All posts by Paul Manzey

Personalization Equals Loyalty with Millennials

millennials

A key question facing hoteliers and property managers in today’s travel landscape is how to build loyalty with the millennial generation.  Points-based loyalty programs are proving ineffective in capturing this ever growing demographic, so what is the answer to building this important connection?

Panelists at the 2014 Americas Lodging Investment Summit recently dove into this topic and what the trade-offs will be if hoteliers are able to build loyalty with millennials.

Teresa Y. Lee, a senior analyst at HVS and a self-described “token millennial”, explained that the loyalty of the generation is up for grabs. “It’s up to you to design a program we want to be loyal to.”

For travelers born between 1980 and 2000, personalization equals loyalty.  Benji Greenberg, founder and CEO of BCV, explained that millennials want to be wowed, and they want these amazing experiences built for them.  “They want to feel special,” said Greenberg.

Fortunately for the hospitality industry, today’s younger travelers serve up an abundance of personal data on a variety of websites and social networking platforms.  Lee McCabe, Facebook’s global head of travel, articulated that his company’s executives have recognized the potential and are working feverishly to make that information readily available to the company’s marketing needs.

“What we’re working towards is a very efficient marketing platform, a marketing platform built around people.  You’re not marketing to cookies, but visible faces.  You’re marketing to people,” he said.

Although hotel companies are getting better at this, the challenge is packaging relevant data to associates on property, most likely via property management systems.

To read more about this panel discussion, and how companies are paying for personalization, click here.

The Importance of Reviews in Shopping Research

onlinereviews_thumbs

Reviews now play an integral role in the path to purchase among consumers inclined to do research on the internet.  According to a January 2014 survey of U.S. adult internet users conducted by YouGov, 79% of respondents checked online reviews at least some of the time before making a purchase, whether online or in person.

To put this in perspective, only seven percent of respondents said they never checked a review, underscoring how important they have become during the research phase of shopping.

Although online reviewers tended to lean towards writing good (54%) and mixed (57%), just over one-fifth (21%) of all those surveyed had left a bad review.

Bad reviews, in most cases, were written under the motivation of warning off other consumers about a poor product or experiences.  Nearly 90% cited this reasoning for a negative review.  Other top reasons for writing bad reviews were to feel less angry about the problem (23%) and hoping for a refund/help of some kind from the company implicated (21%).

Hoteliers should keep this last demographic, those looking for a refund or help of some kind from the company, in mind as it presents an opportunity for customer relations management to take over when a problem has been identified.  Interacting with these consumers and making the necessary adjustments can only help to build your brand loyalty and improve the experience for future travelers.

The State of the Online Travel Industry in 2014

Online-Travel-reservation

State of Digital recently released a Travel 360 report after collating the viewpoints and analysis of experts, thought leaders and key commercial players of both the hospitality and travel industries.  The report aims to act as a marker of the level of integration between travel brands and the various online channels within digital marketing.

The key trend throughout this report is the idea that companies must be able to adapt their business and marketing models in an attempt to future-proof their businesses.  Facilitating ongoing relationships and interactions with travel consumers has now become critical to survival.

The following are seven key points highlighted in this report that you should keep in mind going forward.  They address challenges facing businesses today, and the holistic approaches and angles that will provide real value, strategy and insight to your brand.

1) Communicating a holistic brand message, consistently across all channels, is now very important to a brand’s long-term prospects.  Consistency is crucial when planning your marketing strategy.  It is important that your message is the same whether consumers see it on your website, in e-mail blasts, on a mobile site or from a third party site (OTAs, vertical marketing sites, metasearch engines, etc.)

2) Brands need to install a startup culture and nurture a digital experience that runs through the business.  Word of mouth is a great way of advertising to dozens of people, but those numbers will not sustain your business over the long haul.  “Rewriting the rule book” should not be seen as a negative experience, but rather as growing with the always-changing digital landscape.

3) Storytelling helps the digital travel industry to get the right customers in the right way.  Honest, authoritative and local content, infused with quality storytelling is the future of travel content.  The millennial generation is looking for a unique experience when planning a getaway.  Capturing that audience by telling your own unique story will be an important marketing tool going forward.

4) Storytelling, marketing, PR and outstanding content will inspire loyalty and provide long-term success to a brand.    Brand loyalty has recently taken a step back to deals when consumers are planning to travel.  Re-establishing brand loyalty with quality content and marketing is a key to survival in the future.

5) There is going to be an increasing trend towards personalization and the creation of more unique experiences.  As noted earlier, this is precisely what a new generation of traveler is looking for.  Millennials are willing to spend the money if they believe their experience will be unique

6) Mobile is the biggest growth area in terms of sales.   Recent projections by PhoCusWright predict that U.S. mobile bookings will almost double in 2014 to $24.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion in 2013.

7) Mobile has led to the rise of the ‘always connected traveler’ and the possibility of in-experience interactions with brands.  Social media allows guests to provide feedback and interact with a company in a way that has nearly usurped the role of the on-site concierge.  Travelers use their mobile devices for everything from getting directions to their accommodations, to finding a restaurant or tourist attraction during their stay.

