It’s that time of year again and business planning is in full swing here at THAT Agency. Every year around this time we like to take a step back, take inventory of what we’ve learned, and identify trends for the upcoming year. So what trends can we expect to see in the hospitality industry for 2018? The trends for 2017 lived up to the hype, but here’s what’s changed and what you can expect to encounter as the calendar flips yet again.
Mobile is a Necessity
Just as we saw in 2017, guests are turning to their mobile devices to research the specifics on hotels and other specifics for their travels. Interestingly enough, Google reports that people are researching more on mobile, but turning to a desktop to actually book their stay. Even though 90% of bookings occur on desktop, showing up during the research process will keep you as an option when they switch devices.
This trend goes past the booking process as well. When guests arrive at their destination, they’re turning to their mobile devices to find activities to do around town. In fact, 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after they’ve arrived at their destination.
Empower your guests to have a great experience while they’re in town by sending them updates about what’s happening around town during their stay. For instance, a good morning email with a highlight of local attractions and events can create a better experience for your guests.
Personalization is another hotel marketing trend highlighted in 2017 that is expected to grow exponentially in 2018. As technology advances and brands are adopting innovative technologies, personalized marketing experiences are becoming more expected and more effective.
This goes farther than just using names in email subject lines. Effective personalization brings context and relevance to the table. It makes your marketing not feel like marketing and more of a conversation.
For instance, if a guest books a stay during a week where there’s a big business conference, ask them if they’re attending. This way, you can tailor their stay around the conference and make it better for them. Send them information on how to get the most out of a conference or local hacks to get places on time so they don’t miss out on anything important.
Anything that relates directly to what they’re doing during their stay will make your hotel marketing extremely effective in 2018.
Images are so 2017…Invest in Video
Alright, don’t disregard images all together. There’s nothing like captivating imagery, especially if you’re your hotel is scenic. However, it’s estimated that by 2019 that 80% of internet traffic will be video. It’s time to get behind the camera and start shooting!
So how do you use video in your marketing? There are a few standard ways but there are also a few creative ways that make your marketing really stand out.
First, include a walk-through of your hotel rooms. While the galleries are great, a video walk-through will give prospective guests an idea of how everything is laid out and how much space they’ll actually have. Plus, you’ll be able to give them the full view from the balcony.
Another way to use these video tours are in different areas of your hotel. If you’re operating a resort, go through the different amenities that people come to your hotel for. If it’s a casino, make a video about what games you offer. IF you have more of a theme park, show guests having a great time.
You can also personalize the video experience by sending videos in email. In fact, videos in email are shown to increase click-through rates by up to 65%. When a guest books a stay, have one of your team members send a personalized video to this guest. Include relevant details they’ve given you about their stay, and tell them you can’t wait for them to get there. While scaling might be a bit difficult with this, if you have a smaller, boutique hotel, it can be extremely effective.
The ultimate goal with video is to get your audience to visualize themselves in the situation you’re shooting. Get them excited. Show them the type of experience they’ll have at your hotel and you’ll increase the chance of them booking a stay.
I’ve been using the word “experience” a lot in this post, and for a good reason. As a hotelier, you don’t really sell a product. While you might service your guests while during their stay, you don’t really provide a service either.
As a hotel, you sell an experience.
Thinking back to when I would go on family vacations as a kid, I vividly remember the details. From being told about the vacation, to looking up the things we were going to do, to travelling, the actual time we were on vacation, and the feeling of not wanting to leave. Wrap it all up and you have a lifelong memory.
This is what you need to create for your customers. While not every hotel is focusing on booking family vacations, you need to create the best experience for your ideal guest. Whether it’s a travelling business person or someone looking for an easy one-night stay, the goal is to make the experience memorable in a positive way.
Everything from the booking process, travelling, checking in, and checking out are a part of the experience and it’s your job to delight your guests through the entire thing.
Revamp Your OTA Marketing Strategy
Ugh….online travel agencies. Here goes 30% of your profit, right? It’s time to get creative with your OTA strategy. Yes, they serve a significant role for hotel marketers, but they’re freaking expensive! That cash belongs in your pocket.
Most people will find your hotel either through Google Hotel Ads or through an online travel site. Both are crucial to your hotel marketing strategy. However, what many people fail to realize is that over half of the people who discover you on an OTA will click through to your site to personally check out your hotel.
This is the moment of truth. It’s where you have to get users to forget about all the other options on the page they just came from and capture their attention with enticing content and value. With a solid hotel content strategy, using videos and images, and a great web design will allow you to direct their attention to the value they’re looking for.
Include clear calls-to-actions that catch their eye and get them to dive deeper into your site. The farther away from the OTA page they can get, the better.
It’s not easy, but investing on creating a one of a kind user experience and user behavior data analysis will help you increase direct bookings and lower the cost of your marketing efforts.
User Generated Content is King
As I stated earlier, getting your prospective guests to imagine themselves in the images and videos you promote will have a tremendous effect. An extremely effective way to do this is by utilizing user generated content (we like to call it UGC).
User generated content is taking pictures, videos, and even reviews to aid your hotel marketing by using social proof. Over 70% of Americans saying they look at product reviews before making a purchase. Make it easy for your prospective guests to find not only the reviews, but the great experiences other people have had at your hotel.
Utilize social media marketing and set up social monitoring to listen to what people are saying about their stay. Reach out and ask for permission to use some of the pictures they posted. You can even incentivize this with a free room upgrade the next time they decide to stay with you.
People like to know that other people had a valuable and positive experience. It allows them to justify their purchase and if they were on the fence, it can help give them the push they need.
Automate Your Process
When it comes to effective and efficient marketing, automation is the name of the game. Make sure your CRM is set up to respond to the different actions your audience takes on your website. You probably already have the automatic follow-up email set up to send once they book a stay, but there are a handful of other things you can automate as well.
For instance, you can make the check-out process much easier by sending guests an email that allows them to check-out directly from their phone. This is also a great way to ask for a review while everything is still fresh in their mind.
You can also automate your internal sales process. If someone submits a contact form on your website asking for more information, this can trigger an internal email to one of your salespeople to reach out and answer their questions while gathering more information about what they’re looking for. This way, you can really deliver context and personalization as they decide on the right hotel for their travels.
Authenticity – Be Yourself
Lastly, be yourself. Keep your messaging on brand and don’t try to be a hotel that you’re not. If you’re a boutique hotel, certain tactics that a huge resort utilizes simply won’t make sense. The worst thing you can do for your brand is to try and be too much like your competitors.
Focus on the unique selling proposition your hotel has and reel in your guests by showcasing the grat experience they’ll get by choosing you.
A lot can change in a year, and 2018 will most likely be a roller-coaster of a year. Especially when it comes to digital marketing, a simple algorithm update and new trends can emerge almost instantaneously. It’s important that your marketing is agile so you can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape.
If you're looking to take your hotel marketing to the next level in 2018, check out our 2018 hotel marketing guide to see how you can act on these trends and grow your hotel into what you invision it to be.