The Rise of Gamification Across the Hospitality World

By Aron Ezra CEO, OfferCraft | October 30, 2016

Gamification, the use of game-like elements to make promotions, loyalty programs and staff training more engaging, is experiencing a resurgence in the hospitality industry. After initial missteps, hotels are using a new breed of games to boost their customers' spend per visit, increase market share and motivate their staff. Not only does gamification open a world of possibilities for making the industry more profitable and productive, it makes the guest and employee experience more fun. By focusing on the brand new metric of "enjoyability," hospitality companies are tapping into a rich new source of data, differentiating their brand in a crowded field, and driving extraordinary results.

About a year ago, one of our resort hotel clients had a problem: They were seeing a steady decline in the number of bookings stemming from their email newsletter. It had been a great tool for years, and it still contributed to a sizeable number of direct bookings, so they didn't want to give up on it. They had tried a lot of different things, including stuffing the email with increasingly rich offers, adding beautifully shot (and expensive) video clips of happy guests, even changing their email distribution software to get more emails past spam filters. The new tactics helped, just not enough.

I asked their VP of Marketing if he had ever experimented with gamification - the process of infusing games and game-like elements into places where you don't usually find games, such as marketing, operations or HR.
"Gami-what?" he said. He hadn't heard of it.

But he was open to giving it a shot. So the next month, we dropped a game into their newsletter, which went to nearly half a million past customers and prospects. In addition to the discounted room rate offer, we added in a game with prizes for guests once they arrived at the property. This enticed more people to book a room. Compared to the previous three newsletters that had gone out without the campaign, the game supercharged the newsletter's impact. Room revenue skyrocketed 67.5 percent within 60 days, and room nights booked jumped 62.6 percent, even as the average daily rate notched up by $2. The VP of Marketing told us it was the best newsletter campaign they'd ever run. To this day, the gamified monthly newsletter continues to account for more room nights sold than all of their other digital marketing channels combined.

Gamification makes boring, repetitive, or unpleasant experiences fun. I have long advocated focusing on "enjoyability" as a critical business metric - by making an experience more enjoyable, we see huge lifts in both revenue and satisfaction. The question is: How do we do it?

Let's Start With the Wrong Way to Handle Gamification: Version 1.0

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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.