How do you define “guest experience”? It’s everything that takes place once a guest arrives on your property, of course. But the travel research and booking experience are an equally important part of hotel marketing strategies—and one that pays off. Encouraging direct booking—and making sure that part of the experience is up to your standards—can increase revenue.
That’s the conclusion of a recent study from Kalibri Labs, reported in Hotel Management. Kalibri analyzed the costs and benefits of guest loyalty programs and the “book direct” campaigns that have become an increasingly large part of hotel marketing strategies in the last three years. The study wanted to determine whether the expense of loyalty programs and this kind of marketing paid off in terms of increased bookings and/or revenue.
The answer was a resounding yes.
Even taking into account all the expenses of direct-book activities—loyalty programs, perks, discounts and member fees–loyalty member daily rates were a net average of 8.6 percent greater than those booked through online travel agency channels.
This tells us clearly that including direct booking in your hotel marketing strategies is a win.
The digital difference
It turns out that many guests aren’t simply looking for the lowest rates. They want an engaging, branded experience that begins in the research and planning phases of the customer journey, continues through the stay and goes on in the direct relationship. Today, this means a digital experience.
Here are some hotel marketing strategies you can use to encourage direct bookings and compete with OTAs.
Recharge your website. Hotel websites or apps can provide video tours, 360-degree views of rooms and the ability to select a room—benefits not available from OTAs. You may need to give your website a tune-up in order to offer some of these features.
Get solid with mobile. Mobile now accounts for 69 percent of all digital media time spent in the U.S., according to comScore—that’s across all age groups, not just Millennials. Major chains offer mobile apps to make direct booking super-easy within a branded experience. If an app isn’t in the cards for your property or properties, make sure that your website provides excellent functionality when accessed via a mobile device. Make it as easy or even easier to book via mobile as it is on the OTAs.
Become more findable. Another reason to create a mobile-friendly website is that Google prioritizes this aspect in delivering organic search results. In addition to mobile optimization, make use of all the search optimization tools and tactics available. These include creating a robust listing for Google+; writing rich snippets that entice searchers to click through to your site; and considering pay-per-click advertising.
Use customer data to win them back. Your loyalty program provides powerful information you can use to personalize your hotel marketing strategies. Use information from your CRM or marketing suite to lure guests to book directly via a winback email campaign targeting different segments. For one segment, the perk that works might be a spa package; corporate travelers can be encouraged to extend their stays for a few days of R&R.