Hotel Executive CEO Interview: Dj Vallauri

Human Powered Websites are the Future

CEO INTERVIEW: DJ VALLAURI, LODGING INTERACTIVE FOUNDER & CEO

There is no doubt that, as consumers, we are always looking for solutions that save us time. Time is the one factor in our daily lives of which we never seem to have enough of. Large consumer brands such as Amazon, Best Buy, Comcast, and many others understand this important human factor and take advantage of opportunities to return “time” back to consumers. But how are they doing this and why haven’t hotel brands followed suit?

Recently Benedict Cummins from HotelExecutive connected with DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President, to discuss his vision on human powered websites and why he believes they are the future for the hospitality industry.

Benedict: DJ, your agency has been in the digital marketing space for over 15 years now, offering hotels the tools and services to drive direct bookings via their websites. As it relates to hotel websites, how have things changed in the past few years and where are things headed?

DJ: Hotel websites have come a very long way in the past 15 years. Hotel websites are no longer considered “brochureware” but rather are active sales tools operating on a 24/7/365 day a year basis. Most recently new technology developments have occurred in the area of making desktop websites more manageable and effective on mobile devices. One specific example of this is the responsive adaptive technology. The majority of hoteliers have come to understand the importance in providing consumers with an exceptional online browsing experience via their mobile devices. As a result, the majority of hotel websites today are properly rendering on mobile devices. The hospitality industry has never been known to be on the cutting edge of technology But when Google introduced search engine ranking penalties for non-mobile friendly websites, I believe this pushed the hospitality industry to make the proper investments in responsive website technologies.

Benedict: Yes, mobile technologies have certainly affected the entire Internet and not just the hospitality industry. But is it all about technology or is there more? How do you see the hotel website evolving in the next few years?

DJ: That’s a great question, but let’s step back for a moment. The hospitality industry is all about being hospitable towards people. We’re about the human-to-human connections we have with our guests. We’re about providing experiences our guests will remember for a lifetime and will hopefully share with their network of friends and families either in person or via social media channels. The experienced hotel operator clearly understands this concept of “humanizing” their property. Operating a property with this mindset clearly provides a competitive advantage for those General Managers that “get it.” You see, it’s no longer about the technology. The technology is purely the price of entry today. The hotels that will win over the next 24 months will be those that introduce the human elements of real-time engagement via the technology. In other words, leveraging the technologies available to better engage and build relationships with their guests via human connections. Hotel websites have traditionally been a one-way conversation that hotels have with their potential guests. A website visitor simply clicks around the website to search for the information they need. Sometimes they’re successful but most times they’re not. The website of today and the next 24 months, flips this model upside down and enables two-way conversations between the hotel and their potential guests, in real-time while they’re online.

Benedict: That’s interesting. Can you please elaborate on this?

DJ: The hotel industry has always been slow to adapt new technologies, but what I’m going to discuss is not new technology. In fact it’s been around for over 15 years. I’m specifically referring to live chat technologies. As consumers we’ve been using live chat for many years. When we visit websites like Amazon, Comcast, American Express or nearly any major online retailer, we find online live chat to be very efficient when we’re in need of a little more information than most websites can provide prior to making a purchase. Live chat has always felt comfortable to consumers because it’s certainly easy to use but, most importantly, it allows us to control the conversation and interaction on our own time. As I mentioned earlier, time is one asset that we have very little of these days. Why would someone go through endless telephone IVR prompts only to be put into a holding queue?  Now when you consider how consumers use their mobile devices… today’s consumers are “attached” to their mobile devices nearly 24/7 and certainly their mobile devices are always nearby and within easy reach. And those mobile devices are always connected via broadband to the Internet. It’s only been recently that live chat applications have been made totally mobile allowing consumers to “ask questions” anytime and on-the-go. Such power in our pockets… it’s very exciting.

Benedict: So are you saying that live chat is going to flip the hotel-consumer engagement model?

DJ: Yes exactly. When we researched the market viability for a fully managed live chat service we found that, of 2500 hotels in North America, less than half of 1% had a live chat widget on their website. This equates to only 12 of 2500 hotels that had live chat enabled on their website. This got us very excited as it confirmed the market opportunity for us. It would be our challenge to come up with a cost effective business model and service to address the market need. This is why we developed our fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service for the hospitality industry. Our model is to license the best live chat platform available on the market and to hire US based live chat agents and put them on our payroll. We certainly looked at outsourcing our live chat agent services to existing companies in the Philippines but felt the quality of service we could provide through them would not be acceptable. So we now have our own live chat agents, on our payroll and part of our company. This decision has proven to be the right decision for us and our hotel clients.

