Travelers are looking for certain key things as they shuffle through the buying process: to be able to find what they’re looking for easily, to understand what hotel options have to offer them, a painless booking process, an amazing customer experience, and fun ways to share exceptional moments with their friends and family.
During the holidays, when emotions are already running high, your attention to detail and ability to simplify the booking process will act as a differentiator for those customers. In this blog, we explore how to optimize your potential guests’ customer journey with your hotel marketing strategy. The end result should, not only end in more bookings but more repeat customers.
Inspire Travelers While They are Dreaming
Although the majority of your holiday guests are probably wrapping up the “dreaming” stage of their planning process (For example, our own data shows that people start searching for summer vacations in February!), unwrapping a few marketing strategies for your straggling dreamers is still worthwhile. Your classic procrastinators are still looking for inspiration regarding where to relax and how to spend time with their loved ones.
If you’re focused on holiday travelers, ensure you’re reaching them where they are. You know where they are? Instagram. With one billion people using Instagram, sharing pictures will help people form a vision of how their holiday might look. It’s also a fantastic way to dangle the proverbial mistletoe of fun happening at your hotel.
The Importance of SEO
In this stage of your prospect’s journey, think of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google as your own personal army of elves. When you provide useful information, you start building a relationship with that guest. If you’re able to answer your customers’ most frequently asked questions, the search engine algorithm elves will give you the gift you’re wishing for this holiday season: potential customers. They’re searching for keywords like “family-friendly hotel in [CITY]” or “best places to hold large family getaways in [TOWN]” to help them get an idea of what their options might be.
Video + Mobile
Providing video tours of local hot spots on YouTube can give you the upper hand as people research their destinations (is Santa on YouTube? Yep, he totally is). YouTube is one of the largest search engines and THE largest video search engine. If you’re offering useful, helpful and relevant information, potential guests will find you.
As you craft a consistent experience for your customer, don’t forget the ever-important mobile devices! Travelers prefer to self-serve, and they’re spending over 4 hours a day on their phones. It’s more than likely they’ll be dreaming on the go. Both Google and your guest give preference to fast loading information that can be easily accessed on a phone.
Help Travelers Search and Plan the Perfect Trip
At the planning stage, hotel marketing will help your potential guests think through the logistics of going to Grandma’s house. They’ve narrowed down which hotels serve their needs best and they’ve weighed the seasonal amenities (gingerbread martinis, of course), and now it’s your time to shine (like the North Star).
It’s likely a prospective guest has visited your site while researching. That means it’s a perfect time to offer incentive-laden retargeting campaigns to help create momentum and help would-be guests make that last critical decision: booking. Retargeting can be done in Facebook advertising, Google Ads, Bing Ads, and via programmatic advertising. Retargeting might be as good for your bookings as a perfectly cooked turkey could be for your big meal.
Programmatic for Personas
Have you ever noticed that after Labor Day, it’s like time and space bends and the holidays are upon you? Your prospects feel it too. Family pressure and rising prices make this a ripe time for your relevant and helpful advertising strategy to hit. Hoteliers can use platforms that analyze users’ buying behaviors and leverage them for programmatic advertising approaches. Use your ideal guest profiles (or personas, or avatars, or mall Santa sketches) to help create ad creative that tackle common holiday obstacles for booking, like kid-friendly spaces, pricing, transportation, and cost of food. When programmatic is done right, “the right time, right place” message can help deliver a traveler’s perfect gift: an easy final decision. Helping a potential customer make a painless decision MIGHT even be more satisfying than eating too many cookies.
Provide an Easy Booking Experience
Over the past two decades, the booking experience has shifted gears to a primarily online experience, which means successful hotel marketing strategies are all about convenience (particularly when holiday travel can be anything but convenient).
If visitors are arriving at your site by clicking on ads, make sure that the click from the ad takes your soon-to-be guest right to the booking page—don’t make them search for it! You’ll likely find that no visitor’s path will be the same as the next. But hoteliers can use tools and analytics to help you identify a few critical pages on the path to purchase. It’s time to double down your content marketing efforts. Those pages should have a clear direction (as evident as the nose on Rudolph’s face) for where you want your visitors to go, in order to help drive them to booking.
