NB: This is a guest article by John McAuliffe, chief marketing officer at VFM Leonardo.
Hoteliers have been marketing their properties on the web for years, but they need to constantly re-think their strategies in order to lead the pack.
The way consumers shop for and book hotel accommodations has evolved and disciplines such as social media and mobile have entered the picture, and likely wonâ€™t be leaving it any time soon.
As hotel marketers attempt to navigate the complicated web they are bombarded with misinformation about how to succeed. In this article we will identify and explore these myths and reveal the truths behind them.
Myth 1: “All that matters is where the guest books.”
The average traveler visits 22 travel related sites during 9.5 research sessions prior to booking, according to Google. Engaging travel consumers at all points of interaction with your hotel (even those that arenâ€™t transactional) needs to be a top priority.
Paul Brown, president of global brands and commercial services for Hilton Worldwide, states that Hilton is now focused on ensuring their properties are properly represented and merchandised across all relevant channels.
They have shifted their focus solely from point of booking to include point of decision.
The rest of the industry needs to follow Hiltonâ€™s lead and think beyond where their guests book to the whole shopping process and ensure that all of the touchpoints guests have with the brand or property along the way are engaging and informative.
Because what really matters is where the consumer makes their decision.
Myth 2: “Guests donâ€™t use Facebook to shop for hotels.”
Although referrals from FacebookÂ are more likely to book than those who are referred to by a Google search, booking is only a small part of the equation. Guests do in fact use Facebook to shop for hotels.
To capitalize on this growth in social media, hotel chains and individual properties are rapidly creating Facebook pages, but many are lacking good content that tells the hotelâ€™s story.
This story is what hotel shoppers are looking for. Hoteliers need to ask themselves if their Facebook page meets the needs of traveler at every stage of travel, from dreaming to sharing.
Best Western International is a chain that others can learn from.
“Itâ€™s imperative that we answer the call from our customer to make it easy to research, book and share travel experiences through their preferred channels,” says Dorothy Dowling, Best Westernâ€™s senior vice president of marketing and sales in a recent press release. See Best Westernâ€™s corporate Facebook page here.
Myth 3: “We donâ€™t need a mobile website. Our brand has an App.”
According to PhoCusWright, 28% of leisure travelers who conduct travel-related activities via web only use mobile websites to do so, while 72% use some combination of mobile websites and apps.
More tellingly 0% of leisure travelers use apps solely to conduct travel related research and purchase activity.
This is why you need a mobile optimized hotel website, even if your brand has an App. Your mobile website should not simply be a stripped down version your standard website.
Your mobile site needs the features and content consumers rely upon to help with their shopping decision, including engaging visuals, hotel details, booking options, integrated social media, special offers, map and contact information.
Hotels can learn from online retailers who have jumped on board with mobile websites.
Beauty retailer, Sephora, for example, has a mobile website that includes product videos organized by content type, GPS based store locator, shopping list creator, order history/tracking, and mobile exclusive offers – all features that mobile shoppers find valuable.
What other hotel marketing myths have you encountered?