Benedict: So your live chat service is completely managed for the hotel? How do your agents know enough about the hotel?

DJ: Yes our CoMMingle Live Chat service is fully managed and we handle all the live chat sessions for each property. During the onboarding process, our agents are trained on the property information as well as the specific voice and tone the property is seeking in their customer live chat engagements. Additionally, we have other training programs to ensure our agents are as knowledgeable as they would be sitting at the property. Also because our live agents are 100% dedicated to the operation, we have instilled our own core customer service values and salesmanship. The entire process is very efficient.

Benedict: What about all the talk of artificial intelligence and robotic chat bots. Do automated chat bots offer an even more efficient live chat model for hotels?

DJ: Well one thing that became entirely clear to us when we launched our live chat service for hotels was that you cannot automate, nor should you, a conversation between a potential guest and a hotel. We have seen live chat engagements turn from a simple question about the destination to actually making an online reservation and assisting the future guest with spa reservations as an add-on sales opportunity. Our agents are not only working to provide the highest level of customer service while someone is browsing the hotel website, but they also act as what we call “assisted sales agents”. Meaning, our live chat agents can assist in closing business. They share sales materials such as floor plans, catering menus and wedding package information with potential customers via the live chat session. Our agents truly act as a sales support team when someone is in the buying mode. Chat bots can be effective when consumers are looking to book point-to-point air travel, a simple conversational string that can present airfares and flight options. But trying to automate hotel live chat sessions is like trying to automate a telephone conversation; it simply cannot be done. There are too may variables involved just as there are with telephone conversations. Why don’t you try the Expedia Messenger chat bot for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Their chat bot experience is not so great, and I’m being polite. Besides this issue, try telling a hotel General Manager that a chat bot will be engaging with their potential customers. Trust me, you won’t get far with that conversation.

Benedict: But can hotels just add their own widget for live chat to their website? Why do they need to outsource this?

DJ: They could and many hotels have tried exactly this in the past. But the issue within our industry is having the qualified staff available to handle the live chat engagement and staffing has always been a challenge for properties. We heard from General Managers who have tried to handle live chat on their own and they’ve all echoed the same staffing issue. You see live chat volume will vary from day to day and week to week. This makes it practically impossible to staff at the property level with one or two dedicated people.

Benedict: So clearly you’re very bullish on live chat for the hospitality industry.

DJ: You can mark my words, live chat will become as ubiquitous as the online hotel booking engine has become today. This will happen very quickly, within the next 24 months or sooner. Live chat is what all consumers want and, with zero learning curve, it is even more certain that live chat will become the norm very quickly.

DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive, has been proactive and successful in all his social media initiatives over the last five years through CoMMingle. DJ saw the void of participation on social media from individual hotel properties and in 2010 CoMMingle was born.Through his insightful projections, CoMMingle has become a successful division of Lodging Interactive solely dedicated to social media marketing, social customer service and reputation management for the Hospitality Industry. Every industry’s social media needs are different and DJ understands the needs and challenges faced by hotels. Mr. Vallauri can be contacted at 877-291-4411 ext 704 | Lodging or dj@lodginginteractive.com

The Hotel Business Review is a weekly journal of best practices in hotel management and operations and is available at www.hotelexecutive.com. HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review.

Lodging Interactive Offers Hotels All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 6, 2017 Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced it is offering all-inclusive digital marketing packages for hotels and resorts.  Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has been exclusively serving the hospitality industry and helping hotel clients maximize their direct online booking opportunities.

 Hotel All Inclusive Digital Marketing Packages

“With the introduction of our all-inclusive digital marketing packages, our innovative approach in hospitality digital marketing continues to evolve,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President.  “For more than fifteen years we have created award winning services for our hospitality clients with our CoMMingle Social Media Marketing Service and most recently our CoMMingle Live Chat Service for hotels leading the pack.  Now, we are the only digital marketing agency that brings all the required pieces together into an all-inclusive digital marketing service platform for hotels.”

 Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages include:

  • Modern website designs to maximize direct booking opportunities
  • Professional in-house website copywriting services
  • Complete website management services
  • Dynamic website content delivery and personalized segment targeting
  • Hotel Search Engine Marketing (SEO & PPC)
  • Annual Digital Marketing Plan creation
  • Social media marketing & engagement services
  • Reputation management services for guest review sites and OTAs.
  • Live Chat fully managed services, 7 days a week
  • Dedicated, first-rate customer service and ROI KPI reporting

Hospitality Digital Marketing

“Effective hospitality digital marketing is no longer just about having a new responsive website and launching organic Hotel Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and a Facebook page,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “Today, the smart hotelier understands it takes more of a commitment than this to drive direct hotel bookings.”

A recent 2017 Travel Website Behavior Study showed that consumers, between the ages of 18-34, visit an average of 4.6 unique websites prior to making a hotel reservation.  This is down from just a year ago.  As a result it has become extremely important for hotels to impress their hotel visitors with personalized and targeting content and live chat support to answer any questions they may have in the booking process.

Hotel Digital Marketing Packages

Lodging Interactive’s all-inclusive digital marketing packages offer hotels the complete solution for a fixed monthly fee. The hotel digital marketing packages are designed to attract qualified visitors, show them personalized and relevant website content, provide real-time human powered live chat support to close the business, ongoing social media engagement and follow-up online reputation management and guest review responses.

For more information and to receive a price quote please visit Hotel All-Inclusive Digital Marketing Programs or call 877-291-4411ext 701.

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

 

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Lodging Interactive Handles 200,000 Guest Review Responses

PARSIPPANY, NJ – March 1, 2017  Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced that it has responded to over 200,000 guest reviews for its hotel clients.  Since the launch of its CoMMingle service the agency has worked with numerous iconic 4 and 5 star independent properties as well as branded properties representing global brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, to name a few.

 

“The continued growth of our CoMMIngle reputation management service can be attributed to the “white glove” service we provide to every guest review we write for our hotel clients,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “As a fully managed service we understand the hotel’s reputation is at stake with every guest review we write and the importance of responding in the hotel’s voice and persona.”

 

Unlike other services that outsource the writing of guest reviews to third world countries, Lodging Interactive continues to invest heavily in its CoMMingle operations team based in the USA.  All guest reviews are responded to with custom responses and adhere to the high standards set by the many hotel brands the agency services.  The CoMMingle service monitors and manages all guest reviews posted on review and OTA sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, Google, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Facebook, and Google.  Additionally, CoMMingle also monitors and responds to major hotel brand website guest reviews.  The CoMMingle service is offered 7 days a week and provides daily posting of hotel management responses.

 

“According to research provided by TripAdvisor, 68% of consumers will book a room at a property that responds to reviews versus one that doesn’t,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “And as the volume of guest reviews continues to increase on a year over year basis, property human resources will continue to be insufficient and will be unable to handle the volume and workload involved in responding to all guest reviews.  This is precisely why we have made significant investments in our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate the growing volume of guest reviews.”  

 

CoMMingle reputation management offers guest review monitoring and management response services in 12 languages.  “As a global service, CoMMingle recognized the need for a multilingual approach to a world audience of our clients. Offering response service for reviews of various languages, addressing past guests as well as focusing on the potential future guests of the same language demographic,” said Rosella Virdo, CoMMingle Managing Director.

 

CoMMingle reputation management services are offered to hotels, resorts and restaurants.  For more information and to receive a price quote please visit www.LodgingInteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 ext 701.

 

About Lodging Interactive:

 

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

 

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

 

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

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#AskDJV Episode 52: Live Chat

#AskDJV Episode 52 talks about Live Chat and how it can help the customer service efforts of your hotels.  Learn how managed live chat can be attained for your hotel at affordable prices while bringing an old technology to the forefront.  Get Live Chat for hotels today.

Video Transcript:

Live Chat for Hotels

 

Hello Everybody and Welcome to the #AskDJV Show, I’m DJ Vallauri and thank you so much for joining me this week.

 

This is Episode 52 so I’m super pumped because we’ve been putting out these videos for over a year.

On this week’s show, I’d like to talk about how Customer Service is really becoming a marketing advantage and marketing differentiator for hotels who do it right.  Think about the Ritz Carlton hotel company.  You think about Ritz Carlton and you know you’re going to get great service, right? You just know it.

