April 27, 2017
 

Digital technology is conspicuously expanding its part in the marketing and promotional strategies in the hospitality industry in a report by Irene Susan Eapen

The hospitality industry is rapidly undergoing transformation thanks to the internet and more specifically the constantly evolving spectrum of digital marketing strategies. With various avenues that offer greater product visibility and customer reach, hoteliers are keen on utilizing digital marketing tools like influencer marketing and video marketing to entice potential customers. This also translates in to better occupancy rates in hotels, enhanced customer loyalty and increase in revenues.

According to a study conducted by Expedia Media Solutions, travellers search an average of 38 sites before making a booking. Once a guest lands on the hotel’s website, they must be engaged with strong visual strategy and interactive content. Instant booking tools and travel advisors such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Make My Trip etc. have been a stimulus to darn multiple caps.

Commenting on the digital marketing trends embraced by hotels, Parinaz Driver – Marketing & eCommerce Manager, Sofitel Mumbai BKC says"The technology is moving faster with newer and trends like social media marketing, influencer marketing and video marketing, these trends are becoming the most essential elements of Digital Marketing for the hospitality industry.Most of the guests plan every element of a trip much ahead through smartphones and internet. The websites are now an imporatant source of information and bookings hence they need to be highly interactive and responsive."

Gaurav Singh, General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield by Marriott notes that more brands are now increasingly getting on to the digital medium to connect, communicated and engage with their prospective and current clientele. For 2017, our goal is to only make this gateway of engagement more enhanced through usage of new media technologies."

"We evaluate and look at growth differently for our various digital levers. However in terms of pure top line performance, 2017 looks to be a very promising year for us in India and we anticipate a very healthy double digit growth year-on-year, at a much higher pace than what we experienced in 2016." Aditi Sud, Director - Ecommerce, AccorHotels India added.

Occupancy

Given the fast changing consumer behavior and rapidly evolving businesses, Aditi attributes the changing research and booking patterns of Indian consumers to the fast paced proliferation to the internet and mobile penetration across various platforms and devices. We have a more content driven approach and are able to engage and create more personalized experiences for our online guests. With technology comes better access to deeper consumer insights, data trends and analytics, and if we are able to marry our strategy and tactics at both corporate and line of business levels, we would be able to maximize our ROIs. Technology-led innovations have opened up the horizon for hoteliers and the opportunities for growth are aplenty, provided we not just respond to but proactively anticipate how our guests consume information on these platforms and put technology to use."

Aditi feels that large companies and conglomerates need to embrace new thinking for the digital age and cultivate talent that has strong knowledge and experience of digital business models as well as deep rooted understanding of business strategies and the Indian market.

Parinaz says thathotel revenue strategies are undergoing an evolution to keep pace with the changing market conditions of the hospitality industry.

Gaurav says," Through digital marketing We have definitely built an increased guest loyalty and affinity towards our brand and services so there has been a significant increase in interest and engagement, which is always the first step towards driving more sales."

Promotional plans

According to Parinaz, a robust Digital Marketing plan is an essential part of any successful organization. There are various aspects to Digital Marketing and the key ones involve a good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), SEM/PPC (Search Engine Marketing/Pay Per Click) and Social Media campaigns, amongst others. For all these strategies to be successfully implemented, the most important aspect is the ‘Content’ that is being published to the audience.A content strategy comes with planning and includes an editorial calendar, a social plan, engagement efforts, optimisation, measuring conversions and more.

Gaurav said, "The digital medium is going to be our priority platform to connect with our audiences. We will aim to utilise the platform to sharpen our service standards, increase transparency of information flow and remain real time in contact with our clientele. Today we are able to organically connect with customers, share experiences, respond to queries, reviews and feedback and do it almost instantaneously is already a common industry practice."

“As marketers we have a tendency to create “a one size fits all” approach .We need to actively monitor the market place, identify business opportunities, collaborate between various teams and then work on execution. We are moving quickly to invest in digital infrastructure and invest and nurture talent within our organization. It requires entire rethinking step by step. We need to ramp up our investments in infrastructure, optimize all platforms and provide a customised experience to our guests. We need to be where our customers are today and ensure that we are present across platforms and devices, and have a sharp focus on our mobile-led plans for future where the transactions are with much shorter lead times and are extremely price sensitive. Additionally content would form the backbone of our overarching digital plan – be it video, visual or text."says Aditi.

Trends in Digital Marketing

Research has shown time and time again that the thoughts and opinions of both fellow consumers and influential figures mean more than all the marketing pitch. A solid star-rating from a person we don't know could do a brand's reputation more good than all the self-promotion in the world. The web has transformed the way the consumer public decides what it will buy, where it will buy it and how much it will buy. It is up to the hospitality industry to connect, engage and sustain their target audience.

Parinaz says that social media decides the success of your search engine optimization.Web video marketing is and will continue to be a real game-changer. Virtual Reality will be looking at a consumer experience that gives people the opportunity to visit and tour the whole hotel in full VR, before making a booking. Content Marketing the creation and distribution of valuable assets, such as videos, blog posts, and e-newsletters, as marketing tools to attract and retain customers is an important aspect for any hospitality brand.

Gaurav stresses on the need to take immediate actions to address concerns and build credibility ever so often as every entity has a significant voice in the digital world so it has become a leveller of sorts. We have to take immediate actions to address concerns and build credibility ever so often. With live streaming of videos, and destructible content through apps such as SnapChat, we have every method to get the information across the globe within seconds."

The hospitality and the travel industry has been stormed by the digital disruptors which is making it extremely important for us to understand the changing behaviours of our customers and consumers and accordingly strategise and manage our marketing plans and capabilities to understand their needs.Facebook is set to become a vital player in the travel sector and can potentially become one of the primary research and booking channels for hotels and play an influential role in the complete travel process. More than 50 percent of the mobile data is already driven by videos and this trend will continue to see an upsurge. The real challenge would be to tailor the videos for the short attention spans of our mobile generation and make them native to tiny screens.With 360 degree videos and virtual reality becoming increasingly mainstream, its time that we as brands experiment and experiment as much as we can."

Going by the above mentioned trends, it can be surmised that the notion of customer relationship management(CRM) and customer engagement will undergo dynamic changes as hotels increasingly go on the tech-path for customer engagement and experience.

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