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Coronavirus: Survival of the Fittest for Hotels

by
Jordan Hollander
11 hours ago

In the face of a global pandemic and hotel industry meltdown we are sailing deep into uncharted waters.  No hotel (or any business for that matter) can stay alive without revenue. The U.S. hotel industry (and airline) came back strong after 9/11 when travelers were afraid of terrorism.  Regions affected by the SARS and MERS outbreaks were followed by similar bounce-backs.  But somehow this time feels different. “Without government intervention, there will be no service industry whatsoever. There’s so many people that work for me whom I am incredibly concerned about. Where are they going to get their next meal? Do they have health care coverage? How are they going to pay their bills? It’s as if aliens came from outer space and decided to totally destroy restaurants,” said famed restaurateur David Chang. The good news is that this pandemic may be over sooner than you anticipate and the mortality rate may actually be much lower than we initially thought (due to undocumented cases).  The tricky part about virality is that the models have wild swings based on even miniscule changes to the assumptions of those models (which are changing dramatically each day).  The same scientist whose very report jolted the US and UK into action has since changed his model assumptions which massively changed the forecasts. “It will recede in a converging exponential; in other words, the coronavirus can be expected to disappear from this region with the same dizzying speed with which it entered our lives,” Dr. Dan Yamin. It’s not only virologists suffering from inaccurate and quickly outdated predictions, hotel industry forecasters like Jan Freitag are facing the same dilemma.     There’s more good news.  The world is uniting against a common enemy and we’re collaborating as a species like never before.  While the media likes to portray drama and political posturing, the reality is that this crisis has helped humanity put aside our cultural differences because a virus doesn’t care where you’re from. On a Facebook live with TED, Bill Gates mentioned some of the collaboration that’s happening in the scientific community.     Even ordinary people are collaborating, as evidenced by Google Sheet of volunteer opportunities created by thousands of individuals from around the world. We’re also seeing collaboration like never before in the hotel community.  Competitive walls were broken down when major hotel chain CEOs addressed U.S. President Donald Trump in their pleas for an industry bailout.  Similarly, major hotel tech companies have banded together in an initiative spearheaded by Cloudbeds to convert excess hotel capacity into lodging for those in need like healthcare workers.  Hotel owners are listing their beds in droves at HospitalityHelps.org. It’s not all good news though.  Never before in our lifetimes has business come to a screeching halt like this...and hopefully it won’t happen again. Most hotel businesses maintain around 2x payroll as working capital (cash to run their day to day operations).  As hotels get closer to the 60-day mark we’ll see more and more layoffs because they simply can’t foot the staffing bills.  The only way to help these hotels is through government bailouts and improved payment terms on mortgages. Here in the U.S., the government has put together an incredible program to offer fully forgiven SBA loans of 2.5x monthly payroll to any hotel business under 500 employees. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we are always looking to understand how technology can help improve hotel business performance but sadly there isn’t a ton that you as a hotelier can do with new technology right now.  Revenue management systems don’t add much value when you’re at 2% occupancy, upsell software can only do so much with a couple of heads in beds and so on. We’d be lying if we said “we’re all going to get through this together.”  We’re not all going to get through this. Poorly capitalized hotels like those described in this great article by The Real Deal will go under even with government intervention.  Overextended technology companies will face the unfortunate same truths.  Even the previously untouchable venture funded alternatives like Sonder and Lyric have faced hard truths faster than we anticipated. We are a strong and resilient industry like many have pointed out.  The Darwinian reality is that these crises make all industries more antifragile.  The bad actors die out (along with many good ones) and only the fittest survive.  Ask your finance friends what major bank balance sheets look like today in comparison to 2008/2009.  The companies that come out of times like these are the leanest and smartest - and they get even leaner and smarter through the pain. We don’t say the above in a good or a bad way - it’s just the truth.  Many hotels have or will cancel software contracts while others will go out of business.  This is really unfortunate and painful for their suppliers in the short term but new owners will purchase those properties and those owners will understand more than anyone the power of running an efficient organization. They’ll be more entrepreneurial in aggregate and eager to surround themselves with the best technology partners around.  For software companies this means there will be more whitespace than ever before in history to pick up new market share - in the 12-18 months after this crisis fades we will see the defining hotel technology companies of the future separate from the pack.  COVID has been a great equalizer and while painful we believe that it will accelerate digital transformation in hospitality (like many industries) by 10-15 years.   As we said before, technology can’t save you RIGHT NOW but great software is the key to running an efficient and consistent business.  Market intelligence software helps you stay ahead of trends, revenue management software can help you price rooms automatically without relying on a revenue manager who’s basing forecasts on last year’s irrelevant results, operations tools can keep consistency of SOPs and so on. TCV’s David Yuan shared an awesome initiative from Toast POS to get consumers buying restaurant gift cards to support their favorite local businesses.  The same way that a restaurant can’t serve you when they’re shut down, tech companies can’t do all that much for hotels that aren’t open. Software is key to how you anticipate, react and recover from a recession.  It makes you better at acquiring guests, running an efficient operation and maximizing every dollar. During the Bill Gates interview with TED he was asked what he would do if he was President right now and his answer was basically “It’s too late, the time to act was 3 years ago.  All we can do now is ramp up testing, pray for a cure and promote social distancing”. Similarly, the only thing hoteliers can really do now is negotiate with lenders, stay current on local bailout opportunities, make prudent layoffs, focus on helping their employees as much as they can and pray that this ends soon.  Once we’ve sorted out all of those issues and have some downtime while our businesses are closed, the best thing we can do is prepare for the next downturn and improve our operational capabilities. Never again will you have this much time to try different technologies and lots of vendors are even offering concessions and free tools that we encourage every hotelier to take advantage of for this limited and unprecedented period before we get back to the new normal. Do everything you can afford to support the technology companies pushing our industry forward because when this is all over you’re going to need them more than ever.     The biggest barriers to adopting technology are broken down right now in ways they will never be again - take advantage of that to optimize your business before it's too late. #1 Contract Lock-in: Most can be broken with force majeure.  If you don't like a vendor, now is an opportune time to upgrade your stack. #2 Switching Risk: Especially when it comes to mission critical systems it can be scary trying to migrate while your hotel is at full occupancy.  This is the perfect time to make the move while your hotel is closed. #3 Time: Learning new software takes time no matter how easy to use the system is.  You'll never have this much time to try and learn once the market picks back up. #4 Cost: Lots of vendors are extending free trials during closures from 30-days to 90-days.  You'll never have an opportunity like this to try software and see if you like it over extended periods of time.  Having said that, your vendors are hurting as much as you are - support them don't strain their businesses unless you absolutely need payment delays etc. Use the golden rule and treat them as you hope guests treat you. #5 Integrations: This barrier is already broken down.  Simply avoid vendors who charge high integration fees or don't integrate with your critical systems.  There are plenty of great vendors who have open APIs...it's 2020 after all. Focus on ensuring your hotel business survives this crisis financially then get proactive, get creative and learn how to optimize your business to accelerate the recovery and you'll be outperforming the compset in no time.  Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Everybody looks like a genius in a bull market, it's times of crisis that separate the average hotel businesses from the truly great ones. -- Put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself first.  Once you've got your finances sorted out - here are some ways that you can optimize your hotel business and support the technology vendors working hard to keep the industry running smoothly.   WHISTLE GUEST MESSAGING. Extended free messaging (guest and team) for new signups. A few reasons how Whistle will help your hotel during the crisis: - Social Distancing: No need for in-person interactions between gueststaff and staffstaff - Efficiency: Hotels can manage more inquiries and help more guests, now that they are operating with even more limited staff - Remote Operations: Respond to guest inquiries remotely. Unlock offer → Offer terms: Extended free trial available until June 1, 2020 for new clients.  No CC required unless hotel is continuing after trial and cancel at any time, even after trial period, no penalties   LIFE HOUSE (HOTEL MANAGEMENT):  Life House is an VC-backed institutional management company that uses software & process innovation to increase low cost direct bookings & materially reduce the operating costs of a hotel, which is ever-more relevant with depressed revenues. To support owners who need help navigating these difficult times, Life House is offering waived management fees until 2021 and a complimentary management transition for independent hotel owners. Whether a 200-room luxury boutique hotel or a 25 room bed & breakfast, Life House's white-labeled management platform can help. Learn more about the offer →   ATOMIZE: You can now get Atomize Revenue Management Software, free of charge, up until you have realized 50% of your average occupancy. This offer comes with no setup fee, free training, and including support. This limited offer is valid until April 30. Learn more about Atomize →   TRUSTYOU'S TRAVEL HEALTH INDEX. Due to widespread limitations on travel, there is currently an unprecedented drop in hotel stays. To help hoteliers from all over the world to assess the global and regional situation, we are now introducing the Travel Health Index! This exclusive KPI is only available from the world's largest guest review database and it benchmarks current #review activity with the normal levels of 2019. Access it here and keep an eye on the Index for weekly updates.  Learn more about the Travel Health Index →   ALICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST. Hoteliers know how to run a property, but shutting one down is a different story.  That’s why ALICE created a free checklist tool within their software that hotels can use to keep their property safe and clean with a skeleton crew that is available for free to any and all hotels looking for help. A few reasons how ALICE will help your hotel during the crisis: - Preventative Maintenance: Understand what needs to be done to keep your property safe and clean with a skeleton crew to avoid property damage and maintenance issues during downtime. - Crisis mgmt: Hotels are not meant to operate at low occupancy, or with a lean staff, yet that is the trend for so many hotels right now. ALICE Checklist helps hotels take rooms, floor and whole buildings out of service, while maintaining a record of tasks to bring a hotel back up to full occupancy quickly and easily. Get the free toolkit → Offer terms: ALICE Checklist is available to any and all hotels that are using (or not using) the ALICE platform with no strings attached. It is a free product, there are no obligations, and it can be cancelled at any time.   REVINATE'S COVID RESOURCE CENTER. Revinate ran a survey and found that 70% of hotel professionals are looking for projections on how this unfolds, and 71% are looking for planning ideas. That’s exactly what this new site aims to provide.  This resource center will aim to be a centralized source of info and resources to help hoteliers in these uncertain times. Browse the resource center →   JONAS CHORUM PMS. Save on your PMS with 90-days free of Jonas Chorum for new clients. A few reasons how Jonas will help your hotel during the crisis: - Remote work: Cloud functionality, allowing hotels to remain connected and conduct business remotely, while also specializing in remote training to avoid any face-to-face contact. - Financial relief: Provide hotels with financial relief to help them ride out the storm. Learn more about Jonas Chorum → Offer terms: This particular offer is only for new clients and is only being offered for a limited time as we are essentially getting companies up and running on our software free of charge. We would also be willing to honor this offer for a period of time whenever the impact of the pandemic starts to lessen.    ALLIANTS GUEST MESSAGING. A few ways Alliants can help your hotel during the crisis: - Easily outbound message with impacted guests across all the key channels, including, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, LINE, etc - Allow your teams to stay connected with guests, staff, and vendors while helping keep social distance. - No setup fees/onboarding costs - All training & installation can be done remotely. -Get your property up and running in less than 2 days. See Alliants in action → Offer terms: We are offering our Alliants Messaging platform at no charge till the end of 2020. You can cancel at any time. No credit card is required and we can have your property live in less than 2 days. Oaky Pre-Arrival Templates. Pre-arrival communication + translations templates to ensure effective communication so your guests feel safe. Get the templates →   RATEGAIN FREE STRATEGY SESSIONS. Complimentary, one-to-one session with RateGain experts. A few reasons how RateGain can help your hotel during the crisis: - access 200+ years of combined experience across all fields - Revenue Management, Distribution, Social Media and even HR - RateGain has its own data, both current and historical. As such we possess the knowledge and insights to guide our prospects in a way that no other can. Schedule a free session → Offer terms: We are running it for three weeks starting coming Monday. We are only doing it for our prospects i.e. companies which are not a customer of RateGain. We are doing it for our customers anyhow. This is a 100% free service. Basis the request we receive we can extend it for a longer duration as well.   Want to list your company's offer? Reach out to our editorial team via live chat   BEEKEEPER INTERNAL TEAM COMMUNICATION. How are you keeping your employees up-to-date on the coronavirus? Reach every employee across shifts, locations, and languages with one easy-to-use mobile-first communication app.  A few ways Beekeeper can help your hotel: - provide instant communication between all employees - allow for real-time updates on Coronavirus as it affects your company - Allow for shift schedules to be accessed away from the hotel Learn more about Beekeeper → Offer terms: This offer is available until June 2020 and is for new clients. Cancel anytime.   UMI DIGITAL’S FREE EXPERIENCE PRE-PAYMENTS TOOL. Simple pop-up website overlay to showcase closure messages while selling future experiences. Works with existing voucher systems via outbound links. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: FREE set up for hotels on Wordpress and FREE license for 3 months during the pandemic. We have a simple proposal that requires acceptance but do not require payment details.   HELLOSHIFT MESSAGING & WEBSITE LIVECHAT. Hotels can use Guest Messaging and Website Chat to keep the line of communication open and accessible to all guests (and future guests.) With Staff Collaboration, hotels can keep running with smaller operational footprints and more staff working remotely. Use Covid-19 specific checklists, populate a knowledge base with Covid-19 specific information, and keep in communication with laid-off employees. Learn more about the offer → Offer terms: To help hotels deal with Covid-19, HelloShift is offering free service to all sign ups till July 1, 2020.   HOTELCHAMP DEMAND TRACKER. Demand Tracker shows you real time demand based on your website date searches. Conversion Rate (CVR) helps you to contextualise performance of different dates. Change of search behaviour keeps you informed of shifting demand. A few reasons how HotelChamp will help your hotel during the crisis: - understand demand in the current market is key to steer pricing decisions - see real time demand from your website for up to 365 days in the future - create alerts for changes in demand so you can proactively act on what is changing in the market Learn more about HotelChamp → Offer terms: New and existing clients. Completely free, no subscription to be set up. Automatically ends after 90 days.   ROOMPRICEGENIE AUTOMATED REVENUE MANAGEMENT: Fully automated dynamic pricing solution in place helps you know when business is coming back and help you react immediately. Continuously track how your market behaves and understand when business is coming back. Learn more about RoomPriceGenie → Offer terms: The offer is for new clients and it is valid until further notice (as long as the tough times last). After the regular trial period, clients need to sign up and will receive a 100% discount until they see business coming back. Our monthly cancellation policy stays the same - so they can cancel at any time.   AVVIO DIGITAL ACADEMY: With so many amazing hoteliers out of work Avvio is turning their time and resources to helping out with important skills development to help out during this period of downtime. Their Hotel Digital Academy is available for free registration and the first hotel digital marketing course will be starting next week. Hospitality will have to “do more with less” as the industry recovers and we think upskilling will be more important than ever as training budgets will inevitably suffer. If you know of anyone in our industry that you feel might benefit from this can I ask you to consider please sharing. Learn more about Avvio →   EXPERIENCE HOTEL EMAIL MARKETING. Hotels can get their Free access to our CRM's Emailing tool and send up to 3 custom Email campaigns to all their customers, valid for 3 months to keep guests informed as the situation evolves via email. Learn more about Experience Hotel → Offer terms: No cost, no commitment. In order to access this free service, they must register with a professional email corresponding to their hotel; a manual check of each account is made to avoid abuse.   SAVETHEHOTELS.COM BY BOOK VISIT. Last Friday we started a marketplace called savethehotels.com which is completely free of charge. The idea is to make it easy for consumers to see all the great deals the hotels are offering right now in order to survive.  Set up unique promotions that are easy for guests to book. Learn more about Book Visit → Offer terms: Right now we have the page as long as there is a need. We have no plans for this to be an OTA in the future. Right now we just want the hotels to survive otherwise we will also go down.   HOTEL RUNNER PULSE UPDATES CENTER. With HotelRunner Pulse, our goal is to support the travel industry using the ‘big data’ from the HotelRunner platform, which performs tens of millions of transactions per day, and to give our partners a snapshot of what is happening in the industry during these extremely challenging times. HotelRunner Pulse will be updated weekly, and you will be able to access detailed data from the previous week, data-points include travel agencies that bring the most bookings, confirmed and canceled booking volumes, average stay durations! Learn more about HotelRunner → Offer terms: Starting this week, through the special panel we developed, we are providing free access to real data based on bookings made through HotelRunner in the previous week.   MYSTAY EMAIL TEMPLATES. MyStay Freemium automates the way properties can inform guests about the situation in the region and hotel's health and safety protocol using pre-defined email templates and semi-automated rebooking. It also allows automating selling extra services to the fewer guests to come in the next months through pre-arrival communication, email templates covering COVID-19 related health and safety protocols, flexible rebooking or loyalty points policy.  Special guest web as a WiFi landing page with stay-related information focusing on COVID-19 related aspects. Learn more about MyStay → Offer terms: The offer and MyStay Freemium package is and will remain available forever unless canceled by the hotel. It is available to new clients, no contract or credit card required. The product is not going to disappear once the pandemic is over, hotels will be free to continue using it for free or choose to upgrade to any of the paid profiles.   HOTEL DIRECT BOOSTER WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Livechat software for 1 month to keep contact and convert its visitors into direct bookings on the hotel's website.  Many hoteliers closed their hotels but they shouldn't close their direct bookings. Keep contact with website visitors during the pandemic on the hotel website and helps hoteliers prepare the resumption of bookings and support travelers. Learn more about HDB → Offer terms: 1 month free offer only for new clients.  Available until April 30th 2020. Non-binding offer.  No credit card required   GO MOMENT WEBSITE LIVE CHAT. Use Go Moment’s website live chat tool to inform potential hotel guests of the steps your hotel is taking to keep guests and staff safe, suggest rescheduling instead of canceling  and collect leads for future groups.  Learn more about Go Moment → Offer terms: Offer available through June 30th, 2020. After June 30th, rate will change to $250 per month.   BOOKBOOST UNIFIED INBOX & WEB MESSENGER. During this difficult time, we want to stand with the hotel industry. Our Unified Inbox and Web Messenger are now available for FREE to all hotels worldwide. Bookboost Unified Inbox enables you to manage all guest inquiries from your website, email, Facebook Messenger, in one inbox. Give clear and consistent COVID-19 communications and Save your team answering repetitive questions, improve efficiency and provide service day and night with chat automation. Learn more about Bookboost  