If you stay at a Ritz Carlton, and you stay at a JW Marriott or Mandarin Oriental or St. Regis or Four Seasons, they are all great facilities, they have great rooms, great accommodations, they are all lavishly appointed, but where the Ritz Carlton hotel company does it right is when they provide their level of service.  If a customer has an issue, each employee has the ability to spend up to $2,000 on the spot to solve that customer’s issue.  They can spend that money without having to get his or her management approval.  That’s key.  That’s what makes Ritz Carlton above and beyond when it comes to customer service in our industry.

As consumers, we have high speed internet access on our phones.  Our phones are with us nearly 24/7, right.  When we have a question of the hotel, we are always forced to call.  As you know, sometimes the hotels don’t answer the telephone promptly, which causes us to call the hotel numerous times.

Why put your guests through that, when you can solve and provide great customer service, solve the issues they might have right on the spot in real time.  I’m going to tell you how to do that.

Customer Service begins the first time that consumer engages with your hotel brand online and on your website.  Every hotel should have installed on their website a push to chat, also known as a live chat function.

Whenever we have a question online, we see that “let me help you” “chat with me now”, we click on that and ask a question.

The same thing needs to apply to the hotel industry.  The technology is there, consumers have been using it for ten years, we all know how to use live chat, there’s no learning curve whatsoever.

That’s where the marketing advantage comes in.  Now our firm, Lodging Interactive actually has a live chat fully managed service and we provide live chat to many, many hotels.  With our own people in the United States, we put the technology on your website and we provide live chat service support for the hotel industry seven days a week.

So, we can provide that service for you if you can’t do it yourself and we can do so in a cost-effective manner. Live Chat provides your hotel with a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace.

So, if you have any questions, I welcome them.  Please email me at dj@lodginginteractive.com.  And as always please make sure you follow us by clicking on the subscribe button down below on YouTube to make sure you get weekly announcements of these videos.

Thanks again for joining us this week and we hope to see you next week.

Lodging Interactive’s Kristine Gilbert Wins President’s Award

Lodging Interactive 2016b Award

Kristine Gilbert wins Lodging Interactive’s 2016 Presidents Award 2016.

Parsippany, New Jersey – DJ Vallauri, President & CEO of Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, announces that Kristine Gilbert, Creative Coordinator for CoMMingle, is the recipient of the 2016 President’s Award of Excellence. The annual award, which was created in 2013 by DJ Vallauri, recognizes an employee who has exhibited exceptional contributions and service throughout the previous year.  Ms. Gilbert was presented with the prestigious award at the company’s yearly meeting held at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange, New Jersey on December 9th. She was nominated for the President’s Award by Rosella Virdo’, Managing Director of CoMMIngle, the division of Lodging Interactive that spearheads social media services.

 

During her years with Lodging Interactive, Kristine has progressed professionally through positions leading to her current role and her determination and enthusiasm transcend all areas of her life. While supporting and caring for her husband and two children, she has made time to give back to her community. Kristine is an avid runner and recently ran for The Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon that, since 1954, has provided vital services for people and families in Lehigh Valley, from early childhood developmental programs to support services for people in retirement. She has also championed numerous fundraisers for children through health and fitness.

 

“Kristine is a dedicated individual who has a deep passion for her work that is equaled by her passion for serving her community,” said Mr. Vallauri.  “Whether as a beta tester for new services we have launched or as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) for the many social networks and blogging platforms, Kristine has taken on every challenge as the Creative Coordinator for CoMMingle with limitless enthusiasm and admirable determination. She is a quintessential example of Lodging Interactive’s ideals and values. I congratulate her on this well-deserved President’s Award of Excellence.“

Data Proves Branded Hotel Vanity Sites Are Effective

PARSIPPANY, NJ – January 4, 2017  It’s been an ongoing mission of the major hotel brands to convince hotel management companies and hotel owners to “retire” their vanity websites. In fact, this has been going on for the last 15 years and the efforts have had marginal success for the brands.  However, the brands have recently stepped up their efforts with more “forceful persuasions” this time around and have decided to pull out all stops in their efforts.

Much has been written in the past on the revenue benefits vanity sites have for properties and the value they provide to potential guests.  But we thought it would be worthwhile for us to provide substantive and data driven facts as to show the real value vanity websites have for hotel operators and the brands.  For this article we reviewed data sets from a sampling of 25 branded vanity websites we have managed for over 5 years.  Our findings conclusively support that branded hotel vanity websites remain relevant in 2017 and must be maintained to maximize direct booking revenue opportunities.

