How Influencers Drive Brand Awareness, Direct Bookings and Revenue
This article from Swayy discusses the power of influencer marketing in the hospitality industry.
Within hospitality, online travel agencies (OTAs) have pioneered the digital transformation of travel purchase decisions. However, we can take back a piece of the pie, and increase our direct bookings, and increase revenue, by engaging with travel influencers.
Consumer behavior is changing, and we need to keep up. Everyone is looking for an easy life, especially as their lives get busier, and time seems to disappear. An increasing number of purchases are made by smartphone; in fact Intercontinental Hotel Group reported that “mobile will account for over 40% of travel bookings by 2020.”
Interestingly, OTAs have embraced this change, and made purchasing a stay easier than ever before. With just a few clicks, a room is booked. This is all well and good, but that booking comes at a price of up to 20% commission. That’s 20% off of your bottom line. The pain doesn't stop there; if you’d sold that room directly, it would be a further 18% more profitable, enabling a greater opportunity to upsell and cross sell.
Though OTAs are here to stay, and in some corners of the hotel industry are vital to a business' survival, there is something you can do to reduce lost profits. If you go back to consumer behavior, 1 in 5 mobile minutes is spent on Facebook and Instagram alone. This is a fact you cannot ignore but should embrace. Social media is the best way to showcase your property/ies, to hundreds of thousands of potential customers from all over the globe. This is digital word of mouth, the most powerful marketing strategy to date. It allows you to grow your business organically, and is 100% targeted, enabling you to reach more potential customers than standard marketing campaigns.
Why is digital word of mouth so powerful? People are looking for authentic experiences and advice when making holiday purchase decisions. Consider this: you all have recommended, or been recommended, a place to stay or eat from your friends and family. More important, I bet most if not all of you have acted on at least one of those recommendations. That is to say: you either have been influencers or been influenced.
Why is this? It’s simple. These recommendations have come from people you trust. The issue is that standard word of mouth is not scalable, and is localized. Digital word of mouth has no restraints, and will similarly come from people that have built trust and credibility.
The trusted individuals I’m talking about have thousands upon thousands of “followers” who are interested in their travel exploits, and actively interact with these personalities. In this way, influencer marketing has eclipsed traditional marketing as it performs entirely on the basis of consensual and non-intrusive means. An influencer enables you to showcase your hotel through the eyes of a typical guest who fits your key demographic and whose followers will be like-minded individuals. These are the right people to help you showcase your brand and values.
As Marriott puts it:
“Influencer marketing is here to stay, and should play a central role in your strategy to win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers.”
Utilising unsold inventory by offering an influencer a complimentary stay in exchange for social media coverage of your property is the best way to turn a negative into a positive. It enables you to drive brand awareness and show off the best your property has to offer in a way that is perceived by the consumer to be authentic. Accordingly, it is pivotal to vet your influencers carefully by selecting those that have established a credible reputation for themselves and that prize integrity above personal profit to be gained from advertising content. The fewer their posts with paid ad content, the higher their credibility.
But does it really work? you ask. Quite simply, yes! For years, the largest hotel chains, such as Marriott, Starwood and Intercontinental Hotel Group have embraced influencer marketing, inviting many travel Influencers to stay and showcase their brand, but it’s not exclusive to them. John Fowler Holiday Parks has three properties based in the south of England and reported these results:
“Continued work with influencers [has] resulted in a 67% increase in revenue, 630% ROI in 3 months and a 52% increase in organic conversation rate.”
So which social media platform should you use?
There are many platforms out there, but there is only one that is standing head and shoulders over the others at the moment: Instagram. Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform to date, with more than 800 million active users, and growing at 100 million new users every 6 months. But as I’ve said previously, it's not always about size, but about what Instagram is based on: images.
By virtue of the fact that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, Instagram sets itself apart from any other platform. These images provoke emotion and desire, which helps start the consumer on the “dreaming and planning” phase of the purchasing journey. It is about tapping into the subconscious of the consumer, and putting your brand in the forefront of their minds.
In summary, we can take back a piece of the pie, and increase our brand awareness, direct bookings and revenue, by engaging with travel influencers.