The EU’s Ruling on Data Transfers- Updates to Google Ads Terms
Why Did Google Ads Send Me An Email Re: Updates about GDPR Compliance?
In July 2020, the EU’s highest court ruled against the validity of the Data Privacy Shield for protecting EU citizen data when it is transferred out of the EU to other countries including the US. This caused many businesses, including Google and other ad tech companies, to have to revise their platforms’ data processing terms.
What Did the EU Rule on Data Transfers to the US in July 2020?
In July 2020 the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest court in the EU, ruled that the current Privacy Shield that allowed transfers of online advertising and measurement personal data out of the EU to the US was invalid. This was based on the court finding that EU citizen data could be interfered with by the US government based on the country’s current surveillance laws.
TechCrunch.com’s Natasha Lomas explains that, The CJEU’s finding is that “the requirements of US national security, public interest and law enforcement have primacy, thus condoning interference with the fundamental rights of persons whose data are transferred to that third country”, and that mechanisms in the EU-US Privacy Shield ostensibly intended to mitigate this interference (such as an ombudsperson role to handle EU citizens’ complaints) are not up the required legal standard of ‘essential equivalence’ with EU law.
The Court of Justice of the European Union did keep Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) in place as a valid and legal way for businesses including banks, Facebook, and Google to transfer online advertising and measurement personal data out of the EU and into the US. This effectively provides these companies with a way to maintain data transfers outside of the EU and into the US (and other countries) for the time being.
How Does The EU Ruling on Data Transfers Impact My Google Ads Account?
Since SCC’s are still considered an allowed method of transferring data from the EU to servers in the US, Google is moving to use them for all transfers of online advertising and measurement personal data out of the EU, Switzerland and the UK in order to stay in compliance with the ruling.
How Can I Make Sure My Google Ads Account Is Still In Compliance with GDPR?
First off, we are not legal experts and you should be consulting your lawyer regarding how to keep your business in compliance with GDPR and other consumer data privacy protection laws.
Google’s updated contract terms that add the relevant SCCs ensure your agreement with their ad platform keeps the account in compliance with the updated ruling.
Make sure you have a cookie preference solution in place (such as OneTrust) on your site. Make sure settings are specific for traffic from visitors from the EU countries, allowing them to control how their personal data is used across the site and ad platforms.
The court’s standing on SCC’s and how EU citizens’ data is transferred out of the EU could come under further scrutiny, which could further complicate things for banks, ad tech companies, and other businesses.
Have further questions about the recent EU ruling on data transfers and how it affects your Google Ads account? Please make sure to consult your lawyer and be sure to reach out to GCommerce to help you implement cookie compliance tools on your website.
July 2020 Marketing Month in Review
1. Expedia Travel Ads Credit Program
Expedia has launched a new Travel Ads Hotel Recovery Program to encourage hotels to re-launch campaigns on Expedia’s Travel Ads program. Hotels who have advertised through the program during 2019 or earlier in 2020 are eligible to receive a credit equal to 20% on top of their initial qualifying deposit. Learn more about the program here.
2. Google Ads Image Extensions Beta
Earlier this summer, Google announced that they were sunsetting the Gallery Ads format. The format was first announced in 2019 at Google Marketing Live and will be replaced by the launch of Image extensions. Image extensions are officially in beta and starting to roll out to some accounts for testing. These ad extensions allow you to feature images alongside your text ads directly in the search results.
The implications for improved CTR and performance could be dramatic for hotels and other industries. We’ll be testing these within client accounts that are eligible for the beta test.
3. Facebook LDU enabled until July 31st
Facebook’s transition period for LDU is set to expire at the end of July. Once this transition period is over, LDU will be disabled unless you update your settings and pixel to comply. Learn more about Facebook’s LDU setting and what it means for your hotel’s CCPA compliance here.
4. Google Keyword Planner Forecasts Are Updated Daily
This turbulent time in markets across the country makes forecasting and planning even more difficult. The situation and consumer sentiment is changing constantly. Google Ads Keyword Planner, which is used by many across the SEM industry for keyword research and account planning has noted that “data from past 7-10 days to take into account any impact of market changes during this time period”.
This allows us to better understand current search volume trends and interests for key phrases related to our clients in addition to monitoring Google Trends.
