We operate in a multi-device, multi-channel and multi-touchpoint digital world, and the hotel planning and booking customer journey is becoming increasingly complex as a result; In fact, according to Google, the average consumer engages in more than 38,000 digital moments in a 60-day booking window.
NB: This is an article by Max Starkov, President and CEO of HeBSDigital
Consumers are living their lives digitally, connected throughout these digital micro-moments. The travel planning journey on average includes 19 different touchpoints before making a booking (Google research) and each one of these touchpoints presents an opportunity for a hotel to build a brand connection, influence intent, and be there for every step of the journey.
In light of this complex digital landscape, hotel marketers should engage online travel consumers throughout their complex “digital journey”, and can no longer afford to have a fragmented customer engagement and acquisition approach.
What exactly does today’s typical fragmented approach look like?
One glaring example of this highly fragmented approach is keeping past guest engagement efforts (CRM) in a silo from new customer acquisition and marketing efforts.
How could that be?
Less than a third of hotel guests on any given night are repeat guests, while two-thirds are first-time guests. The reality is that, every day, general managers and sales and marketing directors having to secure about 70% of occupancy on any given night with brand new guests that they know very little about, while trying to ensure they have a pleasant and meaningful stay.
Furthermore, once the property has acquired this new guest, when the guest walks out the door, there is no guarantee they will ever stay again resulting in a vicious cycle that affects the bottom line.
Here are some stark examples of where the fragmented approach persists:
The hotel website
The property knows “intimately” their guests: their home address, credit card number, what they ate or how many drinks they had last night, and more. Yet, when these same guests visit the hotel website, they are treated as complete strangers.
Your property customer data lives in multiple “data islands” that do not talk to each other: PMS, CRM, CRS, social media, web analytics, marketing data, business intelligence for starters. In other words, your past guest data (CRM data) is neither being utilized to engage and retain past guests nor to target new guests and sharpen the focus and reach of your digital marketing campaigns.
RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value)
Most hotels cannot identify the property’s “best guests” (those with a high RFM value) and engage them throughout their hotel planning and booking journey, nor use this knowledge to acquire new “best guests”.
Technology and digital marketing silos
The hotel uses a myriad of vendors that do not “talk to each other”, and in many cases do not even know each other: one for CRM, one for the property website, a third for SEO, a fourth for SEM, a fifth for online media, another one for social media marketing, etc.
Many hotels are managing digital marketing campaigns without taking into consideration who their past guests are, who are their “best” guests (see RFM above), their preferences, even simple stay and booking behavior. By failing to capitalize on these insights campaigns rarely reach the right guest.
CRM data disconnected from intent data
Knowledge from past “best” guests is not being used to identify “marketing personas” in order to target look-alike audiences, which would significantly expand the marketing reach to acquire new guests that are similar to your “best” past guests and are “in market” i.e. planning to travel to the property’s destination.
These are just a few examples of how digital and data silos are “revenue blockers” fragmenting the direct online channel in hospitality today. Having a design firm build the hotel website, having another agency launch marketing initiatives, and another manage the CRM efforts doesn’t work any more.
By tying everything together with a 360-degree approach, engaging, retaining, and acquiring guests throughout the customer journey is not only more efficient and more effective at driving direct bookings, but it is incomparable in growing the bond with your customers and their lifetime value.