 

Top Reasons Why Vanity Websites Remain Relevant in 2017:

  • Vanity websites have higher booking conversion rates than brand.com.
  • Vanity websites capture qualified wedding and group event leads.
  • Vanity websites outrank brand.com on Search Engines for localized search terms.
  • Vanity websites provide differentiation against local independent hotel websites.
  • Vanity websites offer differentiation against other same brand properties on brand.com.
  • Google deems vanity websites as authoritative and provides them with “site links”.

Vanity websites have higher booking conversion rates than brand.com.

The data continues to show that in many cases, vanity websites achieve higher online booking conversion rates than the brand.com sites.  As reported by brand referral reports, we’ve consistently seen vanity website conversion rates north of 8%.  This is a substantially higher booking conversion rate when compared to the brand.com conversion rates of 3%-4% overall.  The vanity website higher conversion rates can be attributed to the marketing and messaging value vanity websites offer to potential guests.  When vanity websites provide deep, localized content to visitors it increases the conversion rates dramatically when compared to the boring, cookie cutter, brand centric content found on brand.com.

Vanity websites capture qualified wedding and group event leads.

For nearly 15 years we have seen substantial year over year growth in event RFP submissions through the hotel vanity websites we manage.  This growth can be attributed to vanity websites effectively communicating property venue advantages when compared with the lack luster meeting and wedding content found on most brand.com websites.  The vanity website supports and effectively “sells” the event venue through comprehensive, deep visual and contextual content.

Vanity websites outrank brand.com on Search Engines for localized search terms.

With a properly deployed organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program vanity websites will outrank brand.com for localized, longer-tail, non-branded keyword phrases.  We have experienced much success in placing higher in Google SERP’s as a result of comprehensive and well thought out organic SEO programs.  Higher organic ranking on Google will, again, drive a more qualified prospect to the vanity website, which is a key reason why vanity websites enjoy higher look to book conversion rates.

Vanity websites provide differentiation against local independent hotel websites.

Independent properties are increasingly deploying aggressive direct booking strategies to stand out within their competitive sets.  Most will not only highlight why consumers should book directly with them versus an OTA, but offer creative localized content and special offers.  Independent properties also market their unique advantages over big box branded properties that provide generic guest experiences.  Vanity websites provide branded properties with the ability to stand out with their marketing messaging and to highlight their unique property attributes, while maintaining the power of the brand.com booking engine which is never bypassed.

Vanity websites offer differentiation against other same brand properties on brand.com.

While the brands continue to improve their brand.com user experience, by their own admission they still have a  long way to go and in fact, in our opinion, may never be able to adequately convey the unique attributes for each of their franchised properties.  Vanity websites provide a unique advantage by being able to differentiate themselves against other brand.com sister properties.  Simply visit any brand.com property and conduct a city search, i.e. “New York City”, and you’ll be presented with a long list of brand member properties, each of which will be presented by the brand in a uniform, bland and unattractive manner.

Google deems vanity websites as authoritative and provides them with “sitelinks”.

In many cases Google has designated vanity websites as “authoritative” websites and issues extended sitelinks as a result.  When Google designates a vanity website as being “authoritative” they’re confirming the value of a vanity website’s content and determines it to be the be the most useful to Google users.  Here is Google’s definition of an authoritative website:

Known sites—A known site is the official website for an entity as shown in Knowledge Graph cards. If you add markup to a known site, that data is treated as authoritative and used for Knowledge Graph cards where it is not already determined by data you put into Google My Business. This includes your official logo and social profile links. However, if you enter contact information through Google My Business, that data source is treated as authoritative.  Source: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-features 

We have observed many occasions where the brands have utilized Google My Business to manually change the Google authoritative website links from pointing to the vanity websites and redirecting them to the brand.com websites.  This premeditated tactic is essentially siphoning away the vanity websites’ established Google organic traffic, in essence “killing” the vanity websites.

Why do the brands care about vanity websites since all the bookings are passed through to the brand.com booking engines?  

This is a valid question, when you consider that the hotel owner and/or management company is paying separately for the expense of maintaining and marketing a vanity website.  Furthermore, the brand.com website ultimately gains all bookings as a result, with no additional expense to the brand.  Why wouldn’t the brands endorse any effort that generates additional direct booking opportunities for a property and the brand, and doing so at no additional expense to the brand?

