Beyond Programmatic: Why Hotels Need End-to-End Marketing To Drive Direct Bookings

AI-driven tools help marketers to deliver multichannel campaigns at scale.

August 15, 2023

Article originally published on Hotel Online.

After a strong recovery in 2022, the hotel market is continuing to climb. The U.S. hotel market is projected to rise by 7% this year and summer travel is off to a strong start. In spite of inflation and economic concerns, leisure travel is bucking the trend–at least for now. Recent earnings reports suggest that demand is strong, and is projected to continue throughout the year. However, hotel bookings are cyclical, and hotel marketers must find new ways to bolster bookings in the future, which means wooing travelers with the right message, the right deal, in the right place, and at the right time–which is no small feat. Now, many hotel chains, hotels and management companies are turning to in-house and agency teams to drive current and future demand. 

To capitalize on current demand and continue to drive direct bookings hotel marketers must evolve their marketing strategies. Simply deploying campaigns across channels is no longer enough. Travelers want personalized experiences–from the moment they start to research all the way through to the end of their stays. Hotels must harness the power of AI and other technologies to create integrated, personalized campaigns at scale. With AI and other robust tools, hotels can create custom audiences to deliver campaigns that align across properties and can grow overall portfolio revenues. 

The Changing Marketing Landscape

To reduce costs and capitalize on internal resources, many hotel chains are increasingly relying on agency partners or bringing digital marketing efforts in-house, including programmatic and social media advertising. While agency and in-house teams bring a number of benefits, such as control and transparency, they often lack some of the more niche, or best-of-breed solutions that give marketers a comprehensive view of the traveler path to purchase. For example, many internal teams only use their own first-party data and may be able to overlay that information with some third-party audiences, but that limits the view on which travelers they may be losing, where else a traveler may be searching, and more. 

To grow overall portfolio revenues, hotel chains must take a multichannel approach, which requires deploying integrated, always-on campaigns across channels. This includes managing multiple channels, creating tailored content, and optimizing campaigns across diverse platforms–which can be resource intensive and often requires the help of AI-enabled tools to deploy at scale. Very few, if any, agency and internal teams have the resources necessary to do every part of multichannel well. Hotel chains still need to work with other partners who have the tools, technology, and expertise to help them deploy AI-driven multichannel campaigns that generate the right ROI and maximize results. 

Harnessing the Power of AI

While many partners have additional tools and resources available to hotels, none are as important as AI. While AI is gaining traction, at Sojern, we’ve been using this technology for years. According to a recent survey, 71% of consumers expect companies to provide personalized experiences. It’s not cost-effective for hotels to deliver that experience at an individual level without AI-enabled technologies. 

AI can analyze vast amounts of data, identify travel intent signals, and deliver hyper-targeted messaging to reach the right travelers at the right time. By helping hotel marketers optimize targeting, personalization, and engagement across various channels, including programmatic display, social media, email, and more, AI can bolster efforts to create an end-to-end personalized experience. This type of precision targeting allows hotels to maximize their marketing budgets by reaching travelers who are most likely to convert into bookings. Not only does this improve campaign ROI, it allows them to be more strategic with spend to continue to drive direct bookings. 

Sojern has leveraged its long-standing AI capabilities to provide expanded support for its more than 10,000 annual travel partners. These include hotels and resorts of all sizes, destinations, attractions and airlines, regardless of marketing campaign complexities and scale. AI-powered audiences use billions of travel intent signals to understand behavior and automate across channels.

The New, AI-Driven Multichannel Campaign

Multichannel campaigns are critical to every hotel’s success and use all channels, including metasearch, CTV, social, programmatic, and more. While these channels are separate, they shouldn’t operate in silos. Great campaigns should take a unified view of campaign performance and attribution and use cross-channel optimization and AI-powered audiences to de-duplicate booking efforts. The ability to analyze cross-channel performance from one source of truth helps marketers capture truly incremental new customers and revenue and prevent wasted spend as a result of being charged for the same interaction twice. 

With AI-powered audiences and custom audiences, hotel marketers can segment out travelers based on behavior in order to understand their motivations and craft multichannel messaging that drives them to book. With the help of partners, hotels can enrich their existing first-party data, including CRM, loyalty, and in-person interaction data, by expanding audiences–all underpinned by AI technologies. Not only does this allow hotels to expand their audiences, it allows them to take a more targeted approach.

When enacting multichannel campaigns, campaign analysts can use AI to make informed decisions about bidding, budgeting, and adjusting settings based on real-time information–something that is far too costly to do in-house. For example, a potential guest sees a hotel ad while scrolling Instagram. Next, the potential guest actively searches for the same hotel using Google Maps, which is an opportunity to serve a metasearch ad ahead of the competition–delivering a seamless experience regardless of which channel the traveler uses.

As hotels look to parlay current demand into future bookings, working with a network of strategic partners and AI-driven tools will allow marketers to deliver personalized, multichannel campaigns at scale.

To learn how you can maximize your hotel marketing campaigns with AI technology, reach out to our team today.

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