No Room Available: How to Fully book your hotel with Digital Marketing
November 8, 2019
Written by: Action Digital
Digital marketing has now turn into an essential part of any marketing strategy, claiming the lion’s share of any marketing budget, especially in the hospitality industry, where hotels and restaurants live and die by hostile online reviews.
With digital marketing becoming ever more personal, social media platforms increasing, it was only logical that as a toolset it would turn too unwieldy for the average businessman to use effectively.
Digital Director, Garen Meserlian emphasizes that “It is no longer really a matter of IF the travel industry needs to use Digital Marketing as part of their communication strategy; it is crucial to do so if you want to stay in the game. The question is HOW to use the available digital tools in order for them to serve their ultimate purpose, to generate revenue. A typical marketer now uses an average of 13 channels to provide optimal user assistance and while this sounds daunting, successfully employing these tools is the difference between success and failure.”
Digital tools open up a world of opportunity for marketers, providing them with insights into user preferences and habits hitherto unknown, marketing options previously unavailable and hand them the keys to unlocking a successful campaign.
But to properly use digital marketing, one must first map and understand the consumer journey, the stages through which a consumer goes from being uninterested into booking a trip from telling his/her friends about the experience and recommending your brand. There are five distinct stages in a user’s online journey when deciding to travel and to help us better understand them, let’s outline them using our fictional hero Joe as an example.
Joe sits at an office, trudging through just another day when his eye catches an ad for a far-away tropical paradise. The vibrant, colourful artwork immediately melts the greyness of his office and he swears that he can smell the saltiness of the sea and the clear, rejuvenating mountain air. The image is stuck in his mind through the day, weighs upon him during his commute and dominates his home when he gets there. He makes dinner, sits down to eat and at last the question that has been bubbling in the background of his consciousness rises to the surface: “Hey, should I book a trip?”
How can digital marketing help: In an age of constant social media interaction, desire to travel is brought upon mainly through user generated content. Scrolling through your feed or timeline and seeing a post by an influencer having a wine in a French vineyard or hiking a forest in Sri Lanka is a surefire way to invoke the wanderlust spirit and prompt the idea of traveling.
Marketers can also increase lead generation for hotels and operators by correctly identifying the perfect opportunity to push content, what digital marketers call “micro-moments”. A micro-moment, an instance within the day digital marketers know users will be online looking for a specific thing i.e. travelling options, is the ideal moment to advertise your business. Google estimates that consumers book their trips approximately 12 weeks beforehand while a 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey by Deloitte shows that the average user checks their phone 52 times in the day, with the first time being within a 15 minute window when the user first wakes up. Having these information in their arsenal, along with browsing preferences of the user, allows them to reroute all the ad budget towards pinpointing those exact moments the user is expected to be on social media for maximum impact thus achieving the highest ROI possible.
Targeted ads, blog posts about travelling and leisure, email campaigns, influencer posts and other awareness tools are also employed, setting the scene for the next step in the user journey.
Joe immediately reaches for the nearest portal to the amazingly fantastic world of the internet. In 2019, chances are that that portal is your mobile. It is estimated that almost 60% of users prefer their mobiles when it comes to researching travel options. Out of all the social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook are the most dominant ones, as these two can be used across the consumer journey—helping to build awareness, consideration, and conversions for travel marketers. He starts going through online travel agency accounts, hotel accounts and anything else that he may need to book his trip. And research he does as studies showed that an average user goes through at least 20 travel sites in 9 internet sessions. Researching, comparing prices, looking for deals, going over amenities and places of interest that are nearby, everything a person does to ensure they get the best out of their travelling experience.
How can digital marketing help: Assistance is the new battleground for growth. Digital marketing can make sure that when the user takes the second step in the journey, your company is there. Micromoments reshape the foundation of the planning stage, as digital marketing can map out exactly when and where your ads need to be visible to garner maximum attention. This Google case study identifies a whopping 7,000 touchpoints (internet searches, website visits, post views and clicks) for a user planning a vacation, over the span of 4 months.
