via any channel, provide an immediate summary of the itinerary, make personalized recommendations for resort activities such as dinner reservations, spa treatments or a day on the golf course, arrange, confirm and notify the guest of these activities via any channel, recognize the customer upon arrival, serve the customer according to pre-determined preferences, and communicate with the customer upon their return home...with complete awareness of the recent trip.

Simultaneously, marketing professionals encounter mounting pressure from management to demonstrate the financial accountability and return on investment of their marketing spend and programs. Moreover, they must balance financial controls while still achieving their objectives in customer acquisition, loyalty, and retention as well as cross-selling additional amenities and up-sell travel packages. They need to provide senior management with an explanation of where investments are going, provide the rationale for those choices, and clearly identify the source and size of the returns. Which customers comprise the brand's best marketing opportunities? How many customers should be invested in? Which ones? What marketing programs, channels, and tactics are most appropriate and why?

Travel and hospitality marketers struggle with answering these questions because their data sits in multiple places or is incomplete. This common challenge impacts a marketer's ability to measure marketing effectiveness (ROI) at the customer level.

Many believe a customer's current, potential, and/or expected value are the most important considerations in making investment decisions. The rub: the value a customer represents to the brand can be just as dynamic - and therefore just as difficult to measure and respond to - as the customer's needs.

Travel and hospitality marketers are coping with the operational challenge of supporting a myriad of dynamic communications that must be acted upon accurately based on a buyer's needs, profiles, purchase histories, and more. Furthermore, they're struggling with how to accomplish this - and manage this - in a way that demonstrates measurable results and optimizes returns - while keeping costs down and budgets in check.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.