Fasten your seatbelts -- a lot has changed in consumer behavior in all market segments during the past 18 months! As Chris Anderson predicted in his article ‘The Long Tail', consumers will fracture into ‘niches' based upon their special interests and behavior.
In this era of the customer in control, this becomes more pronounced as customers demand travel experiences tailored to the changes in their behaviors and desires as consumers.
Generic marketing approaches to a single undifferentiated list will see diminishing returns especially if it is based solely on rate. If hotels are finding that email blasts are getting persistently lower open rates, it is this ‘one size fits all' mentality based on rate alone. If there is one lesson that the recovery in the luxury sector can teach all hotel marketers, it is that low rates are not the issue, it is the experience of a ‘value perception' that the consumer is looking for.
"As of early March, the battered sector is reporting 7.2% more bookings for the upcoming second quarter in the top 25 markets vs. the April-June period in 2008, according to travel market research firm Rubicon. But rooms at Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont and Four Seasons are also dramatically cheaper. The luxury average daily rate is down 22% to $312 from $399 two years ago, Rubicon says." (USA Today, 3/13/2010). If rates are still driving in the luxury sector at $312, there is a consumer that is willing to pay more for an experience than the recent ‘race to the bottom' of rate cutting would suggest.Mobile Marketing
: Customers are receiving information differently than in the past. If hotel eblasts are not ‘mobile friendly', they are often deleted as the mobile format is very different and HTML often does not appear well on smart phones. "Mobile users demand mobile sites that download fast, provide short and concise textual content with no fluff, minimalistic visual content, and navigation that is straight to the point." (HeBS, Hotel Online, 08-09-09) Want to make your messages more mobile friendly?
The Socially Conscious Consumer
- Reformat text -You should always offer a text option as an alternative to HTML for all readers. Mobile platforms will show 20 to 40 characters in 12 to 15 lines per screen,
- Rethink tracking URLs Same goes for URLs… your text version may need some hand-tweaking in order to render better on all platforms.
- Be brief. Messages over a certain size -- even as small as 12KB -- risk being cut off halfway through.
: From sustainability to devoting time to ‘doing good' during both leisure travel and business meetings is a trend that is here to stay. This consumer also wants to do business with companies that are ‘doing good'.
Many hotel companies are offering leisure and business groups the opportunity to ‘do good' during their stays. Ritz Carlton and Rock Resorts offer leisure travelers options that allow them to participate in projects that are socially valuable or that contribute to the environment. Several companies, including Sage Hospitality, offer discounts to acknowledge customers that give back to their communities. Resorts are offering socially conscious team building activities for groups, such as planting trees or other environmental projects.
Immediacy – in the moment! The ‘immediacy' customer has a short attention span! Social networks are important in maintaining awareness of the hotel to the ‘immediacy' customer. Hoot Suite, among other apps, allows you to post across Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn as well as Word Press blogs. It also has numerous other apps to allow for monitoring and tracking. FREE! The ‘immediacy' customer will turn to social networks for current info and offers by a hotel before going to the web site to make a reservation. The reservation engine has to be fast and easy to use or they will lose patience and move on.
User Generated Content will gain warp speed -- hotels will need to listen 24/7 to what the customer says about them on all channels and respond at the same speed. Customers are still using ‘search' to locate and make decisions on properties. With the addition of Twitter comments and reviews to search results, the consumer can get immediate feedback and hotels need to respond quickly.
This applies to the good things that the customer is saying as well as the issues they are having. Immediacy is a tool not only to resolve issues but to appeal to more customers. Tweetbeep is a Twitter app that tracks mentions of specific keyword on Twitter then emails it to you.
In addition to the reputation management tools like Avalon Reports, Hotel Chatter, etc, Social Mention is a free tool that performs like Google Alerts but across all social media platforms. Trip Advisor is still the gold standard and also appears on search results as well as having a mobile app so the reviews are immediate, in the moment and instantly available to the consumer making a decision.
The ‘Customized' Customer. People want to buy but don't want to be sold – the consumer is clearly in control across all segments. The customer wants to customize their own experience from leisure to a business trip, individuals and groups.
Those hotels that accommodate this trend gain not only gain loyalty but the potential for incremental revenue!
- Multiple choice leisure packages. Build your own packages can include choice of spa treatments, attraction tickets, room service meals, breakfast – imagination is the only thing required! This allows the guest to build their own experience based upon the ‘niche' they prefer. A Las Vegas hotel package offered over Thanksgiving allowed guests to choose to have their Thanksgiving dinner catered to their room with several options for menu choices.
- Multiple Choice for Meeting Planners. Meeting planners are under a great deal of pressure to assure that their meetings are productive and cost effective. This is not going to change soon and may become the new normal.
By allowing them options for their meetings they can ‘customize' the meeting experience to fit their company's expectations. One independent hotel offers meeting planners five choices of amenities such as upgraded breaks, free or discounted AV, etc. from which they can select three for their meeting. Another hotel offers a $1,000 voucher that the planner can use for any part of their stay or to upgrade breaks, meals, add on a reception, etc. The cost to the hotel – between $250 and $350 depending on the option chosen.
With the customer firmly in control for the foreseeable future, hotel revenue managers, marketers and sales professionals will have to deliver what the customer is looking for on their terms or risk being ‘deleted'! Let's have a conversation about the challenges facing hotel sales professionals. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an invitation to join my Platinum Group on i-Meet! www.i-Meet.com.