“The customer comes first” - that’s the mindset of today’s marketer. And for the hospitality and travel industry, the constant battle to be at the forefront of personalization is at its peak. In a mobile-first world, getting the right message across at the exact moment a person is researching travel plans is key. For hotel brands to stay competitive with their OTA counterparts, they must constantly innovate and adapt to the latest tech trends. This summer, Google announced a shift in its platform, bringing Hotel Ads under the Google Ads umbrella, signifying endless possibilities for hotel marketers.
Due to OTAs’ larger marketing budgets and massive reach, it has been a constant struggle for hotel marketers to compete. With the shift to digital advertising, OTAs have been successful in dominating the battle, creating hyper-targeted and personalized ad campaigns that woo consumers. For hotel brands, not only are they competing for brand awareness, they’re also losing anywhere from 15-30 percent of booking fees to OTAs. When it comes to online marketing, hotel brands have always been playing catch up, until now.
With Google Hotel Ads, marketers now have the ability to appear on the first page of a Google search increasing their customer base. By understanding customer data and creating personalized retargeting strategies, hotel brands can finally get the leg up they were looking for. But before that can happen, one must first understand the importance of Google Hotel Ads and how to incorporate it within campaigns.
Leverage Your First-Party Data
While OTAs have a wide array of tools at their disposal, an area where hotel brands have an advantage is with their first party-data. This data, collected directly from interactions with customers, can signify intent and interests, and aid in retargeting efforts. The key for hotel marketers lies within this data, and in using it strategically to drive campaign decisions.
The first step is to assess this data to understand everything you can about your target customer. Where are they booking their travel (mobile, desktop, phone, etc.)? How long are they spending on research and your hotel’s website, and are they incentivized by promotions? Data is a marketer’s roadmap, identifying your customers and aiding in driving campaigns. First-party data should be used to create personalized, custom ad campaigns per audience segment, based on their stated interests. For example, an audience segment consisting of travelers with children means the ad should be focused on benefits for families, including incentives to book during school breaks or kids programs. Data comes from different sources whether it is website traffic, past bookings or loyalty programs. Having access to first party data provides the leg up over the OTA competition.
Personalize for Consumers
While OTAs have significantly larger budgets than hotel brands, a key way to stay competitive while using tools like Google Hotel Ads is to create hyper-personalized, targeted campaigns utilizing the aforementioned first party data. Nearly 50 percent of marketers in the hospitality industry are using automated data to create personalized ads to increase brand awareness and bookings. Personalization is the key to making travelers feel that you value their visits and their business.
Customers who have expressed interest in seasonal promotions will enjoy receiving ads or emails based on these incentives, as it signifies that marketers care. In a recent study, 71 percent of consumers said that they prefer ads that are personalized. People want to see relevant ads that are tailored to their needs and feel like that ad was created for them and is on their screen for a reason. One thing that we are seeing as an industry is that more often than not, a consumer is using a mobile device when planning their travel plans. These types of trends are ones hotel marketers need to be on top of to put their brand in a position to capitalize on.
Understand Audience Offerings
Once you have figured out who you’re targeting, where you’re targeting them and what message you’ll send them, it’s time decide what audience option is best for your campaign.
There are three tools from Google Hotel Ads: Bid Multipliers, Fenced Rates and Qualified Rates. Bid Multipliers will allow you to bid at a higher rate for an audience, allowing you to secure more eyes in the audience that see your ads. Fenced Rates allow you to be flexible and adjust your price based on the audience segment, whether you segment based on what device they are viewing from or their location, for example you can target a person on mobile with one price and someone on desktop with another. Qualified Rates are a type of fenced rate, allowing you to target consumers with different prices using information such as loyalty program data or knowing a customer always books a suite. You can then use that to target them with a lower price for a suite than someone who has never booked with your hotel before. Each has its own benefits, and can be utilized differently when targeting different segments.
Considering the resources of an OTA, hotel marketers can rely on CRMs, CDPs and other technology partners to supplement its internal efforts. While an OTA has great reach within the market, staying atop of trends and advancements like Google Hotel Ads is key for a hotel marketer rising to the top.