Category Archives: Hotels

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Future of Content: Upcoming Trends in 2014

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It is a tremendous time to be involved in the digital marketing sector with almost half of the global population having access to the internet.  However, the way consumers consume this content is rapidly evolving, and with that comes an interesting array of challenges and opportunities.  Having a firm understanding of these upcoming trends is vital in laying the foundation for defining the content goals within an organization and deciding where resources will be allocated.

Knowledge regarding these four trends is paramount for those companies looking to succeed in both B2B and B2C communication going forward.  Let’s take a look at the upcoming content trends of 2014.

Trend 1:  Competition to Gain Consumers’ Attention Will Increase

Each day there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 92,000 new articles posted on the internet.  This means that posting new, unique content regularly is not enough to drive traffic to your site.  Digital media publishers have created systems to produce the greatest amount of content for the lowest price.  Need an example?  The Huffington Post produces at least 1,200 piece of content each day, while Forbes produces 400.

What can smaller businesses to do differentiate themselves when they are unable to compete based on sheer volume alone?  This is where the development of a content strategy can come into play.  It is incredibly important to understand a company’s unique value proposition, and if a company does not have one, you must understand where there is space to create one.

Are you marketing a “think” product that requires heavy consideration before purchase, or is it a “feel” product where emotion plays an important role in the buying process?  You could be marketing a “high involvement” product, one where the consumer is heavily involved in the buying decision, or a “low involvement” product that is more likely purchased impulsively.

With high involvement/think products, the focus of your content should involve plenty of information on the product features, benefits of the product in addition to growing the product and brand awareness.  This will make it easier for consumers to both discover and search for your product.

Low involvement/feel products should have a campaign focused on connecting with consumers and appealing to emotions.  There should also be a focus on building brand loyalty and retention of customers for repeat purchases.

Trend 2:  Determining Key Metrics to Measure Content’s Success Will be Important

Traffic and page views have long been the chosen metrics for gauging content success, but these statistics on their own can be misleading.  More importantly, solely focusing on traffic can lead to an overemphasis on click-worthy headlines, overuse of keywords in a title and changing the focus from creating content for users to creating content for page views.

Whether you are using a combination of metrics to target and analyze (organic traffic, % returning visitors, changes in bounce rate and time on site), or gauging content by social metrics including Facebook likes and Twitter retweets, all of these activities can demonstrate the ability of a piece to gain a user’s attention, and that awareness is always worth something.

Trend 3:  Increased Interest in Content Integration/Content Being Produced for Multiple Channels.

The most sizeable obstacles involved in content often times have nothing to do with the content itself, and everything to do with proper resource allocation.  Whether this is lack of time to implement all goals, lack of budget to implement these strategies in an ideal way, or the constant battle with readjusting priorities, marketing becomes especially challenging.  This is only enhanced as more and more channels develop and digital innovation advances so quickly.

There is no perfect solution to this problem, but one way to balance hard resource constraints with the constant need for innovation is to develop better integration methodologies.  When a group of CMOs was polled by Forbes, they ranked integrated marketing communications ahead of effective advertising when it comes to the most important thing they want from an agency.

People are looking for that seamless retail experience, providing an on-brand, personalized, and consistent experience regardless of channel.  This requires content to be heavily involved in the multitude of channels from online to in-person to provide potential and current customers with one consistent conversation.

Trend 4:  Experimentation with Content in New Mediums

Did you know that approximately 60% of online devices are now smartphones or tablets?  Technology and digital innovation are experiencing rapid increases in growth, causing PCs to become a smaller percentage of connected devices.    As competition for attention increases, companies must be increasingly willing to experiment with content in new mediums including Smart TVs and connected wearables.

2014 will be an exciting time for the future of content. As technology evolves and competition for user attention increases, marketers need to be agile and adapt to the growing needs and expectations of their customers.

 

10 Travel Technology and Distribution Trends

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With the continued growth of technological progress in the travel landscape, hotel and travel companies that seek success must either catch up or risk becoming irrelevant, according to a new report.

“If you want to be successful and grow and perform well, you really have to understand the technology and what’s out there,” said Cees Bosselaar, director of business development and a destination marketing specialist for PhoCusWright, who presented findings from the company’s “Travel innovation & technology trends: 2013 and beyond” report during the World Travel Market in London.

