News for the Hospitality Executive
March 9, 2011
Today’s hotelier is faced with a big challenge: to capture and retain the attention of consumers who are constantly on-the-go and becoming increasingly aware of their control over the way they receive and interact with your marketing messages. Societal changes mean that today’s consumer, otherwise known as the hyper-interactive travel consumer, is communicating 24/7 via social networks and mobile devices. This behavior is forcing a complete channel convergence, in which all marketing and distribution channels are combining into a single channel to engage the customer. This channel is called the Customer Engagement Channel.
The Customer Engagement Channel demands a completely new distribution and marketing approach in order to meet the demands of today’s consumer. Consumers must be convinced that your channel is theirs and that they are in full control of the content they receive and consume. They must also feel control over if, when and how they engage with your brand.
What has caused the shift from traditional marketing to engagement marketing? Why do hotel brands need to shift their marketing messages from one-sided conversations (speaking to consumers) to engaging discussions (speaking with consumers)?
Over the past three years, a number of very important developments occurred that profoundly changed hotel marketing, content distribution and customer engagement in hospitality. What forces have combined to lead to the emergence of the Customer Engagement Channel?
Social Media and the Mobile Web have accelerated the hyper-interactivity of Internet users and travel consumers in general. Social media mean deep user engagement; content generation by users on a daily, if not hourly basis; multi-channel interactions; and opinion sharing. The Mobile Web takes this behavior to an entirely new level and enables it 24/7.
This new Hyper-Interactive Travel Consumer is:
Multi-Channel Marketing is the New Norm
Today’s hyper-interactive travel consumers see your marketing messages across a variety of different channels. Now more than ever, there is a convergence of new and traditional digital formats, of interactive and offline marketing channels such as social media and print, hotel websites and social media initiatives, mobile and email, etc. Hoteliers need to reach future and current customers at multiple touch-points and understand that all of this activity will culminate on the hotel website.
The hotel website has become the main hub for content delivery and multi-channel customer engagement:
Marketing and Distribution Channel Convergence
Some marketing initiatives, if judged on their own merits, generate disappointing ROIs. But unleashing a marketing promotional campaign simultaneously across all available marketing channels produces a compounded effect and far greater returns than each individual marketing format. In short, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Case Study: Holiday Travel Sale for a Multi-Property Resort Company
Description: A multi-property resort company launched a multi-channel marketing campaign in conjunction with a scavenger hunt that counted down the days until the travel sale launched. The scavenger hunt required each entrant to become a fan on Facebook, follow the brand on Twitter, sign up for the email and mobile opt in lists, subscribe to the brand’s YouTube Channel, and more.
Results: As a result of buzz-generating campaigns, the sale was a success from launch to completion.
The new hyper-interactive travel consumers, with their insatiable 24/7 need to share and respond to fresh, relevant information and experiences, have for better or worse blurred the boundaries between various distribution and marketing channels:
The Future is Now: The Emergence of a Single Customer Engagement Channel
Many studies suggest that today’s consumers are reading and writing more than ever in the history of human civilization. But what kind of content are people actively viewing, reading and/or writing today? Short, condensed snippets of information in the form of blogs, Facebook posts, text messages, Tweets, emails, etc. (Yes, this is not the 1400-page “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy).
Today’s travel consumer is exposed to and engaged by many snippets of information coming from all directions in a fast-paced, real-time 24/7 environment. The results of this new real-time, multi-format information overload include:
This convergence of marketing/media channels + the new hyper-interactive travel consumer = the emergence of one single Customer Engagement Channel.
The Customer Engagement Channel demands a completely new distribution and marketing approach and content: customers must be convinced that this is their channel.
The customer is now in full control of:
A New Marketing Approach for Hoteliers
This new single customer engagement channel demands a completely new approach to hotel marketing and distribution. Mastering the direct online channel and all of its segments: traditional Web, SEM, SEO, email, social media, mobile Web, etc., is a crucial step in this direction. Hoteliers must find a way to dominate the digital information cloud with their own marketing message and customer interactions, otherwise the OTAs and the competition will “control the conversation.”
