Advertising is many things, a nuisance to some, a job for others and a necessity for many. But this article isn’t about advertising being good or bad, it’s about the milestones in advertising, the milestones that have brought efficient ads.
Today the most efficient ads are search ads. They’re small, they don’t contain large and fancy images, they are cheap and one can track their efficiency down to the last cent. But it wasn’t always that way, let’s go back through the major achievements in advertising that have brought us ads as good as these.
In the beginning…
In the end of the 1800s, during the industrial revolution, products became more and more commoditized and manufacturers now had to advertise to thousands in order to sell the inventory they had produced. That is when larger scale advertising as we know it today began. At the time ads were often in black and white, line-art and text. At the time printing technology wasn’t evolved enough to print real pictures and in most cases color printing wasn’t affordable for newspapers.
Today when we look back at these ads we mainly think of snake-oil salesmen or underwear. But consider that at the time the “noise” level was pretty low so any promise that would offer a better life was welcome.
And they worked, meaning they generated more sales, if they didn’t the whole field of advertising would never have continued to exist.
The 1920s got a little better, but…
Fast forward to the 1920s, color printing of magazines had progressed. Advertising had already evolved a lot. Large illustrations, art-deco style, were capturing readers attention all over the world. Though varying in quality and emotional impact it was already a long way from the black and white, line-art ads we had before.
While the ads may be informative and contain lots of text, inspiring text at that, today we all know that we can write anything we want in text and it’ll always be “inspiring”. So after a bit of deception sales probably started to slow down and something else had to be invented.
Then came creative revolution and emotional impact changed the game
In my opinion nothing much changes until the 1960s, in fact even the 1920s aren’t that much of an improvement, some nicer illustrations, better drawings, more colors but that’s about it.
Now comes the first big change in advertising, the 1960s, now comes emotional impact. I would say that until then we’ve had “reason” advertising. Trying to convince people with reason that they should buy something. While this may work, it’s not very efficient. Emotion is what drives action, not always the right action but action all the same.
For a rational reason why that happened in the 1960s is that that’s when color printing of photography became widely used. But that’s a pretty boring explanation, for a more romantic (and emotionally thrilling) reason is that that’s when advertising geniuses such as David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett and the others from the Creative Revolution changed the advertising world.
Ads like the Volkswagen series were and are still part of the greats. In fact the concept is still being copied today by existing agencies more than 50 years later. They were amazing because they had emotion. They got you laughing, smiling, curious and open to a new viewpoint. Everything one wants from an ad.
George Lois, related advertising to poison gas, he says “Advertising is poison gas” he later goes on to say “The important thing’s got to be that you implant an idea out there and everybody in a very human way understands it, grasps it, and is excited by it, If that end result doesn’t happen, I don’t care how beautiful I think something is, or how exciting the language is, if people don’t react, I’ve struck out.”
While this is a very sensational quote and it’s not quite right in that I think ads must have a positive element, he does get the point across about emotional impact.
The creative revolution, was in essence the emotional impact revolution, and that was probably the biggest breakthrough in advertising since it’s invention. Did they do it knowingly or by chance I don’t know. But the fact is that suddenly they were pushing people to buy using emotion and not reason.
However since then, nothing much happened. In fact aside from some better visuals, more photoshopping and brighter colors, we’re still running around doing the same kind of ads.
In 2000 everything changes…
In 2000 Google launched AdWords and that changes the advertising landscape dramatically. How does a small text-based ad containing some 250 characters change everything? In one word, intent.
Look at all the advertising we’ve had before, it was served t us whether we wanted it or not, whether we were interested in the product or not, whether we had decided to look for something similar or not. In other words, it was spam. One ad in 100,000 interested us and sometimes we decided to check it out, or we would laugh or we would recognise the brand when we’re in the supermarket we may have picked it up.
In 2000 things changed, the internet was there and we could buy stuff online. Did Google change the advertising space or was it just a natural evolution? I would say it was a natural evolution.
Suddenly advertising could be served to you when you were looking for that product/subject this changes everything. In fact when you are looking to buy a product, the ads deliver a better answer than the organic results. Well, if someone is willing to spend money to take you to their site, they had better have a good answer.
More precise ad delivery, at the exact moment when you were looking for the product. It couldn’t get much better. In fact I seriously doubt that Google even knew how much this was going to revolutionise advertising.
