Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options

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As you have seen in many of our recent posts, a number of key trends and tips in the hospitality and travel industry focus on the expansion of multi-channel travelers.  Everyone is traveling with a smartphone or tablet, and hoteliers need to recognize how important a tool these devices can be throughout the travel process.

The recent boom of mobile websites and applications allows travelers to book rooms with the click of a button.  Now, because of a growing demand from tech savvy travelers, properties need to incorporate mobile check-in options to help guests avoid the front desk lines.

A recent Business Travel News article took a deeper look at what some brands and individual hotels are doing to make checking in an easier and faster process for travelers worldwide.

While check-in kiosks and other methods of avoiding the front desk line in recent years have become the commonplace at hotels, there has been a slow integration of mobile technology into this sometimes tedious process.  There has been a greater adoption of mobile technology across some major hotel brands.

At the same time, some third-party technology suppliers are providing tools for hotels and distributors to offer mobile check-in.

Major Brands Getting Involved

Marriott Hotels will offer mobile check-in at all 500 of its hotels globally during the first half of 2014.  Guests who are members can check in via the Marriott Mobile App from 4 p.m. on the day before arrival.  When these guests arrive, their key card is waiting for them at a designated mobile check-in desk.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has a similar process at select hotels, with kiosks available for incoming guests to retrieve keys.

Another big name, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has taken a slightly different approach with nine properties currently piloting the Smart Check-In program.  Guests receive a Starwood Preferred Guest Card and, on the day of their arrival, receive a text message telling them their room number.  From this point, they can head straight to their room and use the SPG card as their key.

To learn more about third party technology suppliers that are providing mobile check-in options, and to read the full Business Travel News article, click here.

6 Reasons Consumers may not Like your Travel Images

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It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what happens when your specific picture just does not measure up to rest?  Visual content represents some of the most effective marketing practices in nearly every industry, especially in the hospitality industry where travel images are powerful elements.

If you do not realize just how important images are to your property, take a look at your social media marketing campaign.  The sites you are using (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) have become image-driven with the advent of camera phones and increased technology.

Because of this push towards images across the board, it is not enough to just have photos on your website or business listing.  You must have the correct images that will capture the eye of potential customers and drive business to your site.

Do you think you may have an imaging issue on your website or online listings?  Here is a list of reasons why consumers may not like your travel images.

1. They Look Old or Small – As computer screens continue to grow in size and definition, your visuals need to do the same.  No one enjoys seeing a 300×300 image on a 2880×1800 computer screen.  Many travelers will click away from your site if photos are too small to see or enjoy.

2. They Are Outdated – It is important for hoteliers to renew their visuals approximately every two years in order to avoid discrepancies between what the guest sees online and upon arrival.  Updating your images also allows you to showcase recent renovations, changes in décor and allows viewers to know your property is under constant care.

3. Confusing Galleries – Many hotels do not allow their images to be expanded into a full-screen view.  This can be frustrating for potential customers if they want to see a close-up image but are unable.  Make sure your images can be displayed as large as your website allows.

Also, avoid making viewers jump around to different pages to view the different types of media you have.  Photos, virtual tours, floor plans and videos should all be included in a single media player.

4. The Color Is Not Right – Color and lighting make a tremendous difference when users look at images.  Many photographers use color calibration software when enhancing visuals, which may adjust how color appears on your user’s computer screen.

There could be a highlighting and shading issue, or the tint of the sky and grass may be just a little off.   Make sure to test the color and brightness of the visuals on different computers to make sure this does not happen.

5. Not Mobile-Friendly – Although smartphones make accessing websites on-the-go a simple task, “mobile-unfriendly” images can complicate the matter.  No one enjoys zooming in and out just to see a picture, and touchscreen sensitivity can send you to a whole different site with the unintended press of a button.

6. Few Images – Recent travel statistics show that properties with more than 20 photos get 150% more engagement than those with less than 20.  It is not enough to just take one photo of a bed and one of the front desk.  Guests are looking for something that sets you apart from the crowd.

Showcase various photos of your guest rooms, and views from the room.  Use images to point out unique amenities and features that will attract additional travelers to your website and eventually to your property.

It is important to understand that a guest’s final decision can be highly-defined by the hotel’s website visuals.  Take your time to plan and produce high-quality images in order to engage and convert viewers more effectively!

The Six Best Practices for Hotels on Twitter

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Twitter is a social media platform that offers your property an outstanding marketing device as well as a guest service channel.  With over 230 million monthly active users, the number of connections you can make with prospective travelers is seemingly limitless.