Here, you’ll find five of the Top 10 Travel Technology and Distribution Trends that will help hotel and travel companies leverage innovation in the coming year and beyond.

1 – New Patterns of Content Challenge Distribution

The old model of travel distribution, which saw large intermediaries, including global distribution systems, aggregate content for booking, is being undermined by new models.

Personal clouds, for example, allow travelers to access information anywhere, anytime and on any device. The “Internet of things” enables integration of connectivity and objects that can influence a trip, such as real-time baggage location, weather conditions and homeland security advisories.  Pervasive online communications allow even small hotel companies to connect with customers in real-time, allowing them to shop and book without delay and from nearly any device. Those same companies, as well as the individuals they serve, also are better able to collect and integrate itinerary data from multiple sources without a GDS.

2 – Too Much Choice Means Less is Better

When people are given too many choices, their satisfaction level tends to decrease.  This model holds true with travel options as well.

Online travel agencies used to provide as many options as possible to exhibit their computing clout. Today the focus is on providing relevant results that target the specific needs and wants of each traveler.

New travelers have embraced technology and the multi-device format in which content can be consumed.  They want to be shown the correct information for their needs.

Providing targeted content is even more critical in the mobile arena, where smaller screens necessitate both streamlined offerings as well as the presentation of those offerings.

3 – Social Technologies Change the Shape of Travel

Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users, while social media as a whole reaches 85% of the world’s total Internet users, but some experts believe that travel companies have yet to unlock the true potential of this technological boom.

When it comes to a discussion of social media, the discussions of return on investment are outdated.  Instead, social media must be viewed as a way to engage with target customers.

Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay.  And in the next five to 10 years, it will continue to generate leads and performance will be up.

4 – New Efficiencies Re-Energize the Customer Experience

As demand for customer service increases, new technological advances will lower its overall costs.  But travel companies must consider whether a penny saved comes at the risk of a pound of customer preference.

Excessive menu trees and outsourced call centers may cut monetary costs in the short term, but frustrate customers in the process.  Each travel company needs to determine how to use customer service technology appropriately in a way that continues to reduce cost while increasing customer satisfaction.

5 – Cross-Platform Data Access Engages Users

As customers realize their dreams of accessing desired digital information on any device or platform, hotel are facing a nightmare in providing the necessary development and support for this content.

HTML 5, which allows programmers to “write once, run anywhere” could be the solution to this frustration.

According to Bosselaar’s report, Cross-platform data access requires travel companies to track the changing user-interface patterns of their customers to provide the appropriate level of service. This must be a continuing process as new technologies evolve and businesses become less restrictive about the devices their employees can use for particular tasks. Suppliers and distributors that support the most user-friendly, convenient interfaces will enjoy increased market share.

It’s a continuing process of improving your apps and improving your mobile websites.  You have to continuously experiment, and you can’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way!

You can see trends 6-10 and read the rest of this article here.

7 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

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Online hospitality is transforming into an industry defined by personalization, relevant content and the social experience travelers influence everyday. As this trend continues to unfold, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build brand loyalty. How do you win a customer over and keep them coming back time and time again, when the travel process starts earlier than it ever has, and is not over, even after booking and stay?

This is a dilemma that has been creeping up the alley of online hospitality marketers everywhere. Finding the right combination of social interaction, email marketing, promotional activities, etc. can be a fine line to walk. At the core of any successful business (or hotel in this case) is a loyal customer base. Customers are the primary factor in shaping the success of your hotel, resort, or lodge.

The question now becomes; how do we, as hotel marketers, build a customer base that is loyal, and remains that way for an amount of time that will prove to be profitable for our business? In a recent white paper released by Maxymiser, 7 primary ways to build a loyal customer base were revealed. Let’s take a look at each one, and explain the significance of each as it pertains to your business.

1. Ensure a Quality Experience - It is important to recognize that customers attitudes are shifting. What was once a market dominated by the best value, or lowest price, is (and really, already has) shifted to a market in which buyers are looking for an experience that will set one resort apart from another. When you are attempting to lay the foundation for a loyal customer base, keep in mind that travelers are looking for that once in a lifetime experience, that little something that makes their stay different from anywhere else.

