Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Live chat for hotels.

Technology has made us more dependent on its abilities to plan better vacations and business trips. In recent times hotel websites have come a long way from simply being online static e-brochures to becoming more experiential. Online hotel website experiences sell rooms and create loyal guests. Yet, for the majority of hotel websites, the experience remains mediocre and “ok” at best. Think about it, when you visit a hotel website you are basically on your own without any human connections or the ability to engage and ask questions that you are sure to have when you consider booking a hotel online. Why is that? It’s 2018 after all, so it can’t be a technology issue or is it?

 

Personal technologies over the last 10 years have changed our lives and the world we live in. When you consider how far we have come and how comfortable we have become in being interconnected through mobile devices, it’s no wonder that we crave immediate responses to our hotel questions. And mobile technology is the enabler as nearly every human on the planet carries computing power that can fit in one hand what once took large data centers, and millions of dollars, to equal the same power. Do you realize that Apple’s iPad was introduced to the world only 8 years ago? That Uber launched in 2009 and Snapchat was launched in 2011?

 

There is no turning back, we are all online and we are all connected. As a result, we have the ability and, many times, we demand immediate gratification. This is where I believe most hoteliers are missing tremendous opportunities to book more business and build loyalty. By leveraging the power of website live chat and guest messaging, hoteliers can really gain market share. We constantly read about hoteliers wanting to drive more direct business to their websites with the intent of lowering their OTA and third party booking costs.

 

Website live chat has been around for many years and, as consumers, we have become comfortable when a live chat window pops up while we’re shopping for a pair of shoes online. After all we can decide to engage, or not, and we control the conversation. Live chat agents are not applying hard sales tactics, they are supporting us as we navigate through the online purchasing process.

 

Let’s not forget that the hospitality industry is all about being hospitable and providing service to guests when they are in-house but in my experience, hospitality and service needs to start on the hotel’s website before a potential guest books a room. This is where live chat engagement can make a huge difference. Live chat leverages the same technologies we have all become so dependent upon and it provides that immediate guest gratification we want while supporting the online sales process.

 

The smart hoteliers understand that the overall hotel guest experience begins at the website level when the guest first experiences the hotel. This is evidenced by the abundance of personalization technologies promising to deliver a “unique experience” for every website visitor. Yet most hotel websites are cold and impersonal. They provide the potential guest with a self-service browsing environment and the only option is to figure it out for themselves. Why? It doesn’t have to be this way when the technology is here today and with zero learning curve from the consumer’s perspective. Clearly every hotelier I speak to about online customer service agrees that having a live chat channel available on their website makes perfect sense. I have yet to come across any hotelier who disagrees.

 

The clear recurring comment I receive from hoteliers is that budgets and appropriate staffing is the issue preventing their website from becoming more useful to visitors and more effective at driving direct business: Two things they most desperately want by the way. While I agree that on-property staffing specifically for website live chat doesn’t make sense for the majority of properties, all properties can benefit from partnering with a company that provides fully managed live chat services for hotels. Our agency provides USA based fully managed live chat services to hotels, 7 days a week year-round. And while other agencies provide similar services, hoteliers should keep in mind that quality really matters with live chat. The worst possible situation that can happen is for a hotel to partner with a live chat service overseas who has live chat agents that don’t have a good understanding of “American” English and its nuances.

 

I’m a firm believer that just as hotels post telephone numbers on their websites, so too will live chat widgets become as ubiquitous as booking engines have become. Staffing issues aside, there is no downside when you’re trying to help your potential customers do business with you.

 

Messaging services are also becoming increasingly widespread within the hospitality industry. Much of this has to do with the amount of venture capital chasing new technology platforms in an attempt to disrupt the hospitality market. Live chat has not experienced the same level of fervor due to live chat technologies not being the shiny new technology du jour. After all live chat has been in existence for over a decade in other industries.