In comparison, look at all other advertising on the internet – it’s horrible. Banners deliver no emotional impact, buying a background on a site destroys the site’s design, splash advertising slows down your experience, YouTube video ads are a nuisance, and Facebook ads are essentially spam with small images and little text delivered when you just want to
waste spend some time online.
Well, what’s next? I’m not sure I can tell you what is next. Sure big data is definitely a step in the right direction, where advertising companies will know so much about us that they’ll be able to discern what we like and what we don’t like. So we will get more targeted ads based on our previous purchases, “likes”, tweets etc. they’ll need to be delivered with emotional impact and most importantly they’ll need to be delivered to us at the right time, when we are intending to make a purchase.
Google Now could take advertising to the next level, it knows we have searched for Hermes Perfume, it knows we are walking towards a Sephora and could deliver an ad on the lock screen, but I think if they did that we would soon be switching to iPhone. Unless of course our phone or subscription is entirely subsidised by ads.
But what could be happening very soon would be electronic billboards that knows you are near it, based on your phone, and based on your search history it delivers an ad for you. It could average out the interests of the majority of the people that are near it and deliver an ad that fits the majority of the people around it.
Or we could imagine Google Glass delivering advertising to you right then and there, but I think Google Glass is having enough problems taking off, so that wont be happening too soon.
The essence of the next revolution in advertising is who is going to deliver emotional impact at the moment of intent. Whoever solves that with rule the next advertising channel, today Google seems best set for it.
But that is another article for another time, this was just a little opinion on the milestones in the history of advertising.
I just received the list of most popular articles from hotelmarketing.com and am republishing it here. I couldn’t find it on their site and emailed them to publish it but am not sure if that’s going to happen any time soon since they also announce that they’re on holidays until January.
Looking through the list is quite interesting. I wrote about it in a Google+ post (which has limited distribution) so am republishing the content of that post here:
Just went through the hotelmarketing.com‘s list of most popular articles in 2011. An excellent list, reading through the list alone is a great analysis of what’s happening in the hospitality world. Here’s my analysis of the scene: Feel free to add yours.
1. Hoteliers are more and more worried about their dependency on OTAs. Rate Parity problems, Cutting availability to OTAs being flagged and more.
2. Hoteliers still haven’t figured out how to yield results from social media. And nobody blames them. The stats talk for themselves: while social media brings lots of visits and can be used as a branding strategy the conversion of those visitors is much lower than on search. And what should we talk about?
3. Hoteliers want more direct. OK that’s nothing new, it’s the eternal problem of every industry, how to increase direct sales.
4. Hoteliers are searching for new marketing ideas. The posts with catchy headlines like Google+ will re-shape search… andGroupon and Expedia… are high on the list indicating that new ideas are definitely on their mind, even if many are just not mature yet. It leads me to believe that the common phrase that hoteliers are not up-to-date is just wrong, they are probably more careful and aren’t going to invest heavily into stuff that doesn’t work.
5. Big names still work best. I guess this isn’t limited to hotels but if there is Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google, Kayak or other big name in the headline it just gets much more readers. That’s just one of the PR laws, big names sell.
It’s probably more revealing as a trend to see what posts were most read and shared than the content of the posts. It gives a great crowdsourcing of hotel marketers interests (at least those that read hotelmarketing.com).
I recently read the book Winning the Zero Moment of Truth by Jim Lecinski of Google. It’s a free e-book downloadable from the site. While I wouldn’t say the concept is a revolution for marketers, what is great with this book however is that it clarifies lots of concepts that we as marketers had in our minds and ways of working.
Hoteliers, with the likes of Tripadvisor and so forth have been using a similar concept for a while. However the ZMOT, FMOT, SMOT concept (Zero, First and Second Moment Of Truth) form a clear purchase cycle that helps us navigate in the world of marketing.
I’m working on a series of articles for WIHP covering each of the steps of the purchase cycle as it applies for hotel marketers. In essence the steps are these:
For an individual hotel this means the time when the future guest first hears about the hotel and decides that the hotel could be an option for him . Here we are talking about individual hotels and not a category of hotels. While it could be during a search for “hotels in paris” or similar it normally isn’t; since at that stage the future guest is still searching.
From the data we’ve gathered at WIHP this happens most commonly when hearing about it from friends, when searching for hotels on an OTA or by looking through Tripadvisor through reviews.
