It is truly a challenging era for hotel marketers… OTAs are taking over the world of online bookings, wholesale distributors are undermining rate parity, while digital marketing trends are changing at lightning speed.
When updated algorithms and new social fads are launched on a daily basis, who has time to sort through all the news in hotel digital marketing?
Well, we are here to help you navigate this information overload.
As we approach the halfway point of the year, let’s look at the most important innovations shaping hospitality digital marketing in 2019.
Watch This Space: Video Content
By the end of 2019, users will spend more time online than in front of traditional TV programmes. For the most part, they will be watching video content. As a marketer, you simply can not ignore this radical change in customer behaviour. It will be a worthwhile venture as 70% of marketing professionals report that video converts better than any other contentincluding images and text.
While professionally produced brand videos will still play an important role in your digital strategy, zoom in on sharable content that is created in-house. Subscribe to user-friendly online tools to develop engaging videos. If you are concerned about quality, consider this: the lack of production actually reduces the distance between your hotel and guests - ultimately creating a more authentic digital experience.
Think of your key target markets are adapt your content ideas to these audiences. Post a Q&A featuring your leisure club manager, record interviews with key influencers and bloggers, introduce your longest serving employees with behind the scenes videos. People spend three times longer watching a live video than a pre-recorded one, so go live on Facebook from a wedding show or share a story from your spa on Instagram.
Take risks and you will be rewarded with highly engaging videos that will reach new users, increase brand awareness and develop a stronger emotional connection with viewers.
Loud & Clear: Voice Search
Would you be surprised to hear that an increasing number of guests find your hotel using voice search? Acting just as real-life personal assistants, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa now routinely help with travel arrangements and present hotel options to customers.
Voice powered technology is gaining real traction: 40% of travellers have asked for help from voice assistants while on the road. Business travellers, in particular, are keen adaptors with 80% reporting to have used mobile voice assistants during a trip. Growing at an unprecedented speed, it is estimated that by 2020 about 50% of all searches will be conducted through voice technology.
Whether customers are enlisting a smart speaker at home or a voice assistant on their smartphone, voice searches differ from traditional text-based queries. When using speech to gather information, people tend to speak in longer sentences with 3 to 5 keywords - as opposed to abbreviated text searches. Why is this important? Your hotel’s SEO plan needs to adapt to this change in behaviour by inserting more long-tail keywords into your content.
Focus on localisation. People often need information on the go, so naturally, many voice searches are carried out on mobile devices with local intent - such as “Where is the nearest hotel?”. Prepare your digital marketing strategy for voice search by anticipating customer questions and providing relevant content on your website.
Under A Spell: Influencer Marketing
If you work for a high-profile property, you are likely to get regular emails from social influencers asking for a free stay (or even payment) in exchange for online coverage. With many dubious requests, these ‘celebrities’ are often viewed as a nuisance within the industry, but when done right, influencer marketing can produce wonders for your brand.
How? The answer lies in authenticity. Business-minded influencers create interesting, original content that drives social engagement. They have devoted followers who rely on their recommendations. Genuine videos, photos and online reviews posted by influencers will help your hotel increase credibility, gain trust and foster loyalty.
When high-profile trendsetters are out of your budget, consider working with well-respected micro-influencers. Even though they might only have a modest number of followers, local influencers can introduce your hotel to new audiences within your community. Search Instagram or YouTube in your vicinity - look for fitness enthusiasts to promote your Zumba classes or home bakers to introduce your new afternoon tea.
Establish key performance indicators to be able to select the right accounts for a collaboration. Forget followers and focus on engagement - shares, impressions and video views will give you the real insights.
On The Move: Mobile Experience
From seeking entertainment through doing business to getting fit, people’s lives are now centred around their mobile phones. As a business, you must seek out your customers where they want to be - in this case on their handheld devices. A superior mobile experience is now as crucial to your hotel’s success as answering the phone when it rings.
If you are serious about your hotel’s book direct strategy, the booking process needs to be as seamless on mobile devices as on any desktop computer. Check with your technology provider that your booking engine is fully responsive and it automatically adjusts to the user’s screen size.
There is also Google’s mobile-first indexing drive. While the search giant used to evaluate desktop sites to determine rankings in search results, going forward they will use the mobile version of your hotel’s website for indexing. To stay on track, ensure that the mobile site provides the same engaging content as the desktop version including high-quality quality photos and videos.
Users expect fast digital experiences, especially on the mobile web. The effect of slow load time is well documented: an extensive Google study found that as page load time goes from one to ten seconds, the probability of a mobile visitor bouncing increases by 120%. For better conversion, invest in mobile platforms and concentrate on speed, experience and usability.
At Your Service: Digital Concierge
The way customers are interacting is shifting and hotels must keep up with these changes. If people are not so keen on phone calls any more, allow them to ask questions through innovative channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or live chat. Acting as a de facto digital concierge, these online tools can open up a more personal communication channel with guests. Unlike traditional email or telephone interactions, instant messages are more personal - allowing your brand persona to come to life.
Let’s look at the leading platforms.
WhatsApp Business is now widely used to safely send customer surveys, order notifications or appointment reminders. You can create a branded profile for your hotel to improve customer satisfaction and increase loyalty.
Facebook too has recognised the value in promoting their messaging service for business purposes. While major brands employ complex AI systems to manage their Messenger, smaller operators can also utilise this platform without the need for investment.
Implemented directly on your website, live chat can connect customers to your guest services in real time. No need to hire an expensive developer - you can choose from a range of ready-made chat software. Instant messaging not only adds a human touch to online interactions but helps overcome conversion obstacles and drives more direct revenue for your hotel.