Hotel Industry Blog

Six Key Digital Marketing Trends to watch for in 2018

By Editor | On Mon, January 01, 2018

The new year is an ideal opportunity to look anew at what you are doing in digital and see if you can catch the wave of new opportunities being created.

1. Driving Better Performance with Personalised Content

“Content is King” is still true, but now even more so when delivered with a personalised twist. Personalisation should be a core focus when devising a marketing plan for the new year. Conveying the right message at the right time to each individual customer persona is the holy grail. But how can we be sure that a customer’s specific needs are perfectly catered for?

  • Firstly, know who your customers are and reach for who your new customer could be. Study your website’s analytics and demographics carefully to ensure you are not making incorrect assumptions. Making real use of that detailed data is critical.
  • Secondly, ensure you have content on your website optimised in your customers’ languages, with different messages and offers depending on their needs. Geo-targeting, where messages (or offers) alter based on the origin of the visitor, is something modern web management platforms like Bookassist’s Smart Content Management System can already cater for.

This strategy will involve even more effort from hotels from now on in terms of creating content that matches each customer’s specific preferences, for example having different messages for returning customers versus new ones. But moving in this direction is a must, since one size fits all calls-to-action are no longer enough.

And don’t let good new content go to waste. Successful businesses also pay to promote their unique content and gain further value from their efforts. Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram continue to be low-cost options for hotels to leverage their novel personalised content with stronger promotion.

2. Results-driven Social Media

Assessing ROI on Social Media (SM) is a difficult task, especially when the strategy in the SM campaign is not directly linked to income. For a hotel or restaurant, the SM strategy is often not to increase the number of bookings (rooms or tables), but to increase brand awareness.

Measuring the effectiveness of SM campaigns is not as clear as when using Google AdWords, where it’s easy to measure the achieved goals related to the number of reservations made through your ad click-throughs. In SM we must know how much the goals are worth to us in non-monetary terms, and those goals fall into two categories:

  • Awareness: The number of people that know about your brand;
  • Perception: How people think and feel about your brand.

Social Engagement Metrics, or “Vanity Metrics”, are the real currency in SM campaigns. Metrics often focused on are Followers or Page Likes, but they’re not the only ones. Key metrics also include:

  • Shares: the number of times your post was shared onwards;
  • Mentions: the number of times someone mentioned your brand;
  • Comments: the level of direct interaction on your posts;
  • Reach: the number of people who actually saw your post.

For example, comparing the number of people talking about your brand to the number talking about competitors (your Social Share of Voice) gives you good feeling for how well you are doing and if you are improving overall. Most Social Media platforms now give good analytics tool to help you gauge your success. It’s time to start using those tools.

3. The Rise of Dark Social

Dark Social (DS) refers to traffic that comes to websites via social channels but is not attributed to its original source. DS occurs primarily through private sharing of URLs on platforms like WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger.

Imagine this scenario. You post a link on Facebook promoting a special offer. A follower likes the post and tags one of their friends. That friend opens the link from your post. They like what they see and copy the URL, pasting it into a group chat on WhatsApp.

In this picture, clicks on the Facebook post will be tracked in Google Analytics with Facebook as the source. However, when the URL is clicked in the WhatsApp chat, the traffic will be recorded as direct to website without any referral. That’s DS in action.

A study by RadiumOne in 2016 claimed “84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now takes place via private, Dark Social channels” . Unfortunately, there’s no accurate way to measure such DS traffic. Adding social sharing buttons to your website and correctly tagging the URLs you share on Facebook or in newsletters (with UTM parameters for those in the know) helps reduce the amount of socially-shared traffic being attributed to ‘direct’. But even that’s not entirely effective.

This does not mean DS should simply be ignored. Google Analytics allows you to deep dive into your traffic and segment ‘direct’ visits that arrived on a deep landing page using a mobile device. If a URL is quite lengthy, we can safely assume that users haven’t directly typed it into their browser, particularly on mobile. In the previously mentioned example, you could do a deep dive in Google Analytics to analyse mobile traffic after the offer was posted on Facebook.