Remember that we’re talking about individual hotels here and not a chain or big brand. But it even applies to individual hotels from a chain. Another point to take into account is that per our studies a guest visits 10 different hotel websites on average, so don’t think you’re alone at the stimulus, you’re in heavy competition. However I’m getting ahead of myself here as that’s part of ZMOT and FMOT.
2. Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)
Once the future guest has gotten hold of a name the research starts and now you’ve got competition. Here the future guest is going to compare all the 10 hotels he has found to ensure the rates are good, he’s going to scrutinize the location to weigh the rates against the location and pictures. The guest is going to check the reviews to see what other people have said and all this information will be compared to determine which one is best. This step is where the future guest is going to make about 90% of the decision.
3. First Moment of Truth (FMOT)
For a hotel this is the moment when the future guest opens the website’s home page. That home page has to say everything and it’s got to do it fast. It needs to answer three personal questions that the future guest is asking himself: Will it same me money? Will is save me time? and Will it make my life better? For a hotel that translates as follows:
- Will it save me money? becomes What is the price/value?
- Will it save me time? becomes Where is it located?
- Will it make my life better? becomes What is the comfort/service/decoration?
Those three questions need to be answered within 3 to 7 seconds of the person arriving on your site. And once that is done and you have managed to grab that future guest’s attention he is going to spend a total of 24 minutes between arriving on the site, deciding to buy and going through the complete booking process. 13 of those minutes will be on the website and 11 of them will be on the booking engine.
To make it on FMOT you need (and I can’t repeat this enough) a good website and a great booking engine. The design and user experience for your website needs to be so smooth that the next question the guest will be asking himself are “magically” being answered in front of him and same with the booking engine. In sequence what the average user does is go to the website, then check the rooms, then check the rates and finally look at the location. These items need to be present on the menu from the get-go and they must be easy to find. At every moment of this he must be able to get to the booking engine and complete the reservation.
The booking engine design has a lot to do with conversions. We’ve tested many and with the same site, same amount of traffic and same rates we’ve increased booking conversions by putting a much better booking engine than was there before. I’ve covered the details of how to chose a booking engine in a separate article.
4. Second Moment of Truth (SMOT)
This is the moment the guest comes arrives in the hotel. Well this is where a GM or hotelier knows all about it (or not). He’s going to take great care of the guest and give them a unique and unforgettable experience and that’s going to flow back. At Stimulus because this guest will talk about it to other friends and family and those people will come to your hotel, at ZMOT because people searching for information about the hotel will see their comments and reviews and chose the hotel because of it. Here’s the proof of the pudding. To get a great experience as SMOT requires that the hotelier and marketer not over-sell the property on the website and in other areas around the web.
I heard a story once of a hotel that discovered Tripadvisor, that hotelier went hell-bent to move to the top of the ranking on Tripadvisor and solicited every guest to write rave reviews. True the hotel did have a great service and was very nice however it didn’t deserve to be on top position as there were plenty of better hotels around. What happened was the guests arrived and their experience wasn’t as good as they expected. The hotel rapidly saw it’s reviews worsen and bookings took a dive.
All that just to say, that second moment of truth works for you if you deliver what you promise.
In summary the moments of truth illustrate the cycle of a purchase or a booking. They’re the main steps a buyer will follow and as marketers and hoteliers we can increase our results by understanding them clearly and being at the right places with the right message.
I’ve written several articles on WIHP’s magazine that illustrate the various steps in more detail which you can find here http://www.wihphotel.com/mag/category/moments-of-truth/
My collegue and friend Tony Loeb at WIHP published a study yesterday called Where to find new customers online analyzing websites that bring new guests and customers versus those that are used as a passing point in the purchase cycle.
I thought it was quite interesting and am re-posting the infographic here. I’m not going to put the entire article since you can read that on the WIHP Magazine.
For those wondering why I am not blogging so much here, it’s just because I’ve been busy blogging on WIHP’s Magazine and I figured just taking all the articles and duplicating them here would be boring for everyone not to mention the duplicate content that search engines won’t appreciate too much.
