Predictive Personalization: The Next Frontier of Online Travel

By Mark Simpson President & Founder, Maxymiser | March 31, 2013

Personalization is undoubtedly an overused (if not abused) industry term. Almost any online marketing vendor will tout it as a way to say they can help you target your consumers. Fair enough to them, I say, because the potential impact of personalized online marketing is enormous, but companies must be careful with what personalization means to them, their business, and most of all their consumers. And this holds even truer for travel marketers.

The problem is that after years of vendor hype and over-promises, personalization has not lived up to it's billing in the industry.

So when it comes to web sites, mobile sites and apps and CRM platforms, the travel industry needs to realize: only through a combination of 'self-learning', predictive personalization and multivariate testing technologies and services, all delivered through a single platform, will they begin to reap the benefits of truly personalized marketing to each and every customer. But it must be an ongoing commitment – it's about evolution rather than revolution.

Defining Personalization

Personalizing the customer experience has been marketing's holy grail for over a decade. Yet ask ten marketers to define personalization and there will be no consensus answer. And in reality, very few are looking to achieve anything more than product recommendations and rules-based re-targeting.

According to Forrester Research, web personalization is "creating experiences on web sites or through interactive media that are unique to individuals or segments of consumers."

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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.