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HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy 2017: The Jetsons have arrived, and they brought their VR headset with them!

I recently went through old blog posts from previous HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conferences and noticed the enormous change in focus from year to year. In 2014, we were talking about metasearch and how it would be “game-changing.” 2015 brought us a heavy focus on creating custom content tailored to each guest’s experience. And last year, in 2016, we saw a slight shift into a focus on current technology as a means to solve guest and marketing problems.

What did this year bring, you ask? The Jetsons! In other words, the technology of the future we always dreamed about. Wearable technology, virtual reality and augmented reality. Oh, how far we’ve come …

But we, as hoteliers and marketers, are still catching up. Scott Brinker of Chief Martec, a leading marketing technology blog, presented us with his research showing that over 98 percent of digital marketers are now focused on web, mobile and acquisition strategies with traditional SEM tools and strategies.

That leaves only 2 percent of digital marketers who are looking at wearable technology, Amazon’s Alexa, virtual reality or conversational computing. Technology is changing rapidly while digital marketers are adapting rather slowly. It’s important for hoteliers to stay nimble and open-minded about emerging technologies that may help us create better customer experiences.

We know that travelers rely heavily on reviews and input from people they know and trust, with about 80 percent of travelers relying on friends’ and family members’ insights when deciding where to book. But technology creates more opportunities for hoteliers to inspire travelers and present a unique message at every stage of their decision-making process. Thanks to mobile devices, hoteliers can advertise to potential guests seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whenever and wherever those guests may be.

Here are three ways your hotel can start using technology to influence travelers to book with your brand:

Cross-device advertisement – 94 percent of travelers switch between devices when they plan or book a leisure trip. 46 percent travelers say they make decisions on mobile devices, but then book on another device.

Advice: Ensure your agency is paying attention to cookies and tracking your users across all their devices!

360 Photos and virtual reality – According to Google, your potential guests who look at 360 photos of a hotel are twice as likely to book that property.

Advice: Purchase a 360-degree panoramic camera (they’re very affordable) and take it for a spin – literally. Then, post your 360 images on YouTube. Terranea Resort did this, giving visitors a full view of their facilities. Link your videos to your website to get extra viewership. Not only is this cost-effective, but it’s a wonderful way to present an ideal guest experience!

Employ advanced retargeting - 98 percent of potential guests do not convert on their first visit to a hotel website. The key is to engage them and get them to come back to the website!

Advice: Advanced retargeting can help you gain an ROI of over 250 percent with by combining the right technology, the right offer and the right placement. Here’s an example of how Sabre helped The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC.

With opportunities like these, the technology of the future can go to work for hoteliers right away, opening up new avenues for guest engagement and new opportunities to engage and convert guests. In other words: The future is now!

Lina Serpil
Director, Strategic Digital Marketing Sales
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