In any case, if you’re really upset because you want more on mirarmedia.com then drop me a note and I’ll find some time to blog ideas here…
With the analysts at WIHP we’re constantly crunching numbers. How many visits before clients book, what countries book most, what links are the best, how do they find the hotel, what pages are most interesting, how fast the booking goes etc. Good marketing is based on lots of analysis and I think every good marketer out there knows that. I thought it would be fun to share some of the numbers, so I got an infographic made with some of them and it’s pretty cool. Here are the booking trends in the independent hotel market as an infographic.
Very interesting stats, and definitely reflective of our observations. Key takeaways: (1) Your home page MUST be optimized for conversions; (2) You need to be visible in conventional search, have good reputation with prior guests, AND be on the OTAs; (3) your website must stand out as providing something different.
To which I added that you need to have a booking engine that’s designed to convert. With 44% of user time spent on the booking engine if it’s somewhat complicated, slow or not representative of the hotel you’re going to lose conversion since the OTAs have some pretty good booking engines.
With no further ado, here is the hotel booking trends infographic:
I’ve been using Google+ for a few weeks now and I’m starting to get the hang of it. I am actually quite liking the design and feel for the platform and can’t wait for Google to open the business listing so we can really start using the platform for hotels. But meanwhile here are 5 ways a hotel can use Google+ for their property.
First of all it will require that the concierge or front desk staff open an account and become the “voice” of the hotel, this can’t be done trying to pretend to be a hotel, it needs to be an individual. But that can work too.
1. Open an account for the front desk or customer services of the hotel and determine who will be the user. It’s got to be a person.
2. Build circles for the different types of clients you have. This could be Summer holidays, New Year’s eve, Weekend breaks, Luxury Suites or so. Make groups with your guest types and load them into the system into various circles. It doesn’t matter if they are on Google+ or not because G+ has this great feature that one can share with people not on G+ via email. By clicking on the check box you can share stories, offers, photos or news to a particular circle which will get forwarded by email.
3. Create photo albums for the hotel and categorize them properly, such as room type, lobby, pool etc. Make this a display for the hotel. And remember to put captions with each photo providing a proper link for the hotel’s site and the specific page where they can get more information.
4. Remember this is a social network so it’s about talking to people and getting them to share their experience, comments, viewpoints etc. Don’t try to make this just a sales pitch for the hotel, interact with people, help them. And remind them of the great services that you can offer. That also means responding to their reviews and fixing things that went wrong.
5. Invite people to hangouts and if they’re interested answer questions about the hotel, how to get there, things to do in the area reassure people who haven’t been there before that your hotel is best for them. And those that have, tell them about new things being done in and around the hotel.
Couple of words of caution, don’t put people in too many circles as you’ll likely start spamming them and that’ll be the end of your Google+ experience for them. Don’t post everything public, use Circles for what they’re good for – making circles. Keep them exclusive it’s more fun that way and you get the right message to the right people.
And most importantly assume the viewpoint of the people getting your messages, if you write to them as if you were the one receiving the message you’ll get a long way. Nobody wants a sales pitch thrown at them all the time, they want to see the human side of the hotel.
Maybe Google+ is going to eliminate the need for email marketing altogether. I guess time will tell…
Together with the analysts at WIHP I just published a study of the top referring sites that bring bookings. Contrary to what some may think, referring sites as seen in Google Analytics doesn’t necessarily show the sites that bring bookings. And while some say that it’s a numbers game of more visits = more bookings there are some sites that really produce and others that don’t. Here is our analysis after reviewing several thousand sites and more than 35,000 bookings.
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In the highly competitive market of Travel, hotels need to analyze their top referring sites constantly. Unfortunately most hotels look at referring sites on their web stats with tools such as Google analytics or other and can only see which sites bring traffic, that doesn’t always show the real picture since a site can bring lots of traffic, but does it bring qualified traffic which turn into bookings.
At WIHP, like a few other professional hotel marketing companies, we’ve developed our own tracking systems that permit us to really study the ROI of the campaigns being done for our clients and track all the way to the booking.
A recent study we conducted taking into account over 35,000 bookings on the largest European markets (Paris, Rome and Barcelona) gives a pretty good picture of which type of sites generate most bookings and the market share these sites have. Taking into account that each of these categories actually generate revenue for the hotels in question, it important to state that none of them should be left out as “a minority” since they will generate revenue. The question is only one of how big an investment to make into those sites.
Below are two graphs, one with search engines and one without. We included the one without search engines to make the graph clearer as a sort of “zoom in” on the real referring sites.