2. Increased Ancillary Sales - Depending on the size of your hotel, ancillary revenue will obviously shift one way or the other. The tricky intersection of when and how to offer ancillary value to the traveler is one that hotel owners and GM’s have played with for years. When you are thinking of how to adopt a loyal customer base, think “Timing and Description.” It is important to offer an ancillary opportunity to the traveler at the right moment, as well as very clearly depict what exactly is being offered.

3. Personalization – According to data from Google, 83% of leisure travelers, and another 76% of business travelers now plan their travel online. The planning process includes anything from reviews, to price points, social media to video and visual assets. Because the road to selection is so clouted with variables, personalization becomes extremely important. The key to personalization is ensuring that the process begins in the earliest phases (research) and continues through the travel journey, concluding with personalized follow up, post trip.

4. Transform the Experience - Personalization can be thought of as points similar to what is explained above. However it can also be thought of as transforming an online experience to make the message more personal to the traveler, and enhancing the likelihood of purchasing. For example, a common message on several hotel sites is a “no availability” pop up of sorts, often times on the event calendar or booking engine. A simple way to improve this message, and make it a positive for the traveler is to add in something like “here are some other available dates that you may find helpful,” or something equating to a message of that nature in an attempt to squash any discouragement.

5. Ratings & Reviews – The always important and heavily relied on online reviews are a sure shot way to build a loyal customer base. Hotels with reviews are viewed as more credible in the eyes of the consumer. More credible sources typically have a higher rate of conversion and a more loyal customer base.

6. Leverage Social Media - According to independent research, one out of every four travelers uses social media to research and plan their vacation. Furthermore, a Forbes study of Facebook users revealed that 50% of travelers were “influenced” by seeing friends pictures of travel on Facebook. So what does this mean for your social media efforts? Billions of users scroll the pages of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, everyday. It is important to have an understanding of your customer base and reach out to them in ways that connect to them on a personal level – if you are a family resort and your Facebook audience is comprised of families who have stayed with you before, put out relevant offers, offer special savings to your fans, etc.

7. The Mobile World – Development across the mobile platform has reached new heights in the previous months. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become more widely used than the everyday computer. Consumers are on the go. Plain and simple. In fact, tablet use is projected to spike by 180% in the next year alone. If you are a hotel marketer, this is big news. It is extremely important that your website is responsive – fits to exact screen sizes across multiple devices. Why is this so important? Failure to run a responsive site means that your messages, visuals and representation of your hotel are distorted when they are not viewed on a computer screen. The masses are moving to mobile and tablet. Your website must do the same!

Fill Vacant Rooms

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Vacant rooms are a problem for hoteliers across the world. There is seemingly always a few rooms open here, a few rooms open there. Old logic will tell us that these rooms are going to remain empty; if you did not book anyone in advance, that room is going to sit empty. In today’s tech-savvy, multiple device world however, this is not the case. There are several great ways that hoteliers can fill vacant rooms – even last minute. A recent article by hotelmanager.net shed some light on 3 simple, efficient ways to fill last minute availability. Here they are:

1. Always Have Something to Offer - Creating a deal or a package is a great way to fill last minute availability. Same day booking discounts, special incentives for the duration of a guests stay, etc. are all great ways to drive guests to your front door. Some may argue that by offering a discount, money is being lost. Think of it this way: if the room sits empty, is that also not money being lost?

2. Leverage Social Media - Recent data published by eMarketer, revealed that 1 in 4 individuals will use social media in 2013. With this trend continuing to rise year over year, social media is hoteliers gold. If you have last minute availability, broadcast it to the billions of people using these platforms. Keep it consistent and deliver a solid message across your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ page, etc.

3. Use Travel Ads - Fairly similar to the second tip, travel ads require leveraging a second, and even third party to assist you in promoting last minute deals, packages, and awareness. There are dozens of opportunities and companies to lend a helping hand with travel ads. They have a history of being affordable and yield effective results.

Last minute availability does not have to be a waste of a room or lost profit! Using these simple and effective ways to create awareness around your open rooms can prove to be very valuable.