The Hotel Star Ratings System: Here's What You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

Property owners are told they must live or die by their hotel star rating. The problem? Not all stars are created equal. Some customers refuse to stay in a hotel that’s less than five stars. Star ratings can impact purchase decisions instantly. Just one extra star communicates something about your brand’s quality, luxury, and customer service. But a four-star hotel in Europe offers a dramatically different experience than a four-star hotel in the US; and herein lies the problem for hoteliers seeking to appeal to discerning guests. How should you improve your star rating when there are so many different metrics, elements, and gradients that determine your review? There are some commonalities among hotel star rating systems that can help you narrow down where to focus your effort. Start with this guide to learn where you stand with stars – and how small changes at your property can have a big impact on your star rating.    Brief History and Background of the Five-Star System Given the inconsistency of the star system around the world, it may not be a surprise that the five-star rating system used in the US didn’t originate from a member of the hospitality world. The five-star system was created by Mobil, an oil and gas company. Mobil employees traveling the country to service their gas stations and extraction sites started using a five-star system to rate hotels and make travel guides. The five-star system spread quickly, but even today, it continues to be unregulated. You read that right: in the US, the hotel star rating system is based on popular opinion. However, European hotels use four stars, rather than the American five stars, to denote the quality of a hotel. To make matters more confusing, each country has its own methodology for regulating and defining hotel star ratings. “Consequently, three stars in England is not quite the same as three stars in Spain. Worse: three stars in Barcelona is not the same as three stars in Madrid or in Seville (each region of Spain adopts its own standards),” writes Travel + Leisure.   What Does Each Level of Hotel Stars Actually Mean? There’s no straightforward answer to defining each star rating explicitly. The US and other countries use completely different approaches to assigning stars; the problem is further compounded by each individual rating system’s definition of “quality.” That said, there are some general guidelines consumers and property managers should understand. First, hotel star systems measure the quality of property’s facilities: not the experience. This is critical for property managers to understand. As great as your front desk service may be, a cheerful greeting at check-in won’t change your star rating. Hotels with more stars have more facilities, such as large rooms, swimming pools, jacuzzis, and bathtubs. Each star rating will vary depending on who is doing the rating. Some countries are more prescriptive than others; likewise, different OTAs will have different criteria for what qualifies for a certain star rating. That said, there are some generalities that hotel owners can use to measure their relative position: One star: basic accommodation, small rooms; these properties do not guarantee ensuite bathrooms, 24-hour reception, or daily cleaning. Think hostels or backpacker motel rooms.  Two stars: often, two-star hotels are in old buildings that can’t be renovated. These properties are a step up from one-star spots in that they probably offer a 24-hour reception, cleaning, and a basic ensuite bathroom. Amenities are still limited, but you might get a continental breakfast and a room with a phone and TV.  Three stars: a typical hotel will have three stars and offer room service, ensuite bathrooms, daily cleaning, a desk or table, and Wifi. This is a standard hotel experience that most travelers expect unless they’re on a strict budget. Four stars: these hotels offer an on-site swimming pool, gym, bar/restaurant, or valet parking. They have nicer rooms and larger lobbies. Fast internet is standard.  Five stars: high-end, luxury hotels get five stars. There will be a nice bar and restaurant on-site, as well as a spa, gym, big bathrooms, and comfortable beds. Amenities and facilities take a starring role (no pun intended) in achieving a higher rating. But, it’s also important to recognize some of the nuances built into OTA star ratings and the differences between countries to best assess where to spend your budget.   Hotel Stars Mean Different Things Depending on Who You Ask Countries all have different approaches to how a hotel earns its star rating. Even within a country, ratings can vary by city or regional regulations. In France, the US, Germany, and the United Kingdom, how a hotel is classified is voluntary. France, for instance, allows private organizations to provide a star rating (authorized by Cofrac, the French Accreditation Committee). Other European countries, including Germany, use the HotelStars Union, which is a trade association for hotels and restaurants. The US uses AAA and Forbes Stars. But, in Italy, Spain, and Greece, the responsibility for providing a star rating falls to regional governments. Each region within Spain, for instance, will pass legislation that precisely describes the characteristics and minimum requirements each hotel must have to earn that level of stars. Public inspectors visit each property to make sure the hotel is complying with the rules assigned to each category.  Travelers are rarely cognizant of the difference between a star rating assigned by a government inspector, one by a trade organization, or one assigned by fellow travelers on an online travel agency. Even among OTAs, there’s a distinct difference in how stars are assigned. Here’s a good example of how star ratings differ by platform.    Rating ⭐ ⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Hotels.com Small to medium property, includes phone and TV in the bedroom, no room service.  2-4 stories high, convenient to public transportation, clean but basic, no restaurant onsite  More spacious rooms, decorated lobbies, medium-sized restaurants on-site; often include fitness centers or pools Large, formal hotels, well-lit rooms that are nicely decorated; offer continental breakfast; smart reception areas and room service High degree of personal service; “sumptuous” lobbies; concierge service, stylish rooms, elegant intimacy Expedia Basic, no-frills, minimal facilities, small and functional  Value, clean, basic, daily housekeeping Quality, style, comfort, personalized service, better quality bedding, larger bathrooms Upscale decor, superior amenities such as turndown service and concierge Gourmet dining, luxury spa, polished service, upgraded check-in, elegant decor Michelin* n/a n/a High-quality Excellent Exceptional Forbes** n/a n/a “Recommended” properties by Forbes are those with “consistently good service and facilities”  Exceptional properties with high-quality service and facilities Outstanding, iconic properties with flawless service and amazing facilities AAA*** Essential, no-frills, budget-minded Modest in overall physical attributes, design elements, and amenities Distinguished style, upgraded quality of amenities and comfort  Upscale in all areas; refined and stylish, with a high degree of hospitality, service, and attention to detail  The ultimate in luxury and sophistication; extraordinary in every manner. *Michelin previously served as a reliable benchmark for discerning travelers, but the brand has since narrowed its focus to restaurants and bars. Their infamous three-star rating system is now managed by a partner called Tablet. **Forbes offers a subscription-based guide that grew directly from the original Mobil travel ratings. The team uses a checklist of 800 items to determine its star rating; they mostly focus on four and five-star properties, meaning they seek to verify luxury rather than to provide an objective review. ***AAA doesn’t limit their ratings to upscale properties, but they do use a 33-point checklist, similar to Forbes’ approach. Pre-approved properties are evaluated based on member feedback and full-time, professional evaluators. Instead of using stars, AAA rewards “diamonds”; a three-diamond property must offer televisions in every room and a swimming pool, for instance.    Clearly, each platform factors different elements into their rating system. Some include guest experience metrics, such as customer service (Hotels.com) while others stay focused on amenities (Expedia). A strategy that tries to earn your property five stars on one platform may still have you falling short on another.   Tech Won’t Earn Your Hotel Stars But It Certainly Helps Bottom line? Focus on providing great amenities, awesome customer service, and keeping your property up-to-date. Technology can’t directly earn you more stars from a rating agency, but it can impact your guest experience – and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. Implementing a keyless entry solution, such as the popular ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions Keyless Entry, demonstrates that you’re willing to invest in service and create a better experience. Case in point: Four Seasons Boston. The new property at One Dalton Street is a modern, 61-story skyscraper that features ASSA ABLOY custom-designed VingCard Essence door locks alongside VingCard Signature RFID locks. Details matter at this five-star property: the sleek, state-of-the-art security and access system matches the building’s design. With all electronic components encased within the door itself and only a sleek RFID/BLE reader visible to guests, VingCard Essence can circumvent the unmistakably commercial and bulky appearance of traditional hospitality-based door locks. Details like VingCard aren’t just fashionable – ASSA ABLOY keyless entry is also functional. VingCard Essence is equipped with the highest standard in security encryption protocols to protect against the risk of unauthorized access. VingCard Essence locks can be configured for mobile access, meaning that a hotel can elect to allow guests to unlock their room with a personal device – without the need to replace existing hardware. Likewise, the VingCard Essence can be configured to access guest room thermostats, helping achieve energy management goals by allowing your property to adjust temperatures when needed. Review experts are guests as much as they are critics. They are influenced by technology and personal details as much as any other guests; smart hotel tech can indirectly impact star ratings when deployed thoughtfully and strategically.  

