Where Does the Marketing Stop and the Point of Sale begin?

The worldwide web is your best sales source! What does that mean? It should mean more sales at your best yield per sale ROI per sale. Your website is your Internet point of sale and the Internet brings you a global buyer market that can be targeted, contacted and convinced effectively.

 

There is a plethora of data on how consumers shop and buy online. This information can help you make the right decision on where you need to be online and what to expect from your investments. It is also easier to track online visitor activities and most important their purchases.

 

So the bottom line is all about knowing what online marketing opportunities exist, what ROI to expect and how to measure your results. With this said, when you have made your marketing decisions it is important to keep your lobby door open and someone at the cash register, this is your website. Your site has to contain good photos, informative text and easy navigation to get to and conclude a sale. Compare your site to your competition and look at other website and ask those companies what is working. 

 

It is most important that you are able to track your shopper once they enter your website and to track whether they booked or not. Then, given the correct data, you can research why they did not book. Was it rate, room type, location or something they saw on the website or didn’t see.  This is where you turn the marketing research into a sale.

Are we ready for PRE PAID Hotel Bookings

Recently, Air Canada launched the ability for passengers to buy pre-paid travel passes in advance for future travel on the carrier.  Their plan allows consumers to buy a set number of flights for a fixed price.  The intent of course is to take their loyalty program to the next level.  Think about this, IBM prepaying for 1,000 flights in order to gain a financial discount.  This is good for IBM as well as ensures loyalty for Air Canada.

Now think about how this can effect the lodging industry!  Would you offer your best corporate clients the ability to buy – upfront – a set number of room nights for future stays.  Great for building guest loyalty!

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Search Engine Marketing Cost Management

"Internet use as a means to research and to book travel will continue
to trend-up as technology and users become more sophisticated.
Competition will increase and companies that are able to invest in
travel research and booking feature improvements, targeted promotions
and robust CRM programs will reap the greatest benefits." This
statement is an extract from a report provided by the company; Research
and Markets. This same report projects that 30% of all travel bookings
originate on the Internet.

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Search Engine Marketing Competitive Analysis Methods

One of the best ways in which to propel your own search engine
marketing (SEM) program is to spend your time properly researching what
your competitive set might be doing with SEM. While there are many ways
to evaluate your competitive landscape, we have amassed a few tools to
help you get on your way. These tools will provide insight into how
well your competitive set is positioned and how to beat them by being
smarter about SEM.

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The Value of Search Engine Marketing

Research indicates that there are over 68 million Americans online
every day. These Internet users access search engines an average of 550
million times per day to find what they’re looking for online. Whether
it’s looking for electronics, researching recipes or searching for that
special hotel room, most of the searches happen on only a handful of
search engines. Sure we all have our favorite search engines but most
of us are searching on one or more of the five major search engines:
Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL or Ask Jeeves. In fact, to put this into
perspective, Google handled over two billion unique searches in July
2005, while Yahoo processed just over 1 billion unique searches.the
numbers are staggering.

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Developing an Effective Search Engine Marketing Strategy

When budgeting for Search Engine Marketing your projected costs have to be in synch with your expectations. For example, if you expect 25% of your room sales to come from the Internet, you need a comparable share of your marketing investment. To make as accurate an estimate as possible be sure you know what percentage of your sales were online in the past, so you can determine how many room nights or what percentage of increase to expect.

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>>BREAKING NEWS – Microsoft AdCenter Goes Live

Finally here!  Microsoft’s AdCenter has been turned on today.  All Pay-Per-Click ads running on US search properties are coming from AdCenter…bye bye Yahoo!

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Unique Visitors or Visits – which metric should you use?

Every hotelier should be reviewing their web logs and looking for hidden golden nuggets of marketing information.  Your web logs will not only show you the amount of traffic your website is receiving on a yearly, monthly, daily and hourly basis but will also show you your top referring sites…these are sites that ARE SENDING YOU VISITORS.

