From Dreaming to Booking Part V: The Experiencing Phase How to Capitalize on the Experiencing Phase of the Travel Planning Journey
April 3, 2018 1:01am
By Margaret Mastrogiacomo, VP Strategy
This article is the final contribution in a five-part series that uncovers top strategies for reaching potential guests in meaningful moments throughout every stage of the travel planning journey to increase direct bookings. This article focuses on the fourth stage of travel planning: the experiencing phase.
So, you’ve won the booking. What’s next? Travelers are filled with anticipation and excitement for their upcoming trip, and now your hotel brand must deliver the best experience possible. While winning the booking may seem like the end of the customer journey, guiding the guest experience through meaningful digital touchpoints, and ultimately building a meaningful relationship to retain and increase the lifetime value of guests is the ultimate goal.
Below we explore the experiencing phase of our five-part series, “How to Capitalize on the Full Travel Planning Journey to Drive Direct Bookings,” to understand how hotel marketers can provide useful information and digital content to build your brand relationship, create brand advocates, and increase guest loyalty. We will uncover the online behaviors that are most common in this phase, the marketing and communication channels that are most effective, and how to measure success.
How does the experiencing phase take shape?
The experiencing phase begins the moment travelers start to look forward to their planned vacation, it continues when they arrive at your hotel’s destination, and with a well-executed strategy, the experiencing phase lives on long after their stay. Google refers to the micro-moments throughout this phase as “Can’t-Wait-To-Explore” moments that occur after a traveler has booked his or her accommodations.
According to Google, in this stage 85% of leisure travelers decide on activities only after having arrived at the destination. More importantly, now that your hotel brand has provided useful information to help travelers plan and book their trip, guests also expect you to help curate their experience. In fact, according to Ipsos Connect, nearly nine out of ten travelers expect their travel provider to share relevant information while they are on their trip, and 67% of travelers feel more loyal toward a travel company that shares information during their trip that improves their travel experience.
Guiding the guest experience on mobile.
According to Google, travelers increasingly rely on mobile to start exploring when they arrive in a new destination. Smartphone searches at hotels increased about 30% year over year, and since smartphones are location aware, travelers conduct simple mobile searches like “things to do near me” or “places to eat near me.” This begs the question: If travelers are mobile connected while exploring your hotel’s destination, is a mobile app the best way to guide the experience? According to further research from Ipsos Connect, only 23% of travelers say they have downloaded the app for travel brands they use the most. This reveals that your hotel website and digital content must be fully responsive and easily accessible on the mobile web.
What digital touchpoints are making an impact throughout the experiencing phase?
The average traveler encounters just over 40 digital travel touchpoints over two weeks leading up to and during the vacation. Of these 40 digital interactions, 17 were digital touchpoints across Google, and 100% of these touchpoints occurred on mobile.
A study conducted by Think with Google offers the following breakdown of time spent across different touch points throughout the experiencing phase:
With a little over half of mobile touch points taking place on search engines and maps, having a strong organic search presence throughout the experiencing phase is a great way to guide and shape guests’ vacation. With 16% of time in this phase spent on lifestyle content, editorial blog content is also a great way to reach travelers and curate the trip experience, thus allowing your guests to explore your destination and local neighborhood through the lens of your hotel.
What type of content are travelers looking for in the experiencing phase?
During the experiencing phase, travelers are typically searching for things to do and unique experiences during their trip. The most common searches in this phase are keywords surrounding the local destination on mobile:
Similar to the dreaming phase, it’s important to own top searches regarding your destination and your hotel’s local neighborhood in order to be present throughout meaningful digital micro-moments in the experiencing phase. To narrow down dining and local attraction options during their trip, travelers often visit Yelp, Google My Business, and similar websites to read reviews from locals. With dining and things to do in such high demand, a strong organic presence and rich website content for your hotel dining and spa options are essential in driving awareness and ancillary revenue. CRM is also an important strategy in this phase to bring top in-demand content directly to guests’ inbox.
The best marketing mix to reach travelers in the experiencing phase:
Social Media: Prompting guests to share their experience via social channels like Instagram and Facebook is a great way to inspire other potential new guests who are in the dreaming phase of the travel planning journey. Having a website Instagram feed with a dedicated hashtag, which someone can monitor and approve guest photos before publishing, is a great way to blend official hotel imagery with consumer-generated content from guests that will ultimately influence the dreaming and planning phase for future guests.
Staying connected after check-out.
The experiencing phase doesn’t end when guests check out. To retain customers and turn every new guest into a repeat guest, hotel brands must engage customers long past their stay and add value to their everyday lives. This is where having a comprehensive loyalty program, ongoing CRM communication, and interesting editorial content that adds value to guests’ daily lives comes into play.
More importantly, once you have valuable information about guests’ preferences, demographics, stay history, and more, you can use this information to segment emails and send more personalized messages.
One great way to do this is by capitalizing on recency, frequency, and monetary (RFM) data. Based on how recently a guest stayed, how frequently they stay, and how much they’ve spent with your hotel brand, you can segment past guests into RFM categories and send them offers that are more personalized to their price preferences and stay history. For instance, a premium best guest who stays often at a high ADR is more likely to book a suite, while a frequent smart shopper who stays often but at a lower price point is more likely to book an economy room with a stronger interest in destination and experiential hotel content.
Measuring the Experiencing Phase: KPIs that Shape the Guest Experience.
In the experiencing phase, it should be no surprise that KPIs are mainly engagement focused. Top metrics include:
Overall, shaping the guest experience and building customer loyalty is just as important as winning the booking. Turning new guests into repeat guests is one of the best ways to increase revenue, and building a successful loyalty program results in past guests ultimately skipping the dreaming and planning phase and moving right into the booking phase. Since you’ve already won their heart, you’ll win their dollars more quickly.
The end of the journey, but not the end of the story.
As this five-part series comes to a close, the most important consideration to keep in mind when engaging guests throughout the entire travel planning journey is that all of the touchpoints, insights, and guest data collected fuels future guest acquisition, making your marketing efforts smarter and more cost-efficient. As one guest’s travel planning journey comes to a close, another begins. Be there, be relevant, and your strategy will be successful.
Tags: margaret mastrogiacomo,
reaching potential guests,
the experiencing phase,
Founded in 2001, the firm is headquartered in New York City and has global offices in Las Vegas and the Asia-Pacific. Through its Smart Guest Acquisition Suite, including the smartCMS®, Smart Personalization Engine, Smart Data Marketing, and full-service digital consulting and marketing solutions, HEBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically boost direct bookings, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests. Its diverse client portfolio consists of top-tier luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants, DMO and tourist offices.
Part of NextGuest Technologies, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive Hotel CRM Suite today, are the creators of the hospitality industry’s first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform.
Contact HEBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 (North America), +64 (0) 9 889 8489 (Asia Pacific) or email@example.com.
Contact: Garrick Lee
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