3 Examples of SMART Goals in the Hospitality Industry

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

Some goals are so squishy and ill-defined that they are effectively meaningless -- and often raise more questions than answers. SMART Goals are the cure to these unfocused strategies.  We’ve all had bosses setup goals that are impossible to reach because they’re so vague: ‘do right by the guest.’ (How? What’s “right?”). Be the best hotel in Miami (How? For which guest segment? Compared to whom?). Drive more revenue. (How? How much?) Ill-defined goals are also hard to measure, making them perfect shields for laziness, incompetence, and/or a general lack of accountability. Vague and general ideas can be powerful when applied to your company’s mission statement as guiding rules but when it comes to goal setting - they can kill your business. One strategy to build actionable goals that successfully motivate staff to make measurable progress is with SMART goals. Here's what you need to know about using SMART goals in hospitality, from creating the goals to some SMART goals examples in hospitality that illustrate how effective they can be. Once you experience the impact that planning SMART can have on your hotel’s productivity and success, you’ll wonder how you ever did without!   What are SMART Goals? The concept of SMART goals was introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former corporate planner, in a paper called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Doran’s thesis was that achieving success requires goals to be clear and attainable, with enough specificity and measurement to actually track progress. A SMART goal is: Specific. Goals must be as specific and focused; never vague or derivative. To get precise, follow a Six Sigma principle and answer the “6 Ws:” Who needs to be involved in this goal? What are you trying to accomplish?  When does this goal need to be accomplished? Where does this goal apply? Especially useful if this is related to a time-bound event or a particular department/promotion/campaign/season. Which are the essential skills needed to achieve this goal as well as any obstacles to overcome? Why is this goal important?  Measurable. You've got to be able to accurately measure performance so you know unequivocally whether or not you’ve completed the goal. Achievable. Goals should be challenging but never out of reach. If a goal isn’t realistically attainable, then it may be discouraging and bad for morale. You should have enough levers/tactics to take action and realistically achieve the goal Relevant. Goals should never be a distraction from your property’s overarching objectives. If a particular goal is irrelevant to current priorities, it will not only fail to influence outcomes but it will struggle with ownership and adoption team-wide. Time-bound. For the greatest chance of success, goals must be bound by a specific timeframe. Otherwise, goals can limp on forever, without a defined end -- and thus no way to evaluate performance. SMART goals have a magical way of focusing your efforts by eliminating distractions and unproductive tangents. With a SMART goal, it's much easier to know what's working in service of your business and what's not.   How to Write SMART (Goals) Now that you know all about SMART goals, let’s talk about execution. Taking the SMART approach to goal planning requires a new way of thinking about how to write goals. The defining feature of writing SMART is in the preparation: it all starts with questions. The answers will shape your goals, so you want to ask yourself and your team members as many questions as it takes to get to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely goals. These questions should be approached with a positive attitude; there are no right answers and the point is simply to get closer to actionable goals that unite teams and deliver results. For each goal, start by writing down your initial goal. Then, methodically go through each part of the S.M.A.R.T acronym to further refine your goal. Finally, review your initial goal and adjust based on the results of each section to come up with your final SMART goal. Specific: What specifically do you want to achieve? Who needs to be included to make this happen? Who is ultimately responsible for achieving the goal? What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: How will you know when you have successfully accomplished the goal? Achievable: Given current budget and staffing, can your team realistically achieve this goal? Which tactics will you use to achieve the goal?  Relevant: Why now? How does this go help us achieve our broader business objectives? Time-bound: What's the timeframe and is it realistic to accomplish this goal in that time?   A few other guidelines to write SMART: Align individual, departmental and property goals. If goals are at odds with each other, there will be conflict between competing priorities. Be sure that goals align across the entire operation to keep everyone moving together in the same direction towards the same overarching business objectives. Stay focused. Distractions are the enemy of SMART. The point is to focus your energy around achievable goals, so if you find focus drifting from your core objectives then your goals are still too broad.  Begin with the end in mind. Popularized by Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this mindset is a critical part of writing SMART. Before diving into the writing phase, look ahead at your outcomes and work backwards. Clarity around what you want to achieve will focus your attention on only what matters most.  Decision driver. Each goal should provide clarity and focus by helping staff decide whether or not to pursue a project. All they have to do is ask themselves whether or not a potential project, tool, initiative or campaign contributes to a relevant SMART goal. If it does, then it should be considered and if it doesn't then there's no reason to continue consideration. Set regular check-ins. Don’t just write your goals down and return to them at the end of each quarter. To track progress, set regular check-ins with relevant stakeholders and adjust your approach on the fly as needed. Then you can celebrate wins and keep everything on track. You also may want to consider creating team and individual goals. That way, individual team members understand the larger goals and their role in achieving them. This increases ownership and engagement by motivating staff towards a common purpose -- and keeps everyone moving in the same direction.    SMART Goals: Examples in the Hotel Industry Before we look at a few SMART goals examples in hospitality, let’s define what’s not SMART. Avoid goals that are: Too general: “Surprise and delight guests” doesn’t give staff clarity. Immeasurable: “Streamline operations” doesn’t provide a means of measurement. Not actionable: “Improve the guest experience” doesn’t provide   Irrelevant: “Be better stewards in the community” is not necessarily directly relevant to your core business. Not time bound: “Be the best hotel in our market” doesn’t set a timeframe for measuring progress towards the goal. The pitfalls of murky, ill-defined goals are many: they confuse employees; they can cause tension because team members working against each other; lack of accountability; too broad that people don’t know where to start and become paralyzed, which ultimately leads to doing nothing; dilute your brand proposition in the eyes of employees; makes management look “out of touch” and thus reduces trust. In these ways, poor planning can actually be more detrimental to a hotel’s operations than no planning at all! SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #1: Increase % of direct bookings by 10% in Q2 Instead of “be less reliant on OTAs,” a SMART goal would specify a measurable outcome that achieves the overarching goal of becoming less reliant on OTAs. Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Answer questions like: What needs to be accomplished?  Who is responsible for it?  What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: There's a clear target of a 10% increase in direct bookings. Achievable: The goal is attainable because there are many ways to influence success:  Improve rate parity with OTAs with a rate shopping tool. Adjust availability on OTAs through your channel manager. Renegotiate contracts with OTAs to get better terms. Optimize your hotel’s booking engine for conversion with a leading provider like Bookassist Spend more on digital marketing (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Google, Tripadvisor, Kayak) to acquire direct traffic. Use CRM and email marketing to capture business from loyal guests. Implement direct booking tools that allow you to personalize the booking experience for stronger conversions.  Relevant: This goal could align with an overall objective to reduce commission costs and improve profitability. It could also be relevant in the broader context of rising commissions from third parties. Time-bound: It's limited to a single quarter so performance can be measured by comparing direct booking  percentage at the start of the quarter to the end of the quarter.   SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #2: Grow average non-rooms revenue per guest by $37 by end of Q4 Rather than an ill-defined objective of “increase guests’ on-property spending,” this goal specifies an exact amount of guest spending increase. Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine by answering key questions like: What needs to be accomplished? Who is responsible for it? What steps will you take to achieve it? Measurable: There's a target of increasing guest revenue of $37 per guest. Achievable: The goal is attainable, with clear tactics to drive success: Add guest messaging software or upsell tool Sell more room packages and bundled offers Improve the F&B offerings on property Retrain staff at on-property outlets to upsell verbally. Incentivize front desk staff to sell more packages at check-in Relevant: The goal may align with broader objectives to increase overall revenues, to better leverage on site amenities, and/or to improve profitability per guest. Time-bound: The goal is set to be achieved by the end of Q4, giving everyone a target time frame to achieve the goal.   SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #3: Increase website conversion rate by 25% in Q2 Specific: You want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Be clear about: What needs to be accomplished Who is responsible for the goal What steps will you take to achieve the goal Measurable: Success measured by increase in website conversion rate Achievable: The goal can be achieved by trying different tactics: Build a new website for your hotel Add a chatbot to your website Get a faster and more mobile-friendly hotel booking engine Build conversion-optimized direct booking campaigns with a digital marketing agency such as Bookassist Relevant: The goal aligns with broader property objectives to increase direct bookings, provide a better guest experience, and/or upsell more packages and room upgrades on the website. Time-bound: Progress will be measured over a single quarter.   Here are a few more examples of SMART goals for hotels to get your creative juices flowing: Grow mobile revenue by 60% (Chateau Golf & SPA d’Augerville) Increase direct bookings by 150% (Ambassador Hotel) Increase average order value by 43% (Hotel Teatro Pace) Increase metasearch reservations by 40% (The K Boutique Hotel) As you fine-tune your goals, maintain a positive attitude, motivate staff with specific goals oriented toward 1-2 property-wide objectives, and share progress so everyone can have visibility into performance and ownership of results. With SMART goals, your team can move more quickly and be much more successful at achieving desired outcomes.  

5 Hotel Marketing Ideas You Should Try Right Now

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Hotel Tech Report
2 weeks ago

Whether your hotel is a local landmark or a new kid on the block, it’s always a good idea to add fresh, new strategies to your hotel marketing plan. You may think that innovative ideas for hotels need months of planning and a budget that’s out of your reach, so let us assure you that you can implement creative marketing strategies in a short time frame and with little or no financial resources. In this article, we’ll share five marketing strategies for hotels and resorts that will attract new guests, drive direct bookings, and even strengthen guest loyalty. Best of all, these strategies are low cost and don’t require much planning. In fact, we recommend that you try one today! Which of our hotel marketing ideas will you try right now?   Target repeat guests with personalized offers With so much attention given to acquiring new guests, it can be easy to forget about a valuable segment of traveler: your repeat guests. Why are repeat guests so valuable, you ask? Studies show that the acquisition cost for new guests can be between 5 and 7 times that of existing guests. Furthermore, “the probability of selling to a new customer hovers around a mere 5 to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is between 60 to 70 percent.” Essentially, guests who have stayed at your hotel are more likely than new guests to book, and a repeat guest’s booking costs less than that of a new guest. Give your loyal guests a little TLC with a personalized email that recognizes their loyalty. In the email, you want to make the guest feel special, so craft the message for your VIPs in a tone that sounds exclusive and appreciative. As the cherry on top, offer a special promo code or freebie that rewards the guest for their loyalty. Besides, your loyal guests can be your best salespeople, so treat them to a special offer that they’ll want to tell all their friends about.   Give your employees a shout-out on social media Social media is a great way for hotels to stay connected with repeat guests and build brand awareness. But in addition to flattering shots of your pool, restaurant, and bathrooms, social media is also a fantastic channel for bragging about your hotel’s most valuable asset: your employees. After all, a memorable interaction with your staff is more likely to inspire a guest to return than your furniture is. For example, Hilton recently shared a video on Instagram about an employee’s journey from a refugee to an apprentice at Hilton Frankfurt City Centre. Besides just celebrating the employee’s story, the post received more views than any of Hilton’s other video content and over 28 times the average comment volume. Video content is certainly engaging, but you don’t need to produce a film like Hilton’s to get similar results. Grab your smartphone, walk into the lobby, and snap a photo of your front desk agents in action. Or start an “employee of the week (or month)” campaign that publicly recognizes team members for their hard work and dedication to your guests. Once potential guests learn about the exceptional service your staff provides, they’ll want to stay at your hotel.   Partner with local businesses Wondering how to promote hotel sales among new segments of guests? Thinking outside of the box (in this case, your hotel is the box) can lead to some exciting and creative marketing ideas. If your hotel marketing plan seems stale, consider partnering with local businesses to host events, offer unique amenities, or collaborate on promotional offers that can reach new audiences. Joining forces with nearby businesses can allow your hotel to offer unique amenities that aren’t in-house. Do guests wish your hotel had a restaurant, a gym, or a spa? Rather than investing thousands of dollars in renovations, try investing a few hours in building a partnership with a restaurant, gym, or spa next door. For instance, the historic Lenox Hotel in Boston didn’t have the space for an on-site spa, so the property partnered with G20 Spa + Salon across the street. With the ability to offer spa services to its guests, the hotel is now a stronger competitor among luxury hotels in the area. Though the partnership might not materialize immediately, you can start brainstorming potentially local business partners and start the conversation today.   Answer guest questions or comments with a personal touch Responding to guest reviews and social media comments can sometimes feel like a chore, but it’s important to remember that these responses provide an excellent opportunity to market your hotel. Rather than using canned responses or templates, answer each one individually, speaking to any specific questions or situations the guest mentioned - both positive and negative. Did a guest mention they loved the shampoo in the shower? Great! You can talk up your organic eucalyptus-scented toiletries that are thoughtfully presented in eco-friendly dispensers. Or was the guest disappointed in the food at your restaurant? Then you have the perfect opportunity to mention that your hotel has just hired a new chef who will be completely revamping the menu options (only if that’s true, of course). In addition to reviews, social media comments deserve personal treatment. RIU Hotels and Resort does an excellent job of responding to each and every comment personally. Even if the comment doesn’t have a question, the RIU team will say something like “thanks for your comment” or “we’d love to have you.” Their responses come across as genuine and thoughtful, which is probably exactly the impression that the brand wants to make. Another example of going above and beyond to respond to guest inquiries is when a child forgot their stuffed animal at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The hotel found the lost toy, but instead of simply mailing it back to its rightful owner, the hotel took photos of the stuffed animal receiving the royal treatment at the hotel and included some Ritz-branded souvenirs in the box. The hotel also posted about the situation on social media, and the post went viral. As these examples show, innovative ideas for hotels to build online marketing power doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. Try taking a few extra minutes to respond to guest comments today.   Ask real people to test your website When was the last time you asked to watch someone book a room on your own website? If you answered, “never,” then today is a great day to perform an impromptu website audit. Ensuring your website is user-friendly and glitch-free is one of the most important pieces of your hotel marketing plan, because if your website has errors and guests can’t book easily, then all of your great marketing ideas are for nothing. To conduct these mini usability tests, go into your local coffee shop (or even ask your friends or family at home) and kindly ask patrons to book a room while you watch over their shoulders. As a hotelier, you might think the booking process is simple, but to someone who might only book a hotel room once per year, your website could be confusing. To get the most out of these tests, take detailed notes about your findings so you can make improvements to your site later. As your testers navigate through your site, you might notice their body language - do they tense up or show stress during any part of the booking process? - and whether they ask any questions. These are important observations that reveal pain points on your website. If you have some computer programming experience, perhaps you can resolve the issues on your own, but if not, then you’ll want to turn to an expert. Partnering with a digital marketing agency like D-Edge ensures your website is always in perfect working order. A digital marketing agency can help you not only maintain an intuitive, seamless website, but also source content and optimize your site for search engines. With a strong website, you can make progress toward your direct booking goals. -- With these five hotel marketing ideas, you don’t need to wait for budget season or hire a marketing department to make an impact. These simple, low-cost hotel marketing ideas are ready for you to implement today so you can reach new guests, keep loyal guests coming back, and book more rooms.  

