Technology and digital marketing continue to shape the travel industry and hotel consumers’ path to purchase. Here are a few low cost ideas to help you stay in front of this constantly evolving world.
1. Go Responsive –
Even though most travel bookings still occur on desktop, consumers are now heavily using their mobile devices to research and plan their travel. A recent Google Travel/Sojern1 report showed that on weekends, mobile searches related to travel now outpaces searches on desktop. Further, the report states that 6 in 10 internet users in the United States begin their shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one. Plus, Google has made it clear that they are rewarding mobile-friendly websites in their search results. So if you’re not yet responsive, optimized for the search engines, and providing a positive user experience on every size screen, at every stage of the travel planning process, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
2.Think Outside Your Own Four Walls –
Don’t think of your guests as captives, think of them as relatives. When your family visits from out of town, you don’t lock them in your house; rather you show them the best of the city. And while your family may rely on you to decide where to go and what to do, you would be well served to help potential guests plan a great trip through your digital channels, both on and off property. I’m not suggesting that you provide a list of direct competitors, but showcasing what’s nearby or “best of” destination activities, and where you’re located in relation to those activities, is a good move. Also, providing helpful visitor service links such as the DMO website, local weather and visitor centers can help potential guests plan their trip. The more you think of yourself as only one part of a vacation or meeting experience, the better positioned you’ll be to demonstrate a service mentality. And, that additional destination content can only help your overall search engine rankings.
3.Tune Up Your Social Media –
A 2017 EyeforTravel Study2 found that 20% of travel consumers visit social media sites before booking their trip. Having a robust social footprint is imperative for hotels and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. The landscape is big so focus where it matters most and do it well rather than spreading yourself too thin. I recommend Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube (which is now more than a video hosting site). Pinterest if you have the bandwidth. Posting good content including photos and videos regularly is a must but you also need to monitor and engage. Not only are customers using social media to research, plan and share their travel experiences, they’re increasingly demanding customer service via social channels, particularly twitter. A dedicated handle might help redirect service questions away from your general feed and the front desk staff, to a dedicated customer service associate. Also, use #hashtags to curate UGC content from your guests that you can promote through your own channels. Make sure you promote your social channels on property, your website, collateral and advertising as well as cross promote between the channels themselves.
4.Spend the Money for Professional Photography and Video –
I probably don’t need to tell you that the role of beautiful images and video in travel planning is huge. And while many hotels intuitively know that, they often don’t want to spend the money to get it. I would argue that this is not the place to cut corners. We can all tell the difference between sophisticated, professionally produced visual content and schlocky production. Also, make sure to negotiate a full buyout on the assets and then you’ll be free to use them on your website, social channels and advertising for as long as needed. Plan on updating your assets every 3 to 4 years as styles change and technology develops.
5.Manage Your Online Presence Across the Internet –
First, update your Google business listing and make sure to verify your Facebook and Twitter accounts (Instagram doesn’t have that feature yet). Regularly monitor review sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp to make sure they have correct information about your business and to engage with users. Ask happy guests to post feedback but also respond to online complaints. While many review site will give you the opportunity to respond to poor reviews, remember you’re not responding to only appease an unhappy guest, your response is a direct reflection of your brand. Make sure you respond to negative comments with a positive voice and take responsibility for service failures when appropriate.
6.Spend on Online Digital Advertising –
The days of free Facebook traffic are over; it’s now a pay-to-play world. If you’re not already engage in online advertising, at least on Facebook and Google search you’re missing the boat. The great thing is that social and search advertising it’s still relatively affordable compared to traditional media channels. Both Facebook and Google Adwords have self-service portals so you can manage these campaigns yourself. And, there are plenty of free online tutorials to get you started.
Managing the complex and ever changing world of digital marketing isn’t an easy task but an amazingly important one. Many hotels still assume their marketing manager or public relations team can handle digital marketing “on the side.” But as one of the most important connections to potential visitors and past guests, I would argue that it deserves a full time, dedicated person on staff. Here’s another idea… that 20-something rising social media star might already be on your payroll in the activities department or coffee counter — it’s worth an ask!
1Source: Sojern Internal, U.S., H1 2015 vs. H1 2016; Google Internal, U.S., Jun. 2015–Jun. 2016
2Source: EyeforTravel, Understanding the Travel Consumer’s Path to Purchase, 2017