To download and read the full State of Digital Travel 360 report, click here.

Why Mobile Marketing Will Continue to Grow

PHone

There was a time, although it seems inconceivable, when online video and mobile executions were dismissed as pipe dreams.  The principles were appealing, but the idea that technology would develop into such an integral part of everyday life still seemed futuristic.

Today, innovation across channels has saturated the mainstream, and mobile devices are now ubiquitous.  It is hard to imagine a time when Nokia and Blackberry owned the market.  This was a time when touch screen was not yet part of our daily vocabulary.

We are now living in an era of the mobile makeover, a time where mobile technology has changed how consumers shop, engage and absorb information forever, and there is an expectation of continued rapid growth in the future.

A recent Gartner report indicated that worldwide ad spend in mobile will increase to $18 billion in 2014, up from $13.1 billion in 2013.  It is expected to reach $41.9 billion in 2017, accounting for 56.69% of total digital ad spend.  Eventually, mobile will dictate how marketers leverage more traditional advertising strategies like desktop display and search, and these are four reasons why:

Mobile Devices are Mobile

The days of marketers depending on users being in a stationary location with time to peruse content with a discerning eye is a thing of the past thanks to a multitude of desktop distractions and multiple platforms from which information can be accessed.

These days desktop computers and even laptops do not offer the same direct exposure as mobile.  Marketers now must concern themselves with reaching a consumers with greater frequency and, most importantly, while they are on the go.  People are looking to search, shop, buy and connect with a few clicks and swipes of the hand 24/7.

The King of Local

Mobile creates a variety of intricate, real-time marketing opportunities for small, medium and large-scale advertisers because more often than not, search on mobile indicates immediate intent.

Due to the rise of hyper-local technologies (Wi-Fi hotspots, tracking services, etc.) some reports indicate that local will overtake national mobile ad spending by 2017.  These technologies allow advertisers to target the “always on” mentality with advertising approaches like geo-aware, geo-fencing and geo-location.  These strategies position mobile as the optimal channel for ad relevancy incorporating the right ad, at the right time, in the right place.

Mobile Creativity

Mobile rich media is not just grabbing users’ attention at first glance.  It is proving tremendously effective at holding attention and prompting them to engage at much higher rates than desktop display or rich media have ever seen.

Innovative mobile formats are dominating the mobile web and taking consumers for the ride, and this has spread to in-app, in-game, Facebook Newsfeed ads and other larger formats.  Often times in mobile, size does matter.

Steadfast Adoption

At the end of 2013, it was reported that there were more mobile devices in the world than people.  Other stats claim that 80% of smartphone users want more mobilized products and that mobile coupon users in the U.S. will reach 53.2 million by 2014. 

With this rise in consumer mobile usage, it is important for marketers to dedicate more time towards increasing their mobile strategy.  The must find creative ways to integrate their brand within today’s most accessible consumer channel.

Are Metamediaries the Next Big Thing in Travel?

apple-amazon-facebook-google

Extensive online travel agencies (OTAs) have played a large role in the hospitality industry for the past decade, but the outcomes have not necessarily been positive for all parties involved.  They are a costly distribution channel for hoteliers, and have become a direct siphon for traditional travel agents.

The ultimate question to ponder at this time is what the next distribution giant will look like in the travel space.

Disruptive Forces

John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting, says that he does not see much change in hotel distribution in the near future.  Burns notes that OTAs have evolved over the past decade, incorporating loyalty programs into their business model, but these agencies are now fighting to compete with metasearch engines like Kayak and TripAdvisor as well.

What happens when a larger force, or a bigger name enters the travel arena?  How will this affect the traditional travel agent and OTAs?

The Big Names

Whereas Burns sees the current model remaining unchanged in the near future, Bonnie Buckhiester, president of Buckhiester Management, believes that OTAs could eventually become the “little guys” in the travel industry as larger companies emerge.

Buckhiester believes that OTAs like Orbitz, Hotels.com and Booking.com could struggle to keep with what are being called “metamediaries” – companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple – entering the landscape and creating their own category of intermediary.

Competition with these major names will be difficult because of one key factor:  money.

Buckhiester points out some eye-opening numbers when talking about market capitalization of these companies.  Marriott, a well-known name is the hospitality industry, capitalized at $13 billion, while Facebook is $60 billion, Google is $300 billion and Apple is $400 billion.  If these companies enter travel in a serious way, their presence will be overwhelming.

Where do Traditional Agents Stand?

Traditional agencies still have a very good relationship with the managed business travel sector of the industry, with hotels working hard to maintain these relationships.

Complex travel arrangements will also cause consumers to turn to a trusted travel agent when planning a trip, but niche sites including One Fine Stay, which books lodgings like castles, private homes and apartments, are trying to capture their own unique segment of the travel population.

Predicting the Future

Ultimately, it is up to the travel agents, both online and traditional, to continue to reinvent themselves and show their value.  Average commission costs that range from 15-25% across the market may require adjustment in order to keep pace when big names like Google, Apple and Amazon enter the travel space in a serious way.

