The digital age has brought tremendous innovations in digital hospitality marketing. Strategies have improved, and guests’ expectations have skyrocketed too.
Through the years, the hospitality industry has seen enormous growth, and the competition has become tough.
So aside from the challenge of convincing people to visit their hotel/resort, or dine to their restos, hospitality connoisseurs are also challenged with standing out among the competition.
If you want to get your business’ name among the crowd, you need to be ahead of the game. You need to keep abreast of the latest trends, or else, your efforts will drown with thousands of aspiring ads out there.
Before you hit the launch signal on your marketing campaigns, or if you’re still planning your marketing calendar for the year, keep these 10 digital hospitality marketing trends in mind!
1. The continuous emergence of virtual and augmented reality
Virtual and augmented reality differ in terms of environment and purpose, but they’re both a necessity in hospitality businesses nowadays in terms of transporting their guests/clients to a digital representation of the environment they can expect with your business.
Hospitality businesses, particularly hotels, have been providing potential guests with 360-degree video tours of their rooms and amenities to help them with their booking decision.
VR is also used to provide on-site guests with a virtual tour of the local community where the hotel/resort is situated, and even as sources of entertainment for them, like watching videos or even playing VR games.
See these VR tours in action:
AR shares the same features like VR, but this one’s more focused on adding digital enhancements on real-world surroundings, particularly using smartphones.
Think Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go, and you’ll get the picture.
So how is this AR technology implemented in hospitality businesses?
Some hotels have incorporated AR in their rooms, where guests can point their phones at the wall and a map of local landmarks will appear, along with more information about these places.
Some restaurants have also incorporated AR into their business by allowing customers to see their reviews and menus instantly through their phones.
Check out these creative AR implementations for some inspiration:
2. Upgraded personalization or human touch to marketing strategies
And in 2019 and beyond, this relationship will continue to soar.
Here’s the thing: people are actually aware that businesses are acquiring their personal data online for their marketing services. And that’s fine with them, as long these data ensure a personalized service/experience for them.
To back this up, according to a study by Google and Phocuswright, 57% of US travelers actually want their information to be used for a more personal travel recommendation.
Plus, personalization also increases your chance for a higher revenue per guest. A study shows that guests are 36% more likely to pay more for your services if you match their preference and their overall experience is tailored to their information.
3. AI for a more convenient system
One major benefit AI brought to hospitality businesses is the advantage of taking care of their clients’ needs, even when they’re not available to answer inquiries and complaints at times.
It has also brought doubled convenience for employees, especially with the repetitive and small-but-crucial duties taken off their shoulders. So it’s no surprise if AI continues to emerge in the hospitality industry in the coming years.
Take answering inquiries for example. Thanks to chatbots, FAQs from clients, such as room availability and rate, can now be answered without a human agent being present to reply.
Simple questions, along with template answers and incorporated real-time data, can be handled by chatbots on your behalf. And if they ever encounter an inquiry that’s beyond their database, you would be notified right away.
There are also the all-convenient hotel reservation software, which has made booking easier for both guests and employees. The booking process is smoother, and the information about clients are stored automatically in your database for future marketing endeavors.
AI is also being used by hospitality businesses to analyze their data and evaluate their overall performance (ex. sales, ROAS, etc.) and tailor more personalized marketing for clients. These data are collected either through surveys, online reviews, cookies, and more.
4. Optimization of websites for mobile-friendly interface and responsiveness
With information becoming available on hand, people are now expecting to get what they’re looking for in the speed of light.
And with smartphone users continuously growing in numbers, websites are also expected to be optimized for mobile viewing.
This is proven by Google’s study showing that travel-related searches on the search engine, with the keywords today or tonight, have increased to over 150% on mobile.
Aside from providing information, mobile responsiveness also affect their conversion rate. 53% of website visitors abandon sites if it takes more than three seconds to load. And for every one-second delay, conversion rate falls by 12%.
If you want site visitors to stay on your website and click that “Book now!” button, keep your website running as smooth as a baby’s skin.
