We recently teamed up with our friends at GCommerce Solutions, the leading hotel digital marketing agency, to discuss the state of marketing in hospitality and strategies that work to drive revenue and guest engagement. Hear from GCommerce’s VP of Business Development, Mark Oliver, in our exclusive interview below.
Revinate: Thanks, Mark for sitting down with us. Let’s start the conversation high-level. Curious to learn, what are some of the top trends you’re hearing from your hotel clients when it comes to digital marketing?
GCommerce: There are quite a few trends out there these days, but the ones we are most focused on are ADA compliance with websites, Schema markup, and gaining better insight into our hotel partners’ website visitors through a reporting platform we have built on top of Google Analytics.
ADA compliance, in particular, is a big subject right now as ambulance-chasing lawyers are taking advantage of WCAG 2.0. We have seen a number of boutique hotels served with papers over the past three months. And it is going to continue as hotels that are not compliant will be served papers repeatedly until they fix it.
There is an easy way to see if your website is compliant or not. Go to WAVE and enter your hotel’s URL into the box, hit “Enter,” and the tool will show you how many errors you have in the “Summary” section on the left side. All you need to worry about is the errors. If you scroll down the website you will see red boxes. Click on the red box and you will see the problem. You need to run the Wave Report for every page on your website.
Revinate: Thank you for that. That leads us to another question – when you are working with your hotel clients, how does email fit into their broader digital marketing strategy? For example, if you’re trying to promote a summer package, how should hotels be thinking about email, PPC, social, and other channels?
GCommerce: Hotels need to realize that email marketing is the most cost-efficient way of driving direct business. Hotels need to make it easy for consumers to sign up for the hotel’s newsletter on the website or through complimentary Wifi. The hotel then needs to ask a question or two so they can segment each guest to send them information they are interested in. Sending the same message to each guest is easy but not the right way to market.
At GCommerce, we recommend to each of our hotel partners that they invest in a hotel CRM platform like Revinate as this will allow them to segment their database and send pre-arrival, post-stay, birthday, anniversary emails, and most importantly, emails that consumers are interested in. With OTAs taking more and more share of hotel bookings, hoteliers need to understand that email marketing offers them the lowest cost per acquisition and the most direct way of communicating with a traveler. In other words, to promote the summer package you suggest, start with email for cost efficiency.
Revinate: Great, very useful perspectives and we agree that email should be a fundamental component of a hotel’s digital marketing strategy. As a final question from us, are there any other challenges your clients are currently experiencing? Any predictions for the next couple years on where hotel digital marketing is headed?
GCommerce: As I mentioned above, OTAs are taking more and more direct bookings away from hoteliers, and we feel this is going to continue as the OTAs are not only spending more on media, they are now building tools that hoteliers use on a day-to-day basis. OTAs are slowly chiseling away at hotels’ walls and most hoteliers do not have a strategy to stop the pressure. This is where a digital marketing agency needs to work in concert with a hotelier on taking back OTA share, going after other channels where they can increase direct bookings like email marketing.
Hoteliers need to invest in themselves. They need to increase their digital marketing spend. Otherwise, they will never win the battle. With big agencies, hoteliers are likely not going to get the strategy, time, or service level they would from a boutique agency.
You asked about predictions. One area where I see opportunity is in AirBnb-like experience offerings. I think we will see more and more new companies taking advantage of urban, city, and vacation offerings that allow a consumer to create their own unique experience and not be tied down to a “set” structure. Hoteliers need to understand that not everyone out there is “their” customer. They need to understand who their customer is and focus on marketing to them specifically.
GCommerce: One final question for you, Revinate. On the topic of compliance, we’ve been hearing a lot about GDPR, which is fast-approaching in May of this year. How is Revinate helping hotels prepare for GDPR?
Revinate: Very timely topic, and not just for our EU customers. GDPR is an incredibly complicated regulation so we are doing our best to make it as easy to understand as possible. We’re running a month-long series dedicated to GDPR to help hotels learn and prepare for compliance. Right now, we have a Glossary of Terms, Five Ways to Ensure Your Hotel is Prepared for GDPR, and the Four Pillars of the GDPR. All of these articles represent what the GDPR entails, how it will impact the hospitality industry, and how hoteliers can make sure they’re prepared for the new law. There are actually a lot of opportunities here for hotel marketers to rethink and restructure their email marketing strategy to drive better engagement with guests.
So there you have it. From the importance of compliance (ADA and GDPR) to automation and growing focus on experiences, it’s clear that hotel digital marketing today requires a more modern, boutique approach. Thanks, Mark and GCommerce for weighing in on these important topics! To discuss these trends, please get in touch with our team.