By Margaret Mastrogiacomo

As hoteliers prepare for the Holiday Season and Q4 occupancy needs, there’s a one-day event that has become a holiday all on its own that hoteliers simply can no longer ignore: Cyber Monday. This year Cyber Monday falls on November 30, which is perfect for generating last-minute holiday bookings, but most importantly, secure business for the dreadful Q1 2016.

Is your Holiday Season strategy ready?

In 2014, Cyber Monday sales exceeded $2 billion, making it the biggest online shopping day of the year. So what does this mean for hotel brands? According to Google, an astounding 40% of these online shoppers are interested in travel deals and Cyber Monday related searches grew 29% year-over-year with smartphone queries up during Cyber Week by 18% year-over-year, making it no secret that shoppers are online and ready to book travel during Cyber Monday.

But how can hoteliers prepare? The time between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is critical with travel deal research starting before Thanksgiving and seeing its first peak of the season on Cyber Monday. Google also states that even after Cyber Monday, New Year’s travel planning is already top of mind, especially for top cities such as New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. This reveals just how vital it is for hotel marketers to capitalize on post-Cyber Monday traction and buzz to answer any last-minute business needs or low occupancy.

In light of this, hoteliers should consider building a robust multi-channel campaign plan including three phases: Pre-Sale, Cyber Monday, and Extended Sale.

Pre-Sale Phase

This Pre-Sale phase is crucial to tap into user search traffic of potential guests already researching Cyber Monday travel deals. In this phase, potential guests should be prompted to sign-up to gain pre-access to the sale or to receive an alert reminder as soon as the sale goes live. This is also a great way to build your email marketing list for future campaigns.

Another reason this phase is the foundation of campaign success is to allow the marketing initiatives to ramp up and build traction. Most importantly, you want to utilize a large cookie pool to retarget users on Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday Phase

When the big day arrives, you want to ensure that your marketing initiatives have been fully ramped up and increase impressions and share of voice of all marketing initiatives to generate the greatest impact and ROI for the next 24 hours of the sale. Email alerts and email marketing to the brand email list is essential in getting qualified traffic, leads, and bookings. Sending an email reminder four hours before the sale is about to end is also a great way to boost bookings and to give the campaign a last minute push for revenue.

Extended Sale Phase

To capitalize on Cyber Monday traction and search traffic surrounding New Year’s travel planning, hotel brands should extend the Cyber Monday sale at a lesser discount. This is a great way to capture those last-minute bookings and ensure occupancy is up throughout the entire fourth quarter and the beginning of Q1.

Once you build your three phase plan, it’s important to develop an enticing offer that will break through the Cyber Monday noise, create exciting campaign creative that elicits a sense of urgency, and build a digital marketing plan that utilizes the right marketing initiatives throughout each phase of the campaign. To make the strongest impact on consumers, start by developing an irresistible offer and campaign creative that stands out from competitors.

Cyber Monday Special Offer

As the demand for Cyber Monday travel deals continues to grow, so does the competition. Be sure to offer at least a 30-40% discount on hotel stays and any added value that will give your hotel brand a competitive edge, such as free parking, free breakfast, free wifi, and more.

If you are a luxury hotel brand, focus more on value-driven packages instead of discounts. Experiential packages such as a two-night stay including a $50 dining credit and a $50 spa credit or shopping gift card can go a long way, as well as personalized touches such as car service, in-room chef experiences, and so on.

Campaign Technology and Creative

Since Cyber Monday is a one-day sale, you need to choose the right digital technology and creative to help you engage travel consumers and build a sense of urgency for potential guests.

HeBS Digital’s award-winning Interactive Limited Time Offer Application is one example of such digital technology applications capable of maximizing revenue from the Cyber Monday promotion. Serving as the central hub for the promotion, this highly visual fully responsive application features a prominently displayed countdown clock, booking functionality with embedded promo code, large, rich imagery of the hotel, social and viral sharing features, email sign up widget to expand your email marketing list or loyalty program, as well key information to potential guests about the sale, benefits, and rules.

In the Pre-Sale Phase, the countdown clock counts down the days and hours until the beginning of the Cyber Monday sale. Upon signing up, the user receives a confirmation email with the Cyber Monday booking code and a limited timeframe to book the deal.

During the 24-hour Cyber Monday Phase, the application “opens” the reservation widget with the embedded promo code to the general public and the countdown clock starts counting down the hours and minutes until the end of the promotion.

In the Extended Sale Phase, the countdown clock counts down the days and hours until the end of the extended Cyber Monday sale.

And finally, once a strong foundation is built through a competitive special offer and rich, interactive creative, hotel brands must ensure they have adequate budget, the right marketing initiatives, and the right targeting and strategy.

Budget & Initiatives

Due to competitiveness, core budget initiatives such as SEM, Google Display Network, and ongoing Display Media should be increased by at least 50% to ensure adequate share of voice with top competitors. Also, a multi-channel marketing plan should be developed in addition to these core initiatives and fully integrated. These initiatives include: email marketing, press release, social media advertising, additional supplementary media such as TripAdvisor display and top travel ad networks such as Sojern and ADARA. Any owned media should be updated as well including TripAdvisor Business Listing Special Offers and Announcements, brand social media presence, the hotel website, and so on.

Targeting & Strategy

On Cyber Monday, the right targeting can help you hone in on highly qualified traffic at a more affordable cost. Consider targeting strategies such as remarketing, GDN similar users, Facebook look-a-like audiences, and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). First-party data from top travel ad networks such as Sojern and ADARA will also allow you to target users during the travel planning process to your hotel’s destination. Smart targeting capabilities such as these will not only drive qualified traffic, but will reach users lower in the purchase funnel to increase conversions.

How well does this Cyber Monday strategy work?

In 2014, a boutique multi-property brand launched a 30% discount Cyber Monday campaign that resulted in a return on ad spend of 3,171% and a 51% increase in year over year bookings, showcasing just how powerful a strategic campaign can be on Cyber Monday.

At the same time, Hotel Mahekal, a boutique property in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, launched a Cyber Monday campaign to generate brand awareness after a re-brand, announce the resort’s reopening post-renovations, and generate revenue. The sale resulted in a return on ad spend of 1,891% and 3,035 unique customer engagements.

If you’re inspired to get started and dramatically increase ROI for upcoming quarters, don’t just capitalize on one of the largest online shopping days of the year, seize the opportunity to build an exciting, strategic multi-channel campaign that customers will love as much as their stay.