The hotel and hospitality industry is highly competitive, with businesses constantly seeking new and innovative ways to attract and retain customers. In addition, a great deal has changed since pre-pandemic times in terms of the use of technology within hotels and other establishments. Guests have come to prefer certain options such as self-check-in, and it is therefore essential to meet these changed expectations to attract guests and gain their loyalty.
This article reviews some important considerations that hotels and other hospitality businesses should keep in mind when reviewing their marketing strategy.
Implement Contactless Processes
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the hospitality industry, and one of the most noticeable changes was the widespread adoption of contactless processes with the aim of reducing physical contact.
One of the most common changes was that properties became cashless and encouraged contactless payment methods. Hotels accelerated their digital transformation efforts by introducing self-check-in kiosks while restaurants introduced apps and QR codes for ordering at the table.
In addition, some hotels and resorts introduced contactless room service delivery, where guests can request and receive their meals without any direct physical contact with hotel staff (and in some cases, deliveries are transported by robots).
Other contactless services include hotel apps that provide digital concierge services, such as providing information on hotel amenities and the local area, and enabling guests to book spa services, tables in the restaurant, and so on.
The implementation of contactless processes has not only improved efficiency and convenience; customers now expect self-service options (across many industries, not just hospitality). In fact, 73% of travellers are more likely to visit hotels with self-service options, while 38% of them want a full self-service experience (Oracle).
Therefore, marketers in the industry should communicate such facilities to their audience, especially when targeting younger generations. Businesses that are not offering such options should consider introducing them, if these options are on-brand (nobody would expect to order through an app when dining at the Ritz, for example).
Virtual and Hybrid Events
With the restrictions on large gatherings, organisations turned to virtual and hybrid events to connect with customers. Many hotels, conference centers, and event spaces upgraded their technology to accommodate these events, including live streaming capabilities, virtual event platforms, and video conferencing equipment. Properties catering to the corporate segment should consider doing the same (if they have not already) as hybrid working models persist.
Catering to Digital Nomads
While on the topic of changes to the workforce, it is important to note that the increase in digital nomadism has led many hotels to evaluate how they can best cater to this segment. Ensuring such guests are offered rooms with desks and access to high-speed Wi-Fi are a couple of changes that hotels have been making. Re-imagining communal areas to provide sections for these guests to work comfortably is another option.
Encourage Direct Bookings
Encouraging guests to book directly through a hotel’s own website allows hotels to avoid OTA commissions, thus improving their margins. It also allows them to establish a more direct relationship with guests. A few ways to encourage direct bookings are as follows:
- Offer exclusive benefits: Hotels can offer exclusive benefits to guests who book directly through their website, such as free breakfast, room upgrades, or late check-out.
- Loyalty programmes: Such programmes can encourage guests to make repeat direct bookings. Points may be redeemed for free nights or other perks, as well as exclusive discounts or offers.
- Price match guarantee: To compete with third-party booking sites, hotels can offer a price match guarantee to guests who book directly through their website. This can provide guests with the assurance that they are getting the best possible rate, while also encouraging them to book directly with the hotel.
- User-friendly website: Ensuring the hotel website experience is user-friendly, makes it easy for guests to find the information they need and book their stay. The booking process should be clear and easy to navigate, which is made possible through a high-quality booking engine. In addition, ensure high-quality photos and videos of the hotel and its amenities are displayed (or even virtual reality experiences), as well as detailed descriptions of room types and rates.
- Personalised communication: Properties can send targeted emails to guests who have previously booked through a third-party site and offer them exclusive discounts or other incentives to book directly through the hotel’s website.
Use Personalisation in Loyalty Programmes and Marketing Communications
Hotels and other hospitality establishments can use analytics to personalise their loyalty programs in a variety of ways. Personalised rewards can be generated based on behavioural data; for example, if a guest frequently stays at a hotel for business travel, they can be offered discounts on meeting room rentals, while those staying for leisure purposes may be offered discounts on bike rentals or local attractions. If they tend to book spa treatments, offering personalised packages based on their purchase history is an option.
Restaurants and bars can offer personalised rewards based on sales data. If a customer frequently orders a certain dish or brand of drink, they may be offered that specific item for free or at a discount after accumulating a certain number of points.
In terms of general marketing communications, behavioural data such as the above can ensure that communications are targeted. If a customer frequently orders meals to takeaway, they may be sent emails about promotions for takeaways, rather than more generic offers. Another way this may manifest is in product recommendations; if a customer frequently orders a certain type of wine, for example, the restaurant or bar can recommend similar wines to try.
