With the proliferation of meta search sites and OTAs, competing for guest bookings online is harder than ever.
NB: This is an article from ARO Digital
It is critical for hotels to work towards striking the right balance between reservations from their distribution platforms and online hotel bookings.
While direct bookings are the most profitable, it is rarely possible to fill your whole room allocation via this channel.
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Other platforms are required and also can provide a valuable marketing resource.
The traveller’s customer journey has become increasingly complex, which requires independent hoteliers to rethink their marketing and investments.
Google defines this customer journey as a fluid series of interconnected stages: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing, and Sharing.
HOW CAN HOTELIERS WIN ONLINE HOTEL BOOKINGS?
Independent hoteliers should not only know three distinct but interconnected digital marketing categories, but must be active in all of them:
- Guest Engagement Marketing
- Guest Acquisition Marketing
- Guest Retention Marketing
Then they can build relationship with their guests in all phases of the customer journey which Google defines.
WHAT ARE THE THREE CRITICAL DIGITAL MARKETING CATEGORIES FOR INDEPENDENT HOTELIERS?
1. GUEST ENGAGEMENT MARKETING
Today’s independent hotel market is awash with numerous brands selling similar products and services.
On their own, these are not enough to differentiate a product offering anymore.
Almost anyone can provide a basic browse-to-purchase experience.
Guests want brands to prove how much their business is valued — and not just with discounts or free gifts.
Any business should be looking for the elusive product/market fit and as the market (i.e. your potential guests) becomes more discerning, your product needs to evolve too.
Brands who can provide relevant content and tell a story that helps, informs and inspires guests will enjoy better growth than brands who can barely get your name right in an email.
Dreaming moments happen when they are looking for inspiration for new destination without a plan.
Planning moments happen when people choose their destination and they are looking for the right dates, flights, and place to stay.
2. GUEST ACQUISITION MARKETING
‘Book moments’ happen when travellers have done their research and they are ready to find a hotel and reserve a room.
At this critical phase all the work which you have done to ensure you have the best book direct strategy comes into play.
This stage includes all performance marketing. For example ROI-focused, direct-response marketing formats such as SEO, paid search/SEM, display advertising, retargeting, metasearch, email marketing, affiliate marketing and omni-marketing campaigns.
It also necessitates an engaging website which is well-optimised to serve browsers on mobile devices as well as desktop PCs.
The user experience should be slick, reflect your hotel’s personality and tell your story while simultaneously funneling them to make a booking on your online booking engine.
In this way you optimise the conversion of the engaged travel consumer into a hotel guest by utilising the full range of performance marketing initiatives, advertising formats and your hotel website in the “booking” phase.
3. GUEST RETENTION MARKETING
Guest retention marketing is the process of engaging existing guests to continue buying products or services from your hotel.
It crucially differs from the previous categories because you’ve already converted the guest at least once.
Retention techniques enable you to form lasting relationships with guests who will become not only loyal to your brand, they might even become your ambassadors, spreading the world within their own circles of influence.
What is essential of course is that the guest has experienced a stay which is commensurate with their expectations.
Experiencing and sharing moments happen when travelers are ready to remember and re-live the trip they have been dreaming about and share it with others.
In this category customer relationship management (CRM) software is your friend.
It enables you to segment your guests; perform marketing initiatives in the pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay phases; recruit guests to loyalty programs and deliver specific campaigns with measurable results.
As an independent hotelier, it is important that you should focus on all three categories not only on the guest acquisition marketing phase. This will result in:
- Increased ROI from marketing campaigns
- More potential guests coming into the guest acquisition pipeline from the dreaming and planning phases.
- Increased loyalty with more repeat guests. Loyalty is the key to growth.
- Increased direct bookings with all that entails
- Less dependence on the OTAs
- Lower cost of acquisition
- Increased upsell potential
- Higher room revenue and profits