Six Hotel Marketing Trends For 2018

 In Hotel Marketing, OTA Strategy, Revenue Management, Website Design

It’s always interesting to look back on the trends that were predicted for the previous year and see how things panned out. We were told video would dominate; mobile use would surpass desktop; reputation management would take off, and that print media wasn’t dead. While the last one is still up in the air, for the most part, those hit the mark or are well on their way.

So, here we go again. Feel free to check back in at the end of the year and let me know if my batting average should put me into the All-Star game or have me sitting on the bench.

1. OTA Advertising

OTAs have become synonymous with high fees, large percentages of business, and just overall market dominance with large ad budgets. For most properties, if you’re not playing ball with the OTAs, you are either in extremely high demand and don’t need to or you don’t have a clue. In recent years OTAs, specifically Orbitz and Expedia have introduced their own ad platforms. This isn’t necessarily new (and Orbitz was acquired); however their capabilities and importance in the advertising channels are increasing rapidly.

Typically these advertisements operate as part of the hotel search in a “sponsored placement” position (see image below). When clicked, the ad would take the visitor to the landing page for the hotel on the OTA. This is a great strategy for combatting low occupancy with targeting for specific periods. Most recently though, Expedia is offering the ability to advertise and link directly to the hotel’s website. Yes, it comes at a slightly higher CPC, but the opportunity is to drive direct and bypass the OTAs while using the OTAs.

Example of OTA sponsored placement

Another notable mention in this space is TripAdvisor’s new system allowing for sponsored search. We expect this to be a focal point for TripAdvisor’s sales team in the coming year and beyond. So if you haven’t heard from them yet, don’t worry, you will!

2. Experiential Marketing

Sounds ominous, but it’s pretty straightforward; you want to sell an experience. Staying at a hotel isn’t just about a good night’s sleep. It’s about making memories. The goal of experiential marketing isn’t to pre-promote your hotel, but to compel them to lock in that memory so they can talk about it to their friends when they get home. Get where this is going?

Yep, Facebook, Instagram et al are highly effective in communicating more immersive experiential content. If potential customers see others who have stayed with you plastered all over their pages, and they look like they’re having a wonderful time doing cannonballs into your pool, that can go a long way. Denise Wong, the president of George P. Johnson Experiential Marketing, says: “Experiential work is where the rubber hits the road—where advertising meets the Amazon review.” You want your guests experiencing your hotel, not just dropping by.

3. Mobile-First Indexing

Google doesn’t sit still very long, which has its benefits and annoyances. But, like the IRS, it doesn’t really matter whether you like their changes or not. What matters is that you learn them and figure out how to take advantage of them. Their new deal is that your website performance on mobile is soon going to be primary and desktop performance secondary. No one is quite sure when this will happen, but Travel Tripper says that the rumor is it will formally appear later this year. Like a successful vacation, it’s all about planning.

If you’ve been dragging your feet for the last ten years and still don’t have a mobile-friendly version of your website, things may get a lot worse for you very soon. Google is going to base your search rankings first and foremost on your website’s mobile performance. The bottom line is, if you have somehow managed to appear on the first page of a results page without optimizing for mobile, you can probably kiss that goodbye.

In their summary, Moz.com drew up a simple diagram of the comparisons between the old and new systems, and how they will differ from each other:

Mobile versus desktop indexing

4. Voice-First Speech

Ah, the good old days. Remember when you had to be able to type to find anything on the web? We may never be completely rid of the screen-first module, but the speech component in many devices like phones, tablets, and now Amazon’s Echo have really gained traction. Search Engine Land reports that 40% of adults now use voice to search at least once each day. Once again, your search engine optimization (SEO) is probably going to need some tweaking.

When SEO first gained prominence, and the importance of keywords began to evolve, we learned that when typing searches into Google, your search phrases didn’t need to be grammatically sound, as long as the keywords were intact. For example, Forbes notes that when typing, you might search for “luxury hotels in Beverly Hills,” while when speaking you would phrase it as a question such as “What are the best Beverly Hills luxury hotels?”. The most important takeaway from all of this is that long-tail keywords are going to become more important when distinguishing between these two types of search, and they will create less competition in site rankings. Google’s goal is always to connect the search with an appropriate result, and spoken details will make that outcome more likely.

5. Beacons and AR

Apparently, “reality” as a concept has lacked diversity. In addition to virtual reality, the hospitality industry now engages with terms like augmented reality (AR). Expect to see growth over the next few years.

Beacons are essentially the technology or the carriers for AR and other features. Most beacons for hotels are in the form of an app, which gives them access to hotel features. For example, Starwood Hotels & Resorts has an app for preferred customers whereby they can receive a digital key that unlocks their rooms. Virtually every major hotel chain offers rewards program apps giving guests access to local discounts, along with offers on food, drinks, spa, and golf. Beacons are a great option if you’re looking to incorporate new technology into your hotel and impress your guests with your amazing ability to adapt to change.

AR is a form of animation that happens in real time right on the device you’re using. You must have not only the technology for the device but the external hardware to connect to it to achieve real-time animation. Holiday Inn used AR with four different Olympians in its UK properties to promote the summer 2012 Olympics. Hospitality Technology suggests that hotels could use their print brochures and turn them into AR, or to incorporate AR into a hotel restaurant’s menu. Check out this example of a brochure utilizing AR technology.

6.Curated Videos and Photos

Let’s say you have a choice between reading a page of content and watching a two-minute video. Both have the same exact content. I don’t know about you, but I’m all over the video. More hotels are now taking video to the next level by curating or assembling existing online videos and presenting them in an organized fashion.

For example, if your hotel is near a major attraction, consider gathering existing videos and images from other sources and setting up a page on your website devoted exclusively to that venue. We aren’t all located in Orlando, but every town has some unique aspect it can highlight. Just be sure to credit the sources.

For those of you who still think videos are ineffective, check out some of these stats:

  • The average person retains about 95% of the content from a video versus 10% when reading it.
  • 60% of people prefer to watch a video, given the option.
  • Video promotion is proven to be 600% more effective.
  • And here’s the big one. The average website visitor spends 88% more time on websites that offer video.

If you feel like you need a hand with these or any other aspects of your hotel marketing, just click on this native ad link (yet another trend) to find out how to obtain positive ROI on your advertising spend.

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