Top Referring Sites for Hotels
|Reviews and Review sites||7.3%|
|Social Media sites||0.8%|
|Rate checking sites||0.4%|
Explanations of the results:
Search Engines, this is self-explanatory, these are all the search engines. They bring the most of the traffic as mentioned in my prior article about the real source of hotel bookings, the majority of the people booking the hotel have found the hotel elsewhere and at the time of booking have already decided which hotel they want to stay at and thus search for the hotel directly in the booking engine.
Map Search, we’ve purposely separated this from the broad Search Engines category since map search behaves slightly different in that one could be searching for a type of hotel in an area and find the result on map search etc. Map search isn’t limited to Google Places but also includes other map-based search systems that are trackable.
Reviews and Review sites, included here is Tripadvisor which is one of the largest in the category, but also other sites such as yelp.com, vinivi.com and the multitude of review sites on the market. In this category we have also included online reviews by online magazines or review sites (non-social).
Emails, these are all the trackable email that we found, people using non-web emails clients are not trackable and wont appear here, they aren’t in this statistic at all since they’re considered direct visitors by any tracking system.
Travel Guides, as this is a study of referring sites, travel guides in this case is all the online travel guides such as Fodors, Frommers, Lonelyplanet etc. again, for more information on the off-line effect of travel guides see our study on The Real Source of Hotel Bookings.
Other, we’ve included in this category all the miscellaneous sites such as a university referring their visitors to a local hotel or corporation etc. Of which there are quite a few but not enough to make it a category on it’s own.
Directory Listings, in this category are all the listings such as Yellow Pages, local hotel directories etc. Surprisingly this category doesn’t bring that many bookings.
Social Media sites, this includes Facebook, Twitter and other minor social media sites. While these are often on the top list of referring sites, they don’t necessarily all convert into bookings. As I mentioned earlier none of these sites should be neglected since they are all generating revenues and I am a strong believer of Social Media as a platform for hoteliers to reach out to potential guests. See my article on the launch of Hotel Seven in Paris which was almost entirely done via social media.
Blogs, we’ve separated blogs from Review sites as they’re a different type of review somewhere in between user reviews and journalist stories. In some cases blogs are extremely efficient and should definitely be considered in any hotelier’s marketing campaign.
Rate checking sites, in this category are sites like Kayak, Trivago and other rate comparers. Which per experience have a more qualified audience but who in many cases bring traffic to OTAs more than to hotel websites since hotel websites can’t easily push their rates.
Top Search Engines for Hotels
Further we analysed the search engines that bring bookings. On this category there is no mystery, Google leads by far with Yahoo and Bing right behind. As the Yahoo/Bing alliance rolls out this will become one and hopefully will take more than 7.6% of the market. Oddly enough with 30% of the market in the US the bookings aren’t nearly that much which probably comes from the non-US markets.
Conclusion for the Top Referring Sites and Search Engines for Hotels
While there are obviously some key sites that bring the most interested users and converts them into bookings, a hotel needs to be on every possible site in order to get all the bookings possible. It isn’t enough to focus on a single source or two, each of the above categories need to be worked on and the hotel’s presence on each will determine their brand recognition in the eyes of the end-user. The leading position of search engines in the bookings shows that to get the booking requires that the hotel is present everywhere. Only in that way will the end-user finally search for the hotel’s name, which is the search the user will do when he is ready to book. Other information that we will cover shortly shows that on average a new customer visits your site 3.78 times over several days before they make their purchase, which proves that there is a lot of shopping going on.
Some weeks ago I met Josiah Mackenzie from Hotel Marketing Strategies in Paris and we had a chat about opening hotels, social media, Seven Hotel and lots of other points. It was great finally meeting Josiah after having followed his blog, spoken over Skype etc. I am re-blogging his article entitled “How to Successfully Open a Hotel” as I thought it’s a great article (and I won’t have to re-write it since he did a pretty good job).
How to successfully open a hotel (the Martin Soler way)
Martin Soler and his team at WIHP mastermind some of the most successful hotel openings in Europe, such as Hotel Seven. This weekend, I sat down with him in Paris to discuss digital communications in hospitality. Our conversation covered a broad range of topics that we’ll share with you in the weeks ahead, but the focus of this article will be the marketing approach he uses during the crucial months surrounding a hotel opening.
