The digital habits of today’s travelers have forever changed the hotel industry. From the ability to have Alexa order a guest’s midnight snack to sharing photos on Instagram, how hotel interactions with guests are very different than what they were just a few years ago. However, digital transformation goes beyond how hotels engage in-market travelers.
In Sojern’s latest Hotel Insights Report, we uncover the reasons why hotel marketers now need to transform their hotel marketing strategies to reach travelers earlier than expected, before they even start searching or planning for their next trip. To capture and keep a traveler’s booking intent, a hotelier’s marketing strategies need to provide inspiration that helps influence a traveler’s decision before they even begin actively searching.
One of the most surprising pieces of data that we uncovered is that by the time travelers are ready to book their trip, they have already narrowed down their list of potential hotels to only a small set of brands—an average of only 1.5 hotel brands within their online searches. And, only 32% of hotel planners consider three or more brands when searching online.
This means that as travelers narrow down their options and plan their trips, it’s important that hotel marketers have a strong strategy for intercepting travelers—raising consideration in the dreaming stage to ensure they’re in the running at booking.
Influence Purchase Intent by Providing Inspiration Early
Every traveler’s exact path to purchase can be varied and complex. But one thing remains the same—it’s cyclical in nature. Travelers are continually dreaming of their perfect trip, sometime before they even finish their last trip. During the dreaming stage, travelers are looking for inspiration about which destinations, hotel brands, and even activities they should consider for an ideal experience. They still haven’t made up their minds—making them brand and destination agnostic.
When only one out of every three hotel planners has three or more brands in their booking consideration set, making sure your brand is top-of-mind for a traveler early on is key to increasing your bookings. Anticipating the needs of your consumer as they’re looking for inspiration can help make sure that your brand is on their booking short list.
Here are three ways to inspire travelers early on with your hotel marketing strategy:
- Go Beyond Your Branded Keywords
Inspire the dream by adding keywords to your SEO strategy that are not brand specific. Think about how people search while they are dreaming about where to go and what to do. Many people will start searching for generic terms, such as “best time to visit” a location or “best place to travel solo” or “top honeymoon vacation spots.” By crafting content that helps the traveler explore the area or activity, you can make sure that your brand becomes top of mind when it is time to book their final plans.
- Leverage Local DMOs
Many travelers start looking for inspiration by looking for experience or activity packages based on their travel destination. For example, say someone in Texas is looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day trip close to home, they may search “Houston Romantic Getaway” and land on Visit Houston’s romantic “Love Bird” package offerings. Since the package is already tailored to the traveler’s desires, hotels can make sure that they are within the traveler’s booking consideration set.
- Create Your Own Inspiration Website
In 2015, Marriot launched their own editorial website, Marriott Traveler, in order to provide travelers with meaningful travel destination content and information. Their editorial site covers a wide variety of topics from packing tips to key ways to level up your next Hawaiian adventure. The site not only captures travelers while they are dreaming but Marriot backlinks to its booking site for direct booking conversions.
To gain a deeper understanding of how consumers start planning and booking their trips, including booking lead time by hotel segment and how mobile is impacting purchase behavior, download our 2018 edition of Sojern’s Hotel Insights Report: Impress Early to Never Miss a Booking.