However, this social media network has a distinct vernacular that can be confusing and intimidating for new users.  Whether you are just composing your first tweet, or are a seasoned Twitter Pro, here are a few ideas that will make the most of your Twitter presence.

1. It All Starts with your Bio

Although your individual tweets provide content that you hope will lure followers your way, your profile is the most important message you will ever write on Twitter.  It will help people decide whether or not they want to follow you.  With a 160-character limit, you can’t say everything that sets your property apart, so choose a few keywords to describe your hotel and then say something that will set your feed apart from the rest.  Try including local tips, a unique passion or a value proposition.

2. Cultivate a Community

The more followers your Twitter account has, the greater your reach will be within the Twittersphere, but it is important to remember that it is not just about numbers.  Buying a list or indiscriminately following users in the hopes they will follow you back will mostly result in droids and people with no interest in your brand.

Instead, cultivate a community of users who share an affinity for your hotel or destination by using directories like Wefollow and Twellow.  Make sure to check out followers of industry partners or properties that are similar to yours.  From this point, you can grow your following organically by being active, resourceful and likable, by sharing and commenting on interesting, relevant content.  Make sure to include links and @ mentions.  The use of hashtags will make your easier to find and follow and will allow you to contribute to topics, thus allowing people to find you.

3. Listen First

It is important to think of Twitter less as a broadcasting channel, and more as a listening channel.  If nothing else, you can set up a profile to capture mentions of your brand through e-mail alerts.

Twitter is unique in the fact that most tweets are sent in real-time about what people are doing and thinking right now.  Many people use social media to talk about what they are doing while on vacation or during the planning phase of their trip.  That provides an opportunity to connect with them in a relevant way.

Sasha Kerman, content and community manager for the luxury boutique hotel operator Red Carnation Hotels, agrees with using Twitter to make that unique connection.  Red Carnation uses Twitter as a tool to listen to guests and provide them with the best possible experience.  This includes sending welcome tweets to guests they know use Twitter and occasionally surprising them with an in-room amenity.

4. Act Quickly

Like any other form of communication with guests, it is important to respond to Twitter in a timely matter.  Piper Stevens, the director of social media at Loews Hotels and Resorts, stated that customer service is the most effective use of Twitter for their properties.  This includes “being able to answer questions quickly and remedy issues for our guests that are on property.”

Often, travelers turn to Twitter when they want to vent about a negative experience.  In this case, acting quickly allows you to take the matter offline where a hotel can resolve the issue before it escalates.  If this is done properly, you may be able to turn an upset guest into an advocate.

5. Think Before you Tweet

Because there are no hard and fast rules that can be applied to Twitter, it can be difficult to determine what to tweet, or even how often.  Make sure that your tweets are interesting to your followers and relevant to your hotel or destination.  This could include road trip playlists, travel wellness or eco-friendly travel.

Try to maintain good Twitter etiquette by not tweeting rampantly or sounding off.  Use direct messaging or start with the @Name to avoid clogging followers’ feeds with private tweets.  It’s not a requirement that you use all 140 characters, and try to #take #it #easy #on the #hashtags.  It will only clutter the brilliance of your message.

6. Write Promotional Tweets that Get Noticed

It can be difficult to find a balance between overtweeting and undertweeting, and you do not want to lose followers with relentless selling.  However, many people follow brands on social networks specifically to receive promotions and discounts.  So do not disappoint them!

In order to maximize the impact of promotional or “direct response” tweets, try including a compelling offer, a strong call to action and a sense of urgency.  Words like “exclusive”, “free”, “sale” and “win” will drive higher click-through rates.  When you are working with promotional tweets, it is better to keep them free of distractions like hashtags, @mentions and imagery.

Incorporate all of these Twitter tips and tactics into your social media campaign, and you will reap the benefits with increased exposure and a better overall guest experience for your current and future customers.

Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends for 2014

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With the calendar changing to 2014 in the next week, many industry experts are attempting to project what will happen, what changes will be made and how they will affect your business over the next 12 months.  HospitalityNet’s Robert Rauch created a list of the Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends in 2014 that focuses on the emergence of a key demographic in the travel industry:  Millennials.  Let’s take a look at a few of Rauch’s insights.

1) Millennials will become the core customer within the travel and hospitality industries over the next five to ten years.  Most travel companies, hotels and airlines will benefit as this group enters their peak earning, spending and traveling years.  Exploration, interaction and experience are the major focus of Millennials, as well as within the subsets of this generation.

