The hospitality industry is fully embracing all things digital, and if you want to stay ahead of the crowd, you need to launch a modern hotel marketing strategy online or risk being left behind.
Your potential guests are always seeking the best experience possible. When they’re booking their travels, vacationers and business travelers alike are on the lookout for hotels that can guarantee comfortable stays and cater to their needs, basic expectations, and (preferably) more. This means your stand-out hotel experience can’t just begin when your guest arrives at your property—it needs to start at the first customer touchpoint and continue beyond their stay.
With great digital marketing tactics in place, you can create a modern, convenient, and enjoyable online experience that has potential customers choosing you every time.
6 key hotel marketing trends
While going digital is a great first step for any hotelier, some strategies have proven to be stronger than others. As you’re developing your hotel marketing plan, you’ll want to consider some of the top marketing trends that are driving results in the hotel industry—as well as across the greater hospitality market—today.
In this section, we’ll give you a closer look at a handful of effective marketing ideas that you can use to get the most out of each of these trends.
1. Metasearch advertising
With access to hundreds of online research tools, modern consumers are making smarter purchase decisions than ever. Your potential guests are no longer just picking the first hotels they find through a standard Google search, which means hoteliers can no longer solely rely on search engine optimization (SEO) to draw in leads. Instead, you need to put your focus on metasearch engines, too.
Metasearch engines, otherwise known as search aggregators, are sites that allow travelers to compare room prices from multiple hotels at once. Some of the top metasearch engines—including Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, and Expedia—are gaining more traction than ever. When you invest in pay-per-click (PPC) ads on any of these platforms, they can directly account for 12% of all your hotel bookings, though they influence many more by sending customers to learn more on your website.
Most hoteliers are investing the most in Google Hotel Ads, which help you rank at the top relevant hotel search results, because it makes up the vast majority of search aggregator conversions. However, almost all of the leading metasearch engines are on the rise, which means advertising on other platforms can help you stand out to millions more people.
When bookings are expected to start rolling in for your peak season, you can proactively ramp up your metasearch ad spend to convert more hotel guests than your local competitors.
2. Mobile optimization
Over 80% of Americans now own smartphones, so naturally, more and more consumers are expecting mobile-friendly experiences wherever they go. By 2021, mobile bookings are expected to make up nearly 50% of online sales in the travel industry.
To prepare for this rapid progression into a mobile-first industry, you need to minimally ensure your hotel website is optimized for smartphone users. In addition to making direct bookings easier for your guests, a mobile-optimized site can also improve your search engine rankings, so you can better reach your target audience.
Going beyond this basic modern necessity, hotel marketers are also finding new ways to integrate text messaging and mobile apps into their strategies, in an effort to up the convenience of the guest experience. Some hotels are making it possible for guests to have a contactless check in with just their smartphones. Others are using tools like the Podium Messaging Platform to offer guests a readily available digital concierge before, during, and after their stays.
3. Influencer marketing
Social media marketing—especially on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Facebook—is here to stay in the hotel industry. With over 3.8 billion global consumers using social media, this marketing channel has become impossible for any hotel brand to ignore.
So how do you stand out when most brands have already caught on? For many hoteliers, the answer is influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing occurs when you partner with individuals who have a strong online presence and get them to share your messages on your behalf. In exchange, you may offer complimentary stays at your hotel, commission, or a one-time bulk payment.
When you have these social media leaders backing your message, you gain instant trust from their loyal audience members. This can lead to a great return-on-investment (ROI), especially if you’re targeting millennials.
To increase the effectiveness of your influencer marketing, you do need to be smart about who you’re partnering with. The best influencers to promote your hotel brand are those who share similar values and target audiences. This way, their promotion will feel more authentic and reach the right people.
While influencers with large followings drive a lot of people to your site, make sure you don’t ignore the micro-influencers either. Social media users with just 1,000 to 10,000 followers tend to see higher engagement from their followers, which means the impact of their shares can be huge.
4. Video marketing
One of the best ways to draw in potential guests is by immersing them in the experience you can provide. Videos are great marketing tools that let users not only see your beautiful property, but also feel like they’re stepping onto your grounds. More so than still photos, video can evoke powerful emotions—and who doesn’t love feeling like they’re on vacation?
Video can be used to enhance pretty much any marketing campaign. You can film commercials that show off your hotel rooms and all the amenities you provide, then share them on social media, in your email marketing, and beyond. Many business owners are even adding 360-degree video tours to their hotel websites to show off the entire experience for guests.
Pair these videos of your physical space with content featuring your hotel guests and employees, and your potential customers can get a great feel of your hotel atmosphere as a whole.
5. Social media chatbots
Technology is transforming the guest experience and there’s no better evidence of this than the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in hotel marketing. One of the most common uses of AI in hospitality these days is for social media chatbots.
Chatbots are built to respond to guest inquiries when you’re not online, which is especially important if you don’t have a 24/7 customer service team. After all, over 40% of consumers expect responses within an hour, while 32% want a response within just 30 minutes. With chatbots, your customer can immediately feel heard when they direct message you on convenient platforms like Twitter and Facebook, if not resolve their needs altogether.
Social media chatbots can even be set up to create bookings for you, further limiting the time you need to spend directly responding to potential guests.
6. Online reviews
As displayed by the power of influencer marketing, consumers tend to trust other people more than your brand. Because of this, many of your potential customers seek out online reviews to get information about your hotel from the people who have experienced it for themselves.
In addition to gathering feedback about your hotel on top review sites like Google and Facebook, it’s extremely important for your brand to build a presence on niche platforms like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and other hotel review sites. These niche websites are where millions of committed travelers—the quality leads who definitely have plans to book hotels in the near future—are flocking to, so if you’re getting consistent positive feedback, they’ll be more likely to consider you.
Once you have a strategy for collecting reviews down, you’ll also want to create a process to respond to every positive and negative review. Doing so not only re-engages your current customer base by showing you care, but it will also show your potential guests that your team will be just as attentive when they book their stay.
Using a tool like Podium Reviews, you can actually automate your review invites, while streamlining your entire review response process. Soon after a guest’s stay, they’ll be invited to provide their hotel review via SMS—furthering the mobile-first hotel experience—for the sites that matter most to you. When you receive feedback on any review site, you’ll be able to respond straight from one platform.
Create great digital experiences
Modern hotel guests are consulting a wide variety of resources on the internet to get to know your brand before they decide to book. When your hotel marketing reflects the real-world experience you can provide, you can impress your target audience before they book and long before they stay.
When you’re ready to add a few more digital strategies to get ahead in your industry, get our hospitality marketing tips to ensure you always stand out, even when you have more than your fellow hoteliers to compete with.