The hotel and hospitality market is warming up and the battle is shifting to the World Wide Web as customer are trend towards online means for travel inspiration and bookings. The internet offers both direct and indirect channels to capture a customer at different levels of your marketing funnel and it is up to you to ensure that you see him to the end. As easy internet makes acquiring customers for hoteliers, in equal measures does it provide opportunities to customers to slip through their hand.
Therefore it is imperative that your hotel sales strategy adequately addresses the rising need to be implemented across all available online channels where your customers dwell. Another aspect that needs to be embraced by hoteliers is that the classic 4Ps of marketing are not enough when dealing with customers online. The 4Ps of marketing, product, price, place, promotion need to be augmented by the 4Ps of internet marketing – participation, personalization, predictive modeling and peer-to-peer communities.
Online customers have the following key channels to either be influenced or make a purchase decision:
• Brand Websites
• Online Travel Agencies
• Online Search Engines
• MetaSearch Engine
• Social Networking Platforms
Let us have a look at how each channel needs can be optimized to ensure that a potential guest lands with your hotel.
Your hotel website is a manifestation of your property in the virtual world. It should be treated the same way as you would treat your hotel in the physical world. Just like your hotel, you want your website to be easy to navigate through, always looking spectacular and delivering memorable user experience.
Build a website that is simple and elegant. Let the pictures do the talking for your brand. High-quality pictures of the unique experience that your hotel promises will highlight them in a much better manner than text alone. Videos are another great way of influencing users. That being said the other important information categories that your hotel website should have is hotel rates, room availability and information on room types, packages, amenities and contact information.
And don’t forget your mobile users. Of all direct online bookings, 30% are made on mobile devices (tablets and smartphones), and it’s increasing at a rate of 1% per quarter (Rezdy data). So when working on your website, ensure that your website is responsive and that the responsiveness in no way hinders the user experience on your website. .
Ease of booking plays a crucial role when users visit your website. Research suggests that frustration for booking often dissuades a guest to book a room at the hotel. A conveniently located button leading customers to the booking page at every page serves as a call-to-action and also presents an ease of booking to a potential guest. Having a booking engine that is quick, offers sufficient information to customers to make bookings on desired dates, offering sufficient customization options and quick payment options are less likely to frustrate customers. Once again ensure that the booking engine works equally efficiently on a mobile device.
Your website can also serve the purpose of personalization and predictive modeling. Make sure that at the very least, if not additional analytical tools, you have Google Analytics installed on your website to track user acquisition and behavior. It will provide you a ton of data that will allow you to understand where your website is lacking. It will also provide you data as to which sources compels users to visit your website, is it your TripAdvisor page or your Facebook page, or is it one of the OTAs? This in turn will allow you to identify your presence on the most important acquisition channels and retain your presence there while fortifying others.
Returning visitors can be introduced with pop-up ads offering discounts to finally seal the deal. Installing a Facebook tracking pixel can allow you to retarget those who have visited your website with special concessions in their Facebook feeds, thereby allowing you an opportunity to gain the lost customers.
Even today 65.4% of the booking made on the internet are direct bookings made through a brand’s website, so make sure that the most important weapon in your marketing arsenal is locked and loaded.
Online Travel Agencies
If you are selling rooms online then you cannot, not be on OTAs. OTAs are an important part of the modern day traveler’s inspiration and research process. A traveler can visit anywhere between 18 to 105 websites, which often include a large number of OTA sites before they making a purchase decision. Thus, the OTAs help expose your brand and your room inventory to hundreds of online users daily. Apart from the bone of contention held over rate parity and commissions, one of the biggest deterrent to hotels not pushing their room inventory to the multitude of OTAs available is the inability to manage hotel room inventory on these online channels.
You can deal with rouge OTAs, but you cannot disregard the immense benefits that listing on OTAs can provide. Not only can your presence on OTAs lead to more direct bookings, courtesy the billboard effect, but help you fill up rooms that might have gone unsold otherwise. Therefore, investing in a channel manager is an absolute must. A good channel manager will help you eliminate human errors that would otherwise creep up and ensure that your rooms are neither undersold nor oversold.
