For busy hotel marketers, who probably view the last six months as a blur, it’s hard to believe we’re almost to the halfway mark of 2019. But with summer and fall seasonal visitors making travel plans and two major holidays still to come, there are a lot of marketing strategies to employ before the year closes. So, let’s cover the top digital marketing trends we’ve seen so far for 2019 in the hotel industry, and the strategies you should keep on your radar as you travel into 2020.
This year, hotel marketers have been largely focused on leveraging digital channels and tools to attract, connect with, and retain customers. Their efforts may have included enhancing their SEO presence, employing top digital technologies, improving the customer experience on their websites, and more. But no matter what strategies they or you have employed so far, the following are several takeaways that can boost your marketing efforts moving forward.
1. Room for SEO
For years, hotel marketers have made room for SEO optimization, identifying top performing keywords to reach new customers, drive traffic to their website, and capture more market share. What’s increased in 2019 is their focus on long-tail keywords. As more consumers use voice search through mobile devices, the searches tend to follow more natural speech (examples: “Show me hotels near the Tampa Convention Center”, “hotels with retro furnishings”), making long-tail keywords a valuable target. They are also easier to capture in situations where the competition for traditional keywords is high.
When marketing your hotel property, give top consideration to incorporating keywords tied to location, guest services, amenities, and brand-specific marketing and features (comfort, price, popular taglines, etc.). You should also include keywords that connect your location to highly visited attractions in the area, such as amusement parks, sports stadiums, museums, art galleries, historical sites, and conference centers.
2. Early Check-Ins
Start the guest experience early by allowing site visitors to immerse themselves in interactive, mobile-friendly virtual tours of your hotel rooms, a top digital marketing trend that has been shown to increase bookings. You can also:
- Leverage Google Maps Street View technology to invite guests in
- Embed virtual tours of your property on social media for easy sharing
- Offer videos that let them explore your property, dining areas, and recreation facilities
3. A Little Housekeeping
Optimize guest experiences on the website even further with these winning strategies:
- Optimize your website for mobile: Today, the market share for internet traffic on mobile devices is on par with desktop traffic. Consumers expect completely mobile-friendly design, so be sure your site is ready.
- Make booking options clearly visible: Site visitors will appreciate the convenience and ease of going directly to the reservation part of your site. Provide a clear, prominently placed option to quickly search for their specific travel dates and review room options and prices. Make sure your “book now” option displays high on mobile device views.
- Keep them browsing, not bouncing: The more information you can provide to keep visitors engaged and prompt them to take action while your brand is currently top of mind, the better. On your reservation page or on an exit pop-up, consider offering an incentive for making the reservation quickly, such as book now and get 20% off. Imposing a time element on your offers can help visitors who’ve been researching their options make their final decision with you.
- Use top-quality photography: It goes without saying that high-quality photography provides a great first impression of your hotel brand. But some sites don’t include photographs of each room type offered or an easy way to see all the amenities included in a specific room type. Let guests know exactly what they’re booking.
- Offer the whole package: Include menus of spa services and dining options so guests get a full picture of what’s available, and the overall costs that may be involved in their stay, depending on the amenities they plan to take advantage of.
Digital marketing strategies like these make it easier for guests to make decisions about leisure and business travel that they will be happy with. Avoiding unhappy surprises can increase guest satisfaction overall, as well as their impression of your brand.
4. Breakfast – and Loyalty – Included
Guests that regularly engage with certain hospitality brands or frequently travel will often inquire about the availability of loyalty programs. Whether these programs encourage guests to earn points they can redeem for discounts, special services at the hotel, free breakfasts or Wi-Fi access, or even free future stays, they’ve become the norm for hotel brands. Include details about your loyalty program on your website, offer membership information at checkout or in your rooms, and include offers to join your loyalty program in communications post-visit.
Remember that loyalty programs require loyalty on both sides. Continue to enhance your rewards offers and communicate regularly with loyalty program members. If loyalty members become inactive, reach out via email to encourage a repeat visit, share news about what’s changed on the property since their last visit, and let them know if they have rewards points they can use. Most of all, show them how important your business is to them. Let them know you’ve noticed they haven’t been to your property in a while and ask them if there is anything you can do to change that. You can learn a lot from your most loyal customers, including what makes their stays more memorable or the reasons their perception of your brand has changed.
5. Checking In After Guests Have Checked Out
The final top digital marketing trend for 2019? Email followup. When guests conclude their stay, don’t let it conclude your relationship with them. Send an immediate followup email and survey to gauge their satisfaction with their visit. Then continue communications with digital marketing campaigns that keep you top of mind when they decide to return to the area or when someone else asks them for a recommendation for their travel plans. You can also leverage your followup emails to invite them to visit additional properties under your brand umbrella, sign up for your loyalty program, and take advantage of discounts from brand partners like rental car companies and nearby attractions.
Email savvy tips: Be sure your communications will continue to be received long after checkout by leveraging industry-best email list verification to keep your guest database clean, use an email verification API to ensure email addresses collected on web lead forms or provided at check-in exist in real-time, and improve your inbox placement and sender reputation with tools that solve deliverability issues and optimize email campaigns.
Leveraging the top digital marketing trends that hotel marketers found valuable in the first half of 2019 can make the second half even more successful.
Want more great tips for hotel marketers? We invite you to read “How Hotel Marketers Can Improve Hotel Guest Experiences.”