Rich Media: What is it and How Can You Use it to Your Advantage?

By Paolo Boni President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo, Inc. | January 27, 2012

Intensifying competition, the proliferation of video and changing travel shopper behavior are a few key drivers encouraging hotel owners and marketers to rethink their existing approaches to online revenue generating activities.

Put yourself in the shoes of an active online travel shopper looking to book a hotel in downtown New York for a weekend getaway with friends. As you search the Internet for hotels that meet your buying criteria - price point, room size, amenities, proximity to attractions, shopping and nightlife, you find several comparable hotels and struggle to choose the "right one."

What is it that motivates you to choose one hotel over the others? I would argue (and merchandising strategy supports), that how well a hotel best conveys the expected experience you're looking for during your stay is what ultimately motivates you to book.

The retail industry has long understood that product presentation impacts sales. The hotel industry, however, isn't using merchandising strategies to their full advantage online. There are valuable opportunities for hoteliers to enhance their online presence, making their hotels more visually compelling and more engaging than the competition.

By understanding and implementing the fundamentals of online hotel merchandising, hoteliers can leverage the Internet as a cost effective sales and marketing channel by capturing shoppers' attention and motivating them to book. Here are six simple ways hotels can use online merchandising to their advantage.

1. Shift from offline to online

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.