In our opinion, it’s a matter of the brands wanting to control 100% of a hotel’s direct revenue channels and in doing so ensuring substantial losses to a property should it ever decide to switch to another brand or, heaven forbid, become an independent property.  Many industry experts have written about the diminishing value of a hotel brand in a technologically connected mobile world full of choices.

Our recommendations.

Clearly, brands will continue to “strong-arm” hotel owners and management companies into being compliant and will use various tactics such as negatively influencing a property’s brand quality scores to force adherence.  The brands will continue sharing misinformation with their hotel members by claiming their research shows vanity websites “create confusion and an inconsistent guest experience” and thus “increasing the odds that consumers will book with a competitor”.

It appears to us that the brands are fiercely trying to protect, and rightfully so, against properties that may be weighing the costs associated with their brand versus switching to another brand or converting to an independent property. While we take no issue with this strategy, we do have issues when this done by communicating misinformation at the expense of the owner and/or management company.

Two Simple Recommendations:

  1. Insist on maintaining your hotel’s vanity website, at least for another 12-18 months, as the industry determines how well the brand.com websites can communicate the uniqueness of your property.
  2. Demand that your Google Knowledge Graph link sends users to your Google determined authoritative website.

In conclusion, our data and experiences support vanity websites and their relevancy and ability to drive direct business to the brand.com websites and “retiring” them should be carefully considered by hotel operators.

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Human Powered Conversational Hotel Websites

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of its next generation hotel websites for branded and independent hotels.  The newly developed micro-websites are supported by real-time human sales and customer service agents and have been developed to capture qualified event business leads for hotel sales teams.

Customer Engagement Platform

“Conversational commerce is moving very fast and in 2017 consumers will increasingly expect hotels to provide a real-time customer engagement platform through their websites,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO.  “Our human powered conversational micro-websites combine a highly targeted and sales focused website with our real-time live chat agents. This provides hotels with a compelling, sales driven micro-website that compliments their main website and/or brand.com website and will drive new direct business.”

Lodging Interactive’s human powered conversational micro-websites have been designed for independent and branded/franchised properties. Micro-websites offered include:

  • Weddings
  • Ethnic Weddings
  • Meeting & Corporate Events
  • Spa & Wellness Center
  • Restaurant & Bars
  • Quinceanera (Sweet 15)
  • Sweet 16
  • Golf
  • Tennis

Included with each human powered micro-website is a comprehensive Search Engine Marketing (SEM) service to ensure maximum search engine ranking and visibility.   SEM services include:

  • Keyword research
  • Initial & ongoing consultation with an assigned SEM expert
  • Onsite organic search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search optimization of website content & copywriting
  • Inclusion of H1, H2 and Alt Tags
  • Ongoing addition of new search engine optimized pages
  • Full reporting & transparency of micro-website KPI’s
  • Pay-Per-Click campaign management
  • Retargeting & display paid advertising programs
  • Creative ad copywriting and placement

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has exclusively worked with hotels and resorts to maximize direct online digital revenue opportunities.  Clients include independent properties as well as franchised branded properties representing nearly every brand.  Additionally, Lodging Interactive is a trusted partner of many of the largest hotel management companies in North America.

Learn more about our revolutionary human powered micro-websites today or call 877-291-4411 ext. 701.

 

About Lodging Interactive:

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

Lodging Interactive Offers Search Engine Marketing To BookingSuite Hotels

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced it is offering special Search Engine Marketing (SEM) programs to all BookingSuite hotel customers. It was announced last week, via an email to all hotel members, that BookingSuite would no longer provide SEM services to its member hotels effective January 1, 2017.

“It is an unfortunate position BookingSuite hotel customers find themselves in and confirms that ‘you get what you pay for’ and that there is no cutting corners when it comes to hotel search engine marketing,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and CEO.  “SEM is core to every hotel’s digital marketing plan and our team of SEM experts stand ready to help BookingSuite hotels make a smooth transition.”