This is Why the Data Protection Act is Stupid

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Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Is your hotel compliant with the the General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR? Perhaps you've undergone a major implementation to bring your hotel up to compliance. Or maybe you’ve balked at the cost of such a project and taken the “fingers crossed” approach that your smaller brand won’t be a target of compliance audits. Wherever you land on that spectrum, the risk of non-GDPR compliance to your hotel is immense. There have been 281,000 cases submitted to regulators in GDPR’s first year, with companies risking a maximum fine of 20 million Euros or 4% of annual revenue, whichever is greater. And in July 2019, the risks of non-compliance for hotels was underscored by a record fine of USD 125 million charged to Marriott for a major data breach under the regulation. The PR damage alone is probably more costly than the fine! For an industry that clusters and shares data across websites, channel managers and third-party booking engines, GDPR has been an enormous pain. It's also been incredibly expensive, with Forbes estimating the global cost of compliance at over 9 billion USD. And that’s just for the largest companies! Small-to-midsize businesses are sinking a massive amount of time and money into compliance. Despite this investment, the regulation simply has not worked as designed. It's a well-intentioned initiative that’s been executed horribly. In this quick “GDPR for dummies” primer, we’ll explore how it started off strong and where it went wrong, and give you a complete GDPR checklist for hotels so you can comply without breaking the bank.   What is the Data Protection Act (GDPR)? GDPR, which stands for the General Data Protection Regulation, came into force in the EU on May 25th, 2018. The passage of the Act was marked by a stark conflict, between those who believe in the government’s role in protecting consumers’ privacy through regulation and those who believe that a free-market must prevail. GDPR provides “the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.” As a major overhaul of how businesses are expected to process, handle, and store data, GDPR also gave individuals more granular control over their data. Under GDPR, data refers to both personal data, such as names, IP addresses, or anything that could be used to identify a person, and sensitive personal data, such as genetic material, political views, sexual orientation, and the like. Any organization that acts as a controller or processor of personal data is covered by the GDPR. A data controller is the entity that determines how data is used for process to come on while the data processor is any entity that's not an employee of the data controller who processes data on behalf of the controller. For hotels, this distinction is important, as they may act as the “controller” of data (i.e. direct bookings) while their vendors are seen as “processors” of the data (i.e. bookings made on third party platforms). Unless otherwise governed by a contract, the Data Controller is responsible for any GDPR compliance. Facing potential fine of up to 25 million Euros or 4% of revenue, hotels must put the guest at the center of all data protection strategies. We’ll cover that more later in our hotel GDPR checklist.   The Data Protection Act is a Well Intentioned Initiative... The intentions behind the Data Protection Act were good: it was all about creating more controls for consumers in today's data-driven digital age. In most countries and regions, existing privacy laws were enacted before the internet took over. The regulation was intended to catch regulations up to commerce. To achieve this objective of greater control in today's digital age, the regulation enshrined seven individual rights based on the core data protection principles: The right to be informed. Companies must specify what data is being collected, why it's been collected, what it will be used for, and how long it will be stored. Companies must also have clear reasons for storing data for that length of time. The right of access. Individuals can access the personal data upon request, in an easily readable format. The right to rectification.  Individuals can review, modify, and correct data companies have on them.  The right to be forgotten.  Individuals can request deletions of information about them and companies must balance individual interest with the public good when  granting deletion requests. The right to restrict processing. Individuals have the right to restrict the processing of their personal data where they have a particular reason for wanting the restriction. The right to data portability. Individuals have the right to transfer their personal data on request. The right to object. Companies must get consent from individuals explicitly and offer the option to withdraw that consent, while tracking that consent in a centralized location. Individuals also have the right to protest decisions made by automated algorithms. Even with such strong benefits for individual control over their data and how its used, the initiative also had some unintended consequences.   ...With Many Unintended Consequences There were some significant unintended consequences of GDR; namely, how the realities of compliance trickled down into the economics of doing business in Europe and further entrenched the power of Big Tech: Big Tech is the biggest beneficiary.  The brands with the most widely used data trackers gained market share due to GDPR. As smaller companies adapted to the new law, they lost out to those with the most resources. A Ghostery study showed a 20% drop in website reach for the top 50 ad tech vendors there weren't Google or Facebook. GDPR appears to have put more power in the hands of the already-dominant.      Complexity breeds confusion -- and a windfall for lawyers.  The law itself is far too complicated for both individuals and businesses. With many companies spending at least 40% of their compliance budgets on legal advice, the lawyers are really the only ones with an across-the-board win.  Reduced European competitiveness -- and fewer jobs.  The law of complexity had a tremendous impact on the region’s startups, with one study finding “a $3.38 million decrease in the aggregate dollars raised by EU ventures per state per crude industry category per week, a 17.6% reduction in the number of weekly venture deals, and a 39.6% decrease in the amount raised in an average deal following the rollout of GDPR.” The loss of that investment resulted and somewhere between 3,604 to 29,819 jobs in Europe.  New merger risks.  As evidenced by the record Marriott fine related to practices of Starwood, hotels that acquire other hotels assume any GDR-related risks. As such, deals are falling apart, with 55% of a Merrill Corp survey saying they had worked on deals that fell apart because of concerns about a target company’s data protection policies and compliance with GDPR. Cost of compliance for hotels. The hospitality industry is especially affected by GDPR,  as hotels in even the most far-flung locations must consider compliance. The cost of retaining advice, and implementing systems, is steep. GDPR compliance requires collaboration across vendors and employees in IT, cybersecurity, digital forensics, and systems design. With so much to be done, the largest brands are at A major advantage as they can use their economies of scale to reduce the overall cost of implementation.     Despite these unintended consequences, GDPR is still a major issue for hotels. By balancing compliance requirements with a strategic approach, hotels of all sizes can build a framework that is affordable and effective.   Hotel GDPR Checklist To bring your hotel into compliance, as well as maintain that compliance over time, it requires a thoughtful and holistic approach. You'll need to carefully think through how data is shared across internal systems, as well as how that data flows back and forth from third-party systems that are not directly in your control. Since GDPR puts the responsibility on your hotel as a Data Controller, it’s critical that you understand how data flows at each juncture. Here's a GDR checklist for hotels: Audit. Undertake an analysis to review internal processes, contracts with vendors, existing databases and how data flows between systems. You need to understand what information you possess and who has access to it. This clarity should inform everything you do from this point forward. Communicate. Ask existing vendors for their data compliance policies. We must have a clear picture of how your hotel’s data interacts with their systems, and identify any vulnerabilities or poorly-informed vendors. After speaking to your existing vendors, it may be time to evaluate other options. When working with a GDPR-compliant vendor, like TravelClick’s GMS (CRM), iHotelier Booking Engine or a hotel website builder, you eliminate compliance stress without lifting a finger. The compliance is built into the product so you have more peace-of-mind. Plan. Once you have your audit and updated tech stack, the next step is to create a blueprint for governance. You want a framework for managing data, including policies and processes to eliminate potential gaps in how your hotel handles guest data. You’ll need clearly defined roles and responsibilities for staff, such as assigning responsibility for handling inbound data requests from consumers. You’ll also want to create a step-by-step data breach action plan to enact in the event of a data-related incident, hack or breach. Execute. Now it's time to work the plan! Things you want to be sure to include: Explicit consent: Ask visitors to your website to opt into cookies, rather than automatically installing cookies and making it opt out. You’ll also need to track when and where each person consented (or revoked that consent). Privacy policy: Update your privacy policy to include relevant GDPR compliance info, such as how you use data and how users can opt out. Front desk: Make sure that your data collection policies at the front desk are in compliance because anything you collect offline must also comply with GDPR. Existing data.  GDPR applies to all personal data, no matter when it was captured. Since data is also subject to new rules and regulation, you want to be sure it complies too! Train. Compliance is only as good as your weakest link. By training staff to adhere to these policies, you'll be less vulnerable to GDPR-related issues. Educate your staff on what may lead to a data breach and how they can help prevent it -- including monitoring for red flags.  play out a clear process for staff to report any mistakes or other complaints-related issues to management. There should be a no fear environment that prioritizes transparency over punishment. Maintain. Maintenance is far less burdensome than compliance. Revisit each aspect of your data protection program regularly to review for any unexpected changes or new compliance issues.  As you look towards GDPR, keep in mind that hotels are responsible for how vendors collect and interact with data. Every touchpoint must be compliant or you risk fines. So you must verify that your vendors are informed and proactive about GDPR for hotels. Otherwise, no matter how much preparation you do on your end, you’ll leave your hotel open to vulnerabilities -- and the financial and PR consequences of being out of compliance and having something like a data breach occur.  

The Hoteliers’ Guide to On-Page SEO

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Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Every hotel wants guests to book direct, but without search engine optimization (SEO), potential guests will have a difficult time finding your website. If you’ve ever wondered how you can drive more traffic to your website, then SEO is a tool you need to add to your toolkit. By learning about SEO and discovering how it can help your hotel’s website, you can drive more traffic to your site by maximizing your visibility among potential guests. SEO might sound complicated at first, but in this article, we’ll help you develop an understanding of on-page SEO so that you can implement strategies yourself or work with a marketing partner to further develop your online presence.   SEO is Constantly Changing so Find Expert Help For many hoteliers, managing their hotel’s online presence requires a lot of time and effort, and the hotel may choose to work with an expert who knows the ins and outs of digital marketing rather than hire someone to do it in-house. Besides, the hotel marketing landscape is changing so quickly, that just keeping up-to-date with trends can feel like a full-time job! Collaborating with a marketing partner like Net Affinity can be a great solution if your hotel wants a cutting-edge marketing strategy, but working with an agency doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook. Remember that partnering with a digital marketing agency is exactly that: partnering. Instead of sitting back and doing nothing, you should have a basic understanding of the tasks your marketing agency does so that you can ask the right questions and keep them on track.   What is On-Page SEO?  Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines like Google and Bing understand what your website offers so that it shows up in relevant search results. For example, if you search for “hotels in New York City,” it wouldn’t be very helpful if Las Vegas hotels and Seattle hotels popped up in your search results. Search engines analyze the content on each webpage, meaning they look for keywords in the content, so that they can serve up the most relevant websites when you click “search.” Therefore, it’s important that your website includes keywords that your potential guests might be searching for. On-page SEO includes strategies that you can implement on your own website to help web crawlers and search engines better find and understand the content on your website that’s relevant to searchers. Some other SEO strategies, like creating backlinks, are categorized as “off-page” since they are not actually located on your own page.   How to Improve Your On-Page SEO Now that you know what on-page SEO is, how can you optimize your own website? These tips and tricks will help search engines point potential guests to your website, which can increase your direct bookings and enhance the guest experience. Optimize your titles, headings, and tags They may seem small, but they’re important! The small snippets of text in your titles, headings, and URLs can make a big difference in your SEO. Make sure to include your most crucial keywords, like your hotel name, in any titles on your site and in your URL. For subheadings and titles of sub-pages, you can also include keywords, like the name of your restaurant or neighborhood. For example, Andras House manages several hotels in the UK. On each individual hotel’s web page, the name of the hotel is included in the title and in the URL, like on the page for the Crowne Plaza Belfast, which uses the URL “https://www.andrashouse.co.uk/crowne-plaza-belfast.html.” For bonus points, make sure your website uses H1 tags for all titles and H2 tags for subheadings! Incorporate your keywords, but not too often Search engines look for keywords in your content to determine how relevant it is for certain searches. For instance, if your hotel is in Chicago, and your website never actually includes the word “Chicago,” the search engines likely won’t serve up your website to a potential guest who searches for “Chicago hotels.” At the same time, you don’t want to mention “Chicago hotels” in every single sentence; that would make your content painful to read. Strike a good balance between keywords and natural-sounding sentences so that potential guests can glean the information they need and have a pleasant experience. The Maryborough Hotel does a great job incorporating important keywords like “Maryborough Hotel” and the city, “Cork,” while maintaining easy-to-read text. Add internal and external links When a potential guest visits your website, they will probably visit more than one website throughout the course of the booking process. In fact, they will probably visit dozens of sites - booking airfare, scouting out restaurants, planning tours and activities, emailing friends or family - before finally clicking “book.” When you include links, both to other pages on your own website or to external websites (like a trusted tour provider, for example), you can give guests a better online experience. Just remember to only include links that are relevant for your guests, otherwise it can detract from the experience. Publish interesting, high-quality content Though some aspects of SEO might seem nit-picky, the most important thing you can do to improve your website is to simply publish great content. If your website visitors spend a lot of time on your site, reading every word - and maybe even sharing it with their friends or family - that means the search engine delivered a good result to the person who was searching. One way to share your content is through a blog, like Historic Hotels of Europe does. On their blog, readers can learn about their member hotels, their destinations, and events that potential guests might want to attend. Ensure your site is speedy and glitch-free Search engines want to give searchers the best results, and that doesn’t just mean high-quality content. If a website loads slowly, contains links that don’t work, or has some other type of error, the visitor will probably click the “back” button and choose a different website from the search results. This behavior sends a signal to the search engine that the website probably isn’t the best one to include in the search results. To make sure your site loads quickly and doesn’t have any errors, just like the website for Hotel Westport, visit it regularly - both on a desktop and a smartphone.  -- Now that wasn’t so bad, was it! SEO might sound intimidating, but any hotel can incorporate the most essential SEO strategies. Above all, creating interesting, readable content and formatting your site so that it’s easy to navigate around will help you maintain a strong presence in the search results. And when the ins and outs of SEO get to be too much to handle as your website grows, consider partnering with a hotel-specific digital marketing agency like Net Affinity. By paying close attention to your SEO, you can drive direct bookings and provide a wonderful guest experience.    