Many travelers are willing to pay more for a greater experience.  “Foodies” are prevalent in this subset of the market and are looking for an overall gourmet experience for a reasonable price.  This will likely cause the industry to revamp lobby bars, restaurants and food service in general.  Other groups including Internet bloggers, culture buffs, LGBT and Multi-generational travelers are looking for that unique experience that will command change within the market.

2) Speed and precision will be a requirement when accommodating Millennials in upcoming years.  This group is looking for fast booking, fast check-in, fast WiFi and fast responses to customer service needs.  If these are not implemented within hotels and other properties, Millennials will have no problem speaking out over a variety of channels like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or online travel reviews sites to voice their complaints.

3) WOW customer service will become even more influential in 2014.  Service today can be broken down into four levels:  basic, expected, desired and WOW.  Basic service can be found at a post office, whereas expected service can be found at most fast food restaurants and many standard businesses.  Good hotels will find a way to provide desired experience, but WOW service is really the only way to take that next step and ensure repeat business.

Creating an impressive, unique guest experience that exceeds all expectations will allow you to capture the customer.  It may also earn additional business when this guest announces their WOW experience on various social media platforms.

4) Leadership is showing your management team that there are more important things than just “talking the talk”; it is important to “walk the talk”.  Each and every employee has something that they can work on.  It is of extreme importance to form a connection with guests in a time where Millennials are looking for interaction and a unique experience.

Rauch states that it is his goal as a leader to instill the value of building relationships by sharing the knowledge he has while learning from both his employees and guests.  He runs with guests staying at one of his hotels, and offers personal training sessions for others.

5) Expectation of more international visitors.  Average rates and occupancy levels in the United States are likely to increase over the next few years, influenced by a very new market.  According to Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott Hotels and Resorts, leisure demand from abroad, fueled in part by the new Discover America campaign, will stimulate a new demand.

China is at the center of this international travel boom, preparing to send about 100 million leisure travelers abroad every year.  If the U.S. gets its typical share of this population, that will mean an additional 10 million visitors annually from China alone.  With the average Chinese travelers spending at least a week in the U.S., demand is created for an additional 70 million room nights in a market where prices are steadily rising.  Globalization in the travel industry will likely prove to be a massive force.

To read the remaining trends on this list, or to find our more information about Robert Rauch, click here.

Loyalty Takes a Backseat to Deals

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According to Accenture Hospitality’s Global Consumer Pulse Research, in the hotel and lodging industry loyalty takes a backseat to price.  The results of this survey, which questioned more than 12,000 customers in 32 countries, showed some information that hoteliers should keep in mind when planning marketing campaigns in 2014.

Accenture’s research found that 41 percent of customers find offers and deals as a top differentiator when choosing a hotel.  Umar Riaz, the North American lead for Accenture’s Hospitality practice believes that customer loyalty has dissipated with the rise of digital channels, which has made it incredibly easy for customers to shop around for deals.

According to the survey, 79 percent of customers made their hotel and travel bookings online.  This was a seven percent increase when compared to 2012. Currently, 41 percent of consumers use their mobile device frequently for online product searches and 33 percent use a device to make online purchases.

Customers are moving more and more towards digital and mobile channels.  Online travel agencies have made it easy and transparent to shop for deals.  Travelers may think that a particular product is good, but with so much technology at their fingertips, they still feel there’s a better deal out there.

If all of these other numbers did not convince, this may be the most important statistic of all: 75 percent of hotel customers have conducted business with two or more providers over the past three years, while only 14 percent stayed loyal to one company.

The travel industry as a product is strong, but the loyalty is low and this is one of the biggest challenges facing a lot of companies in the industry right now.  This may just make 2014 the year of increasing loyalty rates.

Raising the Bar in a Multi-Channel Travel World

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Customer experience in the hotel industry, as in any industry, is about consistency.  It’s not enough to have the newest self-service tools, mobile apps or improved services.  Individually, these initiatives can work, but there needs to be consistency across all touch points based on guest requirements to ensure satisfaction.

Hotels are currently attempting to generate solutions that address not only customer service issues, but user experience issues as well.  Creating an unambiguous cross-channel experience is of paramount importance.  Stan Kreydin, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Wyndham Exchange and Rentals explained his views on the subject:

 “Where possible, we want our customers to have a similar experience with our products via self-service channels such as the web as they do with our contact center agents for our assisted service channels.”

For most hotel guests, the experience enjoyed with the hotel staff is engaging in streamlined.  It must also be a top priority for consumers to feel the same way when interacting with a website or mobile app.  Some companies, including the Morgans Hotel Group, have made significant changes to websites including the ability to make reservations in a limited number of clicks, tour the city they’re visiting with a curated Google Map and access an Instagram feed populated with photos from guests staying at the property.

