Category Archives: Online Resources

Personalization Equals Loyalty with Millennials

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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

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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.

Why Mobile Marketing Will Continue to Grow

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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?

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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.

Finding the Right Balance with Facebook Posts

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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

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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.

Report: Transient Channel Leads Hotel Growth in Q1 2014

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According to a recent TravelClick report, the North American hotel sector started the first month of 2014 with moderate increases in room rates and bookings.  The transient segment (individual business and leisure travelers) was the group leading the way in occupancy growth.

“After strong group sales pace early in the fourth quarter of last year, it is a bit disappointing that group bookings have lost some steam heading into the New Year,” said Tim Hart, executive vice president of business intelligence at TravelClick.  “That being said, the group segment is still ahead of where it was this time last year, and strong transient demand and ADR growth continues to drive a positive overall outlook for the first part of 2014.”

Here are highlights of some of the key numbers and statistics presented in the report:

-Transient bookings are up 5.3 percent year-over-year and the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for this segment is up 5.2 percent.

-When examining the 12-month outlook more closely (January 2014 – December 2014), it shows overall committed occupancy has increased by 3.3% compared to the same time last year.  This is also an increase of one percent from TravelClick’s July 2013 survey measuring the same information.

-The 12-month outlook also shows that ADR are up 3.9 percent based on reservations currently on the books.

The read the TravelClick report in its entirety, click here.

Push Mobile Marketing – What You Need to Know

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Are you getting the most out of your marketing campaign?  Do you have a portion of your marketing budget dedicated to mobile marketing?  Is it making a difference or are there improvements you could make to increase your ROI?

A recent Marketing Land column takes a closer look at the difference between push and pull mobile techniques, and how push mobile marketing may be the answer in connecting with guests both on- and off-site.

Defining Pull Mobile Techniques

When customers or consumers are proactively trying to attain the goods or information they need, this refers to a pull mobile technique.  Accessing a responsive mobile website or mobile application allows a traveler to compare availability and rates, but this is not the only way they can acquire this information.

Effective Push Mobile Marketing Techniques

If pull mobile techniques involve a user-driven model, than it makes sense that push mobile techniques originate on the business side of things.  It is important for companies to develop a conversation with consumers, hopefully allowing this to blossom into full-blown brand loyalty.

Mobile applications are a great way to send push notifications to travelers who have already downloaded your app, and getting users to download your app successfully is the first step.   App alerts are a great way for brands to inform consumers of any new app updates or features, as well as notifying users of promotions or other activities.

One thing to keep in mind with app alerts is that all push notifications can be turned off.  Consumers with dozens of apps on their smartphones tend to avoid being inundated with annoying alerts by disabling one or two push notifications.  Depending on the smartphone, push notifications could be disabled as a default setting.  Unless consumers are enabling this feature on their own, your message may not reach them.

Another way to reach consumers is the use of mobile messaging.  Here are three keys to building the right mobile message for your brand:

-Decide whether your message requires a short message service (SMS) involving just text or a rich message service (RMS), which also includes some type of media (photo, videos, etc.) as well.

-Make sure your message is timely (90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery)

-Include a strong call to action.  If you are offering a deal or promotion, include a deadline to increase the urgency of the consumer.

Regardless of what type of push mobile marketing your business is using, the key to its effectiveness will be a continued development of a more personal relationship with potential buyers.  This will help to increase brand loyalty, and should result in future business down the road.