9 Ways to Generate More Revenue Through Your Bottom Line

The recent white paper released by HSMAI is a gold mine for hotel managers and owners as shoulder seasons start to creep in. The white paper is an in depth explanation of various (and proven effective) ways to generate more revenue to your hotel’s bottom line. How? It is simple really; a good majority of the tactics discussed in the report deal with internal management, trends, and developing positive habits that lead to positive results. To recap, here are the top 3 ways that Trevor Stuart-Hill, President of Revenue Matters, recommends for driving more revenue:

1. Focus on Forecast Performance - It is critical to ensure that every level of employment has a clear understanding of the operational and financial forecasts of  the company, as well as the implications that each carries.

2. Engage Your Associates - It is no secret that guest satisfaction is often times directly related to a physical experience. With that being said, it is important to empower associates at your hotel. After all, there is a good chance various associates will play a roll in forming your guests experience. Empowering your associates raises morale and creates a positive energy around the workplace.

3. Optimize Market Segmentation - Perhaps the most critical element to any successful business is understanding your customer. Rather than target customers in a broad bucket, find and focus in on your most profitable customer. Understand actions such as booking windows, channel preference, etc.

But What About the Other Ways?

Not to worry, there are still 6 more ways to generate more revenue through your bottom line, as discussed in the white paper. Let’s take a look at the remaining ways, as well as discuss what they mean for your business:

4. Match Staffing Levels to Demand - The hospitality industry is no stranger to last minute fluctuation in demand. It is important that hoteliers adapt accordingly and staff according to demand.

5. Know the Value of Your Services - Understanding the value of your various services and perks can go a long way in driving revenue. For example, a late check out or early check in time sliding for a normal fee – consider some options there.

6. Be Religious About the ROI of Your Marketing Spend - ROI is a key business metric in measuring the success of both basic and complex business projects and activities. Having a holistic approach to these numbers can pay dividends in the short and long term.

7. Wow Your Guest Before They Walk in the Door - A creative way to drive additional revenue to your bottom line is to enhance the guest experience before they even walk in the door. Leverage your social media to offer incentives to guests who book early, as well as present supplemental services that can be utilized for a small additional fee. Little things can go a long way.

8. Know Your Charges - It is a good practice to review a guests expenses days before they arrive. This ensures that everything was covered, and nothing was under or over charged. On the day of check out, do the same thing. You would be surprised at how often things are missed.

9. Be on Top of Your Hotel - Proactively managing your hotels assets is a sure fire way to increase your revenue. Closely monitor energy and efficiency at your hotel according to occupancy level and seasonality. Doing so with committed practice will prove to be beneficial.

If you are looking at the coming months and wondering how to grow your revenue through your bottom line, look internally at these nine steps first. Simple practices that go a long way in both employee and guest experiences. Using these steps as a reference will be beneficial to both hotel management and guest.

Google & Reviews

Many of our business partners at ResortsandLodges.com have been given insight into the power of customer reviews: Reviews drive credibility, can be used as a tool to improve front end staff, as well as drive a higher conversion rate. As consumers continue to use reviews as a trusted source of online research in the hospitality industry, generating positive reviews becomes increasingly important.

New data and analysis from Digital Marketing Works, has revealed the importance of reviews as they pertain to Google, and the recently updated carousel feature in basic searches. The study, performed in June of 2013, revealed a strong correlation between average review rank and quantity and where hotels popped in the carousel search results. How strong was the correlation? To put it simply, the correlation between these data points was strong enough to yield that “Earned media (online guest reviews) is now a major component of Google’s search results for hotels.

So what does this mean for your business? Using the research as a platform for any type of actionable item, experts are urging hotel owners and GM’s to focus more on generating Google reviews. Of course, the standard platforms for reviews remain equally as important (Hotel Review Sites, Social Media, etc.).

To learn more, and to read the full article with data and analysis, click here.

The Big 3: Keeping Your Customers Happy

In an online market place filled with banners, pop-up’s, sign up’s, etc. the art of customer service in hospitality can sometimes be overlooked. It is important to remember the value behind genuine customer service – personal interaction and understanding your customer on a deeper level than hooking them into an email sign up. After all, quality customer service typically leads to new and repeat business – something hotel marketers can attest the importance of.