To achieve that, hoteliers need to employ multi-channel marketing and distribution strategies, the antidote to the current silo approach. Multi-channel marketing has already become the norm and is the foundation for a smart direct online channel strategy. In this environment, the hotel website, SEM campaigns, email marketing, social media presence, mobile, etc. have a symbiotic relationship. Unleashing a marketing promotional campaign simultaneously across all available marketing channels produces a compounded effect and far greater returns than each individual marketing format.
Hoteliers must develop marketing campaigns that create customer engagement in order to achieve longer lasting results. Instead of a one-way dialogue, where a hotel sends out marketing messages hoping to direct people to the website and toward the reservations process, hoteliers must focus on building relationships through engagements.
Furthermore, hoteliers must start focusing on understanding the combination of marketing initiatives that lead to a customer engagement and potentially, a conversion.
In addition, there is now a need for smart and centralized content delivery. Not only must you reach the travel consumer at multiple touch points, but you must also try to serve the right content in the right format and at the right time. For example, invest in a new Content Management System (CMS) for the hotel website that allows all new special offers, promotions and events to be automatically pushed to your social media profiles and mobile website. Engagement requires tailored content via the appropriate medium.
How can hoteliers engage in this two-way conversation with current and potential guests?
Until three years ago, having a new hotel website and launching a few Internet marketing campaigns such as email and paid search were considered sufficient by many hoteliers. Today, the above falls into the elementary category and should only be the beginning of the hotel’s Internet marketing strategy. Hoteliers now need to do much more to engage the new breed of hyper-interactive travel consumers in this multichannel, 24/7 environment. This includes social and mobile marketing, Web 2.0 and interactive promotions and applications on the hotel website. Multi-channel marketing campaigns help to tie all of this together.
The hyper-interactive travel consumer has led to the emergence of the Customer Engagement Channel, requiring full alignment of marketing efforts with this new consumer behavior. As far as the travel consumer is concerned, the boundaries among media channels and various media and content formats have blurred into a single “hyper-interactive information cloud.” i.e. there is a total channel convergence.
With multichannel marketing and customer engagement as the new norm, it is no longer sufficient to just have a new hotel website. Or to just do basic SEM. Or email. Hoteliers need to engage the new travel consumers at every possible touch point in this very fast-paced 24/7 environment.
The Customer Engagement Channel will result in more loyal, long-term, and revenue- generating guests. In order to succeed and gain market share in 2011, hoteliers must make serious investments in the traditional Web and Web 2.0, social marketing, mobile marketing, multi-channel/technology capabilities, and human capital. They must fully embrace the fact that their website visitors demand personalized value, dynamic and integrated content delivery, and full control of the Customer Engagement Channel.
In 2011, hoteliers need to invest in technologies and expertise needed to better execute these types of multi-platform and multi-format campaigns. Consider partnering with a company that fully understands this convergence of marketing and content distribution channels, is fluent in multi-channel marketing methods, and understands that the Customer Engagement Channel is now a reality.
About the Authors:
Max Starkov is Chief eBusiness Strategist and Mariana Mechoso Safer is Vice President, Marketing at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies (HeBS), the industry’s leading full-service hotel digital marketing and direct online channel strategy firm based in New York City (www.HospitalityeBusiness.com).
HeBS has pioneered many of the "best practices" in hotel Internet marketing, social and mobile marketing, and direct online channel distribution. The firm has won over 125 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, IAC Awards, etc.
A diverse client portfolio of over 500 top tier major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel brands, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs has sought and successfully taken advantage of the firm hospitality Internet marketing expertise offered at HeBS. Contact HeBS consultants at (212) 752-8186 or email@example.com.
Mariana Mechoso Safer
Hospitality eBusiness Strategies, Inc.
6 West 48th Street, 8th Floor. New York, NY 10036
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