July 01, 2011

Five critical trends hotel marketers need to know


There is no doubt that user-generated content and the Social Web have sent ripples through our industry, causing us to re-look at the way we approach online hotel marketing. This article outlines five key trends in hospitality that hotel marketers should be aware of as they approach online reputation management.

by Paolo Torchio of Sabre Hospitality Solutions


There is no doubt that user-generated content and the Social Web have sent ripples through our industry, causing us to re-look at the way we approach online hotel marketing. When sites like TripAdvisor first grew in popularity, we found ourselves taking a reactive approach: how can we be sure that our reputations are not damaged by negative reviews? Today’s trends show that this content is not only here to stay but also growing, and hotel marketers have the opportunity to use this to their advantage. Below, Paolo Torchio outlines five key trends in hospitality that hotel marketers should be aware of as they approach online reputation management.

Trend to know: Consumers Believe Other Consumers, Not You

75% of people don’t believe that companies tell the truth in advertisements, according to a Yankelovich study. At the same time, Nielsen research indicates that 9 out of 10 consumers believe another consumer like them more than they believe corporate messaging. For organizations used to controlling the communication people hear about them online, this can be an unpleasant awakening.

The new reality requires us to take a different approach to the way we promote our hotels. We must understand how much the customer is in control, and how we have to operate in this new reality.

Opportunity for you: Encourage your guests and supporters to act as salespeople

Use this trend to your advantage. Instead of just being limited to the salespeople within your organization, plan a way to mobilize your entire customer base to act as brand ambassadors - selling for you.

How?

Design remarkable experiences that get guests talking. Consistently deliver extraordinary service, so guests feel safe and comfortable referring their friends. And then actively encourage guests to share this experience with others online. When you’re confident in the product you deliver, this should be easy.


Trend to know: Too much online chatter causes confusion, missed opportunities

Travelers are dramatically increasing the volume of data they publish to the web – both intentionally and unintentionally. Cross-posting between social media networks and increased integration means that a single activity by one person may be posted across 10 different websites. There is a lot of chatter on the social web, and not all of it is feedback we can use if left unfiltered.

If your organization doesn’t have the right systems and procedures to gather insights, you can quickly become paralyzed by the overwhelming volume of data.

Opportunity: Use better listening and reporting tools to stay ahead of the competition

Technology can give you the advantage over competitors in this area. By using a reputation management tool such as ReviewPro, you can identify and act on opportunities that your competitors miss.

Create position-specific reporting that executives, managers, and frontline staff can use immediately in their day-to-day jobs. Insights need to be simple and there must be no confusion on what action should be taken. It should not require a “guru” to interpret. 2011 is becoming the year of the practitioner, not the guru. If we are going to make social media analysis something everyone takes part in, then we need to simplify it so non-specialists can understand the action steps needed.

Trend to know: Consumers making last-minute switches based on online reviews

The World Travel Market’s 2010 Industry Report reported that 35% of travelers change their choice of hotel after browsing social media and review sites like TripAdvisor.

People go to sites like TripAdvisor and make last-minute decisions on which hotel to choose. Online review sites affect people in the final stage of the buying cycle - just before they make a reservation. They’re already decided on the destination, the length of their trip, and now they’re ready to buy. The question is: how are you presented when people come to buy?

Your Opportunity: Give the right impression at the right time.

Make sure that the reviews people see are positive if you want to capture these bookings. How? By listening to guest feedback shared through online reviews, making changes as needed, and continually focusing on improvement.

Trend to know: Negative reviews are directly correlated with lower revenues

But while many hotels are still looking at online reviews as a threat to their reputation and are afraid of losing control over their brand, we highly encourage you to see online reviews as an opportunity. The potential of online reviews on sales becomes very clear when Jennifer Davies, senior content manager at Expedia, explains: “On Expedia.com, good reviews of 4.0 or 5.0 generate more than double the conversion of a review of 1.0 – 2.9.”

In another interview, Expedia’s VP of Supply Strategy and Analysis, Brian Ferguson, shared that a 1 point increase in a review score (on a 5-point scale) equates to a 9% increase in average daily rate (ADR). At the point we are right now with hotels struggling to recover from the global economic crisis, and with no more cost cutting options available, measures that increase conversion rates and increase ADR are critical.

Your Opportunity: Boost revenues with more positive reviews

This trend can, of course, be taken positively. By encouraging positive reviews, you can increase revenue.

Trend to know: Real-time web makes delayed responses ineffective

Social media author and thought leader David Meerman Scott opens his book Real Time Marketing and PR with an anecdote of his days working on Wall Street in 1985. It’s a scene we’ve all seen in movies: brokers fill the trading floor, casually talking and joking with colleagues until the moment when the room is alerted to a newsflash that sets the room alive into the split-second, highly organized, “Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell!” type of chaos where many fortunes have been made or lost.

“Within that minute the traders who got their orders placed a split-second faster had earned their daily bread. Being first with the news is valuable currency that earns them lucrative deals from their clients,” says Scott. “Now, it’s like we all work on Wall Street. Social media is becoming real time media, and we have to act fast to capitalize on opportunities.”

Your Opportunity: Automate engagement and response :

Real-time social media tools and a solid response program are directly connected to higher revenue and increased customer engagement. Look into adapting a set of social media tools that will work together to maximize your interactions with customers, increase your conversion opportunities across the Social Web, and notify you anytime someone mentions your hotel in social media, enabling you to respond quickly.

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Paolo Torchio is Vice President of E-Marketing and Revenue Consulting at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. Sabre Hospitality Solutions provides marketing, distribution, and technology solutions to the global hospitality industry. Sabre Hospitality Solutions recently launched SocialConversion, a suite of tools to create engagement and conversion opportunities for hotels through social media. Additionally, Sabre Hospitality has entered into an agreement with ReviewPro to offer online reputation and social media monitoring solutions to its hotels worldwide.

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