Online Marketing: Future Challenges for Hotels
By Kristie Willmott Group Director of E-Business & Customer Development, Jumeirah | January 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following generation, Gen X. Many of the 60 million-strong Gen Y, our newest customers, have already abandoned such "outdated" communications as email because it's too slow, laborious and restrictive.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.