The rise of digital and mobile and its impact on commerce has given consumers more information, and consequently more power, than ever before, as well as an ever-increasing expectation for instant gratification.
Marketing experts have dubbed this mass-consumer evolution happening right before our eyes “The Age of Assistance,” and adapting to it is currently one of the greatest challenges marketers face, in virtually all commercial industries.
The hotel business is no exception, and in some ways, is at the forefront of this metamorphosis.
In the past, consumers undertook greater effort to research expensive and/or important purchases, like homes, cars, major appliances, etc. But nowadays, experts say all kinds of purchases are being researched online, regardless of size, making online authority crucial for companies, as customers move through each stage of the sales funnel without salespeople (or human travel agents) involved.
The hotel business is particularly entrenched in this revolution, since traveling has always been a research/planning-heavy purchase, and there are more resources than ever at your guest’s fingertips.In a recent article in Forbes, well-known author, Brian Solis points out that: “In the age of assistance, consumers are now relying on what they find in mobile-first “micro-moments” to help them take the next step. They’re seeking utility, information, direction and not classical marketing.”
“I refer to this new generation of mobile, connected customers as “accidental narcissists.” It’s a term of endearment. Everything they want, they can have, in any moment. Literally, there’s an app for just about everything, consumers are plugged into an on-demand economy that delivers products, services, experiences, validation, gratification, et al., in the moment. This presents an opportunity (and a need) for marketers to become truly customer-, not marketing- or technology-, centric.”
So how do hotel marketers deal with this new age marketing scramble? How do we provide these “accidental narcissists” what they need to engage with our properties?
1. Know their profile
You can’t assist potential guests unless you understand them first. You should have a fairly detailed “profile” of your ideal guest (or meeting planner or corporate buyer).
You should know:
– Where they live
– How often they visit
– When they visit
– Which guests are most lucrative
– What they like (and don’t like) about your property
2. Know their media habits
Starting with mobile, you need to learn about the discovery process used by your customers, starting with where they go to find their information, what they are searching for, where those searches take them, what engages or converts them from there and where they visit next.
For more insight, try using Google’s insightful micro-moments playbook.
3. Think like a publisher
Armed with greater knowledge of your customer, their journey and research process, you can then begin tailoring content that engages them.
Your content should offer solutions, versus selling rooms. And promise to change the viewer’s perspective on the destination and enrich their lives.
Modern travelers are driven to book based on what lies outside your hotel walls, not just what’s inside. They want to experience your destination like a true local and crave front-row access to cool discoveries and remarkable experiences, unlike anything they can find at home.
So, your website and marketing content should not only focus on your property; It should share the spotlight with your destination. Your hotel website should position your property as the epicenter of your destination.
You need to show what experiences guests can look forward to and which are within reach. What cool wine bars or quirky, local coffee shops are within walking distance? What local secrets can your staff share? What should guests know about your immediate neighborhood?
4. Know what your guests want
This next directive pertains to embracing data and listening to what your guests (and your compset’s guests) are saying in public spaces. By paying attention to keyword searches, social media posts, Trip Advisor reviews, CVB data and responses to your post-stay surveys, savvy hotel marketers can see threats and trends that will define how guests want to “be assisted.”
– Are your guests complaining about certain aspects of your property?
– Are travelers to your destination talking about the new museum?
– Is there a rapid spike in keyword volume for hotels near a certain hot neighborhood?
– What are the top attractions near you (and how are you partnered with them)?
These are priceless digital breadcrumbs for you in building a consumer path to your door!
5. Assist during the transaction
Consumers also expect their transaction experience to be seamless. Hotels are expected to simplify life, not confuse it… especially at the most critical point in their purchase journey! So make sure your hotel website booking experience is flawless, by avoiding these pitfalls:
• Accessible communication
Giving people what they want quickly and easily amps up your value. Follow the example of luxury hotels and resorts, who offer instant access to reservations staff using online chat, phone or email. Consumers are always more likely to pay a premium to properties that respond quickly to questions and establish high service expectations BEFORE the guest even arrives.
• Hidden costs and sticker shock
Studies show that nothing kills a sale – and trust – like unexpected costs. Mostly surprise hidden costs that many hotels like to sneak into the transaction right before asking for credit card information. Today’s travelers have no patience with additional charges and will be ruthless in abandoning any property that tries to spring on pesky fees.
• Your mobile experience is poor
Google studies show that 36 percent of business travellers and 40 percent of leisure travellers book hotel rooms on their mobile phones. And, bookings originating from users on iPads and other tablet-sized devices are growing fast.
• It’s too frustrating to make a reservation
It’s a lesson hoteliers rarely hear, but should immediately heed: Your booking engine must be a simple process. Visitors are already uncomfortable giving out their information online, if your forms are cumbersome, consumers will exit before a purchase is completed. Yet, thousands of hotels are still cluttering their booking engines with too much text, too many pages and endless steps.
• Slow means no
25 percent of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load. Almost 50 percent will abandon if the site takes more than 10 seconds to load. In our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture—fuelled by high-speed internet—consumers expect your web pages to load immediately!
• You’re not speaking their language
This seems painfully obvious, but far too many hotels treat everyone as an English-speaking American. Imagine the frustration of your overseas website visitors when they enter a booking environment that is not automatically defaulted to their native language or currency.
• Limited payment options
Smart hotels offer multiple payment options, going beyond Amex, Visa and Mastercard to include as many forms of payment as possible, including third-party online payment services like PayPal. Some even take it a step further like Couples Resorts, who offer a “loveaway” payment plan.