Creating a hotel experience that guests can’t wait to share.
Move over AirBnB, hotels aren’t going anywhere! According to an Accenture study that surveyed 2500 travelers across 5 countries, hotels continue to reign as the prefered lodging option among travel-goers.
But that doesn’t mean hoteliers are off the hook. Today, customers expect a lot and need to be reassured that you’re standing by to meet their every need …every step of the way. It may seem like a tall order, but with thoughtful execution your hotel can be not only the destination people dream about, but the destination people can’t stop talking about.
This blog explores five key areas of the customer journey that can inspire your guests to share their delight and become a customer for life.
A Think with Google study found that only 9% of travelers know for sure who they’d like to book with prior to researching their options. This presents an incredible opportunity for hotels big and small to capture the hearts and minds of potential guests before they’ve embarked on their research.
In the travel industry, there is no ‘off season’ and there’s no such thing as starting ‘too early’. In order to stand out among the plethora of lodging options available to consumers, hoteliers need to be intentional and proactive with their marketing efforts. For example, our data tells us that February is the month people start dreaming up their summer vacation. To be considered a real contender, you need to be top of mind now.
That means showing up in search when people turn to Google for their next adventure. Your content needs to be SEO-driven and helpful in answering key questions frequently asked by travelers. Beyond search visibility, content needs to be easily digestible and device agnostic in order to help potential guests fully visualize all that a hotel has to offer.
Make it Easy
A consumer insights report on travel by Think with Google found that 53% of travelers feel they consult too many sources before they make a decision. The end-to-end hotel experience, from the research phase to checking in, should be seamless. Our research revealed that 68% of travelers consider only one or two brands during the planning stage, which means hoteliers need to be strategic in how they differentiate themselves from the rest.
How, you ask? Do better and remove any barriers. Gleaned from our own data, we’ve identified some of the most common barriers impacting the guest experience:
- Hotel isn’t showing up in Google search
Websiteis difficult to navigate Bookingprocess is too complicated and slow
- Inflexible payment options
- Poor mobile experience
- Unclear on available amenities (spa packages, car rentals, etc.)
Social sharing and word of mouth are critical for success in the hotel industry. For guests to share their experience on social media or tell their friends about their stay, hotels need to inspire that type of behavior. Upon clicking ‘BOOK’, travelers should be squealing with disbelief, “I can’t believe how simple that was!” In an age of ease and convenience, there are countless opportunities to surprise and delight your customers throughout the process.
Work Hard at the Behind-the-Scenes
There is a growing expectation among consumers for brands to anticipate what they want before they themselves truly know. In fact, 57% of travelers feel that brands should refine their information based on personal preference and past behavior. No, you don’t have to be psychic, but you do have to know more about your customer than ever before.
Today, it’s not enough to simply have a website with rudimental booking capabilities.
Go a step further. Do you know who’s been visiting your site? Find them. Retarget them on Facebook or Instagram, and deliver helpful content that you know they were searching for. If you want a leg up on your competitors, your marketing strategy should address what matters most to the customer.
Our 2018 Hotel Report revealed the top factors guests take into consideration when they book a hotel. We’ve put together a list of actionable tips for hoteliers that speak to these factors directly:
- Availability: Clearly define availability on an easy-to-read calendar
- Schedule compatibility: Create incentives for off-season travel
- Price: Provide competitive offers and make them visible through ads + native content
- Reviews: Feature REAL (happy) customers across multiple channels (website, Facebook, Instagram)
- Amenities: Spa on site? Kid friendly? Don’t make guests search for these answers
- Activities close by: Develop partnerships with local attractions and vendors
Use Social Media to the Fullest
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Instagram is King. It’s a way for hotel brands to become visual storytellers rather than just a place to stay. Our data tells us that 55% of travel marketers plan to increase their spend on Instagram and Facebook in 2019. With mobile playing a bigger and bigger role in the travel industry, hoteliers are racing to create fun, rich and interactive experiences online.
Creating a unique hashtag for guests when they post content or launching a website with travel tips and inspiration (i.e. Marriott Traveler) are powerful ways to get people talking about your hotel. Leveraging influencers to share their experience as a hotel guest and incorporating user generated content (UGC) into your marketing strategy are proven ways to build trust with the consumer and breathe life into the brand.
Tech is Indispensable, but Relationships Matter Most
Customers have grown accustomed to the self-serve functionality of artificial intelligence and expect your brand to be accessible and responsive across all channels. To meet these expectations, technology is pretty much a non-negotiable.
In the booking process, we know that customers are looking for a short purchase journey, speed and familiarity (achieved through retargeting). But none of these bells and whistles will matter if hotel personnel are rude or unaccommodating. While factors like price play critical a role, it’s important to remember that 55% of consumers are willing to pay more in exchange for a positive customer experience.
Being there for your customer in the moments that matter goes beyond providing a bed and four walls. Understanding the customer journey, from the consideration phase to the moment they check out, will help your hotel build strong relationships and increase the lifetime value of your customer.
Are your guest inspired to share their experience?
Sojern is in the unique position of having a complete view of the industry and can help your brand overcome its blind spots (all brands have them) once and for all. By bringing actionable insights to the table, we help hotel brands create memorable experiences for their customers from start to finish.
Don’t be shy and reach out today to learn more about leveraging customer advocacy to grow your hotel brand!