5. GCommerce Partners With R + D to provide wholesale acquisition of facemasks for hotels & brands
GCommerce has partnered with R + D Retail Group to provide wholesale, branded facemasks for hotels and brands. R + D’s reusable face-coverings are the embodiment of style, sophistication, and comfort and offer a superior solution for your business’ need for a facemask solution. R + D facemasks are crafted out of lightweight non-woven material, provide comfort and fit for extended all-day use and offer effortless breathability. Brands including Wynn Resort, Hotel & Casino, Hotel Figueroa, and The D Casino & Hotel have already taken advantage of their functional and stylish, custom facemasks.
6. Google Announces Upgraded GMB profiles
Google has launched a new experiment with an upgraded Google My Business profile option targeted solely at local service providers including cleaning companies, plumbers, lawyers, and more. The cost to participate is $50/month and features a Google Guaranteed badge on participating businesses’ business profile. Currently, only certain types of businesses are eligible and must meet certain requirements. Although it’s only available for local service providers as an experiment right now, it opens up the larger question of future monetization of Google My Business across other industries.
We Increased ROAS 123% For Our Hotel Clients’ Google Ads, Here’s How
At the end of 2018, Google turned the SEM industry on its head by once again changing the definition of its exact match keyword targeting. The definitions and performance by match type have historically dictated campaign structure for many across the SEM industry, GCommerce included. Google’s 3rd and most recent change to exact match forced paid search marketers to reexamine their account structures and best practices. When we did, we found an incredible opportunity to reinvent our paid search account structure to drive substantial improvements in performance for our clients. Read below to find out how we did it.
A Quick History of Google’s Keyword Match Type Definitions
To set the stage, let’s take a quick look back over the evolution of Google’s exact match keyword targeting definitions.
Pre-2014: Exact Match means the searcher has to type your keyword in exactly as you have it written in order for the search to trigger your ad.
Search = luxury hotel in park city Keyword = luxury hotel in park city
2014: Google updates its exact match keyword definition to allow your ad to trigger for the exact spelling of your keyword PLUS plurals and misspellings
Search = luxury hotels in park city Keyword = luxury hotel in park city
2017: Google updates its exact match keyword definition again to trigger your ad for the exact phrase or misspellings and plurals OR different word order and function words
What Do These Changes Mean For My Hotel’s Google Ads Account Structure?
But, what does this all mean for paid search optimization and account structure? Separating campaigns by match type used to mean we had more control of where to funnel our ad dollars based on what keywords and match types were performing the best. We found that with Google’s latest updates to match type definitions, if we had the same keyword with a different match type located in different ad groups within the account, they would now compete with each other. The theory became, if we restructured our accounts to keep all keywords (of all match types) within the same ad group, we should see lower CPCs which in turn would drive more traffic, more conversions, and higher ROAS. We tested the theory across a sampling of our hotel client Google Ads accounts.
Results of Our Hotels’ Google Ads Restructure Tests Based On Match Types
Let’s dive into the test results. On average this is what resulted from the changes we made in account structure based on the new keyword match type definitions:
CPCs declined by 30%
ROAS increased by 123%
This meant our paid search campaigns were able to drive 80% more revenue on average for our hotel clients across the sample set of test accounts. After reviewing the results, we rolled out the change across all of our hotel Google Ads accounts and continued to see outstanding results across the board.
It’s important to always keep an eye out for announcements from Google Ads and make sure you’re testing, restructuring, and updating your accounts based on what provides the best results. If your agency isn’t constantly evolving your campaigns based on changes within the platform and your industry then you risk wasting budget and sacrificing performance. Have questions about how we can help your hotel launch or test this new account structure? Please reach out to one of our hotel digital marketing experts today.
5 Phases to Relaunch Your Hotel's Marketing Campaigns During COVID-19
The world is slowly opening up again, and as hoteliers and other players in the hospitality game that means it’s time to welcome guests back with open, yet socially distant, arms. Similar to phased reopening plans throughout the country, your hotel’s marketing efforts should take the same approach. By phasing out your hotel marketing targeting you’ll be able to provide the most value for your property in this current market for less (we know many will still be operating with smaller budgets at this time). Below we’ll outline a great phased approach that can be curated to fit any property’s strategy amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
PHASE 1: Focus efforts on your hotel’s current and upcoming guests
If your property isn’t ready to resume marketing efforts and outreach quite yet, then the most basic approach should be to focus on the guests you have. People are still traveling, even to the most restrictive areas, and your top priority should be to make their stay at your hotel as safe and comfortable as possible. This could include imposing smaller capacity caps, ensuring social distancing between guests, using stricter and more frequent cleaning guidelines, and more.