If your would-be guest isn’t arriving to your website from an ad, then they’re probably navigating their way via a search engine. Then they find their way to your booking information, descriptions of rooms, and amenities like on-site services and restaurants. Here again, convenience is key. Make sure your booking process is streamlined. Long booking processes have always been a bane for consumers (much like the classic online shopping cart) and is the cause of booking abandonment (which makes Frosty cry).
Flexible Payment Options
You might also consider including a few convenient options for payment methods that don’t require your guests to pull out their wallets. Payment options like PayPal, VenMo, Google Payments, and Apple Pay are great ways to fly like Santa’s reindeer through the payment process.
Upsells in the Booking Process
This is a great time to play up your gift: amenities offered during the booking process. One might consider them the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie or the lavish bow on the perfectly wrapped package. Deliver on desires of optimistic guests that that are already in the purchasing mode (peppermint facial? private craft cocktail workshop?) when they need, at least for a few hours, more “festive” and less “family.”
Create the Best Customer Experience
Fast-forward to the moment shortly after check-in when your guests arrive in the lobby, dressed to the nines for their holiday dinner. How can you help amplify the magic they experience during those first hours on your property and make their time with you and your staff truly memorable and shareable?
Human to Human Connections
Considering the shift in perception of technology and hospitality, the people who help your guest check-in are your first line of delight. That first interaction gives an opportunity to empathize with a guests’ emotional state at check-in and the opportunity to notice and serve someone where they’re at. This type of human connection has a genuine impact on the guest loyalty loop. “It’s the experience that keeps people coming back. It’s about giving and providing a level of familiarity that makes people feel like they are at home,” Jerry LoProto, one of our clients from Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace, says in Sojern’s interview with him.
Curate beautiful, picture-worthy environments in your public spaces, offering an incentive for families to have their picture taken. Whether that’s a corner full of twinkling lights or Santa’s lap, you can help craft their experience WHILE helping your brand by offering a unique hashtag to help harness the share-ability social media has to offer.
Upsells During Their Stay
Another method to make their stay even more delightful is to offer them a little respite from the hectic holiday hustle with upsells. Persona specific packages help create easy upsell options that can include the perfect spa experience, tour around the city or a favorite musical event. When you know your customer and can offer them the perfect diversion, being crammed into Mom’s 800 square foot apartment for dinner with her new husband might be a little more palatable. Use a variety of channels (native advertising, email and video ads) to target those guests who have visited your site to show people what they can book through the hotel, both inside and out.
Sharing the Joy of the Trip
As a guest’s holiday excursion winds down, you have an opportunity to reconnect with them post-holiday. Remember those photos they took in their ugly holiday sweaters? Make sure you don’t lose those magic moments!
Nielsen studies say that word of mouth marketing is one of the hottest commodities. Leverage the social media equivalent with user-generated content. Create contests where guests can post on a designated platform with a designated hashtag, and they’ll be entered to win great branded swag or a free night with you. The Wink Hotel, a Sojern customer, says that reposting customer Instagram posts turns every guest into an influencer. “When we repost, we look at someone who is our guest or who we would want to be our guest. The amount of followers a user has isn’t really part of the decision. Taking a good picture matters more…”
UGC + Advertising
Use those photos (with permission, of course) to create dynamic ad creative that will draw people in. Because ninety-two percent of customers trust UGC over deliberate and cleverly designed marketing advertisements, consider shifting your advertising strategy to incorporating some of those authentic moments. Use this as a way to draw in those would-be guests still in the dreaming phase. This is an amazing way to have all of your hard work bear fruit—or candy canes—for top-of-funnel leads!
Wrapping it All Up (with Silver Bells, of course)
The underlying theme for success during the holidays is a consistency of experience. You want to make your customers sing with joy (to the world) about the deeply helpful, personalized, and relevant experience you provide for them—from the first moment they type “family friendly hotels in Madison” into Google. When you have their experience at the heart of your marketing as well as the service you provide, it’s likely you’ll win hearts and minds.
If capturing and converting customers who have indicated interest in your property is whispering carols in your ear, look into RevDirect, Sojern’s proven low-cost marketing solution that puts your property in front of travelers that have expressed interest in visiting your market.