Owning the Digital Conversation Throughout the Travel Journey

By Duane Hepditch President & CEO, Guestfolio | January 24, 2016

Communication channels are constantly changing. Most of this change is down to mobile, and the effect it's had on how consumers behave and how they engage with each other. Whether it be communicating through their social media feeds or email, researching places to eat, travel, shop, reading the news or managing day-to-day tasks. This influence from mobile has affected how all brands communicate with their customers and how they build brand trust and loyalty.

Within the hospitality industry building this brand trust is just that little bit harder, not only because of the shift to mobile but also because of the hugely competitive space every hotelier sits in. Within that space, hoteliers don't just see their local competitors down the street anymore, they have the almighty Online Travel Agents (OTAs) to contend with. Bigger than ever, they have the funding and the clout to reach customers anywhere and anytime and, on any device. This reach can leave hoteliers feeling drowned out by the noise and at a loss of where to start when building those lasting relationships with guests.

This is where we encourage hoteliers to own their digital conversation. Marketing and advertising is no longer about publishing as many print adverts as possible, or nurturing those relationships with travel agents and OTAs, it's about engaging with customers and guests through the channels that are important to them. Converting that unknown guest into a trusted brand advocate and thereby retaining that business through them, their followers, friends and family is the only way for hoteliers to stand out in this crowded market.

So how is this done? Understanding the strategy and knowing what guests want is key but also coming to grips with the concept of spending your marketing budget in the right place will determine which way you go. So what would you rather spend it on? Always fighting for that new business or keeping your existing business and building relationships with guests who will ultimately become brand promoters? Let's take a look at what can be achieved by spending it on the latter.

Communicating with Guests

Two of the biggest growth areas that we've seen on mobile devices over the past few years is email and ecommerce. 200 million emails are sent out every minute of the day, 53% of these emails are opened on mobile devices (compared with 8% in 2011) and 34% of global ecommerce transactions across all industries are happening on mobile devices. More than ever consumers are receiving information, making decisions based on that information and proceeding to make purchases, all on a mobile device. On top of this, a recent survey found that 72% of adults in the U.S. preferred companies to communicate with them via email.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.