However, when reviewing your web logs, it is important for you to consider your measurement metrics when it comes to “Visits” vs. “Unique Visits”.  To help you decide which approach is right for you, visit Omniture’s Matt Belkins latest blog on the subject. Here is an excerpt of his blog:

Unique Visitors are a superset of Visits and may represent multiple opportunities to convert a customer. As such, using Unique Visitors as the denominator in most performance calculations is actually overstating the effectiveness of your site. For example, if I visit a retail site 4 times in one week, and purchase twice – what is my conversion rate? If you use weekly unique visitors, my conversion rate is 200%. If you use visits, my conversion rate is 50%. Which is a better representation of site effectiveness? Clearly the 50% is much more valuable in understand where your site may or may not be performing optimally. With the 50% conversion metric, I have the opportunity to analyze which visits did not convert…what happened? Is it a navigational issue? A cross-sell problem? Or perhaps a remarketing opportunity? If you used Unique Visitors, you’d never get this visibility.

We support Matt’s comments.  Be sure to visit his blog posting.

How can a Small Hotel Market on The Internet?

How can a Small Hotel Market on the Internet? If your hotel, resort or B & B has less than 100 rooms and an ADR of less than $70 it is unlikely you can afford to contract a full service Internet marketing program. The fees for a truly managed search engine optimization or pay per click program will make it difficult to generate the level of ROI that you want. This does not eliminate you from doing Internet marketing it just means you need to familiarize yourself with to online tools that are available to you to make the most of your website. Use these tools and invest in services where you really need expertise. Of course your investment in time and money for Internet marketing depends on many factors, you have to consider;

1. Average daily rate

2. Your market size: number of competitors and seasonality

3. average length of stay

4. Source of your guests; local, regional, national and international

5. What percent of your guests book online today?

6. Guest types; business, leisure, family, couples, military or seniors

7. Guest preferences; local recreation, local attractions, business meetings, attend conferences

8. Guest amenities; wifi, hi speed Internet, ocean view, dining, spa, privacy, room service

9. Potential for repeat visits

10. Guest language preferences

All of these factors should be considered (a) when developing your website design, highlights and navigation (b) when choosing keywords for optimization or pay per click (c) developing reciprocal or inbound links to your site. Once you have answered how each of these factors affects your business you are ready to build an Internet plan. Internet sales are rapidly approaching 50% of the average hotel’s sales, for every online sale you can expect one and a half phone sale. Your first year ROI target should be a minimum of 6 or 7 to 1 ratio with an annual growth of 2 to 3 percent.

This gives you a range to consider for your level of investment and ROI. As you set your plan and goals, you need to look at first your potential revenue and second your maximum cost. If you already have a marketing plan, the share for Internet marketing should be around 50%. Look at which of your top three markets can be targeted online through online advertising, proactive search optimization, 3rd party merchant sites, regional portals and convention bureaus and seasonal pay per click.

Please reply and tell me how you do your planning or your experience with Internet marketing.

Converting Third Party Bookers Into YOUR Customers

I’m often asked by sales & marketing directors and General Managers how they can "win back" guests who have decided to make their travel plans via a third party site like Expedia, Travelocity or Hotels.com.  The intent of course is how to increase online revenues and to build guest loyalty via direct marketing through the hotel’s own website, versus the third party sites.

One of the strategies I always recommend hoteliers deploy is what I call the "e-conversion program".  Simply stated the e-conversion program offers "third party website guests" with a reason to book directly online with the hotel’s website…that reason being a preferred rate discount and/or upgrade upon check in.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Set up a special rate code (an SRP code in most hotels) that floats a 10%-15% discount off your lowest published rate.  Call this code your "e-conversion code" in your Property Management System (PMS).
  2. Have your General Manager draft a welcome letter offering your "third party website guests" the ability to use this discount code on future reservations by booking directly on your website.
  3. Run your daily arrivals list and identify your "third party website guests".
  4. Upon checking in a "third party website guest" hand them the General Manager’s welcome letter.
  5. Emphasis that they should book through your website in the future and to use the special "e-conversion code". 
  6. Based on your availability, offer them a room upgrade for their current stay so they feel special on their current visit.

I deployed this program in over 250 hotels when I was Vice President of E-Commerce for Prime Hospitality (AmeriSuites, Wellesley Inns and Suites and Prime Hotels & Resorts) and it worked very well.  We were able to increase each property’s ADR while winning back our clients.  And best of all, the third party website DIDN’T have an issue with this!