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A Primer for Hotel Marketing in Today’s Digital World

Take a look at this Digital Marketing Battlefield Map from Forbes. Experience targeting, mobile media, social apps, emotion detection…it’s a lot to digest. Truth is, marketing in today’s digital era doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. As with any other business initiative, digital marketing is what we make it. We can choose to go as far as we’d like, at the pace we desire.

It’s important that businesses still pursue digital marketing though, especially hoteliers. Think about it: 40 percent of guests today have hotel mobile apps. Just about the same cite social media as a major influence over their travel plans. Over 80 percent of leisure travelers use video or photo sites for online sources of inspiration. How are hotels engaging with individuals through every stage of the guest journey?

It’s critical that hospitality leaders positively position their brand at every possible touchpoint to do more than just book rooms, but tell a story that resonates with target customers and translates into lifetime value.

Now, I’d be lying if I said that a huge part of this doesn’t involve technology. Companies will need to reassess their IT ecosystem and, if necessary, integrate disparate systems (that’s something you’ll need to research more on your own, or look for an outside vendor to help with). What I can offer are several tips for hotels to bring their marketing strategy into today’s digital, data-driven world:

Use Conversational Messaging

Over 50 percent of customers say they’re more likely to do business with an organization that can conversationally message. With over 2 billion Facebook messages sent each month, Messenger stands as a unique service and marketing platform.

Picture this scenario: a guest accidentally leaves his phone in the hotel room. You quickly message him to let him know, including a coupon for a free drink at your bar to make it worth his while. The other great thing about Messenger is the ability to set up automatic responses to customer messages. This way, you can immediately reply with a custom message that engages and keeps your response rate high. Another idea is to integrate live chat directly into your hotel’s website. You can include a targeted ad somewhere in the chat box, and initiate real-time conversations.

Get Creative with Data Collection

You need an inherent understanding of your guests—their behaviors, preferences, expectations—to properly market to them. But you can’t gain this understanding without collecting information about them (which you can never have enough of). In fact, 83 percent of millennials want hotels to use their data to deliver a more personalized experience.

You might think you need a comprehensive analytics platform to track these patterns, but often gaining insights can be as simple as reaching out over digital mediums like social, mobile and Web. For example, you can create a poll using MailChimp (the most basic subscription is free) and blast it out to your email subscriber list. You could also promote the link across your social feeds or as a temporary pop-up on your home page. Try offering an incentive to get more people to participate. For example, if you get 250 participants, you’ll give away a free two-night stay.

Make it Mobile

Almost half of all emails are now opened using a smartphone. Over 60% of customers are unlikely to return to a brand’s mobile site if they experienced a problem accessing it (40% will visit a competitor instead). More Google searches are made on mobile devices than on desktop computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Need I say more?

Your tried-and-true marketing channels likely still work, but need to be transitioned to a mobile-friendly format. Also consider the benefits of native mobile advertising. Overall, native advertising is set to drive 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021 (you can learn more about mobile native advertising here).

Final Thoughts

If I can leave you with anything, it’s this: your marketing strategy should first and foremost deliver customer value, then highlight brand value to promote sales.

Ninety-one percent of customers believe that marketing is more intrusive today than it was two years ago (and it was pretty intrusive then, too!) The worst thing you can do is put messages out there that don’t resonate with the needs of your guests. Keep things simple, relevant and impactful.

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