Improving Conversions Starts with Reaching and Engaging Consumers

By Paolo Boni President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo, Inc. | January 29, 2012

As travel shopping continues to fragment within the online space to a myriad of channels, devices, and platforms the role of the hotel marketer is becoming increasingly complicated. Today, audiences are jumping from online travel agencies to review sites to social media and so on, using their smartphones, computers and tablets to do so. This makes for a complex web of touch-points for hotel marketers to explore and take advantage of. Success requires balancing a number of priorities and activities that make up a hotel's greater marketing strategy. Included in this strategy are activities that convert website traffic to bookings on the hotel's own website and third party websites.

Driving Traffic Versus Converting Traffic

Converting website traffic involves getting website visitors to take a desired action, or in this case, book hotel accommodation. This is one area that is often off balance in hotel marketing. Currently, marketers tend to put more effort and dollars toward driving more visitors to their sites by implementing tactics such as search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising programs than they do to converting the visitors to hotel guests.

Employing these types of programs to drive traffic as well as using online visual merchandising creates the complete marketing cycle and increases the number of visitors who actually book your hotel. This article focuses on the latter part of the equation – improving conversions through visual merchandising.
What is visual merchandising?

There are two main components of visual merchandising. The first is reach, the second is engagement. The result of these two components being executed successfully is improved conversions which means a couple of things – gaining a higher number of bookings overall and/or increasing the value of each conversion. By showing consumers the value that your hotel offers, what they will experience, and what sets your hotel apart, you are able to get more bookings and convert guests at higher rates.

Hoteliers who have grasped and employed online merchandising practices take their listings and web properties as opportunities to reach consumers with a great, compelling experience. Visual merchandising ensures that what hotel shoppers see makes them want to take the next step and book with you. Regardless of which site they're visiting, from transactional online travel agencies to social media channels, a well-merchandised hotel listing with informative, rich, engaging content can significantly improve conversions.

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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.