As we all know, hotel occupancy rates and ADRs have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. While consumers are not traveling internationally, they are still traveling domestically, and these closer to home travel arrangements have increased travel by personal vehicle versus airline. Fortunately, this summer has seen some occupancy increases driven by vacation leisure travel. Business travel has decreased significantly, and the general consensus is that it’s not likely to return to pre-COVID, or near pre-COVID levels until a vaccine has been made readily available. As a result of the pandemic, some lodging companies will be sold and merged with others to survive. For hotels to survive, they must work to improve personalization and learn to use their first-party data combined with third-party data to build out improved guest segmentation and guest personas, to drive more relevant communication and offerings.
TIP: Do not resort to age-old marketing practices.
Over the years, hotels have been slower to adopt data-driven marketing decisions and strategy development than other industries. COVID-19 is forcing hotels to accelerate that adoption. Those that welcome this transition are quickly gaining insights into how guest behaviors have evolved. Hoteliers are finding many age-old marketing practices no longer resonate as effectively because consumers expect to be treated as individuals. Hoteliers need to continue to move forward with a data-driven marketing approach that drives more personalized marketing that better resonates with different travelers. If they haven’t already, hoteliers should start focusing on advertising and marketing spend on regional feeder markets. Try offering stay-cation deals for locals, weekend getaway packages, special occasions, F&B packages and family packages. Plus, add the option of a bonus night on either side for your regional markets.
TIP: Work with Google to make paid marketing, such as SEM and GDN, work for your company.
Organic referrals and paid/performance marketing on Google contribute to an average of 50% of direct online room bookings. As the leading search engine, Google knows more about Internet users and online travel consumers than anyone else, so it is imperative that hoteliers incorporate Google into marketing efforts. As bookings start to increase again, pay attention to where guests are coming from. Use PPC remarketing to re-engage potential customers who have previously visited your property’s website but didn’t make a booking. Upload a .csv file of email addresses, and the ones that Google recognizes will be targeted with ads. Make sure to keep an eye on your own booking data in addition to industry and local market data to identify trends. Your own data may reveal opportunities unique to your hotel which can drive SEM and GDN campaign audiences, messaging and promotional offers.
TIP: Work with Google on organic marketing, such as SEO and content marketing.
Localization is taking on more significance now for attracting new and retaining old customers, making them feel comfortable with a hotel’s brand trustworthiness. Hotel marketers should leverage a relationship with Google to provide more local written and video content to improve the ranking in a search and the appeal of a guest staying at their property. In addition, making sure the property website is mobile-ready; having fast download speeds and mobile-friendly content because all of these factors into the Google algorithms. Mobile-friendly is very important for hoteliers because 70% of website visitors are now viewing lodging websites on mobile devices.
TIP: Leverage data to make the most out of a paid marketing campaign with Google.
Conduct analytics to understand your customers’ behaviors and preferences. Try to figure out what customers that have been locked at home for six-plus months are most likely to book and what deals may entice these cautious travelers to take the final step toward booking. Let data drive your strategy narrowing down your categories and bidding on AdWords. Be creative in developing unique and relevant content that resonates with customers and prospects.
What not to do
Avoid treating every potential customer the same. Don’t provide generic content. Just like other forms of marketing, targeting the right audience with the right message and offer is the best way to improve conversions and ROI. Also remember, that it’s not just the keywords and ad content that impacts results for Google paid marketing. You have to make sure your site is optimized, mobile-friendly and refreshed on a regular basis with new content. Paid marketing is not a silo within marketing — all levels of marketing have to work together to be successful.
Colleen Thorndike is director of data strategy at Valid, a global technology provider that offers a complete portfolio of solutions in payment, mobile, data and identity solutions, as well as digital marketing and digital certification.