In part 1, we shared with you two digital marketing strategies that you can implement immediately that will drive higher direct revenue and shift market share from OTAs and other third parties. Here are two more effective strategies that are most successful in driving direct business:
1. Omni-channel marketing must evolve with the customer journey to stay ahead of OTAs
Mobile phones have significantly altered the customer journey to multiple devices and multiple channels. It has become critical for a hotel to be present across all devices and all channels. OTAs do a fantastic job of ensuring their presence across devices, the web, social media, and advertising channels while providing relevant content that pushes the customer down the purchase funnel. Hotels must perform a thorough d
- Local maps, Internet Yellow Pages, and data aggregators
These channels distribute your business information to consumers through end-points like Uber, in-car navigation systems, iPhones, etc. It's critical to have a consistent presence in local data aggregators and on local map channels. Having data in these channels is only the start; maintaining data integrity and cleanliness on these channels is also critical. This is one area where hotels have an advantage over the third-party sites as search engines give higher credibility and website link to the data provided by the owner of the business. Leads and reservations through your local search and SEO efforts have the lowest cost basis and provide your highest ROI. The Milestone Local platform is at the core of maintaining a complete and clean presence on this channel.
- Digital Media Advertising
This segment is where the financial strength of OTAs translates into more visibility. Hotels can compete with OTAs by being strategic in their spend. It is important for hotels to be present in the three major categories of media channels: PPC (Google, Bing, and Yahoo), Display (Adara, Sojern, Google Remarketing, Google Display), and meta-search channels. (TripAdvisor, Kayak and Trivago). Not advertising on these channels simply gives OTAs a further advantage. A key tip is to ensure that you are saturating the share of voice for your brand name across these channels before bidding on un-branded terms. Hotels should trademark their name so OTAs cannot use hotel names in advertising. Hotels should also negotiate the rights to use of the hotel name in contracts with OTAs. In general, brand name keywords are lower cost and very high return. Focus your relationships with OTAs to drive business for competitive, destination specific keywords. It's still important to monitor and maintain rate parity across the digital media advertising channels. We find increasing instances of rate parity issues because of the proliferation of third party sites.
Ensure presence and engagement across key social media channels - especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Flickr or a similar photo sharing channel. Hotels have a huge opportunity to create brand loyalists by engaging consumers with captivating content related to local events, sightseeing opportunities, trip itineraries, and dining and entertainment options. While OTAs are doing a great job of delivering destination specific content, hotels are the real experts in the destination and can gain a significant edge by highlighting that knowledge.
OTAs are very diligent with consistent messaging through emails and retargeting any visitors to their websites through email campaigns. Hotels can use a simple CRM system to segment their customer base and consistently send out messaging to potential guests and any website visitors who didn't book.
2. Your hotel's unfair advantage - relationship with guests while they are on-property
One major advantage that the hotel has over any third party is their direct experience and relationship with the guest, which is an enviable position to be in. Hotels should take advantage of that relationship and in-person presence. Make sure to collect guests' email addresses during check-in or check-out so that you can market to them directly in the future. Find out who is staying more than 3 or 4 days and give them incentives to book direct next time by offering rewards or upgrades. Several brands are offering incentives for booking direct and any independent hotel has the same opportunity to convert travelers to book direct.
This series provides insights into some of the top strategies deployed by Milestone to increase direct bookings for our customers. To get more details and deeper insights, please contact us at 1-866-615-2516 so that we can make the same shift happen on your properties.