“Know your purpose”
Clarify what you are trying to achieve with your pre-opening marketing. Defining your brand positioning is critical during the early stages of planning. Your brand positioning will affect the messaging and tactics you use at each step.
“Showcase the designer”
Design plays a huge role for the hotels that Martin typically works with. For many hotels, the link between design and revenue is closer than it may appear- which this is a topic we’ll discuss in a separate article. The reality is that if you have a unique product, the chances of people talking about your brand increase dramatically. Great design always generates more buzz.
Martin believes at least 40% of a hotel’s marketing value comes from its design. Because of this, he asks who the designer will be before taking on any hotel opening project.
The bigger concept here is to showcase the inventors, artists, and builders behind the product. What makes your brand unique? Is it the concept? The way in which it was built? Each of these areas can play a role in differentiating your property, making it stand apart from the competition.
It takes time to build an engaged, authentic online community. In order to have a substantial group of fans and followers by the time you open, starting to build this community early is important.
Martin tries to build online pre-opening buzz at least 6 months before opening. With Hotel Seven, this took the form of using Facebook as an exclusive content distribution channel. The community building approach you use will go back to the positioning goals for the brand, but getting an early start is beneficial regardless of platform.
“Build a next-generation website”
Just as beginning to build an online community early is important, creating a compelling website as early as possible is important as well. For hotels, the website is their professional presentation, while social media acts as the more informal communication channel. Both channels play important roles that complement one another.
A “next-generation” website is comprised of several key elements. Martin believes in the extensive use of photos and rich visuals. At the same time, the website must be fast and accessible on a wide range of devices. The hotel site needs to be “social” – integrated with as many other relevant external networks as possible. And above all, it must sell.
“Guard first impressions”
While some social media agencies have experimented with showing construction in progress as a way to build pre-opening buzz, Martin typically advises against showing the work in progress. Showing an unfinished product could give your community the wrong first impression.
Instead, the primary objective in the pre-opening phase should be to sell the dream of what the property will look like. This is best done through building a prototype of your design or concept, and then releasing previews of that.
“Use social media to get attention offline”
Hotels that generate a lot of buzz in social media tend to be covered by journalists writing stories for offline publications and traditional media. The media is always looking for stories that will interest their audience. If a blog post is generating hundreds of tweets, for example, that indicates strong story potential. For this reason, Martin sees social media playing a key role in obtaining crucial media coverage during a hotel’s opening period.
“Give away lots of rooms.”
Giving away room nights is a key pre-opening strategy that Martin recommends. Letting journalists and bloggers stay in the rooms of a soon-to-be-opened hotel helps them experience the product, which is crucial for building early online buzz and back links.
This strategy is not limited to journalists. The owner of the Seven Hotel even gave away room nights to staff members and other key people involved in the project. Everyone had to experience what it was like to be a guest at the hotel so they could do a better job of selling it and providing service.
Whether you decide to give away rooms or not, the key lesson here is to involve as many media producers as possible in your project at the beginning. Generating some early buzz is crucial for building awareness and your web presence.
“Setup distribution partnerships”
Instead of viewing distributors as adversaries, Martin recommends setting up as many smart reseller partnerships as you can. But there are two things to keep in mind as you set these deals up:
1) Make sure you only pay a commission on reservations. Avoid websites that charge a large fee up front to list your hotel, unless you know they have the huge potential they are promising.
2) Make sure you’re generating enough direct bookings through your website. Making 20% of sales through online travel agencies is healthy, but if 80% of bookings are coming through third parties, that could be a danger sign.
“Measure and track everything”
Martin and the team at WIHP make a point of tracking a wide range of numbers: from the website traffic to social media activity to online reputation. Performance metrics are extremely important to guide the direction you take during the hotel opening process. Don’t be afraid to abandon whole sections of your strategy if you see it isn’t bringing qualified visitors that buy room nights.
As the saying goes: If you can’t measure it, you can’t track it, and if you can’t track it, you can’t manage it.
[All hotel photos from the Seven Hotel Paris]
I’ve been doing some research lately to find out how the customers that booked on the hotel websites heard about the hotel. We (me and our analysts at WIHP) reached out to over 6000 guests to gather their information. The hotel base we selected was about 100 hotels located in Paris, Rome and Barcelona. A selection of independent hotels varying from cheap to luxury and including Boutique. A pretty wide variety of hotels but all of them independent and in the smaller category of about 30-50 rooms.
