In today’s fast-paced and competitive landscape, guests have high expectations of convenience and a low tolerance for delays, gimmicks, or friction

By Ellis Connelly

What is the best way to incentivize behavior? This line of questioning keeps marketers and business owners up at night. Why? Because brands can’t protect their bottom line without generating revenue, and they can’t generate revenue without nudging their customer toward a desired purchase.

Hospitality professionals, especially, are familiar with this challenge, as travelers are constantly inundated with options and competing product offerings at every stage of their journey down the sales funnel. Moreover, guest loyalty is increasingly difficult to earn and maintain, even after they have clicked ‘book now’. The modern guest is both particular and elusive – eager to travel and explore the world but often not enamored enough by any particular brand or OTA to exclusively hand over their business without carefully considering competitor offerings. Guests today don’t just want the best-perceived deal – they want the best service at the best value, and it’s up to hotels to edge their way to the front of the line with compelling, value-driven offers and effective, personalized marketing.

Fortunately, hospitality brands can effectively influence and predict how current and prospective travelers will engage with their product or offering with the right tools and strategies. In simple terms, if hoteliers understand the ‘why’ behind a purchase decision and identify ways to capitalize on the purchase moment, their property will be better equipped to stand out within an increasingly competitive marketplace. And while there is no perfect recipe for earning the favor of every potential guest, there is a key ingredient that has certainly earned its place in the kitchen – instant gratification.

Is FOMO Really Your Best Bet?

The term “FOMO” (fear of missing out) was first introduced in 2004. It was later added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 as social media created an environment where FOMO reigned supreme. During this time, marketers realized that they could use this new social phenomenon to drive purchase behavior and/or consumer participation. How? Leveraging the fear of missing out (on a great deal, great experience, or fleeting opportunity) encourages consumers to make an impulse purchase or decision. The principle was simple – “Buy now, think later,” and brands who utilized this approach hedged their bets on the assumption that consumers would rather potentially regret an action than regret failing to act and becoming a victim of FOMO.

FOMO marketing can be achieved in a number of ways, including, but not limited to:

– Flash Sales: “Book Now or Pay More Later!”
– Invite-Only Sales: “VIP Access!”
– Seasonal Sales: “Our Biggest Sale of the Year!”
– Scarcity Messaging: “Only X Packages/Rooms Left” or “In High Demand!”

While this style of “urgency marketing” can be powerful, it can also be overused and, in some cases, may inspire feelings of distrust or resentment from customers. Although the desired outcome (a purchase decision) is positive in nature, this marketing approach ultimately relies on negative reinforcement (the fear of missing out) rather than positive reinforcement. In the realm of hospitality, specifically, this marketing style has also become rather saturated, and, amidst an increasingly crowded marketplace, it may feel to travelers that there is always a deal to be found, and the influence of FOMO wears thin.

Fortunately, this is where instant gratification comes in – taking the tried and true “FOMO” model and flipping it on its head to delight travelers at the moment of booking and encourage desired behaviors through positive reinforcement.

Instant Rewards, Instant Gratification

In 2017, Google researchers examined all the digital interactions in 60 seconds (on average), and the results might shock you. Google had 3.8 million search requests. More than 400 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube, viewers watched 87,000 hours of video on Netflix, and 65,000 photos were uploaded to Instagram. The takeaway? Consumers crave immediacy.

This is an important observation; just as fortune favors the bold, prospective travelers favor brands that cater to their need for instant gratification. Now, perhaps more than ever before, travelers don’t want to wait to be rewarded – any allure attached to the promise of a far-away perk is hardly tangible enough to inspire a booking decision or, more importantly, long-term loyalty. Instead, travelers are demonstrating a preference for the brands that not only personalize offers to be relevant but also offer immediate, high-value gratification attached to any purchase decision. No friction, no FOMO, no delay, just an instant reward at check-out reinforces their decision to book and inspires continued purchase behavior.

Some benefits of instant gratification rewards:

  • Increases conversions
  • Creates connections and builds trust through personalization
  • Fosters customer retention and brand loyalty
  • Captures information, preferences, and data
  • It helps hotels learn more about their customers over time
  • Reduces friction through seamless brand experiences

The positive purchasing psychology at work is easy to understand; by offering instantly selectable, personalized rewards at the moment of purchase, hospitality brands can nurture that customer at the most important point of the sales funnel. In simple terms, instant gratification helps to quell any feelings of buyer’s remorse while building trust and connection with that guest before they even step foot on the property.

Moreover, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, hospitality brands can use a comprehensive rewards platform to get to know their guests better, which places hotels in the best possible position to meet – and exceed – guest expectations with personalized offers. Beyond the purchase moment, hoteliers can continue to leverage instant gratification to drive repeat transactions and grow customer lifetime value as guests become more engaged and increasingly delighted by the service offered by their selected hotel.

In today’s fast-paced and competitive landscape, guests have high expectations of convenience and a low tolerance for delays, gimmicks, or friction. If hotels want to foster loyalty and connect with their guests in a meaningful way, they need to focus on developing instant gratification strategies that act as the ultimate conversion catalyst.