And make sure that your website design is optimized for mobile viewing. Nobody has the patience to keep zooming on your site just to see what’s written there. It was one of the key hospitality marketing trends in 2018 and continues to be so in 2019.
5. The rise of live videos
Live videos are trending, and it’s not hard to see why. These videos allow more audience to interact with you real-time.
Plus, they generate more engagement from your audience compared to other types of videos. They can garner 3x more views and up to 10x more comments than pre-recorded videos.
And the more engagement you have, the more your post will rank higher on social media and on search engines.
For example, a live Q and A session on Facebook. Viewers can ask you anything and they won’t have to wait long to get a response from you!
Since video and personalized marketing will continue to rise in the hospitality industry, it’s a safe bet to include live videos in your content idea lineup. Instagram and Facebook would continue to dominate as the top live streaming channels for hospitality businesses, so better get out in these channels if you’re going live.
6. Influence of reviews with a guest’s booking decision
According to a 2018 survey by Bright Local,
- 86% read reviews before transacting with a business
- It takes an average of 10 online reviews for a consumer to build trust with a business
- 89% of consumers actually read responses to reviews
All these data show that online reviews can either be your strongest asset or your biggest liability. This is why reputation management continues to be a huge trend (and even a necessity) among hospitality businesses over the years.
So take the time to manage your online reputation as much as you can. Respond to reviews. Address issues brought by previous clients, and offer necessary compensations. There are online review platforms out there that make reputation management easier and less tedious.
7. The prevalence of word of mouth advertising in the digital age
According to the Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief, peer recommendations are among the top influences in making a purchasing decision among customers.
And according to a study by Fullscreen and Shareablee, 44% of 18-34-year-olds said they’d trust a recommendation from influencers or digital creators rather than celebrities or brands.
You can already see that despite the digital innovation with marketing, word of mouth still prevails, especially with hospitality businesses like yours. Add to that the influence of online reviews with a potential customer’s booking decision.
So if you want to get your marketing message across, there are two ways you can go from here: work with an influencer, or improve your overall guest experience so people can recommend you to their friends and family.
8. Experience-based loyalty rewards program
Reward programs are great. The incentives offered in these programs are great drivers of customer trust and loyalty, and more repeat businesses your way.
But the thing is, guests/customers are picky when signing up for a rewards program.
You have to do more than just a point-based reward program. You need one that would help build a memorable and positive experience for your guests, where they can only earn rewards if they visit this certain landmark, for example.
Experience-based loyalty programs are better since 73% of hotel guests think incentives that don’t rely heavily on earning points are more appealing.
9. Mobile payments
Customers are more likely to order or check-in with you if there are mobile payment options available.
Cashless transactions are also becoming a trend since it gives customers a better sense of security.
Plus, people expect almost everything to be within their smartphone’s reach – from researching to purchasing or placing an order. With their busy lifestyles, they might not have the time to visit your physical store, so they turn to your website or mobile app instead.
Mobile payments can also be integrated with your loyalty program, with something like earning credits for every transaction made.
And for on-site guests, it’s more convenient for them to pay through their smartphones and leave without waiting for the bill and for their credit cards to return.
10. The growth of voice search
Thanks to Siri and Alexa, voice searches are spreading like wildfire. Why type your query when you can just say it out loud, right?
Travelport, a travel commerce platform, discovered in its 2018 study that out of 16,000 travelers across the globe, 50% used voice search in some parts of their trip.
With this, long-tail keywords have seen a tremendous rise, seeing as people search for something in a whole-sentence question. So while the voice search trend is still in its infancy, leverage it as early as you can.
Start bidding on long-tail keywords like “Where is the nearest hotel?” for your PPC ads, or include these keywords in your content, like blog posts.
Get ahead of the game with these digital hospitality marketing trends!
Digital marketing is always evolving, and so’s the need to travel, take a break and explore different cultures. Take these trends into your marketing strategies, along with the intent of providing a stellar and memorable experience for each guest, to grow your hospitality business and stand out among the competition!
Sean Clancy is the SEO director for Edge Online, an online marketing company in Australia. Edge Online has been in the business for 17 years and has served clients in multiple industries, including the Real Estate industry.