Focusing on your current hotel guests presents the opportunity for providing a much more intimate and personalized experience. Fewer guests mean you can get to know them by name, provide upgrades and other premium amenities, and showcase the service of your hotel in new ways. This focus on guest experience can turn into positive reviews and chatter throughout the web, which has a great impact on your hotel’s reputation, website traffic, and conversion rates.
PHASE 2: Initiate your hotel’s marketing with loyal and previous guests
When you are ready to begin your hotel’s marketing efforts again, we recommend starting small, especially if your hotel is located in a very restrictive area. Your audience should be focused primarily on loyal guests like pass holders and loyalty program members first and then broadening to previous guests or families that return year after year. One of the best ways to engage with this audience is through email marketing because you already have these guests’ contact information and you can draw them in with a more personalized approach.
PHASE 3: Engage with your hotel’s local audiences
Once you’ve taken care of the loyal users, it’s time to move on to your hotel’s local drive market audiences. Whether this is within city limits or up to a day’s drive away, your local market will be the first to return to your property through serious marketing efforts. This is when you really want to make sure your Facebook, display and paid search efforts are ramping up to draw that awareness and highlight the benefits of a staycation or long weekend out of the house.
PHASE 4: Draw in regional guests for your hotel
As we start seeing the United States and other parts of the world opening up more safely we’ll also start seeing people traveling further distances. This goes beyond day trips and weekends and dips more into longer stays. These guests will be driving to your hotel from places that are over six hours away or even taking short flights in.
Some properties are already seeing an influx of regional guests, especially those located in larger metro areas, while some are barely getting local visitors. It’s important to pay attention to your state or city’s reopening guidelines and phases to determine which audiences are worth targeting at any given time.
PHASE 5: Return to normal by reaching your hotel’s destination audiences
Eventually, things will go back to normal and travel will continue as it had before COVID-19 hit. This fifth and final phase includes all guests and normal operations, meaning you can return to targeting your new top-of-funnel audiences and guests that live out of your property’s region.
While this phased approach is simply a guided recommendation, it’s still important for any property or business to evaluate their current standings and plan out their future marketing efforts. Eventually, this will be all over and we will return again to a saturated marketing landscape, but until then you can lean on GCommerce to create a strategy for your hotel’s marketing efforts during COVID-19.
Our hotel digital marketing experts are standing by to help you craft a custom digital marketing relaunch strategy for your hotel. Contact us today.
3 Questions to Ask Your Hotel's Digital Marketing Agency
Over the last few years, the customer journey has been a major topic and how important it is for us as marketers and hoteliers to reach people at every stage of that journey with relevant messaging. If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to start here.
Understanding the customer journey and all the opportunities to get in front of your hotel’s guests has opened up doors for new technology companies to provide specific touchpoints and push travelers through the funnel. Examples of this are companies like Podium, Zoottle, TrustYou and even CRM specific companies like NAVIS and Revinate. All of these companies provide meaningful services to hoteliers all in an effort of improving the guest experience and ultimately incremental revenue to the property. (Check back soon for a full run-down on all the tech companies GCommerce recommends.)
Outside of these customer-centric technology companies, most hotels have a digital marketing agency managing their paid media, their search engine optimization, content generation, and social media marketing. So the question then becomes “How do I, as a time-starved hotelier, manage both my digital marketing agency and these other 3rd party partners?” The answer? You don’t.
I can tell you after working with hotels for the last 12 years, you as the hotelier should be looking for digital marketing agency partners that want to be your digital marketing arm, not just take orders and manage your paid search campaign. I recently was in a meeting with a luxury hotel brand and they explained how overwhelming and time-consuming it is to first understand all the different tech companies that exist and what they do but also to understand how they overlap with technology they already have and to identify what the right mix is.
Of course, I am biased and I am not ashamed to say so. That does not diminish the argument that hotel digital marketing agencies (should) have the capability to help you navigate the digital landscape and help you identify the correct tech-stack for your property. Further, your tech-stack should look a lot different than the hotel down the street and their agency is hopefully (or maybe we hope they aren’t) helping them understand what they need and what partnerships will actually improve their guest experience and ultimately increase their bottom line. My point is it should be a custom approach that is grounded in a deep understanding of what’s possible and being able to orchestrate all the tools that exist into a fine-tuned program to maximize your hotel’s position in the customer journey. And, this program should ultimately improve your customer’s journey both before arrival and after.