100+ Small Business Marketing Tools You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

A successful small business today needs more than a brick-and-mortar storefront. A strong digital presence is crucial to business growth, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of small business marketing tools and digital marketing strategies available.  Whether you run a restaurant, a yoga studio, or a hotel, our 100 small business marketing tools can help you make your online footprint a strategic (and revenue-generating!) facet of your business. Soon you’ll be on your way to a beautiful, engaging website that converts visitors into loyal customers - all while avoiding that “I’m lost!” feeling that can happen when navigating the online marketing space. Every business is at a different point in their digital marketing journey, so we’ve broken down our list of tools from the essentials (for digital marketing beginners) to advanced platforms that help more experienced marketers dive into analytics and technical tweaks. We also understand that your business can’t be successful with digital marketing alone, so we’ve added a bonus category that consists of general business tools that can assist with overall operations. In short, this guide will help you: Get set up for success online with Digital Marketing Basics Craft your digital image with Graphic Design and Content Generate traffic through SEO and Digital PR Build customer loyalty and repeat business with Customer Relationship Management Understand customer behavior through Analytics Streamline your daily operations with General Business Tools These tools are not industry-specific, which means they’re suitable for not only hoteliers, but any type of small business owner, from restaurateurs to retailers. If your business wants to drive website traffic, build loyalty, and increase revenue, then it’s important to optimize your digital marketing strategy - whether your goal is to book more rooms, sell more items, or grow a subscriber list.   What's in this guide? 1. Basic Digital Marketing Tools: Website Builders, Online Shops, Marketplace Selling, Local Optimization 2. Graphic Design and Content: Graphic Design Tools, Photography, Video Marketing, Content Strategy, Content Organization 3. Traffic Generation Tools: Social Media Management, Digital PR, SEO & Keyword Planning, Pay-Per-Click Strategy, Clicks & Conversion, Lead Capture, Referral Programs 4. Customer Relationship Management Tools: CRM Software, Marketing Automation, Website Live Chat, Email Marketing, Loyalty Programs 5. Analytics & Insights Tools: Website Visitor Insights, Market Research, Audience Profiles 6. General Business Tools: Collaboration & Organization, Copy Editing, Budgeting, Offline Optimization   Small Business Digital Marketing Basics First things first! You can’t dive into keyword planners and website visitor insights if you don’t have a website. Let’s kick off your online marketing success with the essentials: website builders, online shop platforms, digital marketplaces, and tools that help customers find your physical storefront online.  Website Builders Use these tools to create beautiful websites with minimal time and technical know-how required. Wix: A platform that gives you the freedom to create, design, manage and develop your web presence exactly the way you want. Pick a template and customize anything, or answer a few questions and get a free website designed just for you. You can also get a personalized SEO plan so it's easier for customers to find your website.     WordPress: WordPress allows you to build a website that meets your unique needs. Start a blog, business site, portfolio, online store, or anything else you can imagine. They give you everything you would ever need to start your own website. They have built‑in optimization and responsive, mobile‑ready themes, plus free hosting, your own domain, and a bunch of other cool stuff. Divi Builder: Divi is more than just a WordPress theme, it's a completely new website building platform that replaces the standard WordPress post editor with a vastly superior visual editor. Add, delete, and move elements around on the front end of your website. No coding and no confusing back-end options.   Online Shops Does your business sell a product or a service? Allow customers to purchase items or make reservations online from anywhere in the world at any time. Simplify your online sales process with an intuitive, easy-to-use ecommerce platform.  Your marketing efforts will go to waste if you don’t have an online presence to drive shoppers to. Shopify: Whether your business is online, in retail or on the go, Shopify offers an all-in-one commerce platform to start, run, and grow a business. One platform with all the ecommerce and point of sale features you need to start, run, and grow your business. You can buy a domain, sell anywhere anytime, market using built-in tools, and analyze data to gain key insights about your customers.    Retailer Taylor Stitch is built on the Shopify platform   Squarespace: Squarespace provides software as a service for website building and hosting. It's easy enough to use for beginners and advanced enough for experienced website builders. Use pre-built website templates and drag and drop elements to create webpages.   Marketplace Selling Direct sales through your own website are great, but why settle for just one sales channel? These online marketplaces put your product or service in front of a larger global audience. Etsy: The global marketplace for unique and creative goods. Etsy is home to a universe of extraordinary items, from handcrafted custom pieces to vintage treasures. Etsy helps their community of sellers turn their ideas into successful businesses. Their platform connects sellers with millions of buyers looking for special items made with human touch. Groupon: Groupon offers a vast mobile and online marketplace where people shop for and save on things to do, see, eat, and buy. By enabling real-time commerce across local businesses, travel destinations, consumer products, and live events, shoppers can find the best a city has to offer. Groupon is redefining how small businesses attract and retain customers by providing them with customizable and scalable marketing tools and services to profitably grow their businesses.     Travelzoo: Travelzoo publishes offers from more than 2000 travel, entertainment, and tour companies. Travelzoo's deal experts review offers to find the best deals and confirm their true value. While companies do pay to list their deals on Travelzoo, no amount of money can ensure that a deal will get published since Travelzoo verifies each listing. Peek: A one-stop shop to discover and book amazing experiences for both travelers and locals. Peek’s team of travel experts handpicks the best activities to provide a personalized selection of experiences that match a variety of travel preferences. Airbnb: An online marketplace not only for apartments and homes, but also for hotel rooms, tours, and activities. Airbnb verifies personal profiles and listings, maintains a smart messaging system so hosts and guests can communicate with certainty, and manages a trusted platform to collect and transfer payments.   Local Optimization Gone are the days of the Yellow Pages; use these tools to ensure your physical business is accurately and attractively represented online. Yext: Yext syncs your location data across hundreds of websites. This tool drives more foot traffic to your business by distributing accurate information (phone number, address, etc.) for brick-and-mortar businesses and allowing them to run real-time promotions.     MomentFeed: This tool transforms your physical business locations into a massive mobile marketing advantage and drives more sales to every location. MomentFeed manages digital ads, reviews, and social media required to make each of your properties a guest’s top choice. Google My Business: This free tool allows you to optimize and promote your Business Profile and business website in the Google search results and on Google Maps. Google My Business enables you to connect with your guests or customers, post updates to your Business Profile, and see how guests or customers interact with your business on Google.   Graphic Design & Content Tools for Small Businesses If your website doesn’t contain eye-catching graphics and compelling content, potential customers will skip to a competitor. Grab their attention with images, video, and text that conveys your brand’s value proposition and reflects your brand’s values. These graphic design and content tools will help you craft attractive and high-quality media for any digital marketing channel - and keep it all organized. Graphic Design Allow your digital image to accurately reflect your brand and business with high-quality graphic design. From logos to infographics to color palettes, your brand image is a crucial part of your digital footprint - and a streamlined image can make your brand more recognizable and memorable to current and potential customers. Plus, it’s not always necessary to spend the big bucks on graphic design; these online graphic design tools can create beautiful results at a low (or no) cost. Visually: If you don't have an in-house graphic design team - this is a great way to still get custom graphics. You can tap into their collection of finished infographics and templates or use their talented team of designers to get something completely custom. Fill out a simple creative brief and they will pair you with the best talent for the job.  Envato: Envato Market is a collection of marketplaces for creative digital assets. Buy anything from Photoshop actions and video footage to advanced WordPress themes and plugins. Get unlimited downloads of themes, plugins, graphics, photos, fonts and more with a monthly subscription. Canva: Canva is a simplified graphic design tool used by both non designers as well as professionals. Its subscription service is perfect for people who need web design to be easy but may not have a budget for a full time graphic designer. You can create everything from logos, charts, graphs, shapes and presentations in custom font and design. It has drag and drop features that make design easy for newbies.      Dribble: The go-to resource for discovering and connecting with designers and creative talent around the globe. It is a community of designers sharing screenshots of their work, process, and projects to help you hire expert creatives that are perfect for your project. Design Pickle:  This company is a flat-rate graphic design subscription service offering unlimited requests, unlimited revisions, a dedicated designer, native source files.  In a few clicks you’ll have access to a professional designer ready to jump into your creative ecosystem. Get matched with a Design Pickle graphic designer who knows you by name and understands your brand and changing business needs. Their intuitive platform makes it easy to request and manage your designs and scale up as you grow. Stencil: Share As Image can transform any image into a custom piece of content. Easily create social media graphics, compelling ads, or beautiful blog headers in a fraction of the time. Download the app or use the Chrome plugin, then it’s as simple as clicking “share as image” and adding the text or filters you want.   Photography Stock photography can quickly (and inexpensively) add some extra pizazz to your website, social media, or marketing materials. Death To Stock Photo: Death to Stock is an artist-owned co-op that provides you with the most authentic stock photos and videos; with unlimited downloads and new work added every month. Death to Stock sends you a free bundle of high-quality images each month via email. You can also sign up as a premium user and get access to its entire library. Getty Images: Find the perfect royalty-free image for your next project from the world's best photo library of creative stock photos, vector art illustrations, and stock photography.   Video Marketing As we’ve seen through the growth of YouTube, consumers aren’t satisfied with simple photos anymore - they want video. Bring your brand to life with these video marketing tools. Promo.com: Create stand-out video ads, social media videos, product videos, explainer videos and more - all optimized for online results. Customize more than 2,500 top performing video templates or create your own. Choose from over 15M premium HD videos and photos from Getty, Shutterstock, and other top-rated partners in our visual library. Wistia: This software helps you present captivating video experiences on your site that turn viewers into brand advocates. It offers analytics, automation and a place to host your videos.   Content Marketing Strategy High-quality content is key to building an online brand. Create and share memorable, engaging content that your customers or followers will want to tell their friends about. Clear Voice: This content creation platform and integrated Talent Network can scale content for all your marketing channels faster than ever — to save time and money while building ROI. Their marketing platform is like a playground for content people, where brands and agencies can connect with freelancers to create great content. Followerwonk: If Twitter is one of your strongest platforms, this is a tool for you. Develop a strategic posting and content approach, and figure out key demos about your followers' so you can deliver quality content that resonates with them. This tool will mine your Twitter Analytics in order to help you find relevant Twitter accounts that are worth targeting.  Buzzsumo: If you want to be successful in content marketing, you have to do your research, which is where Buzzsumo comes in, with a quick click, get a look at what’s trending on social media and analyze the returned results to find out why they're trending. This will help inspire you to write content that resonates with consumers. You can also look at your own content to see what's performing and who's engaging with it. Buzzsumo shows content that is trending across social media based on searched topics. Following your search, you can analyze the results that are returned to see what’s so appealing about them and to get ideas of subjects to write about.     Trello: This tool is ideal for content strategists that want to plan out their editorial calendar. It's perfect for content brainstorming and its calendar service allows you to collaboratively create and share ideas across multiple individuals and teams. It operates more as a content planner than content scheduler -- you can create notecards for article topics, marketing campaigns, or other subjects your team may focus on. On each card, users can take notes, record instructions, update the project status, and assign cards to certain people. Hemingway App: If you want solid content, run it through this tool to check its quality and make sure its complexity is appropriate to your audience. The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.   Content Organization Use these content organization tools to plan your content strategy in advance so you’re never faced with writer’s block. Pocket: This app and web service is ideal for managing a reading list of articles and videos from the Internet. Save articles, videos and stories from any publication, page or app. Curate your own space filled with everything you can’t wait to learn. CoSchedule: CoSchedule Marketing Suite is a family of agile marketing products that will help you organize your content, social, work, and assets in one place. Save time, publish consistently, and grow your audience. Editorial Calendar plans help you organize your blog and social media to build and share your brand.   Traffic Generation If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Brand awareness is key in all marketing and advertising.  A great marketing plan drums up interest in your brand and then delivers attractive offers for prospective customers.  Does your website even exist if nobody looks at it? You’ve invested time, energy, and money into building a great website, but how do you generate traffic? With a strong social media presence, creative social media marketing, a focus on search engine optimization (SEO), and referral programs, you don’t need to dedicate lots of money and effort to get eyes on your site. These tools will help your website become more visible and make your marketing efforts more effective, then keep visitors engaged all the way through the purchase process.   Social Media Management Maximizing your social media activity isn’t as simple as creating a profile. Use these social media management tools to understand your followers, build relationships with influencers, and grow your brand. Drum Up: DrumUp discovers and helps you share great content to your social media accounts so you can start meaningful conversations with your followers. This site mines through tons of content across the web in real time, and uses sophisticated algorithms to recommend fresh stories most relevant to your audience. Social Mention: This is a free tool that provides a real-time analysis of social media. It organizes social media mentions of your brand into a single stream and includes hashtags, top keywords, and sites. Traackr: Traackr is an influencer relationship management platform that allows businesses to find, vet, manage, and measure their influencer marketing programs. It is designed for companies that already have an established influencer program. Traackr provides influencer discovery, vetting, campaign organization, measurement, and the industry’s only influencer market performance benchmark. Sprout Social: Build and grow stronger relationships on social. Understand and reach your audience, engage your community and measure performance with the only all-in-one social media management platform built for connection. Buffer: Plan, collaborate, and publish click-stopping content that drives meaningful engagement and growth for your brand. Buffer is a really simple way to automate and optimize your marketing strategy. Plan and publish your content for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn from one simple dashboard.     Hootsuite: This is the central management platform for all your social media channels. In one session, you can schedule posts in advance so that your content is prepped for the coming weeks or months. You can also identify key influencers and hashtags.This one-stop-shop helps you not only manage your social posts, but also track ROI and brand mentions. It will allow you to see which of your social posts are generating the most buzz. Sniply: Sniply adds your custom call to action to any page on the web, allowing you to engage your followers through every link you share. For example, you can attach a button to the page that links to your own website, so that people can discover you while they read. Sniply generates unique links for you to share. Anyone clicking on your links will see the content along with your call-to-action inside.   Digital PR A strong SEO strategy doesn’t stop with your own search results performance. Leverage these digital PR tools to build backlinks, snag placement in news articles, and get in touch with influencers. BuzzStream: This software will help you research influencers, manage your relationships, and conduct outreach that’s personalized and efficient. Through one centralized database, BuzzStream discovers contact information, social profiles, and site metrics for you. It’s easy to prioritize the most important, influential contacts. Their customizable reports provide deep insight into your outreach campaigns, team performance and link placements - so you know what works and what doesn't.  Just Reach Out: PR software and guidance to get the exposure you need to grow your business. Their software allows you to find the most relevant journalists, publications, press opportunities, podcasts and broken links so you can pitch with confidence.     Pitchbox: Find bloggers, publishers, and influencers in record time. With multiple prospecting profiles and intuitive keyword search, Pitchbox allows you to find influencers in your niche in a matter of seconds. Save hundreds of hours each month while being in total control of your messaging. Customize each outreach email to your target opportunities, without manual input, and automatically follow up with prospects who haven’t responded, boosting response rates ~62% on average.   SEO: Keyword Planning Search engine optimization is important for generating traffic, but how do you know which keywords to target? These keyword planning tools will help you decide where to start. If you have a general idea of a few keywords to target, use a keyword research tool to find more relevant keywords that can put your website in front of more viewers.  SEO keyword planning starts with understanding your target market. What questions or queries do your customers search for that your product and content can answer? KWFinder: A good key word finder like KWFinder is essential. You may have great content, but you also need great keywords in order to get a better ranking and more visibility. This tool is ideal for small businesses because it offers more functionality than the free tools in an easy-to-use format, for an affordable monthly fee. All you have to do is put in a seed keyword and the tool will come back with hundreds of suggestions, search volume data, trends, and a ranking difficulty score for each word or phrase. Keyword Planner: This Google Ads tool is perfect for new or experienced advertisers. You can use Keyword Planner to search for keywords and see how a list of keywords might perform. It can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use with your campaigns. Reach new customers and grow your business with Google Ads, Google's online advertising program.This platform is set up like a workshop so you can learn as you go. Neil Patel Ubersuggest: You no longer will waste time writing content that people don’t want to read. Insight into the keywords your audience uses is likely to spark ideas for new content pieces or product features or even new products that actually resonate with your consumer. Ubersuggest is a free keyword tool that gives you tons of suggestions based on your topic. It’s like an enhanced version of Google’s suggestions. Its new feature even lets you type in a competitor's domain name to get better keyword ideas. SpyFu: This self-serve competitive intelligence tool specializes primarily in keyword research. They provide unlimited searches for domains, keywords, and backlinks as well as unlimited exports, which other services usually don’t offer.     