Hoteliers need to be prepared for the digital marketing trends of 2016 in order to stay relevant and be a strong contender within the online marketing world. As we look back on 2015, there continues to be big contenders dominating the search landscape including the big OTA giants like Expedia and Booking.com as well as the lodging marketplace, AirBnB, which continues to be a big threat to hotels, big and small. With the competitive pricing offered by OTAs and how influential this is in how consumers book, hotels need to not only stay in rate parity but also offer enough value to the guest and stay in tune with the next big hotel trends if they want to stay in contention. From the looks of it, 2016 will be a continuation of 2015’s trend with a few changes in traveler behavior. Here are the top game-changing 2016 trends in the hospitality industry that will especially impact independent hotels and help create more opportunities when implemented into your hotel’s marketing strategy.
Social Search Optimization & Social Media Advertising
The success of your search engine optimization efforts is heavily dependent on your hotel’s activity on social media. Google tends to favor social media accounts that frequently post and interact on different channels. Although the frequency of posting is important, the quality of the posts is even more important. Whether you’ve hired an agency to handle your hotel’s social media or if your hotel is handling in-house, it is critical that you social media posts are optimized meaning you are using social search optimization best practices. With Google’s ever-changing algorithm, it is vital that your strategy evolves with these changes. Posts that are social search optimized will allow for far better reach than hotels that post for the sake of posting.
So you may be asking yourself, how do you expand the reach of my social media posts? The answer is by using social search optimization or SSO techniques. For organic reach, you will first want to optimize your social media profiles on all channels because Google will index these pages. Then make it habit of using relevant hashtags and use photos whenever possible to engage users. If you want to stand out even more from your competitor set than running social media ads will further expand the reach of your posts. If say you are running a contest, then a sponsored ad would be a great way to promote it to your target audience. In 2016, we can expect more hotels using social media advertising to receive more engagement and interaction. Therefore, be sure your hotel is allotting a marketing budget for social media advertising.
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Let’s face it, by this time hotels whether saavy or not should be aware that mobile optimization is merely not a trend but a necessity. It is important that in 2016 more than ever before, your hotel integrates a mobile strategy which must include a responsive website and a mobile compatible booking engine. Traffic from smartphones has shown a huge surge in 2015 and will only continue on into 2016 as more consumers choose to use their smartphones over desktops to do their planning and researching. According to a study done by Statisticbrain, 65% of travelers make same day hotel reservations on a smartphone. This means that over half of travelers making same day bookings are using a mobile device. With that said, be sure your site is mobile optimized with a responsive design to ensure your conversion rate is up to par. Do not lose last minute bookings to OTAs because you failed to design a responsive website. A great way to capture same day bookings is to run a special for mobile bookers. Entice mobile bookers to book with you instead of an OTA by providing an offer exclusive only to them. For example, you can offer a discount or complimentary parking for last minute bookers who make a hotel reservation on their smartphone.
In another study by Google, mobile queries within the travel category including airline and hotel lodging have increased more than 50%. This data suggest that travel consumers are increasingly using their phones to plan their travel destinations. In one such research, Google along with Luth Research conducted a study on a female participant named Amy who was planning a trip to Disney World. The purpose of this study was to find the stages a typical travel consumer would go to along the customer path to booking. In this case, Amy had 419 digital moments researching her trip over 2 months. Her research included watching 5 videos, visiting 380 web pages and doing 34 searches. 87% of these digital moments occurred on a mobile device. These statistics show that a typical traveler uses their phone to do most of their research and planning. Although there are plenty of consumers who still choose to book on a desktop, it is an undeniable fact that many of them start their journey on a smartphone. Make it commitment in 2016 to design a responsive website.
Videos again will continue to dominate in 2016 especially YouTube. If you haven’t already done so, your marketing team needs to craft a video marketing strategy for your property. You can begin by creating a content calendar where you can keep track of video ideas and topics that are relevant for that month and season that would interest your guests. For instance, if it’s the holidays and your hotel has a restaurant that has a special holiday menu, then a great video idea is interviewing the chef in the kitchen and introducing the limited time holiday dishes your hotel is offering. This is a great way to promote not only your guests already staying in the hotel but also foot traffic; customers who are looking for a restaurant near the area. Once you figure out the topics for the videos, then it’s time to come up with a marketing strategy.
When coming up with your video marketing strategy, decide where you would like to share them. Obviously, the more channels you share them on the more exposure it will get. So share these videos on your social media channels and on your email marketing campaigns. Also incorporating videos into your hotel’s website will also enhance your SSO because visitors will typically stay on your site longer if you have a video on your site which will decrease the bounce rate and improve your site’s ranking. Hoteliers have the misconception that videos are expensive to produce. You don’t have to hire a professional videographer to shoot your hotel’s video. Hotels on a budget can still produce professional looking videos by simply using the many video apps that are available on Androids and iPhones. Then you can edit these videos using a video software. For a list of apps and software you can use click here. Again, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to produce a quality video. So begin creating your calendar and coming up with videos to shoot for 2016.
As the year winds down and countdown to the New Year begins, hoteliers need to be prepared to implement digital marketing trends into their marketing strategy. Be ahead of your competition and act now before 2016 arrives.