We live in a world where the leisure and business traveler is exposed to more lodging solutions than ever before. Consumers can choose to book directly with a hotel, a travel agent, or the Expedias of the world. Most recently, growing housing rental companies like Airbnb are shaking up the hospitality industry by offering alternative accommodations to the traditional hotel stay. In fact, the lodging economy in New York City experienced a $2.1 billion loss last year as hotel guests steadily gravitated away from the hotels and into Airbnb’s housing solutions.
As a marketer, you’re probably not surprised that this type of financial loss increases the pressure to fill the revenue gap using cost-effective marketing tactics. Not only is it critical to optimize the ROI on your marketing campaigns, hoteliers need to find their competitive edge by taking their service to the next level. It’s all about leveraging technology to amplify the end-to-end guest experience in order to increase your bottom line. This was one of the overarching themes at this year’s Annual Convention by AAHOA, the largest hotel owners association in the world. The intimate experience must be efficient and personal. And it needs to start before, during, and after the stay.
Acquisition: Simplify the Shopping Experience in a Unique Way
Consumers are exposed to more lodging solutions than ever before. While having more options can be beneficial, it also makes the research phase overwhelming and time consuming. This is why consumers seek out personalized experiences when deciding where they should go on vacation, where they should stay, where to eat, and what sites to explore. For hotel marketers, acquiring new business can be costly – you’re competing with more businesses and striving to provide a great product and service that will produce positive reviews.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines found a way to simplify the shopping experience by leveraging the idea of community-based support, which Jay Baer discusses in his new book, Hug Your Haters. To have a competitive edge, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines leverages technology in a unique way. They’re creating a personal connection with loyal customers by turning them into brand advocates, which in turn are helping prospects during their research phase.
Imagine browsing the slew of cruise vacations on the Royal Caribbean website. You’re planning a family vacation and you’re not sure which trip is best suited for the kids, the grandparents, and your significant other. All of a sudden a pop-up appears asking if you’d like live advice from a real customer. You can directly chat with someone who has experienced their cruise ships. They can provide honest answers to your questions in real time. Not only is this helpful, but there is a human element that creates a very personalized experience.
Another way for hoteliers to stand out against competitors like Airbnb is to decide how they want to interact with their business. When over 40% of Americans booked travel reservations on mobile devices in 2014, there are new ways that these consumers want to contact your business. 65% find it extremely/very important to be able to call to book a hotel, which gives hoteliers the opportunity to create a unique booking experience via the phone.
Now, take it one step further. What if you could track which digital campaigns drove phone calls to your call center or directly to the hotels themselves? You could then use that data to optimize the ROI of digital campaigns to drive even more calls and boost bookings. Resort marketer, Hotelscorp, does just that, and has seen bookings increase by 71%.
Retention: Enhance the Personalized Experience
Kimpton Hotels is a great example of how hotels can use digital data to create a personal experience for their guests. They’re using customer data to delight their guests and even extend it beyond the hotel stay. One yoga enthusiast posted a photo on Instagram while at a Kimpton Hotel and she was greeted with a new yoga mat from Kimpton upon arriving home from her trip.
Virgin Hotels is another great example of a company that leverages technology to create a more personalized experience for guests. If they can understand their guests’ preferences then they can enhance their experience with the hotel. Enter Lucy, their virtual hotel concierge. She’s an app created by Virgin, but she can collect data ranging from what room temperature you enjoy at night, your preferred lengths of stay, how many extra pillows you need, and whether or not you’re a foodie. This data is invaluable to personalization: Imagine Virgin using Lucy to set the temperature in your room while you’re sleeping or giving you a call when a price drops because she knows you were interested in visiting Chicago in May.
Customer Service: Streamline the Experience
From a service standpoint, travelers sometimes prefer to find answers to questions online. For instance, someone who prefers self-service might check for a full list of amenities and dining options within a hotel. They may prefer to read through a hotels FAQs page. However, other travelers might be more inclined to call, say if they’re traveling with children and need to check on restrictions such as whether or not minors are allowed in a restaurant or if there are limited pool hours. They may need early-check in or help finding a last minute room. There are many cases like these where they’ll need to call for a resolution.
As a hotelier, it’s much easier to streamline a user’s call experience with contextual call routing. Using this technology allows hoteliers to efficiently route travelers to the right location or agent to help answer their questions, based on a caller’s location or the time of day. Paired with call tracking technology, hoteliers can also route these calls based on the keywords searched, digital offers clicked, and webpages someone calls from.
Hotel marketers can then use call recordings and conversation analytics technology to pinpoint call context and get insights into the questions customers are asking. You can determine whether to improve your web content by including those questions on an FAQs page or identify keywords and phrases used by callers and improve your paid search bidding strategy.
Next Step: Learn how hoteliers can build brand awareness and influence mobile shoppers with Facebook.