Screaming Frog: This is an easy way to analyze the technical components of your website to make sure you’re well-optimized for search engines. This website crawler will help you identify your SEO issues like broken links or duplicate content. Any site issues your having will be flagged so won't miss a beat.  Ahrefs: Audit your website, explore competitors, research keywords & backlinks - all in one place. Powered by seriously big data & trusted by top SEOs. Unlike old school SEO which was focused on backlink quantity, this new practice is all about building relevant and organic backlinks. Search engines will know how trustworthy your site is based on how many quality links leads to your content. SEMRush: Offers online visibility and marketing analytics software subscriptions.   Pay-Per-Click Strategy A big portion of website traffic starts in the search results. As search results marketing gets more and more competitive, hone your pay-per-click strategy to get the best cash-to-click ratio. WordStream: Turn browsers into buyers with tools designed to drive new purchasers to your site and kickstart your shopping campaign ROAS. WordStream Advisor for Ecommerce gives advertisers the tools you need to set up & manage your shopping campaigns on platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook. Turn more shoppers into customers, faster. Kite: Kite is a tool for digital advertising professionals, to help get both better performances and the most out of their budget. Kite’s main objective is to improve your conversations and ROI without increasing spend. The platform will analyze your existing campaigns and create a report that is built of recommendations based on 40+ industry tested best practices. The reports come with insights that are each uniquely formulated to give you the best strategies when moving forward with your campaigns. Squared.io: This optimization platform analyzes your Google Ads account daily for opportunities and issues.They analyze your settings for anomalies and give you the opportunity to fix them from the interface so you can maximize the traffic and conversions for your account. Optmyzr: Do optimizations and reporting in a fraction of the time so you can handle more accounts more effectively, and grow your bottom line. Optmyzr connects with your advertising accounts and analyzes data in real-time, making suggestions about how to optimize the performance of your accounts.   Clicks and Conversion Use these tools to turn casual shoppers into paying customers. Picreel: Picreel is an on-site retargeting and conversion rate optimization platform that will help you send the right message to the right person at the right time. It will help you capture email addresses and put a call to action in front of your website visitors. Picreel optimizes offers on your website by tracking visitors' digital footprints and click behavior in real-time, then it serves up the most relevant offer as they navigate around your site.  Convert: Convert is an A/B testing tool used to improve the conversion rate of your website. This will allow you to improve and attract more users to your website and essentially increase revenue. Anyone on your team can start experimenting. Switch out text, images, calls to action, or HTML/CSS elements without adding a single line of code. Proof: Proof is designed to help you display your social proof so that you can create FOMO (fear of missing out) and convert more visitors into leads. The platform is designed to help you save on acquisition costs and increase brand perception. It's very easy to download: all you have to do is copy and paste their pixel onto your site page.   Lead Capture A strong email list will give you powerful email marketing opportunities. Use these tools to encourage visitors to subscribe to your email updates. OptinMonster: OptinMonster’s beautiful, attention-grabbing opt-in forms are proven to convert visitors into subscribers. OptinMonster helps you showcase the right offer to the right people at the right time to build your email list, get more leads, and increase bookings. Unbounce: Get more leads, sales, and customers with landing pages built just how you want. Create and optimize dedicated landing pages that prompt your visitors with one focused goal instead of leaving them to wander a site full of distractions. Create custom landing pages with no code required. Get built-in conversion power and the ability to A/B test your pages to see exactly what’s working. Experiment with messaging, design, and forms to validate what makes more visitors convert more often.     Referral Programs If your website visitors love what you offer, these tools make it easy for them to refer friends or family - one of the best ways to spread the word about your business and acquire new customers. Mention Me: Mention Me encourages, measures, and rewards customers who love your product enough to recommend it to others and keep coming back themselves. This SaaS platform enables companies to supercharge word-of-mouth for fast and effective new customer acquisition. Extole: Extole is a referral marketing program that helps companies acquire customers through their refer-a-friend program. You can choose from rewards like discount codes or gift cards. When one of your current customers buys something using a code, they get a reward for sharing it with a friend or family member. The friend or family member will also receive a reward and most likely become a new customer of your brand - so everybody wins! Viral-Loops: A viral and referral marketing platform to launch ranking competitions, sweepstakes, pre-launch offers, and referral programs. When you run an ongoing referral marketing campaign, people earn bigger prizes for the more friends they refer.     Pay With A Tweet: Pay with a Tweet is a social media referral tool that drives reach through social shares. Publishers can incentivize their users by offering products or content in exchange for a social post. It is easily implemented on your website and the user experience is quick, simple and safe. PWT will verify that your customers have really shared your brand with their friends and make sure that they get the promised reward for it.   Customer Relationship Management in Small Business Marketing Digital tools aren’t only helpful in driving sales on your website; they can benefit your physical business too. Use these tools to better manage relationships with your customers and build brand loyalty. If your website allows customers to order products or guests to book rooms, then these tools can help you increase your sales performance. By building strong relationships with your guests or consumers, you can keep them coming back for more.   CRM Software Customers are the core of your business. Investing in a customer relationship management system can assist in increasing sales and understanding customer behavior. KWI: A cloud-based platform and team of tech experts that help retailers sell more, streamline processes, and create holistic customer experiences - online and offline. This omni-channel POS tool supports in-store and online purchases, fulfillment, returns, and exchanges. You can see sales and inventory in real time and get real time data collection, segmenting, and targeting capabilities to better understand your customers. Pipedrive: This is a comprehensive CRM solution that helps with all aspects of your sales cycle. Pipedrive provides you with everything you need, including detailed reports, email automation, and AI-powered tools. HubSpot: When you're running a few different campaigns across multiple channels, it can be hard to manage them and even harder to get a pulse on what's working. HubSpot program offers a full stack of software for marketing, sales, and customer service, with a completely free CRM at its core. Hubspot provides everything you need to organize, track, and build better relationships with leads and customers.     Zoho: Zoho enables users to reach out to prospects at the right moment and engage them across every channel. Give your sales team the perfect set of apps to help close more business deals in less time.   Marketing Automation If your sales team performs the same tasks over and over again, an automation tool can do the work for them and let them spend time more strategically. Hatchbuck: Hatchbuck is an all-in-one CRM and marketing automation tool created specifically for small businesses. Keep tabs on every contact with their easy-to-learn, simple-to-use CRM. Hatchbuck lets you know who your hot prospects are so you can focus on selling. Keap: Keap is a comprehensive CRM, sales, and marketing automation software to help you consistently win more business. Create a repeatable sales process that makes it easy for you to set up appointments, track leads, and get quotes accepted all from your CRM. Constant Contact: Constant Contact can help you compose attractive emails, build a website with ease, create a logo for your brand, run Google Ads to get more website traffic, or find new customers on social media. Their software will take care of all of your list management needs. You get access to a whole suite of campaign types available to help reach and engage with your customers.   Website Live Chat If website visitors have a question, make it as easy as possible for them to get answers with the option to chat in real-time with a bot or a customer service representative. Intercom: This messaging platform allows businesses to communicate with prospective and existing customers within their app, on their website, through social media, or via email. Use bots and live chat to automatically qualify, route, and convert more leads - and faster. Send targeted email, in-app, and push messages to turn more visitors into customers.     Tawk.to: Provides your business with all of the features you would find in common live messaging platforms, but for free. You can customize the chat widget, converse via mobile (even by using predefined shortcuts), analyze visitors in real-time, and trigger actions to proactively interact with them. LiveChat: This tool includes most of the features already available within Intercom but plus message sneak peaks, agent ratings, chat routing, and integrations for the chat widget. It's not free, but it's worth the price for the bells and whistles. LiveChat is perfect for beginners who want to utilize a customizable and ready-to-use chat widget. but also for developers who want to change and build on the standard offering.  LiveChat also has a couple other products in their arsenal such as HelpDesk, which is an email management software and ticketing system and ChatBot, an intuitive chatbot solution that's great for automating customer support. HelpCrunch: HelpCrunch supports multi-channel messaging and combines all messages from a single user under one roof – including email, the chat widget, or social media. The platform automatically gathers all personal or behavioral customer data, coupled with their chat history to date, then provides actionable insights. You can follow up on queries with emails or instant solutions. LiveAgent: This platform offers live chat functionality, but also includes ticket management, social messages, and customer care support (including phone call functionality) in one integrated platform. The LiveAgent chat widget first searches for answers, then connects customers to a live representative.    Email Marketing Send targeted email updates, newsletters, and offers to your subscribers. Mailchimp: This service will enable you to capture emails, manage your lists, send out emails automatically or on a schedule, and analyze engagement. It simplifies all the services you need and remains free until your list hits 2,000 subscribers.   Loyalty Programs Offer incentives to keep customers coming back for more with these loyalty program platforms. Belly: Collect customer info after their first visit to keep them engaged and coming back. Send email marketing and mobile campaigns without lifting a finger. Belly also helps you grow your social channels and attract new customers. Fivestars: Ditch the old school punch card and go digital, with a loyalty card that customers won't accidently leave at home. The Fivestars Customer Touchscreen integrates with your point-of-sale. Your customers enter their phone number every time they make a purchase. You decide the rewards they can redeem, like a free coffee.     CandyBar: Customers get rewards, cashiers get 3-tap checkout, and store owners get to see top customers and KPIs. No POS integration required; CandyBar runs on any browser and only takes three minutes to set up.  Loyalzoo: A digital loyalty system for brick-and-mortar stores and eateries. Loyalzoo offers a practical way of helping consumers support their local shops and restoring pride to their areas. Sign customers up for your loyalty program directly on your point-of-sale system or online using their phone number or email address. Once your customers are signed up to your program and collect points, you can send messages or promotions and push sales during slow periods. There is also an option for customers to pay to be part of a loyalty or membership program for added perks.   Analytics What are your guests or customers thinking? What’s their path to purchase on your website? And why do they love your product - or not? Diving into your ideal consumer’s preferences, needs, and wants will help you tailor your marketing messages to be most relevant for your audience. Website Visitor Insights What do guests or customers actually do on your hotel or business’s website? What links do they click? How long do they stay on each page? Or do they run into an error and jump to a competitor’s website? Understanding the behavior of the people using your website is an important first step to reach your digital marketing goals. Without a smooth website experience, you can’t expect guests to book more rooms or for customers to purchase more products. Google Analytics: Discover who is visiting your site and what they're up to when they arrive. The platform looks at the number of visitors, where they come from, and the keywords they used to get to your site. All of these actionable insights help you better understand your potential guests and how to speak to them.     Kissmetrics: Map your guest or customer’s journey on your website from looker to booker. With this platform, you will find out exactly where your website visitors are coming from and can map their journey to purchase. You will get the crucial data you need to optimize your marketing channels, attract more guests, and get them to convert once they reach your website. Send automated behavioral engagements at the perfect time to get people happily headed in the right direction. Pendo: Access to the analytics you need to understand what users are doing across their product journey. Product teams can understand product usage, collect feedback, measure sentiment, onboard users, and announce new features in-app, without requiring engineering resources. Crazy Egg: This data collection tool is ideal for gaining insights into how your customers use your website. Through click reports, heat maps, and A/B testing tools, you will be able to identify areas of friction that represent conversion opportunities. Hot Jar: Gain insight into the behavior of your website visitors - perfect for conversion optimization. A simple script is the only thing you need to set up all the features for your website.    Heap: Heap automatically captures web and mobile app behavioral data. Retroactively analyze behavioral data without writing code. Their infrastructure is built to automatically capture customer interactions, make sense of them, and make them actionable.   Market Research What’s the easiest way to know what your potential or current customers want? Ask them! These survey tools make questionnaires effortless and engaging. Turn customer preferences into actionable insights that can shape your strategy and convert more sales. Survey Anyplace: This tool streamlines the survey creation experience by allowing you to build your own surveys and tailor them to your brand's unique needs. They are optimized for mobile with a heavy visual emphasis if desired. They analyze your settings for anomalies and give you the opportunity to fix them from the interface so you can maximize the traffic and conversions for your account. SurveyMonkey: This survey software is intuitive and quick. SurveyMonkey is a global leader in survey software. With a few minutes, you can design, create & publish a survey that will give you access to key consumer insights and trends.     Pollfish: Survey Pollfish’s global network of over 550 million consumers to gain insights into consumer preferences for any industry. The information you glean from these studies can help you hone your product-market fit and reach potential customers more effectively. Google Forms: As part of the Google G Suite, this tool lets you intuitively build surveys, forms, and quizzes, then export the answers or results to a Google Sheet. Easily add collaborators, make edits, and analyze the results within your personal or business Google account.   Audience Profiles What do your guests or customers really think about your brand or product? Tap into their opinions to find opportunities to better your business. Qzzr: Businesses can make fun and engaging quizzes with Qzzr to better understand their audiences and generate new leads. Build richer customer profiles, improve engagement, and generate more revenue by asking the right questions. Finished quizzes can be embedded on your website or socials.  Reddit: This is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.  Joining the Reddit community is a great way to gain consumer insights about your target audience on a much deeper level - it's like going undercover. Members submit content to the site such as links, text posts, and images, which are then voted up or down by other members. Brands can use this information to gain insights into how their customers are talking about their products or services. Quora: This platform allows you to ask questions and get answers from experts in the Quora community. Members ask questions about just about every topic you can imagine, including product reviews, travel recommendation, and even digital marketing strategies! Small businesses can respond to questions related to their product or service and include a link to their website.   Productivity Tools for Small Business Marketing Stay focused, submit deliverables on time, and organize information with these product management tools. Whether your business is a hotel, a restaurant, or a store, it’s important to keep projects moving in the right direction. These handy tools can help you save time and stay organized so you can focus on other things.. Collaboration & Organization Platforms Working with colleagues and business partners can be challenging - especially when your team members work different shifts or are based in other parts of the world. Stay in sync with these collaboration tools. Slack: This cloud-based collaboration hub makes it easy for you to follow conversations or easily find information in searchable archives. Slack integrates with all major project management, office management, sales, productivity, design, and developer tools, which makes communication even more seamless. Instead of a single overstuffed inbox, conversations in Slack happen in dedicated spaces called channels. Asana: Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. Plan and structure work in a way that’s best for you. Set priorities and deadlines, share details, and assign tasks.  Trello: No matter where you are, Trello stays in sync across all of your devices. Collaborate with your team anywhere, from sitting on the bus to sitting on the beach. Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way.     Evernote: Share ideas with anyone and find information faster. Evernote helps you capture ideas, inspiration, and trends, while storing it in one easily accessible location. You can access your files on your phone, laptop, or tablet, making it the perfect tool for finding and storing content ideas, market research, brainstorming, and competitive analyses. Basecamp: Unlike email, where you have to constantly manage the chaos, Basecamp keeps projects organized. Each project section contains everything related to the work at hand: all the people involved, every discussion, every document, file, task, important dates, and more.   Copy Editing Even the most beautiful website or well-intentioned email can see conversion slip because of typos. Use a copy editing tool to write professional text all the time. Grammarly: Just because you can't afford to hire a copy editor doesn't mean you can afford mistakes. Grammarly can make corrections while you write on Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all your other favorite sites. Use it in combination with your spell checker and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many typos you avoid. If you opt for the paid premium version, Grammarly also offers a plagiarism checker.   Budgeting While you work hard to increase website traffic and sales, don’t forget to keep your finances in check. Due: This affordable solution is for business owners to pay and get paid faster. Due helps your business seamlessly process credit cards, eCash and eCheck payments.   Offline Optimization Spread the word online about events happening in real life and make the checkout process as frictionless as possible with these helpful hints. Bosstab: Bosstab sells tablet stands, POS equipment, and accessories. The company focuses on using tablets in a business setting - perfect for hospitality venues, shops, showrooms, and general businesses. Get the perfect stand to house your tablets or accessories. Eventbrite: Create a beautiful event listing page with built-in payment processing, analytics, and support. Manage and track your sales with real-time reporting and analytics from any device. Give your event-goers a great experience with simple, secure checkout and rapid check-in through Eventbrite’s mobile apps and full suite of on-site equipment, staffing, and logistics. -- Now that you’re armed with 100 small business marketing tools, growth is within reach. Use these tools to spread the world about your product, increase your sales or bookings, and stay organized behind the scenes. When you can spend less time and effort on the intricacies of marketing, you can focus on what really matters: delivering a great product.  