Digital marketing not only identifies all these touchpoints but can also fragment them and analyse them per group or user, while at the same time helping you to pick up trends and keywords. These can be incorporated into the digital marketing campaign as social media optimization, proper SEO and SEM advertising can make it easier for users to find your company and push you higher up the ranks of Google search. Additionally, if you are targeting audiences in different countries, proper digital marketing allows for localization through translating your website and ads to the native language of the audience you are targeting.
With planning all done, it’s time for the most crucial step.
Joe compared prices, he checked rival operators, now it’s time to pull out the ol’ credit card and book your trip. A smooth user experience here is paramount. If the campaign successfully nudged the user towards the booking stage, it must be ensured that the process from making the final decision to completing the final payment is unobstructed and as helpful as possible. Multiple payment options, complete breakdown of costs, no asterisks or hidden fees, safe transaction and fast execution. As people are extremely sensitive when it comes to personal data and online money transaction, any mishap here will result in the user voiding the process and never coming back.
How digital marketing can help: The exchange of money for services is the most crucial part in the sense that it is in this stage that the user is most likely to switch to a competitor, should his/hers high expectations aren’t met. Experienced marketers can help draw an ideal user experience map, one that anticipates user needs and makes sure they are met. Not only that, a cross-device implemented digital strategy optimizes your company to be user friendly and accessible anytime, anywhere by any device. And a consistent multi device strategy essential, as 94% of users switch between devices to book a trip, preferring to browse on mobile but make the final purchase on desktop or laptop.
In such a fragile stage, you need to make sure that you available 24/7 to answer any questions by consumers, something that is only achievable through social media. Ensuring that an agent always responds to questions on social media accounts, introducing livechat options on the website and an automated email booking system guarantee that you are servicing clients 24/7, no matter the time zone.
And with the user now successfully turned into client, comes the fourth step of the journey.
With the trip now booked, Joe lets his imagination run rampant and wild, escaping the confines of his daily routine. What is he going to do when you he gets there? What is he going to eat? Did any of his friends go there? Do they have any suggestions on places to visit? What are reviewers of his hotel saying? Did any of his favorite influencers go there too? THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST VACATION EVER!
An avalanche of questions building up towards the day of the trip and expectations are piling up even higher. To answer them, consumers turn to their favorite past-time, browsing social media.
A digital marketing campaign following a properly fragmented consumer map can help boost and meet consumer expectations and add value to your brand by building on the expectations clients have. Email updates with reminders, special offers matching the user’s preference, invitation to a loyalty program, blog posts with suggestions for various activities to do and of course, influencer posts advertising the destination the user will travel to.
All these aim towards hypening up the upcoming experience and reinforcing the client’s notion that he/she made the best choice possible. The experience stage is extremely important in inspiring confidence and making sure that client returns.
Selfie time! Joe’s hard earned vacation is underway and he is having the time of his life! Phone snapping pictures all the time, creative hashtags used, everyone is having a great time! The journey met his expectations and he is eager to inform his friends, before he goes back to the office and plan the next holiday.
How can digital marketing help: The final stage of the consumer stage is the key to securing client loyalty and inspiring more people to engage with your brand. Pictures shared on social media, reminiscing back on the amazing holiday the client just had and recommending to their friends and network to do the same.
Having followed all steps in the consumer journey, your brand has been integral to the client. Keeping track of social media posts and comments, vlogs and videos allows your company to rate its performance when it comes to meeting client expectations and identifying areas that need to be improved upon. Additionally, a plethora of posts generating buzz over your brand is a sure way to reach more people, prompting the Dreaming stage for another prospective client.
Handling reviews is also critical as 96% of travelers consider online reviews important when deciding where to travel. Digital marketing gives you the tools to monitor online interactions and giving your company enough to respond to a negative review,
Action Digital is a digital agency specialising in all aspects of digital marketing. Contact us to learn how we can help you achieve the best possible result from your digital marketing campaign.