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3 years ago
 

Top three hotel marketing myths (and the truth behind them)

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 won’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 aren’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 Hilton’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 don’t use Facebook to shop for hotels.”

Although referrals from Facebook 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.

PhoCusWright finds that social networking is one of the most powerful forces driving travel planning today and the use of social media by travelers is growing faster than the travel industry itself.

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 hotel’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.

“It’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 Western’s senior vice president of marketing and sales in a recent press release. See Best Western’s corporate Facebook page here.

Myth 3: “We don’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?

NB: This is a guest article by John McAuliffe, chief marketing officer at VFM Leonardo. Follow McAuliffe on Twitter.

NB2: Table service image via Shutterstock.

 
 
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  1. Top three hotel marketing myths (and the truth behind them) › Guestbook

    […] Engaging travel consumers at all points of interaction with your hotel (even … Read more on TnoozShare and […]

     
  2. hhotelconsult

    Follow the data, and don’t make insinuations.

    You say “Guests do in fact use Facebook to shop hotels”, then bolster that with data that has nothing to do with your comment. If Phcusright says “Social Media” do they mean “Facebook”, exclusively?

    Facebook users are not consumers. Period. We need to get over the idea that passive real world connections will reap revenues because of random mentions on a site that is not about being a consumer. When Phcusright says “Social Media” they mean open networks that are about consuming… tripadvisor, yelp, twitter….

    and not finite, dying networks that are little more than buzz. We need to have more data, instead of trying to bolster our assumptions that Facebook has value to travel. It has value, but just like it’s evaluation, it’s likely massively overstated.

    Pareto Principle: 80% of results come from 20% of activity…. focus on the real, powerful social networks: search twitter for relevant brand and geographic terms, interact with user generated review sites, and stay on top of all social networks by being present….

    but constantly saying the word “Facebook”, and then making assumptions in place of real data, is simply going to submarine our travel world, and waste more time on networks that do not produce results.

     
    • John McAuliffe

      Hi Michael – thanks for reading the post and for your comments. Sorry it took me a bit of time to reply – I have been traveling and just now have had time to read through and respond.

      Certainly using Facebook was in no way suggesting hotel marketers should not be focusing on their broader social media strategy.

      That being said, as a new channel individual hotels can and are finding varying results on Facebook.
      From what I have seen it is like most new channels – you get out of it what you put in and those hotels with a focused and sustained effort seem to be seeing success in attraction and engagement levels and referrals to their booking path.

      The data I pulled from the study was specific to Facebook. In fact I encourage you to read the study but in case you do not have a copy here are two quotes from PhoCusWright on Facebook (back in 2011):

      1. Facebook referred 15.2 Million visitors to hotel websites in 2010 – up 35% from the previous year.
      2. Referrals from Facebook are converting at a higher rate than referrals from traveler review sites.

       
      • hhotelconsult

        Thank you so much! I wish I could break these numbers up even more. If those 2010 #’s are correct, and Jan 5th 2011 they had 600M users, then that means that only 2.5% of Facebook users were ever directed to a hotel website.

        I would love to know Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, etc. 2.5% does lend itself to the impression model, a bit?

         
  3. Douglas AUrand

    Your statement:

    “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”

    indicates that 100% Leisure Travelers use mobile devices and not computers at all

    That can’t possibly be true

     
    • John McAuliffe

      Hi Douglas – thanks for the comment.

      For clarity the statistic is for those consumers who conduct travel-related activities via the mobile web.

      So, “28% of leisure travelers who conduct travel related activities via the mobile web only use mobile websites to do so, while 72% use some combination of mobile websites and apps.”

      The point is still the same – for those that use the mobile web 0% use Apps solely, so marketers need to ensure they also have a mobile optimized website. And from what I have seen many hotel chains, properties and travel websites have not yet mobile optimized their sites.

      Hope that clarifies and helps… and again thanks for reading and the comment.

       
      • Douglas AUrand

        So of the 5 to 10% of Internet activity that is done with mobile devices, those that “conduct travel related activinties” are 28% use only mobile compatable websites and 72% use both mobile compatable websites and mobile apps.

        Is that correct?

        Here’s a link to stats that shows a mobile & desktop comparison

        http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_vs_desktop-ww-monthly-201103-201203

         
        • John McAuliffe

          Hi Douglas – thanks for your comments – this type of dialogue is what forces us all to be good marketers.

          I think your stats may be from October 2011 and from what I am reading and what I am seeing on our own analytics (the product we market to properties uses Omniture tracking) overall mobile traffic is more around 20% – across vanity websites, brand sites and travel websites. That being said 5%, 10% or 20% isn’t the point – mobile traffic and bookings on mobile devices is growing faster than bookings online for the travel space.

          There is an interesting article in e-marketer today that amplifies this fact http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1008979 . Further the article goes on to detail that the growth in those in the other stages of the travel shopping journey – research in particular – will double in growth between now and 2016.

          The mobile web is an environment every hotel marketer should be including in their strategies and plans.

           
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  5. James Hacon

    Great article John. Interestingly through my experience in the NZ & Australian market, I’d suggest that in general independent hotels seem to have far superior online presence than the larger chains, perhaps with larger hotels still spending their $ targeting the travel trade and group markets. Not sure if you see a similar pattern in the N.American market.

     
    • John McAuliffe

      Hi James. Thanks for the comment. I think your insights in the NZ and Australian market translate into NA. But I also think that independent hotels 1. have to work harder to attract and convert customers online and 2. do not face the same restrictions and policies branded hotels face from their franchisor.

       
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    […] Top three hotel marketing myths (and the truth behind them) 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 aren't transactional) needs to be a top … Read more on Tnooz […]

     
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