Another data point to consider is the timing of customer visits; if a hotel guest has a pattern of visiting in a certain season, they may be informed of seasonal promotions while patrons visiting bars or restaurants on specific days of the week may be offered a special promotion or discount on that day, as a recognition of their loyalty.
A survey by Qubit revealed that the greatest challenges in implementing personalisation programmes in hotels relate to a lack of required data (42%) and a lack of tools and technology (31%). With personalisation being such an important factor in customer satisfaction across the board, it is essential to review the software in use.
Use the Right Marketing Technology
It is a good idea for hospitality businesses to review their martech stacks to ensure their software can deliver.
Modern property management and point of sale systems often have in-built analytics capabilities.
They may also have built-in CRM systems which allow for better management of customer communications (or at the very least, they should be able to integrate with such systems). CRM systems also provide another source of data on guest preferences, booking history, and spending patterns, which can be used for targeting purposes.
Keep in mind that modern, cloud-based systems allow data to be aggregated and transferred between systems easily.
Some other hospitality tech considerations are as follows:
- Mobile apps: As mentioned, mobile apps can provide the contactless experiences and convenience that today’s customers seek.
- Marketing automation platforms: This software helps automate repetitive marketing tasks, such as sending welcome emails, follow-up messages, and promotional offers. These platforms can also track customer behaviour and trigger automated marketing campaigns based on specific actions, such as booking a room or dining at a restaurant.
- Online reputation management tools: These tools can help businesses monitor and respond to customer reviews on popular sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. These tools can also help businesses track sentiment, identify trends, and address potential issues before they become major problems.
- Customer data management platforms: These platforms can help businesses collect, manage, and analyse customer data in a centralised manner, providing a since source of truth.
Offer Unique Amenities and Experiences
Offering unique amenities and experiences is an excellent way for hospitality businesses to differentiate themselves. It may be as simple as hosting a themed event, or something with a more long-term focus such as purchasing new spa equipment for treatments that are growing in demand, such as the use of cryotherapy chambers. Boutique hotels may offer private chef experiences or workshops where guests can learn to make regional dishes or taste local delicacies.
There are plenty of ways to capitalise on an establishment’s location to offer such experiences. Hotels in natural settings may partner with local tour guides to offer hikes, wildlife tours and other outdoor activities, while those in urban settings have many options for collaborating with local businesses with compatible branding (i.e., a luxury hotel may partner with high-end amenities). Collaboration should extend to the marketing campaigns of each business for enhanced visibility.
Hosting themed events is an excellent way to attract new customers and create a buzz around a hotel or any other hospitality business and may be especially effective for boutique hotels in areas of historic or cultural interest.
The key to a successful event is to choose a theme that is relevant to the audience and is on-brand.
Themed events also provide an excellent opportunity for visitors to create user-generated content. Encouraging attendees to share photos and videos on social media using a branded hashtag will help to spread the word and increase brand awareness for when the next event comes around.
Collaborate with Travel Bloggers and Influencers
Collaborating with travel bloggers and influencers is an excellent addition to any hospitality business’ social media strategy, helping in reaching a broad audience of potential customers. It is essential to work with individuals that align with the brand and target audience, and that have a significant following and high-quality content.
To collaborate with these individuals effectively, provide them with a unique experience they can share. This could include a complimentary stay/food and drinks or a personalised tour of the local area.
Hospitality is a crowded marketplace and therefore, businesses need to keep a close eye on the evolving industry trends. The introduction of new technologies that enable contactless processes (such as self-check-in kiosks) is just one example of how consumer preferences have changed in recent years. With the ongoing disruption technology will have, it is vital to stay up to date with changing consumer demands.
One of the most important strategies for hotels that want to increase their revenues is to encourage direct bookings. With the right incentivising, customers can be encouraged to change their booking habits, saving hotels on OTA commissions.
Other areas to review include loyalty programmes and marketing communications, ensuring that data-driven personalisation is applied in these areas. Hospitality businesses should also review their marketing technology stack to ensure it is adequately serving them. Marketing automation software, customer data platforms, and mobile apps are a few examples to consider.
Finally, offering unique experiences such as themed events is another way for hospitality businesses to differentiate themselves, and collaborating with travel bloggers and influencers help raise brand awareness.
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