Highlights from HITEC Toronto 2017

Big data and the start-up culture revolution have been game changers for digital marketing in the hospitality space. Suddenly, hotels had to act faster than ever before to compete effectively yet were armed with all this data. Too many options and the urging push to move quickly have left most marketers overwhelmed. Looking forward, the brightest brands in the biz will rise to the top by staying agile, applying new techniques frequently and modifying based on performance.

We recently brought together some of hospitality and technology’s brightest minds to talk about the state of digital marketing and the impact of data today and into tomorrow. Executives from Google, Red Lion, ADARA, WebCanada and Cendyn came together at HITEC to talk shop in a crowded breakout session, covering everything from AI to Airbnb and competing with the OTAs. Watch the video here:

In case you missed this great session moderated by our SVP of Global Marketing and Business Development Michael Bennett, here are some of the panel highlights and thoughts on the big data-driven digital marketing topics we’re thinking about these days:


What’s the one thing you’re shocked that’s still not happening in digital marketing from a hotel perspective?

John McAuliffe, President, WebCanada: For an industry that is dependent upon providing a curated experience when a guest comes on site to surprise and delight – that is absent for the most part on the digital landscape. Hoteliers have not done a good job of telling the story of their hotels in an engaging and experiential way to consumers when they go to their web sites. The experience should begin when guests are discovering them online.


How do you resource plan across revenue management and marketing as the lines between these areas continue to blur?

Calvin Anderson, Chief of Revenue Optimization, Red Lion Hotels: A single set of data. If everyone’s working off the same set of data, whether sales, marketing or revenue, you’re forced to act the same. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to stay separate. Put everyone on the same data. That’s a great place to start. You need a single source of truth.


How are you thinking about data and simplifying the delivery?

Brandon Meyers, Chief Revenue Officer, ADARA: Now that we have access to all this data, how do you actually use it in a way that’s meaningful to your business? We have to stop thinking about people as buckets or segments. Now that you have data tied to people based on real actions, you have to start using that to your benefit. That’s the real transition for marketers. You need to go out and reach those people in a very defined way.

Stephen Diedrich, Strategist, Google: You’re right, that’s how Google is thinking about data and our audience strategy. We’re digging in another layer as to who this person is. They’re not just 35 to 42 years old living in New York and making X bracket of income, they’re interested in rock and roll, photography, visiting Toronto. So many people are not taking advantage of this data in their digital marketing. Until they’re acting on it in the form of digital marketing, it’s not as useful as it could be.


How do you see AI affecting hotels and digital marketing?

Stephen Diedrich, Strategist, Google: Through machine learning. Letting machines and algorithms make decisions beside us. If you’re willing to pay $25 for a conversion, you tell us that and we’ll take care of the rest. It’s complex to wrap our heads around it, but it’s happening behind the scenes in advertising, bidding and AdTech. In the future, the consumer journey will get more complex as more devices per person come online. We’ll soon be bidding as marketers for ad touchpoints on Smart Assistants and other smart appliances. These new touchpoints are opportunities for hoteliers. Let’s be willing to bring this into our marketing strategies when that time comes and not be as resistant as we were during the mobile revolution.


How can hoteliers leverage data in digital marketing?

Brandon Meyers, Chief Revenue Officer, ADARA: We do a lot of performance driven campaigns. The interesting thing we see is if someone is willing to purchase on the supplier side for one product, they’re willing to purchase from a site for another product. Now, we’re trying to empower people with data to make actions on their end. We’ve created a FICO score for the travel industry, the Travel Value Score – we overlay this on top of hotel CRM data – we can inform in a different way as to how much they’re spending on travel. We can empower hotels with this data.


Do you have an Air BNB competitive digital marketing strategy?

Calvin Anderson, Chief of Revenue Optimization, Red Lion Hotels: Air BNB is another distribution channel. If they’ll let us in, we’d love to distribute through them. There is a unique guest who comes through that space. I’d be interested in seeing them in our hotels. I’ve heard people say they’re not our client. Have you forgot what we’re selling? We’re selling rooms, of course we want them. There’s an opening for hotels and you should be interested in being part of that.


How do hotels compete in digital marketing against the OTAs?

John McAuliffe, President, WebCanada: One of the areas you can compete is on the conversion of traffic coming to your site. That’s what you can control. If you can tell a better story that’s more relevant and contextual to that person, pricing is a point of entry. You need to be at least equal, but it’s your opportunity to present your hotel in a more compelling and engaging manner so they want to book on your site vs. someone else. You can control what’s on your site and do the best job you can possibly do to convince that person that it’s the best place to book.

Cendyn is the trusted CRM and digital marketing partner of the hotel and hospitality industry. Contact us today for a demonstration or just to have a strategic talk about your business.

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