We used the classic question “How did you hear about us?” and to be quite honest I was expecting something rather different from what I found. We already know that about 90% of the bookings done on a hotel’s website are done by people who search for the hotel on their search engine, the question that we wanted to answer was how did the guest find out about the hotel.
After some months of surveying the guests we started seeing the answers roll in and they were very interesting, here we go:
Survey Question: How did you hear about us?
24.1% Friends or Family
11.8% Repeat Guest
2.7% Travel Agent
1.0% Travel Guide
Amazingly (or not) Friends or Family is the leading reply, Google found exactly the same in their survey which you can find here. While I didn’t expect that to be the top answer it obviously makes sense and we’re back to the old marketing and PR law that word of mouth is your best advertising. However here is where the Social Media Marketer needs to realize that his role is to leverage that and yield it to the maximum, sure Social Medial will also create new customers via totally different channels but your social media campaign is all about Friends and Family and do it right, it’s a massive revenue generator. All the staff participate, they’ve got to make sure the guest don’t just feel “good” they’ve got to feel GREAT! and Social Media manager better be concerned about that and do something about it if it isn’t the case.
OTAs (Expedia, Booking.com, Orbitz etc) come second and here is where the hotelier who tries to shut off the OTA is a fool, and his goal shouldn’t be to exclude them but include them intelligently so it generates bookings via the OTAs and spills over to the website, it needs to be a win-win partnership. The article I wrote in February about shifting from OTAs to Direct bookings is still the best way that partnership will work and remain healthy for both parties.
The category “other” contains too many variable replies and while we’re analysing those too I wanted to mention that Google search is included in here. I mention that because some hoteliers will think they their SEO strategy is to be found through all manner of search terms and thus pull in new customers. For your average independent hotel that’s a bad strategy. You will end up with a tremendous bounce rate and eventually Google will notice your site isn’t about “Boutique Hotels in London” and will push down the ranking costing you the double in work. The best strategy for an independent hotel is to build a proper website and get popular through all the regular channels. Additionally I purposely didn’t give the option “Google” or “Search engine” in the survey since sure they found the hotel on Google, but they knew the name before they Googled it.
Tripadvisor comes fourth which is quite interesting. Some time ago I was all over telling hotels to buy their link on Tripadvisor, however about 50% of the hotels that participated in this survey didn’t have that link and oddly enough some of the hotels that didn’t have the link and were very low on the overall chart (1100 out of 1800 hotels) had about 20% of their guest come from Tripadvisor. What I learned from this is that your ranking on the site is not as important as the reviews. Having the last 5-10 reviews all positive and great is more important to your revenues than tearing your hair out because you lost 10 places on their site. Which is great news – because now you know you can always do something about it.
While I am not going to cover the rest of the results, I am sure you understand the figures as well as everyone else, I did want to mention that Facebook with 2% is quite interesting. Facebook is definitely on the rise as a travel marketing resource and I recommend hoteliers to embrace it as a means to reach millions and help them on their buying process.
Feel free to comment and ask questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
Working at WIHP I come across lot’s of hotel websites both good and bad, there are some points that I find commonly misunderstood by hoteliers and some web designers which make for ineffective hotel websites that don’t sell as much as they could. I started writing this as an article about hotel website design, but as it turns out I’m going to make a list of DO’s and DON’Ts or rather Don’ts and Do’s as I am listing it here. While some of this may go against established viewpoints, I am not writing it as a series of opinions, this is based on over 12 years of trial and error in the highly competitive market that is Paris.
To start with let’s get one thing straight. A Hotel website is there for one purpose and one purpose only – to sell inventory directly for the hotel at highest possible profit to the hotel. What a website isn’t is a medium to flatter a hotelier’s ego, it isn’t there to impress people with fancy animations, it isn’t there to be liked by Google, it isn’t there for any other purpose than to generate maximum bookings at the highest possible profit to the hotel.
Now that we got that straight let’s go over some do’s and don’ts of common points I have noticed together with other professionals at WIHP.
Don’t create a website for Google, Google isn’t going to sleep in your hotel!