Lodging Interactive has established affordable SEM package plans exclusively for BookingSuite hotel customers.  The package plans include:

  • Keyword research
  • Onsite organic search optimization
  • Search optimization of existing website content copywriting
  • Inclusion of H1, H2 and Alt Tags
  • Ongoing addition of new search engine optimized pages
  • Initial & ongoing consultation with an assigned SEM expert
  • Full reporting & transparency of KPI’s
  • Pay-Per-Click campaign management
  • Retargeting & display paid advertising programs
  • Creative ad copywriting

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has exclusively worked with hotels and resorts to maximize online digital revenues opportunities.  Clients include small to mid-sized independent properties as well as franchised branded properties representing nearly every brand.

For more information on the special BookingSuite SEM packages please visit: www.hotelSEM.com or call 877-291-4411 ext. 701.

Lodging Interactive Provides Hotels Online Real Time Sales Support Via Live Chat

Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its expanded CoMMingle Live ChatSM service to now include real-time sharing of hotel promotional materials during online chats with potential guests.

Live Chat for Hotels

Live Chat for Hotels Agent

“When a visitor navigates through a hotel’s website and engages via live chat, CoMMingle chat agents have an opportunity to share hotel specific promotional materials in real time,” stated Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & President.  “CoMMingle Live Chat now serves as a real-time sales agent, 7 days a week, where there currently is none on the hotel’s website.”

Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Live Chat service is a fully managed, real-time service for hotels and resorts.  It helps to elevate your online customer service, customer engagement and sales to an entirely new level and has shown to increase corporate group and social event RFP submissions.

“In a time when properties are looking to minimize their OTA contributions and for ways to drive direct website business, our fully managed live chat for hotels service provides you with a competitive service and selling advantage,” added Mr. Vallauri.

CoMMingle Live Chat service benefits for hotels:

  • Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking process
  • Real-time online sharing of promotional documents with potential guests
  • Provides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking process
  • Increases direct booking opportunities and event RFP submissions
  • Reduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sites
  • Crisis alert escalation to property as needed
  • Offers true market differentiation within competitive set
  • Unlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee
  • 100% mobile responsive enabled
  • 100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging Interactive

Getting started is easy and implementation only requires a small snippet of code be added to the hotel website.  For more information, please visit: LiveChatForHotels.com.

Lodging Interactive Expands Its Fully Managed Hotel Live Chat Service to 7 Days a Week

licechat image for blog

Lodging Interactive, the leading digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its expanded CoMMingle Live ChatSM service for hotels and resorts.  The fully managed live chat for hotels now provides properties with coverage 7 days a week.  CoMMingle Live Chat provides hotels with the ability to enable their websites with live chat capabilities that are fully managed by Lodging Interactive’s US based lived chat agents, 7 days a week.

“Our goal has always been to enable hotels and resorts to provide website sales support to their customers and to so, 7 days a week,” said Mr. DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and CEO. “Our expanded 7 day coverage fulfills this vision and maximizes the online conversion opportunities for our hotel and resort clients.”

Live Chat for Hotels

The CoMMingle Live Chat for Hotels service is a fully managed, turn-key service.  It combines best-of-breed SAAS (Software as a Service) cloud based technologies and Lodging Interactive’s internal network of highly trained live chat agents.  The result is a highly effective customer engagement and sales support service hotels can utilize to maximize their direct to website booking channels.

“The way consumers expect to communicate with hotels has changed, and consumers are increasingly turning to live chat as their preferred and fastest route of communication for hotel customer support while in the booking process,” added Mr. Vallauri. “A recent Gartner report suggests that live chat as a customer engagement channel will increase from 2% to 10% by 2018, with over 80% of companies making live chat available for their customers by 2020.

 

Benefits of using CoMMingle Live Chat for Hotels

  • Real-time customer engagement throughout the booking process
  • Provides conversational commerce while assisting in the booking process
  • Increase in direct bookings and event RFP submissions
  • Reduces negative reviews/comments posted to TripAdvisor & OTA sites
  • Crisis alert escalation to property as needed
  • Offers true market differentiation within competitive set
  • Unlimited live agent fully managed chats for low monthly fee
  • 100% mobile responsive enabled
  • 100% US based live chat agents, employed by Lodging Interactive

Getting started with CoMMingle Live Chat is easy and implementation only requires a small snippet of code be added to the hotel website.  Start engaging your hotel guests, get CoMMingle Live Chat today!

 

 

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner, and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Contact: DJ Vallauri, Founder & CEO

dj@lodginginteractive.com / 877-291-4411 ext 704