Here’s my homework assignment for you - on your next conference call with your hotel’s digital marketing agency, ask them the following questions:
Do we have the right tech-stack?
Are we doing everything we should be to be ever-present in the customer journey?
What else can we do to increase bottom-line revenue for our hotel?
I encourage you and your hotel’s digital marketing agency to forget about ROAS for a minute and think about your digital presence start to finish. What is the guest experience when travelers interact with your property online? Could it be better with less friction? It’s certainly worth some thought.
How to Enhance Your Hotel's Guest Experience from Start to Finish: Part 5
To help guests through the customer journey, hotels will need to participate in a multi-channel digital marketing approach. That includes channels that can provide insights and ROI such as paid search, Facebook, display, and more. I'm often asked how I would prioritize all of the different digital marketing channels for hotels, and my response is always to start at the goal. Are you trying to generate top of funnel brand awareness through prospecting or are you trying to drive more bottom of the funnel direct bookings at a lower cost-per-acquisition (CPA) than the OTAs through remarketing efforts? Once you have a goal and a budget, you can start to select which digital marketing channel will help you reach the right customers.
1. Ongoing Search Engine Optimization for Your Hotel's Website
Most hotels see organic as either the #1 or #2 source for website sessions and revenue. While performance shown through organic traffic metrics is a result of a full-funnel and multiple channel marketing strategies, in order to maintain position within the organic search results means an ongoing focus on foundational on-page SEO strategy and tactics. Hotels should always prioritize search engine optimization near the top of the list and one-time optimization is not going to be enough. Google's search algorithm, the SERP and competition for your targeted keywords and search intent are constantly changing. Ongoing search engine optimization for your hotel's website and digital presence is necessary to remain competitive within Google’s search results. Ongoing on-page SEO includes optimizing foundational elements such as image alt tags, meta descriptions, H1 title tags and possible schema markup, which at GCommerce we call Structured Data. It also includes recommendations for new and expanded content, monitoring the site for technical SEO issues and recommending changes to ensure successful accessibility. Learn more about how to be successful with on-page SEO for hotel websites in our previous blog here.
Hotels should monitor search engine ranking reports, also called SERP reports, that show the current rank for the top keywords the brand wants to target. The goal is to improve rank and exposure for targeted keywords within the Google search results page. It can be very difficult for smaller brands and independent hotels with smaller overall marketing budgets to gain enough traction to rank for high volume keywords like "Miami hotels", so finding more specific, long-tail keywords that you are more qualified for is a more successful approach and strategy for your hotel's SEO. Instead of a broad keyword with incredibly high competition such as "Miami hotels" try a keyword like"oceanfront Miami hotels near Indian beach park" that might have less total search volume but has less competition and is more qualified and more relevant to your hotel. You'll have a better chance of ranking higher in the search results and drive more qualified traffic.
Below is an example of a search engine ranking report:
2. Paid Search for Hotels
Google and Bing paid search campaign management is ever-evolving and something that most hotel marketing teams do not have the bandwidth to manage. Most hotels either avoid participating in it or hire a digital marketing firm, like GCommerce, to manage it for them. What is important to note is that beyond having a well optimized and mobile-friendly website and booking engine, paid search is the most important marketing channel hotels can participate in.
If you look at the booking funnel for hotels, paid search is the only digital marketing channel where the guest shows intent before seeing any type of ad. A guest needs to have actually typed into Google a keyword phrase such as “hotels near a golf course in Heber" before they see an ad for The Homestead Resort. Think about your property and your market and what you think guests are searching for to find your hotel. Make sure that your hotel's digital marketing firm is aware of these search terms. Make sure the firm knows the local way people refer to the area your hotel is based in along with any neighborhood specifics. For example, do they know that downtown LA is referred to as DTLA? When my clients give me this type of guidance, we complete research around that keyword phrase to make sure it has enough search volume to include it in our paid search campaigns for the hotel.
Just like with SEO, Google is always changing the game. The platform is constantly adding new features along with getting rid of current features, so paid search requires continued management and optimization. At GCommerce, we are continually adding and removing keywords from campaigns, updating messaging, testing targeting options and testing bid strategies based on performance so that we can drive down the ever-rising cost-per-click (CPC) as much as possible to improve overall ROAS.