How to Attract Generation Z to Your Hotel

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Most hoteliers don’t use Snapchat or know what TikTok is. Generation Z’s, however, are flocking to the platform in record numbers – making it the world’s second most downloaded app of 2019. TikTok is the epitome of what it means to be a Gen Zer. It’s also a perfect symbol for how few hotel marketing managers really understand this demographic. Few hotels are making any effort to capture the attention of this younger generation – and this attitude is catching up.  Those who understand this new generation of post-millennials leverage marketing influencers and tap into passion points like climate change to drive business. Generation Z is already one of the largest consumer groups, despite the fact that some members of this demographic are younger than age 10. They “control $200 billion in direct spending. In the meantime, they influence more than $600 billion in spending by their parents,” according to one research report. Members of generation Z are expected to account for 40% of all consumer purchases by the end of this year. It’s tempting to apply the same approach you take marketing to millennials to Gen Zers, but this strategy won’t win you any younger guests. Don’t underestimate this group: yes, they’re tech savvy, but they’re also budget-conscious, globally-minded guests who wish to be taken seriously. It’s not all about the next hottest social network. These travelers require an additional level of personalization, authentic messaging, and plenty of digital touchpoints to streamline the journey.   Generation Z: Who are They?  Generation Z is generally regarded as those with birth years between 1995 and 2015. They are the youngest generation and many of these young people are still in high school and below.  It would be a mistake to conflate Gen Z with Gen Y, also known as Millennials. While these groups may share some characteristics, they have very different perspectives, habits, and attitudes that impact their purchase decisions. Generation Z is the first generation of “digital natives,” a buzz phrase that means this group has grown up completely immersed in the internet through platforms like Google at a very young age. Smartphones, touch screens, and apps have been the norm since birth, unlike Gen Y, who can remember a time before wireless internet. Gen Z has strong tech skills, the ability to multitask, and the desire for personalized, custom-built experiences. At a high-level, here’s what this generation is all about:  They’re discerning. Cynics say that Gen Z members have “an eight-second attention span.” More to the point, having grown up in the age of the internet, this group is able to quickly sort through and assess huge amounts of information. They can quickly tell when they’re being sold to and what’s worthy of their attention.  They define personal interaction differently. Despite their reputation for constantly spending too much time on their phones, Gen Z takes face time seriously. “74% of Gen Z would rather connect with colleagues face-to-face than via other formats. But here’s the catch: Gen Z doesn’t equate face-to-face with in-person,” one CEO told Fast Company. For Gen Z, conversations happening on social media or over text are just as real as in-person conversations.  They’re the “sober generation”. Gen Z has grown up in the post-9/11, post-recession world. They’re pragmatic savers who seek value, rather than luxury. They look to be defined differently than Millennials and work hard to avoid the “lazy” stereotype. This is a group that believes strongly in “diversity, equality, nondiscrimination and the alleviation of poverty.”  When it comes to travel, Gen Z may share similar values to Gen Y – but how this group goes about booking a hotel, engaging with a property, and enjoying their stay differs dramatically.    Generation Z vs. Generation Y and Baby Boomers Older generations like Gen Y and the Baby Boomers are the two other largest consumer groups hoteliers need to know. Gen Y, known as Millennials, were born between 1980 - 1994; Boomers were born between 1944 - 1964. Boomers came of age during a time of post-WWII optimism. This generation turns to traditional media like Facebook and TV advertising, and seek travel experiences by deciding on the destination first. Millennials, Gen Y, are much closer to Gen Z in their spending habits. They rely on social media platforms more than traditional media to get information about brands: Gen Y uses their mobile device for most things, but 32% still use a computer to complete a purchase. “As is well documented, many of the millennial generation's life choices, future earnings and entrance to adulthood have been shaped by this recession in a way that may not be the case for their younger counterparts,” reports Pew Research Center. Technology that Baby Boomers and Millennials have had to adopt has been part-and-parcel for Gen Z. The iPhone debuted in 2007 when the oldest Gen Zers were 10; since then, social media, constant connectivity, and on-demand content have become the norm. As a result, Gen Zers are thought to be better at multi-tasking, more knowledgeable about politics and the world, and have more diverse tastes – the internet has made the world their oyster. Gen Z and Boomers share a love for discounts; Gen Z and Gen Y share a level of comfort with interacting with brands on social media.    Gen Z Travel Preferences This technologically-savvy group expects next generation digital experiences and wants your hotel to provide genuine, ethical experiences that can be booked through a smartphone. Gen Z takes “mobile-first” to the next level. “As with all other things, Gen Z expect to be able to handle all advance transactions on their phone or tablet: from selecting their destination to booking all the details, including flights, ground transportation, lodging and restaurant reservations. They want to be able to ask questions online and get immediate answers as they make their decisions,” writes VisionCritical. For this group of travelers, that they can book experiences, rooms, ancillary services, and text with your property is should be a given, rather than an exception. This generation also grew up traveling: travel company Contiki reports that 79% of Gen Z have traveled overseas by age 15. Their travel experience, combined with their values of diversity and inclusion, mean this generation sees themselves as part of a “global village.” Gen Z plan trips that prioritize experience ahead of price and these travelers have an open mind when it comes to what that experience could be. When they decide to take a trip, they’re undecided about where they want to go; Gen Z turns to social media to find both inspirational content and travel deals. And, finally, this group travels with a conscience. Gen Z is drawn to hotels and travel companies that show a commitment to sustainability and socially-conscious travel. This group is much more ethical than previous generations; conscious consumerism is more than just a buzzword to Gen Z. McKinsey research found that:  70% of Gen Z survey respondents try to purchase from companies they consider ethical 80% remember at least one scandal or controversy that involves a company 65% try to learn the origins of the products they buy 80% refuse to buy from companies that are involved in a scandal Gen Z will do their research and stay at properties that pay fair wages, commit to sustainability, and give back to the local community. These are important aspects of their travel experience, not just checkmarks in a corporate sustainability report.    Tips for Attracting Gen Z to Your Hotel What does all this mean for your hotel? The good news is that you don’t need to amass a following on TikTok to try to recruit younger guests. That said, you must have a strong digital presence. One way to build a digital footprint is by marketing local experiences through display ads and social media. Approximately 1 in 3 Gen Z travelers reports that they want their next vacation to be an adventure. Display ads attractively showcase destinations, experiences, and sustainable travel in a way that still allows Gen Zers to “discover” something authentic. Unique, Instagrammable – yes, even TikTok-able – experiences will draw in the Gen Z crowd. The importance of foodie experiences has increased significantly: McCrindle’s market research for Contiki found that 35% of Gen Z prioritize food experiences. More than 90% of Gen Z research where to eat before they travel. A firm like D-Edge that can target Gen Zers seeking foodie experience by managing and optimizing display ads on major platforms, like AdRoll, Criteo and Sojern. Expedia reports that appealing deals and images are impactful for more than 60% of Gen Zers who say advertising is influential. Capitalize on the fact that Gen Z prefer spontaneity by highlighting some of the local tours and highlights of the area throughout your hotel website. A hotel website design partner like D-Edge can help you build a website that isn’t just mobile responsive, but totally mobile-optimized; this means guests can quickly find what they need without having to navigate complicated dropdown menus and slow-loading images. D-Edge even has an in-house media production team that can support your brand with great content – content that will hold a Gen Zer’s attention for more than eight seconds. -- Bottom line: it’s time to find a marketing partner who understands how to target the Gen Z guest on their customer journey. Start marketing to this consumer group now to get ahead of the competition as their buying power continues to increase over the next decade.

