By Casey Munck
Love them or hate them, the OTAs are here to stay. Smart hotels know they must take control of their data and deploy smart marketing strategies to lure guests to book direct, which provides the lowest cost per acquisition and builds customer loyalty.
Maintain your (paid search) brand share
Since search engine ad space is now at the half fold, mark, consumers must scroll a half a page to see organic results. Ads take up half the page and in case you weren't aware, the OTAs are bidding on your hotel's brand terms. So, how do you deal? Maximize your paid search brand impression share to sit at 90 percent or higher. Bid for your own key terms, especially exact match, so your ads show up first. If you have $100 to spend, bid on your own brand terms vs. non-brand terms. Your money goes further, aided by the Google quality score, which recognizes what a consumer is searching for and the most direct route to finding it, eg your hotel web site.
Remarket to hotel researchers
For most travelers, hotel research spans about two weeks, with consumers browsing a plethora of sites in search of the best deals and travel experiences. To stay top of mind and finish strong, awareness and re-engagement campaigns are critical. The point is to influence various parts of a traveler's research process throughout the buying journey. This is done through display advertising and ironically enough purchasing data sourced by the OTAs to build audiences with travelers searching for hotels like yours. Custom targeting can be created piecing together relevant data segments and behaviors, including income and travel intent details.
Create look-a-like models
To reach more guests like the ones you already have had who typically book OTA, you can create look-a-like models and use that data in remarketing display campaigns, even running those ads directly on the OTA sites themselves in the advertising space throughout the sites. Look-alike campaigns use data intelligence to find consumers that look like the best guests in each hotel's database. These campaigns are extremely customizable, and can be implemented from every channel, to really have that 360-degree approach.
Give them a reason to book direct
Creative for ads to combat OTAs should carry the message to book direct with your hotel for a savings, upgrade or other perk. Entice the customer to book direct for the best rate, best experience and best service. Create an exclusive offer only available through booking direct and use differentiated messaging to get consumers to book through you as opposed to an Expedia, KAYAK or Trivago. One of the most successful messages is the "best rate guarantee" approach as it instills confidence that there isn't a lower price available anywhere but your hotel's website.
Utilize CRM data
Amazing things can be done with the data in your CRM to drive repeat bookings and bring in new direct bookings. From database remarketing to look-a-like modeling and display exact match campaigns, the possibilities are endless. The data in your system is like gold. With the email addresses in your CRM, you can create a marketing loop of targeted loyalty offers based on the room type and amenities guest groups enjoyed. Guests are more likely to book again if the offers they receive are tailored to their likes as opposed to mass marketing emails. You can also use those same emails to build exact match display campaigns to influence your guests purchasing decision for future trips.