3. Facebook and Instagram Hotel Advertising
Facebook and Instagram ads are two of the most popular channels for driving brand awareness for hotels because of their fantastic targeting capabilities. You can target geo-locations and standard demographics such as age and gender. Based on the targeting, ads should create awareness of the hotel brand and highlight the key location, events or amenities. For example, if you are trying to drive wedding RFP submissions for your hotel, you would want to target those that are recently engaged in a specific drive market.
Hotels can also use Facebook and Instagram to run remarketing ads based on traffic to the hotel website or email lists of past guests. Hotels can target these audiences with messaging around hotel offers, events and loyalty programs. Once considered a low-cost marketing channel, Facebook and Instagram are not always a low cost, but they are still lower cost than most other channels and worth investing in for both awareness, lead generation and driving direct bookings for your hotel.
4. Display Advertising for Hotels
Like most other digital marketing channels, display ads can be used for both hotel prospecting and remarketing campaigns. When my hotel clients ask me how they can drive more qualified eyeballs to their website, I will usually recommend a display prospecting campaign through the Google Display Network. The CPM is usually around $3 per 1000 impressions and the targeting capabilities that include those looking to travel to a specific region are fantastic. For prospecting, GCommerce recommends that the campaigns run for at least 60-90-days with a minimum budget of $750-$1500 per month. The goal is to drive visitors to the hotel website that we can remarket to with offers in the future.
Remarketing is also a great way to utilize this digital marketing channel for your hotel. Based on the different custom audiences that we discussed in part two of this series, you can promote lodging ads to visitors that interacted with the room pages of the website, wedding packages to those that visit the wedding section and F&B to those that spend time on the dining pages and are located 30-miles from the hotel. With display remarketing, the budget is based on the hotel's website traffic.
5. Organic Social Content Marketing for Hotels
Though there has definitely been a decline in social engagement for brands over the last few years, it is still important to push out organic content for your hotel on Facebook and Instagram. We know from the Search Engine Lands SEO Periodic Table that social signals are correlated to ranking performance within the search engines. At GCommerce, we recommend keeping the content authentic. This could look like photos of community involvement, fun photo contests, local & hotel specific events, and hotel guests user-generated content (UGC).
For most hotels, the most important channels for organic social are Facebook and Instagram. Try to post 2-3 times per week on Facebook and even more frequently for Instagram. Avoid posting about promotions, which should be pushed out as ads instead. Use social channels to have a conversation with past and future guests, and avoid a one-way conversation.
6. Hotel Metasearch
Hotel metasearch platforms, such as Google Ads, TripAdvisor, and Kayak, are an extremely important initiative for driving direct bookings for your hotel and taking market share back from the OTAs. Hotels should prioritize metasearch based on the amount of OTA contribution they have. If a hotel sees that their OTA contribution is rising or they would like to decrease their contribution, participating in metasearch would help drive more direct bookings. However, metasearch should also be paired with rate parity tools that will make sure that the hotel is always the same, if not lower, than the OTAs so that there are not any wasted marketing dollars on this channel. Hotel metasearch is managed on either a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model or requires a management fee plus media budget.
How To Enhance Your Hotel's Guest Experience from Start to Finish: Part 4
Great content is extremely important to the hotel customer journey! Great images and helpful tips can help a hotel attract new customers and engage current customers.
1. Use your hotel's content to inspire
As we've discussed, the hotel customer's journey has become very different over the years, including where to get travel information. There is no longer a need for paper maps and guidebooks to plan a vacation. Instead, travelers can now access everything they need to know about a destination at the touch of their fingertips. From inspiration to booking, this real-time access to travel tips has changed the way guests book their trip all throughout the journey.
Knowing this, hotels should use all types of content to go beyond the hotel room and inspire people to travel. Hotels need to make great content a priority. From Instagram posts and new photography to blog articles, content matters! If a hotel is limited in the amount of time they can put into content, make sure to get the whole team involved. This is not something that a single person can manage. You want to collect all of the photos, guest stories and destination tips that you can get and then get it uploaded to the hotel's website strategically. It is important for hotels to have a blog so that they can share content quickly and easily.
Once the content is on the hotel website, you need to get the word out. I recommend utilizing social media networks and email to drive awareness back to the hotel website and directly to a blog article or area guide. Even a great Instagram image should live on the website somewhere under a gallery or social feed. Don't create the content for your hotel without a plan to share it in hopes that visitors will find it! Link to the content from correct places throughout your hotel website and vice versa.
