Putting the customer first to create a competitive advantage and improve business performance is an old fashioned marketing approach that still works in our digital marketing era.
In a time where Customer Engagement Technology is readily available, it seems that a lot of energy is still spent on the short-term goal of securing a reservation instead of fostering loyalty. Too many marketers have adopted a narrow, linear vision of a marketing funnel which starts with consideration and abruptly ends with the customer completing his or her purchase. Over the years, this phenomenon has been largely amplified by the rise of intermediaries like Expedia and Metasearch Engines like Kayak, TripAdvisor or Trivago, who relentlessly target potential hotel guests on the Internet.
If we take a different approach, and think of the marketing funnel as circular, with the end game being “the loyalty loop” instead of a purchase, we will notice the basic tenants of the modern guest journey:
guests build expectations pre-stay,
guests compare those expectations against the experience delivered,
guests will make the next customer journey decision based on whether or not their expectations were met or exceeded in the recent past.
In other words, we as marketers need to ask ourselves whether or not we can make that guest experience memorable or better yet, remarkable. The overwhelming majority of hoteliers understand that the loyalty loop is paramount, both for long-term guest relationships and turning those loyal guests into brand advocates. So how does marketing help hoteliers make the guest experience remarkable? The solution is to create personalized and relevant one-to-one data-driven interactions throughout the entire guest cycle. Here are a few strategies proven to deliver engagement, which we will then look at in closer detail:
Manage pre-stay anticipation with affinity
Anticipate desire, encourage and reward loyalty
Make them feel like an insider
Manage Pre-Stay Anticipation with Affinity
Why manage anticipation?
The key to building a successful pre-stay campaign is to entice the hotel guest to plan on-property experience. A guest who schedules an activity is 25% less likely to cancel his or her reservation. Furthermore, it gives the hotel a second chance at promoting on-property experiences on its own terms while differentiating itself from competitors and setting the guest expectation for his or her stay. This is especially vital for guests who booked their stay on a different distribution channel as it will show them the benefit of booking future travel plans with you directly.
Segment your guests and personalize your emails
- In order to implement such a campaign, you will need to segment your guest profiles by life stages (single, married couple without kids, married couple with kids, empty nesters, etc.), as well as preferences and interests. The primary objective is to create relevant groups or clusters that can be matched with hotel activities and amenities based on their lifestyle.
For example, a couple with young children might be interested in making a reservation at the kid club, young couples without children would be more interested in making arrangements for a romantic diner, while empty nesters tend to splurge on spa treatments, excursions or golf outings. While it is easy to get carried away with clustering and email personalization, it is important to remember that the goal is to create a series of relevant communications with engaging content based on affinity, i.e. what the guest is most likely to enjoy. To determine the affinity for each guest, we typically look at predictors such as guest history, survey results and third party interest data.
Anticipate Desire Encourage and Reward Loyalty
Plan Guest Arrivals and Check-Ins
- The check-in is a critical touch point for your guest’s overall experience as it sets the tone for their entire stay. With the arrival RFM report in tandem with the 360 degree view of the guest, you can prepare your guest arrivals in advance and anticipate what actions or amenities can make their stay remarkable. At check-in there are three factors that should always be top of mind:
Turn Your Data into Insights
Proper greeting for a new guest versus a returning guest,
- Proper greeting and personalization can be planned with the right insights. To build a proper guest arrival report you will need to compile the PMS data from your property (and any additional hotels/resorts within your brand umbrella) and analyze recency, frequency and monetary value, while including fields such as the guest’s arrival and departure dates, booking source, ADR, rate type, and VIP status. For a 360 view of the guest, which is usually considered part of big data visualization, you will have to summarize guest history, survey data, demographics, behavior, interests, and lifestyle.
Take Action -
With those two reports, you can start planning arrivals and how you will personalize each guest’s interaction and stay. Ranking the guest by VIP status, and likelihood that the guest will become loyal to your brand, is always a good first step in deciding who you should reward and how. Some hotels offer complimentary room upgrades based on VIP levels; however, there are usually numerous ways to acknowledge that guest and deepen the relationship by looking at demographics, interests and lifestyle data. For example, the Ritz Carlton looks at their guests’ birthdates and flag any guests who are checking in on their actual birthday. The ones who do are surprised with a handwritten birthday card awaiting them on their room’s desk along with a complimentary pastry.
– If you have gone out of your way to make the guest check-in remarkable, you may follow- up with a programmatic email aimed at encouraging check-ins on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Triggered with real time data, you can design an email campaign that will be automatically sent a few hours after that guest has arrived, allowing time for them to unpack and begin to unwind. You can also incentivize social shares with free Internet access, complimentary drinks or other small gifts. You can then re-engage your guests on social media with mentions, or retweets.
Collect Data with Pre- and Post-Stay Surveys
– Surveys are another useful tool that allow you to personalize interactions and measure the impact of your guest interactions. You can send surveys pre-stay to gauge that guest’s interests or post-stay to measure the effectiveness of actions you have taken. We recommend using systematic post stay surveys as they give insights as to how well you have performed in terms of meeting that guest’s expectations. If a survey reveals a bad experience or below average ratings, you can re-engage that guest and try to make things right with personalized incentives. On the other hand, you can also reap the benefits of your efforts with guests who return glowing reviews of their stay with a triggered email asking them to share their review on TripAdvisor.
Treat Your Best Guests Like an Insider
The Insider Campaigns
– These are non-transactional email campaigns typically sent to the database members who qualify as your hotel’s best, high yield guests. The emails contain exclusive insider information about hotel events, a special recipe from your chef, exclusive spa treatments, upcoming sales and special offers before those details are released to the public. The recipients are previous guests and ancillary spenders who have frequented your restaurants, spa, and shops, or purchased other on-site activities. Being included on the “Insider” list makes these guests feel valued, and even more likely to rebook. At this stage, it is important to ensure you have correctly programmed your campaign so that your “Insiders” are not targeted with additional campaigns meant for new prospects.
All of these strategies boil down to the same point – using Data Intelligence to learn who your guests are and the best way to exceed their expectations. By translating this knowledge into your marketing campaigns, face-to-face interactions, client communications and social media presence, you’re offering something unique– personalized, experience driven interactions. It’s what sets your hotel apart from your competition and turns your guests into loyal brand advocates.