Recently, Blue Magnet Interactive attended a Webinar hosted by Leonardo titled Big, Bold, Visual: What You Need to Know About Hotel Marketing in 2015. All of us at Blue Magnet Interactive have a passion for using our digital marketing expertise to assist our hotel partners. We develop a strategy and focus our marketing efforts to ultimately drive revenue and engagement for our clients, whether through organic search, paid advertising, or social media. Keeping up with marketing trends is valuable not only for our own knowledge but also for executing innovative and successful strategies on behalf of the hotels we work with.
The webinar speakers included Darlene Rondeau, Vice President of Best Practices and Online Merchandising at Leonardo; Tim Peter, Digital Marketing and E-commerce Expert & President; and Christine Beuchert, Senior Director, Marketing and Ecommerce Strategy at Marcus Hotels. They discussed the most anticipated marketing trends for 2015 which include:
- Visual storytelling in the online shopping journey
- Rise of content marketing
- Power of video for a hotel’s bottom line
- Multi-screen, multi-device connectivity
The webinar presented a range of valuable information, so I have highlighted three takeaways to serve as the keys to your hotel’s marketing kingdom in 2015.
1. Content is King
Improving hotel websites and creating a content marketing strategy tend to be the main concerns among hotel marketers. That being said, it is extremely important for your hotel website to tell a story that cuts through the clutter and is consistent across all platforms. If your hotel has an idea of what your brand experience is and it does not align with your guests’ view of what your brand is, then you are not executing your content strategy successfully. Combat the trend of declining organic search traffic by telling an awesome story about your hotel.
Great content leads to product differentiation, more inbound links to your website, and engaged customers. Make your hotel’s independent website engaging, decrease its bounce rate, and turn visits into bookings! Content should follow three criteria; it should be snackable, shareable, and sharp.
- Snackable: Your content should be easy for a reader to glance at quickly and understand. The best way to execute this is by formatting simple text into bulleted lists and incorporating a lot of relevant imagery. Not only can a viewer process an image 60,000 times faster than reading a snippet of text, but images are also a more concise way to deliver your hotel’s message. For example, if a potential guest is browsing hotel rooms, they can easily understand the atmosphere, quality, and size of each room type by viewing photos and scanning a few bullet points rather than reading a wordy room type description. As users of the internet, we no longer read everything we see but skim for highlights and clear identifiers. Although it is still important to use text to tell a story, a website no longer requires as much text as it once did to attract search engines.
- Sharable: A great way to expand your hotel’s reach is making the content on your independent website sharable. Make the photo gallery, wedding gallery, restaurant images, and accommodations images “pinnable” so that users can add them directly to their Pinterest boards. Creating a cross-channel strategy allows your hotel to get exposure on multiple platforms, ultimately reaching a new audience of potential guests. We all know that photos sell hotel rooms, so utilize short videos on YouTube and let your high-res imagery convey your brand story.
- Sharp: Let your guests see what they want to see. The web is a visual channel, and sharp content and imagery are what users want to look at. Incorporate a “book now” button and make it easy for users to view the hotel’s policies that they are curious about (e.g. check-in time, pet-friendly fees, Internet availability). When creating a content strategy for your independent website, your mission should be to give potential guests the best user experience possible!
2. Context is Queen
Segment your guests’ behaviors by context. What kind of people does your hotel attract and where are they using the Internet? Observe, measure, and learn your guests’ pain points in each of those contexts. Improve your site, brand, and experience by aligning the user experience with that context in mind.
Make sure your site is convenient for them! Frustrating the user during the shopping process will inadvertently send them to another site to complete the transaction on an OTA, or worse, at a different hotel. By showing users exactly what they want, they are more likely to book directly on your hotel’s independent site.
Tim Peter provided a perfect example of understanding your guests’ behaviors with an airport hotel scenario. Imagine you work at an airport hotel and many of your guests book rooms when their flights are canceled and they are running through a busy airport with suitcases in hand. Nearly every guest in this scenario will be looking for a hotel room on their mobile device. So ask yourself, is your hotel’s website mobile optimized? Is there a button users can press to call the hotel’s front desk without having to write down a phone number to then dial into the phone pad? Does your mobile website easily coordinate with Apple Pay or Google Wallet, or are guests able to make a reservation without typing in their credit card information? All of these things can help improve the user experience and make hotel guests stay on your website and book a room on-the-go. Mobile is frequently used for last minute bookings and 61% of users will abandon sites that are not mobile friendly.
3. Data is the Crown Jewels
Lastly, it is important to gather data to better understand your guests’ behaviors, wants, and desires. These should lead your product, promotion, placement, and pricing efforts and decisions. Make sure your strategy is unique so that it cannot easily be duplicated by your competitors. Be willing to start small and remember that you have the ability to know your guests better than anyone.
Make sure your hotel’s independent site integrates Google Analytics or some sort of website tracking that allows you to understand users’ interests and movements across your site. Implement event tracking on all calls-to-action on your website to give you more insight into what links, images, or buttons users are clicking. If you see people are clicking on a certain special offer frequently, but that offer isn’t bringing in any more revenue than usual, evaluate what the problem may be. People are clearly curious about the special offer and want what it includes, but it may be priced too high. Perhaps the allotted booking dates or minimum night requirements are not ideal for travelers. Data like this can be particularly valuable for creating new pages and specials on your hotel’s website.
Now that you have the keys to effectively market your hotel online in 2015, go forth and implement these strategies! Use content, context, and data to gain a competitive advantage over other hotels in your market and increase your direct bookings and revenue.