Online Booking Now Available with RALBook

breakingnews

The future is now at ResortsandLodges.com.

We are excited to announce the release of RALBook, a brand new product that will offer our nearly 10 million travelers the opportunity to find availability and book vacation accommodations online.

No longer will travelers be limited to researching and comparing properties on one of the world’s leading leisure travel websites.  Now, we are giving travelers the opportunity to book amazing and unique accommodations, including vacation rentals, cottages, cabins, lodges and more directly at ResortsandLodges.com.

Good Ol’ Days Family Resort, located in Brainerd, Minn., is officially the first property to list their availability online.  This four-season resort located in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes Region boasts 10 new cottages and an eight-unit lodge, which will all be available to book directly on our website.

Adding to the excitement of the day, Willow Point Resort, in Buchanan Dam, Texas, became the second property to list their availability on ResortsandLodges.com.  The resort, located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country Region, features 23 cabins that can now be booked directly on our website.

This brings the total number of unique accommodations with online booking and availability at ResortsandLodges.com to 41, and that number is expected to grow as the calendar turns to February.

“This is a monumental step for us,” said CEO Ryan Bailey regarding Friday’s big news.  “We are building technology solutions that help bring together these millions of fragmented rentals into one marketplace – ResortsandLodges.com.  We are currently in the process of integrating with partners which will give us access to an astounding 12,483 properties with over 936,225 rooms and rentals.”

Finding the Right Balance with Facebook Posts

Facebook-Blank-status-trick

Too much of a good thing can be negative.  It goes without saying that you have heard a rendition of this phrase at some point during your life, but did you ever think it would apply to your social media account?  According to data accumulated from 2,121 resort and hotel Facebook pages by InsideFacebook.com, there is such a thing as too much of arguably the world’s most popular social media platform.

On average, hotels post on Facebook 32 times per month.  This is broken down into the following categories:

-1.9 links

-27.8 photos

-1 status update

-1.6 videos

Some top hotels including the MGM Grand, Aria or Sierra-At-Tahoe average more than 50 posts per month in an attempt to drive high interactions.  However, increasing the number of posts does not automatically guarantee that interaction.

If approximately 86% of your posts are images, links and videos, you have to ensure that the content you are creating is meaningful.  Showing the same picture once every three or four days is not going to do a lot to capture a new audience, and may make it difficult to retain loyal customers.

Posting 30-50 times in a month will provide your followers with a steady stream of information that they can easily digest without overwhelming them, but this is not the policy for all hotels.  Some companies are posting close to 30 times per day, and have only one-sixth of the engagement of some of their competitors.  That means your followers are being buffeted with nearly 1,000 posts per month, far too many to actually track and follow for the typical consumer.

The “sweet spot” for number of daily Facebook posts is somewhere between three and seven posts per day.

To learn more about what types of posts garner the most customer feedback (likes, comments and shares), click here.

Vacation Rentals: A Growing Travel Market

vrmc

The vacation rental industry has experienced tremendous growth for more than a decade – nearly doubling in size from 1999-2011 (98%), and that trajectory should continue if recent travel trends offer any insight into the future.

Current travelers are planning their trips further in advance, staying longer during these trips and often making those trip in larger groups (despite the transient segment still leading the way in travel growth).  Let’s take a look at how each of these factors influences the vacation rental industry.

Planning Ahead of Time

Why is it important to vacation rental managers that travelers are now planning trips ahead of time (35% of travelers surveyed by Sojern booked their vacations more than 30-days in advance during Q3 2013)?

A rushed traveler booking at the last minute will typically choose more traditional accommodation options including hotels and motels.  However, travelers with more time to plan tend to be more creative, no doubt contributing to the ever-increasing trend of Americans who stay in vacation rentals each year.

Longer Stays

Sojern’s data also revealed that over 60% of leisure travelers searched for vacation stays of six days or longer in the third quarter of 2013.  The economics of vacation rentals, and their superior convenience with all the amenities of home, become more pronounced during a longer stay.

This trend was not limited to the leisure travel market.  Business travelers stayed at their destination for six days or longer 40% of the time, signaling that business travelers may be attracted to many of the same benefits vacation rentals provide.

Larger Groups

Large group travel trends tend to fluctuate depending on seasonal travel patterns, but in general hotels simply cannot compete when it comes to the convenience offered by vacation rentals for large groups.  The ability to keep an entire family under the same roof, especially groups with young children, without the headache and hassle of room roulette.

Vacation Rental Industry Growth

A recent PhoCusWright report shows that vacation rental revenue totals nearly $55 billion.  Market penetration is estimated at only 4-6% leaving ample room for growth within the industry.  Here are some other intriguing numbers that will make vacation rental owners and managers happy:

-From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of vacation rentals booked online increased from 12% to 24%.

-By 2014, it is projected that 3 out of every 10 U.S. dollars spent on vacation rentals will be booked online.

-Vacation rental management companies are quickly moving toward online listings.  In 2008, less than half of VRMCs offered live online booking.  That number has increased to 70% since that time and is still growing.