2. Create local guides for your hotel guests
A great place to start for your hotel's content is by creating a detailed local guide to engage your website visitors and keep them on your hotel's website. If they can't get the answers from you, they will go elsewhere and when they do, they are very likely to get distracted by another hotel. At GCommerce, we use keyword research to decide what content to add to the local guides for our hotels. What are the most popular searches for the area around your hotel? One of the easiest ways to find content ideas would be to search 'things to do in x' and see what the top search results are.
When I search top things to do in Miami, the following 7-websites appear in the results:
These pages will provide me with a list of the top attractions and activities that I should be focused on writing content around. The key is to make the content yours. Do not copy the content from another source. Google could penalize your site for having duplicate copy. Make your hotel content useful, informative and original. Just take the top attractions and activities that you think are the most important to your hotel guests and personalize them by adding tips from your concierge or front desk. You could make walking maps to the top activities from your hotel and make the trip planning as easy as possible.
3. Generate sales with your hotel's content marketing
Content can take a lot of time and does require your hotel to be strategic in what to include on your website. You want to represent your brand well, so the time and effort it is worth it! Content can increase revenue and generate sales. One of my clients, Coast Hotels, had a goal to engage their website visitors and drive more conversion by creating a blog filled with local content, which fits perfectly with their "Refreshingly Local" brand pillar. GCommerce built them a blog called No Place Like Coast, which launched in February of 2018. Now with about 18-months of data, we see that many visitors land on the blog initially through organic search. Those that visited the blog and then booked were spending upwards of 21 minutes on the website and visit over 20-pages. By placing the local guide content right onto the hotel brand's website, we are able to provide social content and email content that drives people to the website, and we are able to provide visitors with all of the information they need to make their final decision.
Here are some recommended questions to help guide your hotel content marketing strategy:
Who is your audience? Who are you trying to talk to?
What kind of information do your hotel guests want to see?
What FAQ does your property get?
Are there any themes in customer feedback?
Are there any major attractions or seasonal events that attract people?
Any “local” or “insider” knowledge you could provide?
In the end, content is worth every minute of effort as long as you are strategic!
How to Enhance Your Hotel's Guest Experience from Start to Finish: Part 3
Hotels need to create packages and deals that target different customers based on their past buying history or website behavior.
1. Once you know your hotel guest, give them what they are looking for
We know that short-term hotel promotions, like a 3-day flash sale, drive a sense of urgency among consumers and can have a higher CTR and conversion for a limited amount of time. However, most promotional packages are longer-term campaigns and might not even include an offer at all. The ability to drive hotel bookings without killing your ADR is always a plus!!
With all of the granular targeting offered by Google and Facebook, there should never be the need to promote a ski package to someone looking for a beach getaway. As you create your hotel packages, make sure you also consider the specifics around who you will want to target the package too. You are no longer restricted to age, gender and income! If you build a hotel package that includes rooftop yoga, you can target avid travelers interested in yoga that live within 180-miles of the hotels.
Also, as we covered in part two of this hotel blog series, make sure you are remarketing specific hotel packages to website visitors based on their behavior. If you can see that a user visited multiple wedding pages on your hotel's website, you should either be remarketing to them with a wedding package or a romance package. If you are a brand with multiple hotel locations, you should build package landing pages that include more than one property such as a wine package page that includes all of your hotel properties near wineries, or a golf landing page for all of your properties with golf courses. Based on their website behavior you can target the golf or wine package to the correct visitor. But note, if you see they ONLY visited the restaurant page, you might be wasting advertising dollars by remarketing to them at all.
2. Hotel packages can both inspire guests and drive direct bookings as long as they are well thought out
Hotel packages can inspire guests to plan beyond the hotel room with you. They add value so that you don’t have to discount your hotel rates. If you know your guest is looking for breakfast to be included, price the room appropriately and package in breakfast. If romance is the goal, offer a package with champagne or wine in the hotel room. A ski resort package can inspire a family trip to the slopes and a hotel shopping package can inspire a girlfriend getaway.
I have seen a lot of success with local resident rates for hotels. If you know that the majority of your hotel's guests come from one particular state, you should put together an offer that incentivizes them to book direct with you. In the past I have had clients say things like "if we know all of our guests come from Arizona, why would we offer them a deal?" My response is that if you need to drive hotel bookings, why not give the best rate to the audience that is more likely to book than offer a deal to an audience that isn't? Also remember, an offer doesn't need to mean a discount. You want the user to feel special, and a resident rate lets them feel like they are getting something special for being a local. It could be something like breakfast included or a free upgrade. You can also hide the package page from other visitors to your hotel's website so that you are only promoting the offer to those based in that state so that you are not discouraging anyone that isn't.
