Take-away from HSMAI Digitial Conference: It's All About the Customer Service
HSMAI's Digital Marketing Conference held last week at the Marriott Marquis in New York's midtown neighborhood was a true learning experience. Gathering industry icons and experts from across the country and putting them in room for an all-day event proved to be the key in establishing open discussions and unfiltered sharing of advice.
Some themes from last week's discussions surrounded digital customization, content and customer experience – try saying that three times fast! The speakers had access to a variety of HSMAI studies and reports as well as bringing in their own experiences to demonstrate trends and speak about best practices within the hospitality and travel industry.
Below are key takeaways from those discussions.
Customizing your digital presence to meet the needs of the individual traveler can be daunting and expensive. eMarketer predicts that worldwide digital sales for the travel industry will have double-digit growth in 2015 alone, stemming from the rising number of travelers with disposable income. This will create a larger focus on digital and the need for creating a customized guest experience for each hotel brand.
Mark Floisand, VP of Product Marketing at Sitecore states that "customers pay the largest premium for experience and customization, not the product itself," an intimidating statement for hoteliers who have made a living perfecting their brand and product throughout the years. Hoteliers should focus more on providing unique experiences to their customers with the help of their digital experts starting with the booking process through the guest's departure from the property. Marriott is leading the industry with their GoPro initiative and seem to be quite successful at it without making drastic branding and product changes.
Google states that 50% of travelers begin their planning without a particular brand in mind. This is a great opportunity for brands to get in front of the traveler with rich content to help familiarize them with your services, especially with new brands and independents. However, we must keep in mind that guests aren't looking for advertisements, they want to see relevant content to their travel plans and/or preferences. So, when developing your digital marketing campaigns, keep in mind that guests want targeted and relevant content, not generic marketing strategies.
The average traveler spends about 2-3 weeks planning a trip and visits about 18 different websites during their search. Your brand has an opportunity to "inspire" the guest with unique and customized content by utilizing their browsing history on your website as a starting point for unique, mid-funnel targeting. Leading Hotels of the World's Director of Interactive Marketing, Debbie Johnsen (@debonair_ny) also reminds us to pay close attention to your content on all devices: research shows that 90% of guests move between multiple devices and screens during their travel planning.
And finally, it all comes back to the customer experience. 89% of companies believe that the customer experience will be their primary basis for competition, according to Gartner Research. This stretches from the beginning of the customer lifecycle from the research stage all the way to post-stay engagement and experience. Many of the speakers noted that customer experience is the most important focal point in the coming year especially as new "millennial" brands are coming out of the hotel space quite frequently. Focusing on differentiating factors such as customer experience and customization will be pivotal to set your brand apart and grab the attention of the guest at the same time.
Customized and targeted digital marketing can be an intimidating task to accomplish without the proper resources and expertise. If you have any questions about this article or would like to go into more detail, please feel free to reach out directly! We are here to help you grow your business!