The digital revolution has given independent hotels a place on the world stage, but it is often hard to find them beneath the dominant marketing presence of the online travel agents. For many individual hotels and small chains, driving web traffic and direct bookings is a vital part of their marketing mix.
Tools such as branded search, paid search marketing, metasearch advertising, SEO and content marketing are all key to levelling the playing fields between the large OTAs and small chains or bespoke properties.
80 DAYS is a creative and digital marketing agency that specializes in luxury travel and the hospitality industry. The agency works with more than 350 hotels worldwide, from individual properties such as The Ritz London and the Goring to groups and collections such as Red Carnation Hotels, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts and The Doyle Collection.
We caught up with Sam Weston, marketing manager for 80 DAYS, to learn more about their recommendations for driving direct traffic and bookings.
“We believe hotels should work productively with OTAs, but that they should also try to get as much direct business as possible. Whether that’s through branded search and ensuring those who already know about your hotel book directly with you or capturing new awareness through prospecting activity, targeting those who are early on in their purchasing decision,” Weston says. “All of our activity is underpinned by analytics and data. We truly believe decisions are only as good as the data upon which they’re based.”
Here’s what Weston had to say on digital marketing, and how new technologies can be used to help drive your Revenue Strategy.Recommendations for hoteliers on driving direct traffic and bookings. Click To Tweet
How can data-driven marketing give small or independent hotels an edge over brand-named competitors?
It’s difficult, especially when it comes to budget, because the large groups often have considerable budgets. It’s about taking a smarter approach to marketing, really focusing on delivering the right message at the right time. Capturing that initial interest then measuring engagement with content and advertising, and setting up campaigns accordingly. You have to make sure you have a well-established process to track performance then continually improve and refine.
Also, I think that independents and smaller groups can often be more agile. They don’t have to wait for the corporate machine to make decisions. They can jump on opportunities quickly. For example, if there’s a tube strike in London they can set up an offer to stay over in the city really quickly. By the time a larger chain is ready to put up their offer the strike is over.
How should hotels be using customer data to drive their customer acquisition and retention strategies? How can it help them identify the marketing strategies and campaigns most likely to be successful?
It depends on where the data is coming from. Google Analytics, for example, is great at helping identify which channels are working well, including what international markets are generating interest and revenue. With this information, you can localize and translate content and offers, making them more relevant to those audiences.
Being able to track back to the source of initial interest is very valuable too. As an industry, we tend to focus on the last click, the last source before booking. However, when you deep dive into where that first interest originated from, you often see it was a channel perceived to have a low ROI – social media, for example. It’s important to evaluate what channels are driving strong interest and a new wave of guests for your hotel, not just what’s generating the bookings for tonight.
Analytics data also enables us to identify what packages and rate codes are working, and this is also where revenue management software like Duetto is very valuable.
Then you have the new, emerging data sources such as voice user interfaces, chatbots and other emerging fun hospitality tech. When you have Alexa in your guestrooms you start to gain access to a lot more data about what your guests are asking of their hotel. All this helps identify what is likely to make guests convert from a one-time-stay to repeat customers.
How can a data driven marketing strategy complement a data driven revenue strategy?
The two should really work hand in hand. From my experience, working directly in hotels, it can be difficult to get marketing and revenue teams singing from the same hymn sheet, but never has it been more important. Revenue managers need to share valuable demand data with marketing managers, who in return can help maximize yield and ensure the hotel is not discounting without good reason. Working together can maximise guest spend, not just on rooms, but also across the whole property, including F&B and other incremental spend.
What are the challenges associated with bringing marketing and revenue together? How can and should hotels break down the internal silos that are barriers to success?
I think one of the biggest barriers historically has been access to data. Access to great data platforms, such as Duetto, give revenue managers a wealth of metrics to help steer pricing and benchmarking.
However, marketing teams have been underserviced in this area. We have tools such as Google Analytics, but marketers need to really know and understand, “Is my marketing working?” Hotel marketing teams are often dealing with data that is out of date. They may have seen their conversion rate rise from 1.3% to 1.5%, but without knowing context and what your competitors are doing, you cannot gauge if that is good or not.
This is one of the reasons why we launched our free benchmarking service, 80 DAYS Benchmark, which provides hoteliers with access to more than 20 marketing metrics about their industry each month. This extra level of insight enables hoteliers to see if their website is converting better or worse against their competitors. Better informed marketing teams working alongside better informed revenue management teams will push collaborative strategies forward in the coming years.
Finally, how do you see travel sector marketing evolving in the future?
Technology is starting to dictate marketing more and more. This is undoubtedly going to be the case moving forward too.
Metasearch is becoming increasingly important and we’re seeing great returns for our clients, with ROIs of up to 9:1 or 10:1. This is enabling hoteliers to compete alongside OTAs on more of a level playing field.
Chat bots will remove a certain aspect of the human-to-human element of hospitality, but rather than being seen as a negative, should enable hotels to free up time to focus on improving the overall guest experience, which can only be a good thing.
Voice interaction and devices like Amazon Echo will transform how we book hotels and travel, as well as how we interact with hotels when we reach our rooms. The emerging challenge is how do we simplify our processes, platforms and booking engines to streamline everything for voice interfaces?
Data is also going to continually evolve. The challenges we have had measuring cross device and cross platform will begin to fade away, with cloud-based technology and data sharing between different systems becoming more essential. Choosing an optimal tech stack will become increasingly important to maximize the potential of your website, booking engine and therefore, revenue.
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Tags: 1:1 marketing, big data, boost bookings, Duetto, hotel advertising, hotel digital marketing, hotel distribution, hotel marketing, hotel pricing, Hotel Revenue Management, hotel revenue strategy, hotel sales and marketing, hotel technology, hotel yielding, marketing data, marketing technology, OTA, Personalization, RMS