As hotels and online travel agencies (OTAs) ramp up their game in the direct booking war with personalised searches, accommodation providers are under pressure to take a plunge into guest data. In doing this, they can give guests a seamless online and offline experience, unparalleled by competition and OTAs. This will ultimately drive direct bookings and guest loyalty.
Yet despite the wide use of consumer data, it’s still a valuable and precious commodity – one that should be collated and used with care. Ensure you know how your guests view their data, how willing they are to give it to you and what they expect in return. Understanding these things will help you strengthen guest retention and loyalty, drive direct and repeat bookings and achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) for your digital strategy.
So let’s take a step back to where the guest relationship journey starts and that’s with the consumer. Not all consumers see and share their data the same way. According to AIMA, there are four types of consumers when it comes to data sharing: Cautious Controllers (28%), Can’t Be Bothereds (20%), Savvy Mediators (34%) and Sign Me Ups (19%). Do your best to please all these groups to deliver an exceptional guest experience.
Cautious Controllers are perhaps the most suspicious and selective about brands they share their data with. In fact, 50% of this consumer group is worried the brand won’t keep their data secure. As such, they’re typically harder to impress than the other three groups and more likely to close accounts and unsubscribe.
Cautious controllers need assurance, they need you to make promises sharing their data with you is worth it – and they need you to follow through on that promise. You need to lay out plainly to them exactly how you will use their data and how this will benefit them. Entice them with offers to add personal touches to their room or money off additional services relevant to their interests. Outline how often and in which ways you plan to communicate with them and what you plan to communicate with them about. Highlight how they’ll benefit and ensure they understand why they’ll be losing out if they don’t share their details with you.
You can start to show your potential guests the benefits of sharing their details with you by providing a personalised booking experience. Avvio’s cutting-edge personalised booking engine remembers returning visitors and greets them with a ‘welcome back’ message, which highlights their previous search to save them time browsing for their preferred room and rate again as they switch between devices. This builds a relationship with a potential guest the moment they click onto your site and helps to strengthen their loyalty to your brand and likelihood of booking direct.
This first stage of personalisation assures website visitors that you use the data you collate to make the booking process more convenient for them. This implies that the more details they provide, the more special their experience with your brand will become.
Take it from the Killarney Park Hotel, an early adopter of Engage, whose direct bookings through the personalised booking engine grew by 60% in three months, from January to March.
John Downes, Digital Marketing Executive for the property, explains: “Personalisation has given an identity to the customers that come onto our site. The website shows that we recognise them as a returning visitor even before they stay with us. The very fact that the website remembers their preferred booking date and possibly their name, depending on how far they progress in the booking process, creates a bond between the customer and our hotel. From here, we focus on building on that loyalty and relationship.”
Once they share their personal data with you, you need to honour and respect it. It comes at a price – you now need to follow through on your promise and ensure that all your communications with them are relevant to their interests and details. If your guest divulges that she is a single corporate traveller, staying with you to attend a convention or meeting, make sure not to send her communications that promote family packages. Instead, appeal to her with a discount for your spa or gym facilities or even a complimentary drink at the bar, to unwind after a busy day.
This is especially important when dealing with the second group of consumers, Savvy Mediators.
This group of consumers are more comfortable sharing information with brands, but they expect personalised communications in return. They’re less concerned about security but they like to keep their inbox clean; so while they’re quicker to share their details than the first group, they’re also quicker to unsubscribe and drop off your contact list. They get hundreds of emails every day from various brands, so if you send them an irrelevant marketing message that doesn’t meet their standards, you can wave them goodbye.
This brings the question: how do you ensure your marketing meets the mark?
This is where data analysis comes in. You need to drill down into your guest data to segment your contact list according to their guest profiles – for example, the rooms and rates they are interested in, the time of year they stay at your property, how long they stay for, any additional services they use and how many times they have stayed at your property. You can make these segments as small and specific as you like, bearing in mind that the more targeted your communications are, the more likely your guests are to engage with them. You can then send your guests targeted communications relevant to their profiles. For example, while you may send a regular corporate traveller a business discount for their next stay or a voucher for transportation to and from the airport, you should avoid sending them offers for weekend trips and family packages, which they would find irrelevant.
Of course, this is just the start. You can make this process both more effective and more efficient by adopting personalisation. Avvio’s personalised booking engine, for example, will enable you to send guests exclusive offers tailored to them, such as a discount off their ‘favourite room’ and/or a voucher for their favourite drink, service or spa treatment, depending on their purchase history. Link straight to their personalised offer from the email with a special discount code to make booking seamless, personalised and easy. Increase the likelihood of engagement further by ensuring you communicate with these guests at times they’re likely to make a booking, for example at the same times of year they’ve booked before.
Your guests are more likely to engage with these highly targeted communications and thus your emails will be more likely to attract repeat bookings and less likely to remain unopened.
Sign Me Ups
Engage with Sign Me Ups, in the same way. Although consumers in this group are quick to sign up for offers and give you more personal information, they are just as hard to impress as your savvy mediators and only highly targeted communications will win their attention. Their inbox is always full of marketing communications from various brands and they simply do not have time to read and click through to every single message. This means your communication needs to shine. You need to be careful to send an extremely relevant message at the right time so that your email doesn’t lie unopened or get deleted straight away.
Luckily, guests in this group are also likely to provide the most personal information and so you’ll find it easier to pinpoint and appeal to their interests at times they are likely to want your offer. Depending on how much information they give you, you may also be able to engage with these guests on social media. This gives you a better chance of engagement even if their inbox is saturated. Catch their attention with targeted ads on these networks, twinned with attractive images of your hotel and services. Make it easy for them to follow you and find your brand on social upon every touch point you have with them so that you can utilise this method of communication after they check out of your property.
Can’t Be Bothereds
The behaviour and mindset of this consumer group are clear from its name. They see no benefit in sharing their data with you, even if you send them discounts and personalised perks. A special experience doesn’t appeal to them and so no matter how vigilantly you try to engage them, chances are your efforts will be fruitless.
For this group of guests, just leave them be. Of course, give them an excellent guest experience and offer them upsells and additional services relevant to the rooms and rates they’ve booked; but after they’ve stayed with you, don’t be surprised if they don’t open any of your emails. It’s best to monitor their open rate and click through rate (CTR) and if they haven’t engaged with your brand, minimise your communications with them. Otherwise, they will lower your overall open rate and CTR, which could mean you end up in the junk or spam box of guests who may want your offer.
To learn more about how to perfect your digital strategy, get in touch with our digital experts.
As technology and digitalisation advances, businesses in every industry will grow more reliant on data and guests will become normalised to personalised online interactions with brands. They expect relevance. They expect perks. They expect special treatment. And they expect you to deliver this in a way that captures their interest above the hundred other emails they get every day. A steep task, but not impossible. Use the consumer guidelines above to strengthen your understanding of what your guests want and adopt Avvio’s personalisation toolkit to give them an exceptional guest experience that drives direct bookings and loyalty.
For a full report on the state of personalisation in the hotel industry, download Avvio’s expert white-paper: The Power of Personal.
Bringing together ground-breaking research, real-life case studies and industry leading insight, the whitepaper gives accommodation providers the knowledge they need to unlock the true power of digital personalisation. Download the free whitepaper or learn more about how Avvio can improve your direct revenue and digital marketing strategies at www.avvio.com/hotel.