So what are some of the key things to keep in mind when talking about customer service and satisfaction? A recent white paper from Market Metrix discusses 3 primary areas that hotel owners, GM’s and marketers should be obsessive over. Let’s take a look at the big 3:

1. Direct Guest Feedback - Perhaps more powerful than anything in the hospitality industry is direct feedback from your consumers. This feedback can come in a variety of forms…satisfaction survey’s, social media posts, telephone calls, etc. The power behind direct guest feedback is the message it conveys about the experience of your consumer at your hotel. After all, experience is everything. Aside from giving you insight to your guests experience at your hotel, direct guest feedback also presents a nice snapshot of what you do well operationally, as well as what you can improve on. It’s a win win.

2. Competitive Benchmarking - While direct guest feedback remains very important, it becomes even more valuable (to you as a business owner) when you can leverage the data against your competitors. Things like overall satisfaction score, ratings of amenities, etc. become critical to the over riding presence of your hotel. Understanding your own performance is key to the present and future success of your business. But what is perhaps even more important is addressing and analyzing what makes your competitor stronger in one area, weaker in another, etc. A solid understanding of this information will give you a competitive advantage over other hotels.

3. Social Media - It is no secret at this point that social media is an incredibly powerful tool to leverage your business. In fact, 93% of global travelers say that their decision to book was directly influenced by online reviews and social media. The mobility of social media (Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop, etc.) is icing on the cake when it comes to social platforms. Access to social across multiple devices allows for real time analysis of what guests are saying…where they are staying, what they thought of a particular property, ratings, recommendations, the list is endless!

To Sum it All Up

A firm understanding of the 3 metrics listed above will equate to a serious advantage in the marketplace. The combination of guest feedback, competitive benchmarking and leveraging social media is a strong box of tools to help your business grow. While each element alone holds its own unique value and importance, the combination of the 3 is even more powerful. Mark Waite, EVP Marketing and Client Development put it best: “The combination of the three brings powerful balance – three legs of a stool, three primary colors, three parts to the atom and the three musketeers.

The Value of Lead Management on ResortsandLodges.com

The ResortsandLodges.com Marketing Center serves as a platform for lead management and new business generation. When used to its fullest capacity, the lead tool can be a golden ticket to increasing bookings and driving revenue to your property. But what exactly is the fullest capacity of the lead tool? How do you, as a property owner or manager utilize the lead tool so that it works as hard as possible for you and your property?

ResortsandLodges.com understands the value of your customers. As such, there are specific elements to lead management in the Marketing Center that are critical to the success of your business and campaign with ResortsandLodges.com. Let’s take a look at the main components:

1. Check your leads often - Ideally, leads should be checked and updated every couple of hours. Customers love a quick turnaround, especially when they are on the fence about booking with you. Take a lead as a compliment – the customer was interested enough in your property to submit personal information. Return the compliment and follow up!

2. Engage your Lead - In the past, you have read about customer engagement through content, front desk practices, etc. But what about engaging a customer over the phone or through an email? This is equally as important. So, the next time you follow up with a lead, engage them – ask them what they are interested in, what they would like to do during their stay, etc. The more friendly and relaxed the conversation, the higher the likelihood the customer will consider booking.

3. Make it Quick - Follow up as soon as possible. Checking your leads often is one element to the equation – following up with those leads in a timely manner is the compliment to checking the system. Best practices for following up with a lead indicate that one to two hours time between inquiry and follow up is appropriate.

4. Listen to the Lead - Before you hop on the phone or fire up the computer to email your lead back, listen to the phone call, or read the email that they sent to you. Examine the message in great detail – this will provide you with the information necessary to address every need or want that your client may have.

5. Don’t Ignore the $ - If a lead in the Marketing Center has a monetary value attached to it, follow up! A monetary value linked to a potential booking indicates that this customer is interested and willing to book with you if you’re able to fill their needs and have the availability!

6. Don’t be Afraid to Ask the Tough Questions - If you are following up with a lead, don’t be afraid to dig into the situation a little bit deeper. Ask the customer what hindered them from booking the first time around – customer engagement on this level shows a higher level of personal interest. By letting them know that you want to fully understand their needs and situation, the customer will feel more comfortable.

The value of lead management on ResortsandLodges.com goes farther than holding a monetary value. The personal relationships that are developed through lead management hold a priceless, long term value. Building a firm customer base, rich with relationships, is a great way to improve the reputation of your property, and your management.