It’s always important to recognize your target demographic when utilizing new technologies.  Pullman Hotels and Resort focuses on delivering a cosmopolitan, vibrant and in-style experience for guests.  The company has worked on a unique guest technology ecosystem centered on synchronizing various screens – TV, smartphone and table – in order to create a unified network of entertainment services.

However, the multi-device phenomenon does not only affect the online experience offered by Pullman.  The hotels and resorts have multiplied IP addresses, which has allowed the company to increase the bandwidth at all Pullman properties.  Multiple power sockets placed near beds allows guests easy access to devices throughout their stay.

Hotels worldwide are currently all trying to match guests’ rising expectations.  Check-in and check-out is one area where guests do not like wasting time and expect immediate service.  The same goes for free WiFi which they expect to have access to as soon as they enter the property.  Amenities that were once considered luxuries have now become an expectation among travelers, and hotels need to adapt or will find themselves left behind.

The Evolution of Online Search: SEO, SEM and Keyword Bidding

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Search engine optimization and search engine marketing can be very effective ways for hotels to reach prospective guests, but as the “keyword world” changes, hoteliers need to keep pace.  As online search features continue to change, there must be a greater focus on developing higher quality content for guests to compete against online travel agencies.

OTAs’ ads outnumber hotel brands’ ads on Google, Bing and AOL, but not on Google Mobile according to a recent BrandVerity study titled “Hotel Brands, OTAs and paid search: How do these relationships unfold on the SERP?”

According to the study, each Google Search Engine Results Page included almost two OTA ads.  Bing and AOL had considerably more, with 4.77 and 5.27 OTA ads per SERP, respectively.  The number of OTA ads per SERP on Google Mobile was only .49.

It is important to nail down the art and science of keyword bidding, and this is evident in the case of Expedia. They spent a substantial amount of time studying the science, and as a result their “quality score” translates to less expensive cost-per-click prices.  You can learn more about keyword bidding here.

Budgeting for SEO and SEM can vary across the spectrum of hotels.  Budget and economy hotels do not need to spend as much time on SEO because they rely more heavily on brand traffic, walk-in traffic and ratings and reviews sites.  However, If the return on ad spend is positive and you are getting better returns than spending with OTAs, meta-search, meeting planners or travel agents, the investment should be considered worthwhile and continued.

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From Desktop to Mobile: The 2013 Shift in Hotel Bookings

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As technology continues to shift the way people acquire information, travel sites have observed a shift in the way potential travelers are accessing and booking hotel reservations.  A HeBSdigital case study has quantified this data, and shows how dramatic this shift has been in the past 12 months.

Some of the Key Developments found in Q3 2013 include:

*Over 35% of web visitors and nearly 32% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices including mobile and tablets.  Within this statistic, the iPad outperformed all other tablet devices and was responsible for 88.2% of page views and nearly 97% of tablet revenue.

*Over 12% of bookings, room nights and revenue came from tables and mobile devices.  This does not include voice reservations originating from the mobile websites of HeBSdigital clients.

*Tables generated 210% more room nights and 603% more revenue than “pure” mobile devices.

Notable Developments from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013 include:

*Page views, visits, bookings, room nights and revenue have all declined through the desktop channel.

*Website visitors to desktop websites declined by 17%, while increasing by nearly 85% via mobile channels.

*Revenue from mobile devices nearly doubled as travel consumers become more comfortable conducting transactions through their smartphones and as smartphone penetration reaches an all-time high – nearly 50% in the U.S.

With this dynamic shift from desktop to mobile/tablet options, what can you do to ensure your content is properly accessed?  Try to treat the desktop, mobile and tablet as three separate channels:

Desktop Channel:  Always make sure your desktop website is in good health, and complies with best practices in hotel distribution, design, site architecture and SEO.

Mobile Channel:  A mobile website generates incremental revenue through mobile and voice reservations.

Tablet Channel:   Present tablet users with an enhanced, highly-visual version of the desktop website enabled for the touch-screen tablet environment.

Make sure the correct website content is being served in the right device category while ensuring the maximum user experience, relevancy of information and conversions.  All three channels (desktop, mobile, tablet) must be integrated in the hotel’s multi-channel marketing strategy. Use analytics to determine contributions from and the dynamics of each of the three channels.

For more information on this study or to see additional studies regarding the Three Screen Shift, click here.