It will be increasingly important to engage with this level of analysis to get a true picture of the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy. Hard work, but definitely needed.

4. Voice Search Optimisation

Google Voice Search is not new - its first release was May 2012, with a multilingual update a few months later . Since then, Digital Marketers and SEO Experts have been proactively experimenting with new ways to exploit Voice Search, especially as mobile grows.

The main difference between voice search and typed-in search is the length of the query and the nature of the sentence. Voice search queries tend to be longer and often a natural question, e.g. “What are the best hotels in Dublin city centre for families?”, versus a typed-in search like “family hotels Dublin”.

As a consequence, these searches belong to what’s known as the “upper funnel”, where users are researching broadly with little immediate commitment. The key for hotels is to ensure that the results of such searches present your property as part of the so-called “evoked set”, that small selection of hotels that users see, and then may recall later and preferentially favour once they are in the second stage of the research process. As voice interfaces proliferate, specifically targeting voice search is therefore increasingly important.

What to do?

  • Write content in a natural, conversational voice and it is far more likely to match voice search queries. When writing, ask yourself what question is this content trying to answer? The Search Queries section in both Google analytics and Google Search Console can help you find what your users are already asking.
  • Build a set of user intent queries based on your hotel’s unique selling points. For example, if your hotel has a spa, go to Google Search and start typing a few sentences with using spa a few related keywords to see what Google suggests as typical searches.
  • Estimate search volume for your user intent queries to determine how many users might result and prioritise your content based on that. But also consider the quality of the search to ensure it is likely revenue-generating for your hotel.
  • Make sure that structured data, known as Schema Markup , is present in your website, essential because it is now one of the key signals used to power search results.

5. Chatbots for the Hospitality Industry

We’ve all probably interacted with a chatbot without ever knowing it was a machine. Machine learning and artificial intelligence methods are now letting programs interpret users’ typed or spoken requests and are directing or answering the user automatically without human intervention. We’re now seeing chatbots assist with customer service in a number of business channels, including websites, within apps, and on messaging platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others.

A recent survey by Oracle predicted that by 2020, 80% of top marketing professionals are expected to turn to chatbots for customer services and more. Chatbots will be programmed for proactive customer engagement, tracking purchase pattern of consumers, the creation of personalized content and ads, providing feedback on site UI/UX and providing data for customer relations. Chatbots could even be online salespeople, nurturing and generating leads.

Expedia has already launched chatbots on Facebook, Amazon Alexa and for Skype. Other big players in the travel sector like Booking.com, Kayak, Cheapflights, Skyscanner, are already experimenting with ChatBots to find flights and hotels at reasonable prices for their clients. And Hospitality groups like Marriott, Starwood and Hyatt have all been testing chatbots for some time now. Expect to see more chatbots competing for your customers’ attention.

6. The Impact of Video Advertising

Video content is consumed more than any other content type currently on the internet. Video content totally dominates the smaller screens - mobile and tablets – giving undivided opportunity for brand projection without distractions. In fact, every smartphone owner watches at least one video every day seeking knowledge, aspirations and entertainment.

And it is effective. Bookassist’s own recent success story for hotels is a case in point. Harbour Hotel in Galway, Ireland, needed to stand out more from the crowd. Realizing their competitive edge lay in their own passionate staff, the hotel created a series of videos showing their love for Galway and the unmissable local places to visit. As a result of working with Bookassist digital, Harbour Hotel’s videos successfully reached thousands of potential customers on YouTube. This boosted their direct sales by 50% year on year and made their channel everyone’s new favourite destination.

Now that’s an effect!

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This article is condensed from insights of the Digital Marketing team at Bookassist (http://www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide. Contributors are (1) Lucia Ribagorda, (2) Sara Santos García, (3) Jason Kelly, (4) Donald Piccione, (5)(6) Rumenigo Fernandes.

Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a certified Google Premier Partner and a Bing Ads Accredited Professional.


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