Restaurant Digital Marketing Debate: Social Media vs SEO?
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The customer experience — how people interact and engage with your brand — can play a significant role in a winning marketing strategy. When done right, hotels can use customer engagement to distinguish themselves from the competition and create long-lasting, loyal relationships.
The goal of customer engagement is to improve connections between your brand and potential guests, turning a business transaction into a long-term relationship. Here are a few of the ways hotel brands are using the power of customer engagement to create lasting connections.
You have social media accounts for a reason — to keep followers in the know. Show them what a luxury stay at your hotel will be like with pictures, videos and reviews. Create posts about scheduled or pop-up events. If something exciting is going on, like a Fourth of July chili cook-off or a Halloween pet costume contest, take a live video so people can participate and feel included, even when they're not there.
One hotel exemplifying this strategy is Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. They keep a live video stream on their website so potential guests can see what's going on, day and night. Consumers tend to love the authenticity of a live video because it likely can't be doctored or spruced up with editing. These videos can help customers feel like they know what to expect from your brand.
There are other ways to inspire authenticity and engage customers besides live video. Social media influencers act as real-life brand ambassadors and can be incredibly useful. Brands tend to earn $6.50 in returns for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. When incorporated into a holistic strategy, influencer marketing can establish brand authenticity and help bring more traffic through the door.
HI Los Angeles, a hostel in Santa Monica, has already taken advantage of the trend. They've partnered with Ana Dominguez, travel blogger on the site The City Sidewalks, to create an inspiring campaign about their beach-side accommodations. Their collaborated video was distributed across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, to engage social media users and inspire more interest in their brand.
Reviews are a significant part of the customer engagement process. Potential customers rely on verified first-hand accounts to pick out hotel rooms. In fact, 79% of travelers read six to 12 reviews before making a reservation. Plus, hotel brands can use feedback to assess their current strategies and make any necessary changes.
Ask customers to leave reviews and engage with your brand online. It's that simple. There are many ways you can solicit feedback. Stephen Peters, Resort Director at Pacific Sands Resort, says he staples a business card to all folios asking guests to leave a review. As a result, the volume of feedback has nearly tripled. VP of Sales at Library Hotel Collection, Adele Gutman, says sending an email to let guests know you appreciate their support via a review is enough to start the conversation.
Customer engagement means thinking about the wide variety of guests you might see and how you can best cater to their needs. Some of the easiest guests to work with are the planners who make reservations months in advance and have all necessary documentation on-hand when they show up. However, today's travelers are frequently a little more free-spirited, willing to book a hotel last-minute and have an adventure.
By offering specials on your website for last-minute getaway deals of unsold rooms, you can cater to that whimsical crowd, especially since so many customers nowadays are concerned with booking directly through a hotel's website. Offer these guests fun value-add experiences for booking direct, like a glass of wine at the lobby bar, or a custom aromatherapy bubble bath menu, that will keep your property top of mind for years to come.
Nothing should be more important than your guests, so you should continuously evaluate what you're offering and how you're communicating with them. With advanced technology like AI (artificial intelligence) and facial recognition, guests expect experiences that are personalized and highly convenient. With CRM (customer relationship management) software across both your hotel and F&B outlets, you can make that expectation a reality.
Hotel Granduca Austin, a 194-room independent brand in Austin, Texas, uses its CRM to offer a one-of-a-kind luxury experience. CRM software allows the hotel to target marketing offers to the best guests and those most likely to book a stay. Information and data can then be collected and used to create actionable marketing goals. Ray DeJohn, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hotel Granduca Austin, says they have seen a direct improvement to their bottom line since purchasing CRM software.
The same goes across your F&B outlets. Chris Billioux, Food & Beverage Director at INNSIDE by Melia Hotel in New York uses a reservation, seating and guest engagement software at their restaurant, The Wilson, that enables staff to deliver on exceptional experiences that generate more revenue and repeat business across both local and overnight guests.
Remember — you have to invest money to make money.
The hotel brands that stand out from the crowd are the ones not afraid to cater to the customer. They're continually looking for new ways to engage with consumers, whether by adopting influencer marketing or investing in CRM software. They also aren't afraid to solicit feedback and implement necessary changes.
Your hotel can establish better relationships with customers and potential guests if you take the time to create a well-defined and modern customer engagement strategy.