How to Become an Expert at Retargeting Ads

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Consider the statistic that 90% of guests who book through an OTA visit your hotel’s website at some point during their booking journey. Despite the time and effort you put into optimizing your website and implementing a great conversion strategy, you’re still losing direct bookings to OTAs even after guests have been to your hotel website. Why? Sometimes, when a guest visits your website, they’re just starting to do research and price the various options on the market. They aren’t ready to click the “book now” button, despite how good your site looks. This is where retargeting can make the difference between bringing the customer back to your site and losing out to an OTA. To increase direct bookings, you need retargeting to be able to meet guest intent and showcase the value of your hotel around the web. Retargeting is one of the most profitable marketing channels because you’re targeting your own proprietary audience. It’s an excellent way to make sure your ads have the most impact: you’re showing ads and offers to people who are already aware of – and even interested in – your brand. Getting retargeting right can take a ton of time and effort unless you have the right industry-specific tool in your arsenal.    What is Retargeting? Retargeting is a marketing practice that specifically targets visitors to your website who have browsed, but not purchased. It’s widely accepted that only 2% of shoppers complete a purchase during their first visit to an online store. Retargeting aims to bring back the other 98% of viewers to capture a higher percentage of sales. This approach has a higher ROI than most other marketing initiatives because you’re using your budget to convert users who are already interested in your hotel and have demonstrated purchase intent. Using a piece of code, retargeting tracks someone who visited your site and shows them ads related to your brand at a later point in time. There are two main ways to run a retargeting campaign.  Pixel-based retargeting: the most common form of re-targeting, when someone visits your hotel’s page, a piece of JavaScript (also known as a pixel or cookie) is placed on their browser. The cookie notifies retargeting platforms to serve ads after the user leaves your site. Retargeting platforms can serve ads tailored to what the user viewed on your page; for instance, if a visitor viewed suites and family-friendly rooms, a retargeting platform can show ads for family getaways.  List-based retargeting: if you have someone’s contact information, you can use it to show them specific retargeting ads on a social media network. Upload your list of email addresses to the retargeting campaign. Then, the platform matches your emails to users on that network and serves ads just to them. This method is a highly specific way to target potential customers, but only works if someone uses the same email address on social media as the one stored in your database. List-based retargeting might sound good – why wouldn’t you want to target people your sales team has initiated contact with? But experts warn that few people use the same email address in business as in social media. One study found that “match rates can vary from 70-80% down to as low as 20-30% for some platforms, so you'll need a fairly large list to make this type of retargeting effective.”    Why is Retargeting so Profitable? By some estimates, retargeting can be 2x more profitable than regular ad campaigns. Retargeting generates more online sales by keeping your brand front and center. Continuously serving ads to digital "window shoppers" encourages users to come back when they're ready to buy. Every time your customer sees your retargeting ads, your brand gains traction and more recognition. High click-through rates and increased conversions are typical with retargeting campaigns: these metrics underscore the value of good branding and repeated exposure. Triptease’s new retargeting tool uses search data, parity, and behavioral data points to avoid targeting a visitor who’s search dates are in the past, or to avoid bidding to advertise when your page doesn’t offer the best price available online. It also updates the creative and ad copy to show offers most likely to appeal to an undecided guest. Someone planning a golf weekend away will see a different retargeting campaign than a business traveler looking for an event venue.  The value of retargeting is in reaching users who are in the middle of their customer journey – people who haven’t made up their mind about booking with your hotel (or any of your competitors, for that matter). Rather than diverting scarce ad dollars on users who have already made up their mind hotels are wise to focus on those still have an open mind and are more likely to convert because they’re already aware of (and have showed interest in) your brand.   How to Run Highly-Effective Retargeting Campaigns   The mechanics of placing retargeting ads are best managed by a platform like Triptease.  “If we know a guest has arrived on the booking engine from metasearch, we show them a message based on the details of their search. If we know they’re high-value, we might highlight one of the hotel’s upsell offers. If they leave the site without booking but they’ve displayed signs that they’re interested, we’ll adjust our retargeting bids to make sure they’re reminded of the hotel later,” describes Charlie Osmond, Triptease’s founder. There’s a limit, however, to how much exposure a visitor should have to your retargeting campaigns. “Frequency capping” limits the number of ads you show a particular audience. This practice can make the difference between engaging a customer and spamming them. Industry experts found that capping impressions at two to three per ad group is the right number, but test to find the best level for your property. Retargeting campaigns consist of display ads with images, video, enticing copy, and a CTA to capture an audience’s attention. The best retargeting ads include:  A headline that relates to what the user was browsing on your hotel site  (e.g., “Activities for the whole family”) Relevant visuals: an animation, image, or video that shows your property as it relates to what the user wants (e.g., a picture of a family jumping into your property’s pool) A call-to-action that stands out: make the button eye-catching with personalized, actionable text (e.g., Book for your family now) Live price comparison: Triptease Retargeting pulls a live price comparison to guests based on their unique search, wherever they are on the web. Personalization is key in running an effective retargeting campaign. Most retargeting campaigns allow you to segment your audience by either behavior, time, or whether or not they are an existing customer. It takes some time to find the right retargeting strategy for your property – here’s how to get started.    Retargeting Strategies in the Hotel Industry Targeting website viewers is just one potential strategy that’s popular in the hotel industry. The ways to retarget potential guests are categorized by how a viewer interacts with your property – through your website, through email, or through social media, for instance. Email retargeting triggers ads to customers who have opened your email campaign. The tracking pixel is added to your email so that anyone who opens the message will later see display ads for your hotel elsewhere on the internet. Contextual retargeting gives your hotel the ability to cross-promote with similar businesses in the hospitality industry. For instance, if a visitor leaves your site and goes to book a flight, your ad will be shown on the airline’s page. It’s a more sophisticated way to retarget a customer based on behavior and interests. Social retargeting delivers ads to visitors who browsed your website and then left for a social media channel like Facebook or Twitter. According to Net Affinity, “About 54 percent of marketers believe that ‘social retargeting was a better use of resources than mobile, search or even email retargeting.’ In addition, it leads to more than double the conversions!” Lastly, search retargeting seeks to reach new customers who may be interested in your hotel by targeting specific keywords. For instance, if someone searches “hotel New Orleans” your campaign may be one of the promoted results or display ads – even though someone has never visited your website. How and when you choose any of these retargeting options depends on where the customer is in their purchase decision-making process – and recognizing a customer’s conversion potential is where a tool like Triptease brings the most value. Triptease combines data from all parts of the booking journey to allow you to send the optimal retargeting messaging. “If we know a guest has arrived on the booking engine from metasearch, we show them a message based on the details of their search. If we know they’re high-value, we might highlight one of the hotel’s upsell offers. If they leave the site without booking but they’ve displayed signs that they’re interested, we’ll adjust our retargeting bids to make sure they’re reminded of the hotel later,” says Osmond. Retargeting is easy to do, but very complex to do right. Work with a partner like Triptease that can ensure that you have experts running your campaigns to maximize results.  

What You Need To Know About TravelClick's Tech Suite

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

To put a lid on the cost and complexities of acquiring, converting, and keeping customers, TravelClick can be a valuable partner. Its comprehensive suite helps hotels achieve maximum revenues through stronger guest acquisition, conversion and retention, as well as more accurate pricing, data analysis and guest profiles. The rise of alternative lodging, with its scalable model and strong quality controls, has added to the hyper-competitiveness of acquiring customers. Acquisition costs are rising as these new brands, such as Sonder, compete for the same customers on third-party platforms. In this environment of expanding supply, you must be as efficient as possible with your digital marketing -- waste nothing, optimize everything. Here's a deep dive into how TravelClick empowers your team to achieve their revenue goals by acquiring, converting, and retaining more guests, and growing demand over time. Whether your hotel relies on a few or all of these tools, they are designed to work together seamlessly to reinforce the top objective: more profitable and reliable revenue.   Acquire: Capture More Demand With Distribution And Digital Marketing Tools  TravelClick streamlines the guest acquisition process with several distribution tools, as well as a robust digital marketing suite that drives demand. Here’s what you can expect from its guest acquisition tools. Channel manager. By enabling a broad base of distribution, your hotel can diversify its sources of demand and build a resilient distribution strategy that helps you meet (or beat!) your revenue and occupancy targets. The TravelClick channel manager connects to over 600 channels and partners serving over 170 countries, ensuring that your latest rates, availability, and restrictions are updated across all channels. These connections include revenue management systems and property management systems, so your real-time data can be easily disseminated to tools that help you optimize your pricing and run your property. In addition, there’s iHotelier GDS, which increases exposure and visibility among travel agents (an especially lucrative channel for business travelers) and Demand Services, which connects to metasearch channels (popular with leisure travelers). Central reservation system. Managing your reservations shouldn’t be complicated. By integrating the iHotelier CRS into your distribution technology, you'll have confidence that your latest availability and reservations will sync with your channel manager. This eliminates overbookings and powers your direct bookings. A web-based central reservation system that connects to multiple distribution channels and offers distribution modules for web, mobile, voice, travel agent and online travel agent (OTA) channels Booking engine. A conversion-optimized booking engine is a critical part of acquiring customers and building direct bookings.  And if your hotel’s website doesn't offer self-serve booking or has a dated booking flow, your direct bookings will suffer. TravelClick’s iHotelier Booking Engine positions your hotel to capture your fair share of direct booking demand. As part of its Web Solutions division, TravelClick will also help you build a responsive website that slots right into its other products. Guests expect a modern experience and you must deliver!  Digital marketing for hotels. When it comes to acquiring customers, digital marketing is king. While it's certainly important to have your inventory in front of customers across as many channels as possible, it's equally important to have an effective digital marketing strategy. The strategy must be efficient, as far as delivering bookings at a low cost, and reliable, as far as delivering bookings at a consistent and predictable pace. TravelClick Media Solutions focuses exclusively on advertising your property across a variety of digital media channels, including travel agents. These customized media plans will drive more profitable bookings by putting your property in front of the right prospect at the ideal time. The objective is to increase conversion, direct bookings, net revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS). With proper digital media marketing, TravelClick data shows a 20-50% lower cost of acquisition when compared to OTAs. The company segments its media solutions by Single Media Subscription, Travel Agent GDS or as part of an entire Media Suite.   Convert: Optimize Revenues With Data Analysis And Business Intelligence  TravelClick puts data at the center of everything. The data becomes the glue that binds the products together and ensures peak performance -- and maximum revenues -- across the entire ecosystem.   “The biggest challenge with revenue is that good is not always good enough,” -Joseph Bustos, director of revenue, YOTEL New York With business intelligence tools, you can convert more lookers into bookers and optimize revenues across your entire demand ecosystem. These are the dashboards that monitor your performance and surface any potential issues automatically, so you're not forced to spend hours in Spreadsheet Hell or potentially miss something important because you're doing other important work. The TravelClick business intelligence tools include: Parity management. Holistic cross-channel optimization requires effective rate management. If your rates are not consistent across channels, you're losing business and causing distrust with potential guests. TravelClick’s Rate360 optimizes your hotel’s pricing strategy by keeping your rates competitive compared to others and increasing visibility into areas where competitiveness is slipping due to parity violations. Disparity is especially insidious when bad actors undercut your rates and pull business away from your direct channel, reducing your profitability. Rate shopping and market intelligence. Historical and future performance are valuable inputs for pricing and market positioning. TravelClick’s Demand360 put this into perspective, showing how your property compares to your competitive set, as well as by segment and channel. With the Demand360 business intelligence tool, you can see where you stand today and use data to predict outcomes for tomorrow.  These predictions then drive better profitability, as the insights around forward-looking demand influence pricing, marketing and operational decisions, responding to the market in real-time. TravelClick’s Agency360. A business intelligence tool, which aggregates travel agency bookings across all agencies and consortia. With data on agency booking trends, you can craft strategies to increase your bookings and shift share from competitors. Hotelligence360. The flagship business intelligence tool puts market data at the center of your decision-making process. Data can be segmented by guest segment, property, portfolio, and channel. The suite includes Demand360 and Rate360 (covered above) as well as GuestView360.   Retain: Know Your Guests With CRM and Marketing Automation With hotel CRM and email marketing powering your guest engagement and retention strategy, your hotel will capture more repeat business. The value of keeping existing customers is significant: Bain & Company research found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. At scale, this can really add up. TravelClick’s retention-focused products are under the umbrella of Guest Management Solutions (GMS). It's more than just a customer relationship management solution. The GMS as it includes a robust set of marketing automation tools to engage guests across the guest journey. From upgrades to nurture campaigns, hotels earn incremental revenue by matching message to guest and building long-term relationships. These are the core features in the GMS suite: GuestView360. As the reporting module with Hotelligence, this is a business intelligence dashboard that visualizes guest profiles. Customizations. All confirmations, cancellations, modifications, and pre/post-stay messages can be customized and configured to your own priorities.  Marketing automation. Automate your marketing workflows and leverage your rich guest profiles into loyalty bookings with an end-to-end marketing platform, Loyalty program. All of these features tie into a dedicated loyalty program module, so you can recognize returning guests and create exclusive promotions.   All-in-One: The iHotelier Suite For those hotels looking to take advantage of a single integrated solution, TravelClick also offers an all-in-one package. Called the iHotelier Suite, The solution can be customized to your unique needs, Including whatever combination of tools that you need. The all-in-one option is a great way to take advantage of the power of an integrated set of tech tools and lock in substantial cost savings compared to a la carte. For anyone who’s waded through a confusing web of vendors (and their invoices), there's also a lot to be said about having a single central tool, all invoiced on the same bill each month. You also gain cost control and budget certainty with set monthly pricing that doesn't fluctuate. That peace of mind is worth a lot!   TravelClick Pros and Cons According to its Customers  We’ve pulled some pros and cons directly from TravelClick customer reviews. While there are a few reviews related to customer service issues and data latency issues, the majority of reviewers appear satisfied with the responsiveness of the team and the accuracy and features of the product. Since there are many products, we've identified the relevant product, if mentioned, and the reviewer’s hotel category. As we all know, it's important to choose vendors that have responsive customer service and a penchant for taking care of their customers! Pros: One manager at a branded property applauded TravelClick as the “best marketing intelligence tool “ and the “most reliable Rate Shopper technology. A boutique GM echoed this, saying that Demand360 is “one of the best intelligence products available out there” As it's simple to use and easy to integrate into the decision-making process. The outcomes have been favorable for another hotelier using the TravelClick booking engine, with an “undeniable” increase in income, as well as attention to their needs by the customer service team. Another booking engine user called the support “excellent” and the platform “easy and practical.” Cons: A few users reported issues with support, such as one branded hotel who used the Media Solutions product and found little support from the Account Manager or customer support teams. Training was also “not sufficient” for one booking engine user. The sentiment was echoed by a branded hotel using Media Solutions, who felt that online training and webinars were not enough for their needs and in-person, on-site training would be more effective. One Airport GM told us that the TravelClick GMS wasn’t user-friendly and “definitely” needs to be improved. Data recency also came up for one Branded GM, who Wanted more live data and increased usage from other brands on the Demand 360 platform.   Getting Started with TravelClick Given how many products the company has, you’ll have to enter a sales process to get started. This is most definitely not a single click on-boarding! TravelClick is therefore most ideally suited for larger properties and portfolios that are operating on a somewhat longer lead time and implementation schedule. While TravelClick certainly counts independents among its clients, smaller properties may get lost in the mechanics of a larger company. For brands looking to simplify and streamline their technology, TravelClick is one to consider. This is doubly true for hotels looking to build an integrated technology strategy that reaches across all aspects of its operations. Those hotels may also want to consider other products within the Amadeus ecosystem, such as its property management products, sales and catering module and service optimization tools. With such a global reach and deep bench of expertise, coupled with products for nearly all aspects of the hotel's operations, TravelClick by Amadeus can certainly power significant transformation for hotels.