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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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.