Online Search Engines
Search engines have become the very basis of how information is located in the vast data mines of the internet. Today, search engines like Google and Bing offer sophisticated results based on hundreds of parameters. Of prime importance to hotels are the local search features. In 2014, almost 20% of the search was for local information. Ensuring visibility on search engines is once again a function that takes into consideration your website. Make sure your website is SEO optimized and listed in local businesses on Google and Bing. Once again the content on your website will play a crucial role in ranking your hotel in organic results. A good way to incorporate new content is through blogs. As a hotel, a blog has a huge content marketing potential. Making a blog post on the unknown local attractions in your region and pushing it across social platforms can entice several users to land on your blog and thereby on your hotel website. Google+ may not be the most exciting social network, but Google has made sure that businesses stick to it. And stick to it you must. Make sure you spruce up your profile on Google+ and share content regularly.
It is also most likely that for a term like ‘your city + hotel’ is going to get results from most major OTAs, along with competing hotels. So, another important step in increasing your search engine visibility is to perform a proper keyword analysis and identify alternative terms that can lead to your hotel, for example “beachside hotels in ‘your city’”.
MetaSearch engines like TripAdvisor have almost become ubiquitous with travel. Today more and more people are looking up to travel MetaSearch engines to provide them decisive information on destinations and hotels. As a hotelier, your presence there is an absolute essential. A key element while marketing your hotel on MetaSearch engines is to provide information in as elaborate a manner as possible and in harmony with the content on your website. Finding different or less information on your website is not going to inspire a lot of confidence in a prospective customer.
Read more about how you can use MetaSearch engines to better market your hotel.
Social Networking Platforms
Social networking platforms are the netizen’s new hangouts. As a hotel, social networking sites can offer a very rewarding touchpoint. There is always interesting destination information to share that can be useful to tourists, those thinking of visiting the destination and others interested in travel. Events in the hotel, local events, activities, local attractions, special offers and the list can go on.
Moreover, social networking provides an opportunity to provide for you to interact with your guests. Ask guests to visit your profiles and share content, leave reviews and check-in. There are a lot of creative ways in which you can utilize social platforms for online reputation management, spread the word about your hotel and stay connected with your guests.
Email is as personal as it can get online. Emails are a great way to maintain and build relationship with existing customers. There are several ways in which you can grow your email list organically. It starts with your website offering email sign-ups for your newsletters and special offers. Offer a checkbox at the end of the booking transaction to join the email list. Post-stay evaluation are another great way to collect emails and again a checkbox offering news on special offers is a great way to get guests to sign up for your emails. A key point to remember here is to always mail guests who opt in for it and never without their permission.
The next task is to sort through your database and segment guests based on tastes and preferences. This will allow you to personalize your emails further and your emails are also more likely to receive response.
And your emails don’t just have to be about special offers and discounts. Guests would love to know about that newly renovated restaurant in your hotel. Informing them of the new wine tasting session at your hotel might be something that your guest would enjoy. The great big local event at your destination might just put your hotel at the front of a guest’s consideration list if he decides to attend.
Internet today is not about adding on to the customer base, it is the way to acquire a customer base. Revenue for bookings through internet has grown by over 73% in the past five years and it is only bound to make further leaps. Hoteliers, especially from independent hotels, need to change their stance against internet and no longer be intimidated by the muddle that it has created. Within this jumble lie opportunities which can be harnessed by using the right tools. These tools must be seen as an investment by hoteliers rather than an expense, not just in terms of money but also time. The time that these tools help you save, is what is eventually going to help you understand your online presence and enable to leverage those insights to generate better hotel sales.
Djubo is a cloud-based channel manager that helps hotels boost their sales by effectively distributing unsold rooms across OTAs favored by you based on the parameter you assign. But that is not all Djubo does. It is, in essence, a complete hotel sales platform. It helps you keep your revenue management strategy in sync with your online marketing strategy. It allows you to send automated pre-arrival and post-departure messages to your guests. Soon to be incorporated are an online hotel booking engine with website templates helping you cover the channels – brand website and to some extent online search engines.
That’s three out of six channels covered by Djubo, with the most important being channel management of online travel agencies. Request a free demo today and discover the power of Djubo to boost hotel sales!