2020 brought many challenges upon businesses and forced a digital acceleration. The hospitality industry felt this in unique ways with a global pandemic that closed restaurants and halted travels. Add to that protests of social media platforms, continued concern over data privacy, and civil unrest. Marketers within the hospitality industry are now marketing to an entirely new world.
Social media has long been a tactic for marketers across industries to reach audiences. But now that’s no longer the best way to learn about people and build direct connections with customers. A recent Forrester report shows 41% of Millennials and Gen Z users are spending less time on social media. This shift in social media habits reflects a massive change 2020 has brought, the emergence of the trust economy. The trust economy is driven by the idea that trust is the most powerful commodity we have. Trust has proven to be increasingly powerful through a global pandemic, civil unrest, and changing consumer behaviors.
With trust as the foundation and the digital acceleration spurred by the pandemic, a new way of marketing has emerged. This way isn’t reliant on buying ads and making social media posts, but rather data-driven engagement. Data-driven engagement is key to helping restaurants and hotels pivot, grow their online channels and increase revenue. There are three ways restaurants and hotels can power digital acceleration through data driven engagement.
- Choose zero-party data
Zero-party data is any data that a customer willingly shares with a brand, often in an exchange of value. (Their email address for a coupon, for example.) Marketers must look to zero-party data to drive their strategies. However, because today’s consumer is increasingly protective of their data, brands must take the responsibility to implement strong privacy policies, manage customer data in a secure way and ask for permission for data usage. Close to 90% of consumers are willing to share personal data with a brand in exchange for rewards, discounts, points, or coupons. After acquiring this data, crafting specialized content for customers will build stronger connections and lifelong loyalty.
- Leverage data from customer interactions
Restaurants went from majority in-store sales to 100% online, stays at hotels are less frequent, some diners are not ready to go back to dining in person and some can’t wait to go back. Behaviors have changed and marketers need to learn what they are. With all these changes, marketers need to pool their first party data from these interactions to learn who their customers are. This data should inform how customers are segmented and what messaging is used to reach them. Segmentation should happen by need now. Are they ready to eat at a restaurant? Are they wanting a contactless check-in? With these data points, different strategies for marketing can be developed.
- Create a loyalty program that provides value
The best loyalty programs provide a real value exchange for the customer going beyond rewards, discounts, points or coupons. For example, what can really set a loyalty program apart is removing the friction from joining. Consider &pizza, it switched to a frictionless sign-up for its loyalty program and within the first month, it doubled registration for the loyalty program compared to their previous monthly highs. A frictionless sign-up is all about removing the hurdles for customers to sign up and start earning rewards. A successful loyalty program meets customers where they are and makes it easy for them to engage.
This data-driven approach is the future of marketing in the hospitality industry. Just look to the success of brands that have already adopted it. Bloomin’ Brands uses data to drive messaging and saw their off-premise business triple this year. &pizza increased digital revenue from 40% to nearly 90% in less than a month. Safe and transparent data driven engagement will set brands up for success moving forward.
About the Author:
Richard Jones is CMO of Cheetah Digital, a cross-channel customer engagement solution provider for brands including American Express, Hilton, Walgreens, and Williams-Sonoma. He was previously CEO of Wayin before the company was acquired by Cheetah Digital in 2019 and rebranded as Cheetah Experiences. Jones is an expert in zero-party data and is committed to helping brands provide a value exchange with consumers through the lifecycle in return for consumer attention, engagement and loyalty.