3. Have add-ons available to book at your hotel in addition to packages
If a hotel guest did not book a package originally, it's okay. Most travelers don’t get down to the experiential details of their trip until 7-10 days in advance. Once the guest has booked their lodging and any major components, such as an all-inclusive meal plan, you want them to be able to check-out quickly. You can then offer additional add-ons to the guest through a pre-arrival drip email campaign that you can prioritize based on guest purchase history. A guest that is booked in your hotel's penthouse does not need to be offered a free breakfast, you'd want to make sure and promote a spa treatment instead.
The hardest thing for me to see is when a hotel has too many options before guests can book a room. For my clients, I recommend a friction-free booking experience by waiting to offer the majority of add-ons after they have booked the lodging. I was recently booking a hotel in the Caribbean and when I went to check-out I was offered ten different add-ons. There were so many options that I abandoned the booking so that I could wait and talk to others in my party. In the end, I did not book that specific hotel because I had to make too many decisions 8 months in advance.
4. Make booking a promotion at your hotel hassle-free
According to Facebook, "in today’s tech-driven world, consumers stick with brands that offer convenient purchasing processes. To win loyalty, provide a simple booking experience and make all steps of the travel journey friction-free."
I could not agree more! Too often I see hotels promote a package without easily providing all of the booking details. When promoting a package for your hotel, you should always be sending the guest to a landing page the includes all of the necessary details around the booking (stay dates, booking dates, inclusions, exclusions, blackout dates). I cringe every time I see an ad on Facebook for a package if I click to learn more and land directly into the booking engine. This leaves users with no idea where to go to learn more about the hotel's package!
At GCommerce, we recommend that each promotion has its own individual landing page so that the guest does not need to scroll around on the hotel's specials page to find the specific promo. We also get SEO benefits by providing more content.
5. Do not promote a package to someone that does not know your hotel
At GCommerce, we talk a lot about prospecting and remarketing, because as we discussed in part two of this series, the hotel customer journey is not a singular digital touchpoint. When prospecting ads to an audience that has not been to your website or stayed at your hotel, it is very important they are not hit with ads around a discounted rate or package. I've seen display ads that promote a romance package that does not include where the hotel is located. Make sure that you think through the full customer journey. Use prospecting ads to highlight your destination and amenities such as "The largest infinity pool in downtown LA" and then remarket to them with the package or discount once they have been to your hotel's website and are familiar with your brand. This requires a lot of strategy and planning, but will do wonders for your conversion when managed correctly!
How to Enhance Your Hotel's Guest Experience from Start to Finish: Part 2
Know the different types of customers you have and reach them with personalized messages and content.
1. Know your guest!
The customer journey continues to become more complex as time goes on. People use more and more sites when researching hotels and have hundreds of digital touchpoints before booking.
In a recent Think with Google case study, we begin to gain a much better understanding of the online customer journey. We see that guests can have as many as 500 digital touchpoints before booking. One example showed a user Google called "Sarah", who booked 6-days in advance and had over 200 touchpoints during her online travel research. You might ask how someone could possibly have over 200 digital touchpoints when researching their single hotel stay, but it is actually easier than you might think!
Just consider each different type of search query on multiple channels. You might start with 'vacation ideas for June', which leads to ‘Hotels in Portland’, which becomes ’hotels in downtown Portland’. Then, once you discover 5 x hotels that are downtown and compare how close each hotel is to Powell Book Store, you narrow it to 2 x hotels and start diving into TripAdvisor for reviews and photos and then Instagram to see some recent images of the property. As you can see, hitting 200+ touchpoints is easy.
2. Remarketing based on buyer behavior
Knowing visitors are all over the place in their journey, makes hitting them with the right message more important than ever before! You must define intent now because we know that each customer journey is different. In 2018, GCommerce worked closely with Coast Hotels to build lists for targeting based on the guest behavior on the brand website. If someone only visited the homepage, they were not added to a list. If they visited a particular property level microsite, they were added to a particular remarketing list and so forth. These lists have increased conversions by 10% YOY.