It’s a classic we keep running into, some hotelier has been “advised” by a “professional” that the website needs lots of keyword heavy text and lots of information on the home page in order to be well indexed in Google. So they make a horrible website that guests try to avoid. Get this straight – someone who is booking a room in a hotel isn’t interested in a description of the hotel’s history and or something like: “This is really a boutique hotel because it was renovated with a specific boutique hotel design and therefore is getting some of the best reviews as one of the top boutique hotels in the city”. That is making a website for Google rather than for your guests. Sure your SEO guys will complain, but they’ll just need to get better at their jobs.
Don’t focus on animations, it’s distracting.
We all want a sexy website, with fancy animations that look great. We want to show the world that we have the latest technology in the world and we’re up to date, skip it – it’s a distraction! Your guest knows what he wants – even if he is seeing an average of 12 websites before he choses his hotel it isn’t because he doesn’t know what he’s looking for. On the contrary, he just isn’t finding it and your animations are making things worse.
Don’t present the entire city, you’re trying to sell your hotel.
I can’t count how many times I’ve landed on a hotel website only to be searching for the “Rooms” menu option so I could get to see the rooms and find out what the hotel was really like. Some people seem to think the hotel needs to present every single corner of the hotel and then every single corner of the city. Sure it’s great to show your bar but why in the world are you telling him about your Concierge, Shopping, Things to do, Events, Shows etc on your main menu? You aren’t the local tourist information you’re trying to sell him a room. Waste his time and he’ll go somewhere else, like an OTA for example (they understood this long ago).
Don’t go cheap on your booking engine, it’ll cost you the sale.
Unfortunately too many hotels think the Booking Engine is something they can relegate to the cheapest on the market. What would you think of your reservation office telling the potential guests “Hm let’s see I think I can accept your reservation but you’ll have to hold while I check with the manager and my supervisor, after that I’ll run a credit check and you can call back in about 15 minutes” you’d fire the lot of them. That’s what a bad booking engine is doing to you. Pay a little more, get something that’s efficient.
Now that we’ve looked at those points, the contrast will probably seem obvious but let’s go over them.
Create a website for users. As I mentioned in my earlier post about USPs you need to present 3 factors in 3 seconds: Location, Comfort and Value. How do you do that? Visuals, large ones, show don’t tell. People want to see the room, see the location, see the rates and that is what will close your guests to come. Use great and large photos, as I mentioned in my post about hotel photography – guests want to see your room, your hotel and what you have to show, if a photo tells a thousand words, then you don’t need to write a lot. If your site is pertinent, Google will show it, so focus on the people. They’re the ones that will sleep in your hotel.
Make your website fast and to the point. As I mentioned just above you have 3 seconds to make the sale. The potential guest knows what he wants, show him your hotel, if you fit his criteria you’ve got the sale. So make your website fast, add some animations if you want but only if it helps the three second rule, the WOW effect of your website should be your hotel not the animations.
Navigation must be simple. Menus need to be simple and easy to navigate. There are essential points of the hotel that need to be shown, such as the rooms, the location and how to book. Sure you can add more but add intelligently because your guest needs to know how to book or where to check your location without being rocket scientists. Remember you’ve got lot’s of competition and they may sell faster than you.
Invest in a good booking engine. The booking engine comes at the most crucial moment of the sale. Now is the time the guest needs to pull out the credit card, all the reasons in the world why he shouldn’t pay are going to creep up. You can either help yourself make the sale with a fast and smooth booking engine or help him find reasons not to pay by having a complicated booking process. Test the booking engine before you sign a contract. How smooth is the booking process, get your parents to try it can they figure it out? Try some people to see if they find it annoying, smooth, easy or if they just leave.
As a hotelier, you have one objective to keep in mind – is it effective? demand from your web-designer that he produce a site which converts and is measurable in increased revenues. Simple analytics can provide you with the information. While we have developed a sophisticated hotel analytics system at WIHP, you can already start measuring by installing e-commerce with Google Analytics. Track your conversions, how many visits create how many bookings etc. compare with your friends that have similar hotels, are you better, worse etc.
This list isn’t everything but I hope it gives enough to make hoteliers think and maybe review their design.
- A viewpoint on advertising history
- HotelMarketing.com’s most popular of 2011
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- Hotel Booking Trends an Infographic
- Five ways a hotel can use Google+
- Top referring sites for Hotels by WIHP
- How to Successfully open a hotel
- How do they find us?
- Do’s and Don’ts for a Hotel Website