'Data is king but how you use it is emperor’ - I came across this saying recently.
From my own experience of supporting luxury hotels and brands in making the most from their online strategies
, I can safely say that clients who understand the relationship between customer engagement data (data-driven marketing) and their online business performance achieve better online returns.
The top priority for performance in the luxury hotel sector is guest experience; hotels that focus on it reduce churn and increase revenue.
Guest experience and service provide a single touch point with a brand, impact feelings and emotions and encompass the entire guest journey.
In this article, I am going to discuss the top areas of your overall Internet strategy in which you can use data-driven marketing to greatly improve your customer engagement and, therefore, your online performance.
1. Create a clear vision of the guest experience
• Most people find good visual presentation improves their capacity to make decisions when purchasing a product online.
For instance, the room pictures often present a detailed list of room amenities, yet the average online customer doesn’t engage with this high level of content, particularly itemised lists.
Top Tip: Monitor the movement of customers on your website from the key visual areas (i.e. for hotels, this is the homepage, rooms, and gallery sections). Greatly improve the imagery that sells your property and see the results improve.
• Video engages the customer like no other medium. However, it is tricky and getting it right needs to be planned.
Embedding condensed video is an excellent way to present your luxury property’s video while conforming to Google’s Page Speed requirements.
Top Tip: Keep your video to less than 1 minute. If you use testimonials, you can push this to 1.5 minutes. Guests are more likely to view three ‘1 minute videos’ consecutively over watching one ‘3 minute’ video.
2. Optimize for best mobile performance
Most business drivers are aware that over 60% of online visitors are now engaging on mobile devices and this is growing.
Well over 50% of online bookings are being driven by mobile users and this will continue to increase.
The mobile customer’s needs are different to the desktop user and the mobile website needs to reflect this difference. Not understanding the exact needs of mobile guests will be an expensive mistake.
The key here is to spend some time focusing exclusively on the mobile guest: research their engagement behaviour by inserting heat mapping or video analysis software to clearly see what they are clicking on.
Implement A/B tests and event tracking to measure how different presentation of imagery/content can influence different engagement behaviour.
Top Tip: Make sure your mobile booking engine is responsive and design your website, email campaigns and offers with the mobile user to the fore. Also, bear in mind that a typical customer booking journey involves up to four touch points so your site must present well all devices.
3. Don't underestimate Pay Per Click (PPC)
Another common issue resulting in reduced performance is limited PPC budget
. Some hotels tend to stick to their agreed budget and don’t look to push for higher results.
I can understand that if you categorise the PPC spend as an annual ‘Budget Item’ it may be locked down for the year and difficult to increase. However, as a company that focuses on maximising ROI, we see this as a commission budget.
For example, if you are receiving €12,000 for a spend of €600 per month (20:1), why not push the budget to €750 and if you can maintain the ROI, your online revenue will increase to €18,000.
Top Tip: Engage a good agency that has a proven track record in driving ROI. Maximise the ROI from your campaign using your current budget, increase this budget until the ROI starts to drop. This will give you your ‘sweet spot’.
4. Don't forget email marketing
Via this channel you can connect with guests by sending them pre-stay emails which engage them with your amenities and upsell opportunities.
It enables you to stay in touch via post-stay emails after they checkout and potentially convert them to loyal, returning guests.
From our experience of monitoring email campaigns, it's unlikely that one marketing email per month will bring results.
Do not simply send out campaigns without understanding how your guests engage with the content. Research the key signals or calls to action which motivate a guest to connect with you.
Top Tip: Measure open rates, click through rates, opt-out and online revenue for each campaign. Make changes to your subject line, content and imagery and see how these changes affect these rates. If your engagement rates are low, it is amazing how quickly you can improve them by focusing on this data your guest needs.
It is also useful to move anyone who has not opened 5 or 6 consecutive campaigns to a separate segment. Instead of sending monthly emails, design a new campaign for this group and send it say twice a year.
Overall, if you want to succeed in the fast-paced luxury hotel industry, you need to be as efficient as possible when it comes to your operational capabilities.
Make 2021 your year with more direct bookings, best online performance and positive reviews from engaged customers.
Continuously improving your online performance through operational efficiency and best booking practice is what we do at Aró.