Here are some examples of how we use the lists to increase conversion. With Coast Hotels, GCommerce was able to show a specific ski package offer to guests that had been looking at one of the ski package participating properties. If someone visited a property microsite that offered the ski package, they would see a ski display ad following them as they continued to visit other websites, which would hopefully bring them back to Coast Hotels to book. Knowing the guest was interested in Coast Sundance Lodge helped us avoid promoting the Waimea Plantation and vice versa.
With other clients, such as Surf & Sand Resort, we've been able to show our display ads to guests that did not initially land on the wedding pages, restaurant pages or spa pages, which helped us understand they were truly interested in lodging. We could also apply the same type of tactic to those that visit the wedding pages by marketing a specific wedding package. We can even base the ads on the amount of engagement (time on site and pages per session) so that we're not wasting any marketing dollars on someone that accidentally landed on the site.
3. Be useful!
Message your audience with some level of personalization. People respond to brands that understand their needs. It’s important that hotels optimize media, both for relevance to the consumer and lifetime value for the brand. Some customers spend more than others. We hope to continue to learn more about visitors on websites so that we can understand the difference between paying to acquire profitable customers and paying to acquire the customers your competition didn’t want. It is up to the hotel to create an online shopping experience that fits different customers based on their website behavior.
4. Utilize dynamic ads if possible
GCommerce also works with vendors like Adacado, TripAdvisor and Facebook to utilize dynamic ads. For example, a property management company that has multiple properties can use technology to display a specific property ad based on buyer intent so that not everyone looking to go to New York is seeing a generic property management company ad. These types of ads convert at a higher rate because they are more personalized. The caveat is that these types of ads usually require a lot of website traffic and larger budgets, and might not be possible for an individual hotel.
5. Rate parity is KEY
Make sure you have done everything you can to make booking online with your hotel as easy as possible. Direct bookings provide the guest with the best customer experience. By having the guest email address prior to stay, you know who the guest is, you can customize the guest onsite experience by understanding their preferences and lifetime value. It is extremely important to use your revenue management system and make sure you are always in rate parity. Don’t make guests search around for the best rate because they might just get distracted by something shiny and you lose them altogether.
For this series, made up of six articles, we are going to start where the hotel guest experience journey actually ends. As we know, experience plays a very large role in driving travel and entertainment sales.
“Over the past few years, personal-consumption expenditures on experience-related services—such as attending spectator events, visiting amusement parks, eating at restaurants, and traveling—have grown more than 1.5 times faster than overall personal-consumption spending and nearly 4.0 times faster than expenditures on goods.” Cashing in on the US Experience Economy
So what is an experience? An experience is a series of memorable events that a hotel stages to engage a guest in an inherently personal way. For example, at Walt Disney World, for every guest, cast members stage a complete production of sights, sounds, tastes, aromas, and textures to create a unique experience.
So how do you enhance the guest experience in hotels? Here are a few examples:
Whitney Peak Hotel Delivers Nicholas Cage
One of my clients in Reno, Whitney Peak Hotel, built the world's tallest climbing wall on the outside of their hotel. This is a huge occupancy driver for them; however, this is not feasible for most hotels, am I right? Well, it goes beyond the big demand drivers like a climbing wall. This same hotel is extremely focused on creating a customer experience as shown by something they did that cost them much less.
When a guest recently checked in to the hotel, the front desk asked if they could do anything else and the guest replied, “Can you get me Nicolas Cage?” The front desk then printed off images of Nick Cage and the hotel staff placed images of him throughout their room during their stay. It became like a Nick Cage scavenger hunt. The guest then shared their story through social media and went viral. Cost: $0.
Snuggle with Puppies at Coast Prince George Hotel by APA
I know many hotels are also doing memorable things like this guest experience example. One of my clients, Coast Prince George Hotel by APA, works with the Humane Society to assist in showcasing the puppies & dogs available for adoption. Giving the guests the opportunity to visit with the animals, take them for walks and snuggle with them which will hopefully give them more of a sense of home.
And as you can see from this TripAdvisor review, this creates memorable moments for their guests and becomes something that guests of their hotel want to share, which again helps tell your story.
Here are some additional ideas to help your hotel create the best guest experience that have come from some of my other hotel clients. I hope these will inspire you!
When we think of “experiences'' we usually think of the trip itself, but we need to expand our minds beyond the trip and look at the entire hotel booking experience and how we can make it as easy and seamless as possible. The next five parts of this six-part series will break down some of the things that hotels should be doing to help with the booking experience.