E-marketing in the hospitality industry
E-marketing in the hospitality industry
E-marketing is also known as Internet marketing, web marketing, online marketing or digital marketing. It is growing at a dramatic pace in the hospitality industry and is significantly impacting the business behaviors since it drives more revenue than traditional marketing.
A successful e-marketing strategy should comprise a set of specific e-actions that help hoteliers reach their planned objectives. These e-actions can be grouped into the following five main sections (A to E):
A/ Search Engine Marketing (SEM):
The large majority of Internet surfers use search engines to find information about hotels or travel destinations online. This makes search engines one of the most effective tools in driving targeted traffic to a hotel’s or destination’s website. In the hospitality sector, hoteliers have two options with regard to SEM: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or sponsored search:
A-1/Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
SEO attempt to improve a website’s organic (i.e. non-sponsored) search rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by increasing the content’s relevance to search terms. Several techniques are recommended with regard to SEO:
The Conversion Optimizer: This technique helps to assess, through several testing methods, how to increase the website’s conversion rate. That is, the probability that a website visit leads to an effective booking.
Optimization of HTML elements: HTML elements, apart from keywords and site design, play a major role in SEO since they are the cornerstone upon which all websites are built. HTML elements comprise title, Meta description, Header tags, image name, Alt tags; internal linking, etc.
Content optimization for Search Engine: While the website’s content should match the guests’ search criteria, many hoteliers fail in making their websites a dumping ground for content to end up with websites that generate very poor value to guests and very low business opportunities.
The process of content optimization for search engine starts with the identification of “Long neck” and “Long tail” keywords: Long neck keywords are the website’s theme-related keywords which are heavily searched by the target guests by opposition to the Long tail ones. Examples of Long neck keywords might include, for instance, “find a price”, “book a room”, “hotel location” while examples of long tail keywords might include terms like “get warranty info”, “get e-newsletter”, “find a job”, etc.
Content optimization for search engine is all about distinguishing between “Killer content” (the core of visitors’ needs) that should be clearly showcased on a website since it responds to “long neck” keywords, and “Filler content” that should occupy less space since it responds to “long tail” keywords. The final aim is to make sure that guests won’t get lost on the website and that they will quickly find what they came for in as less button-clicks as possible.
Sponsored search corresponds to search ads that allow a hotel /chain to be included in the sponsored results of a search for selected keywords. This action is generally undertaken through a bidding process on keywords. The Search Engines provide the mechanism for the sponsored search process to occur. This process is continually evolving and gaining complexity year on year.
The payment methods for sponsored search include the Cost Per Mille (CPM), the Cost Per Click method (CPC), Pay Per Performance (PPP) (also called “Cost Per Action” or “Cost Per Acquisition” (CPA)) and fixed costs (i.e. fixed-cost compensation).
B/Social Media marketing:
Social Media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,… possess the advantage that they can spread any information or update posted rapidly to a very wide audience. Furthermore, sharable videos (i.e. choosing an engaging storyline and telling it with compelling visuals) constitute an amazing tool that keeps users’ attention and subtly persuade them along the way words can’t.
Moreover, the implementation of Web 2.0 services has significantly contributed in transforming hotels’/hotel chains’ websites into social platforms to feature user-generated content.This enables guests to share their stories, photos and experiences which instantly fosters word of mouth.
Several international hotel chains have very efficient marketing implementation of social media. Starwood, for instance, introduced a new quantitative tool called “Reputation Management Index” (RMI) which, through review analysis from all social media, provides a lot of valuable data that can be used not only for service improvements but also for competitive insights. Besides, Starwood implemented efficient Review Management Responses to foster instant reviews any time.
C/ Mobile advertising:
Mobile advertising is growing rapidly since mobile devices have multiplied, connectivity speeds have improved and screen resolutions have advanced. For these reasons, the online experience should be seamless across devices. An efficient action plan for a successful mobile advertising should include the following actions:
Interface design:Adjustment of the web content for screen sizeso that users can comfortably access content in an intuitive way on a smaller screen and benefit from all functionalities on a mobile device (hotel search, access to reviews, bookings, payments, etc.).
Study of people’s behavior: This aims at the examination of “when”, “where” and “why” people use Smartphones and tablets to better understand their booking trend, needs and expectations.
Deals with Google: To generate fast growing Google search traffic to the hotel website from mobile.
QR codes’ use implementation: QR codes (i.e. Quick Response codes) represent a tremendous tool at the disposal of hoteliers to use for marketing purposes and also for customer service improvement. By displaying QR codes at the concierge desk, in elevators or at the back of a room card, hoteliers are offering their in-house guests the possibility to get automatically diverted, upon scanning these codes via their mobile devices, to a limitless supply of digital content (e.g. benefit from special offers, get valuable recommendations on the city attractions and night life, etc.). Another interesting use of QR codes might include the creation of a mobile review page to be linked to a QR code on the hotel bill so that guests get encouraged to write their reviews while their memories are still fresh. This certainly improves reviews’ accuracy and consequently customer service.
D/ Email advertising:
Email advertising, also known as email marketing, is considered as a powerful e-marketing tool for hoteliers since it creates direct revenue opportunities for past, present and future guests. However, as emails and/or e-newsletters might be unsolicited, senders should either offer recipients an opt-out option or get their prior consent (opt-in). In fact, experience shows that permission-based email marketing is one of the most cost-effective and efficient marketing tools available.
The benefits of email marketing can be summarized as follows:
Serves both as direct-response vehicle and branding tool.
Creates personalized interactive relationships.
Targets and entices recipients with relevant promotions.
Plants seed in the mind of recipients regarding future travel.
Serves as a tool to move distressed inventory.
Functions as a sales force since it reaches thousands in seconds.
Recruits new customers and retain old ones.
E/ Display advertising:
Display advertising conveys its advertising message visually using text, logos, animations, videos, photographs or other graphics.
The most common two display advertising techniques are the following:
Web banner advertising (or banner ads): They are typically graphic ads displayed within a web page. They use rich media to incorporate video, audio, animations or other interactive elements. These include Frame ad, Pop-ups/pop-unders, Floating ad, Expanding ad, Trick banners, etc.
Text ads: A text ad displays text-based hyperlinks. Text-based ads may display separately from the web page’s primary content or they can be embedded by hyperlinking individual words or phrases to a hotel’s website.
The online marketing is doubtless one of nowadays most powerful advertising methods. All companies, and notably in the Tourism and Hospitality industry, are fiercely competing to lead and overwhelm the online space in order to shift market shares from competition, increase their online traffic and make more profits. In addition, International hotel chains are considerably reducing their offline marketing budgets year on year for the benefit of the online ones.
However, it is always required for any company wishing to succeed its e-marketing strategy, to ensure that all of its online space is well managed and that it is entirely under control. Moreover, updates and innovations in the online world are a MUST to attract customers and keep their interest constantly stimulated.