As 2015 unwinds and we start thinking about the new year set to begin, it’s always an interesting exercise to take some time to reflect upon some of the up and coming trends that are emerging and that will most likely impact how we do business in months and years to come. And when it comes to online marketing, there is plenty happening – some may even say too much happening, too fast! Here are five trends to consider for 2016 for travel and hospitality marketers.
1. Social Media Advertising
Even though most popular social networks remain free when it comes to opening an account, the “pay to play” model is becoming the norm for brands wanting to stand out from the crowd. Yes, it’s still possible to have a dynamic presence on Twitter or Pinterest without reverting to ads, and many hotels, restaurants and attractions do a fine job of managing their accounts on TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google Review (through Google My Business) without giving into paid options. But let’s not kid ourselves: when it comes to Facebook, brands must now include some level of marketing dollars in order to reach their target audience. And organic engagement levels are also on the decline on Instagram.
In 2016, we can therefore expect more and more marketers to include marketing dollars for social media paid initiatives. Rather than increasing online marketing budgets, I suspect many hoteliers will consider transferring some funds from costly Google AdWords campaigns or tactics with very little return on investment or measurement possibilities.
2. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Let’s get one thing clear right away: mobile is not a trend. By now, it has already impacted the very fabric of our everyday lives, including how we interact with other people and how we consume in general. In the travel sphere, mobile has clearly disrupted the online distribution ecosystem, along with customer service, marketing and the overall decision-making process. Not convinced? Google Think published a interesting report in November, defining the 4 mobile moments changing the customer journey. Here’s what they found:
During a two months period, prior to the 2014 Holiday Season, a typical consumer such as Amy engaged in 34 online searches, leading to at least 5 video views and a whopping 380 web visits. 87% of these digital moments happened on mobile. 87%. Think this is an anomaly? Think again. Emarketer published an article late November as well, predicting that in 2016, three quarters of online travel search will come from mobile, generating 51% of online travel revenues!
3. Content Shock
Back in 2014, I wondered if there would be content shock in travel. Clearly, that was a rhetorical question. We are seeing today how much content is being shared across various digital outposts and it is becoming increasingly difficult to break through the clutter and noise. On YouTube alone, there is now more than 300 hours of content downloaded… every minute! There are more than 8 billion video views on Facebook every day. More than 350 million photos shared every day on Whatsapp. And on, and on, and on…
The reverse effect of this content overload is that consumers have less patience and attention span, since they are exposed to so much content on a constant basis: ads, promotions, humorous pictures, sad videos, TV show, web series, news, etc. How can travel brands get their message across in this environment? Pertinence will remain key, as it always has. But brands won’t be able to rely solely on their own content, as dynamic and original as it may be. Paid and earned media will become pivotal to a successful digital marketing approach, in particular using other people’s content (OPC), which is often considered more trustworthy than traditional advertising or editorial content.