 

I believe messaging platforms work well at the property. It makes perfect sense to provide streamlined communications for in-house guests. While it is easy for a guest to pick up the phone in their room to request more towels be sent up to their room, it is not always the case where the hotel answers the phone fast enough. We’ve all be there I’m sure, calling the front desk or operator during check in and check out time only to have the phone ring 15 to 20 times before we hang up in frustration. On site guest messaging certainly helps with this, but only if the hotel staff…yes a human is on the other end ready, willing and able to respond in a timely manner. Perhaps when it all plays out with on-property messaging, the same “staffing” issue will become evident. Only time will tell on this one.

 

While I’m on the topic of having “humans” on the other end of live chat and messaging technology platforms, lets discuss the chatbot and its relevance for the hospitality industry. Going back to the beginning of this article, we’re in the hospitality business and in a business where customer service always wins. All the technology in the world won’t help your hotel if you are not able to meet or exceed customer service expectations.

 

Having engaged with (uhm, tested) many chatbots I can say that I’m not very impressed with the level of understanding they have or the engagement opportunities they offer. Going beyond asking a chatbot “what time is check in” or “does your hotel have onsite parking”, chatbots are useless other than to aggravate customers and potentially hurt business opportunities for a property. I believe chatbots for the hospitality industry is simply not ready for prime time. Why would any hotelier risk his property’s reputation and customer service to a chatbot who can’t complete the conversation with a human? Smart hoteliers will want to wait until the artificial intelligence technology improves, which experts say is 10 years away. Customer service and building guest loyalty is so important and still requires humans after all.

 

Oh, one more thing. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back for hotels when it comes to providing website visitors with live chat engagement services. Research confirms this.

 

Live chat is the natural way we, as consumers, have been conditioned to interact online. The successful hotelier is the one who understands this and uses live chat as a true differentiator for his or her property. Our own research indicates that less than 5% of hotel websites in North America offer live chat and real time human engagement services. This presents a huge business opportunity for the smart hotelier.

 

Hospitality Social Media News Issue – Facebook Chat Bots

Typically when it comes to social media updates, Facebook is leading the charge with the most significant changes and the largest number of them. When our last newsletter ran, Facebook was busy tackling the privacy debacle they’re now in. At the end of the day, we firmly believe Facebook remains key to any hotel’s social media and engagememnt strategy.

Here are the social media updates that have happened in the last two weeks and how they will affect those in the hospitality industry.

Facebook Pauses Chatbot & App Review

It’s no secret that we’re not a fan of chatbots here at CoMMingle, and this is an enormous development even if it is just for a little while. Facebook has temporarily paused the chatbot and app review system, preventing pending chatbots new apps from getting approved and running. If yours is already up and running, it will continue to function.

What This Means for Hotels

If your chatbot is already functional (as functional as chatbots can be, anyway), you should be in the clear. If you’ve been considering chatbots or rely heavily on them, however, take a look at hiring a live chat service like CoMMingle to handle your private messages for you. You’ll be able to provide better customer service to your guests and you won’t be susceptible to chatbot shutdowns.

Facebook Restricts Questionable Ad Targeting

This likely is a result of the backlash of all the talk and concern about privacy and data breaches on Facebook. They’ve recently announced that they’re cracking down on several things related to ad targeting. The highlights of this are:

  • Enforcing the rules against creating and using custom audiences from emails without users’ consent. According to TechCrunch, this includes the inability to share custom audiences across multiple linked ad accounts.
  • Shutting down partner categories for ad targeting, which enabled third-party data providers to offer ad targeting information to businesses.

What This Means for Hotels

Most hotels and resorts won’t be directly affected by this as long as they’re already following Facebook’s guidelines. The exception is hotel branded properties or resorts with multiple Pages (like a Hilton Orlando and a Hilton Denver), which may have been using the same custom audiences for multiple campaigns. If you’ve been utilizing these strategies, adapt and make sure that you can prove you have customer consent to keep your ad account in good standing.

Facebook Improves Split Testing on Ads

Split testing is an important part of any ad campaign. It allows you to see what’s working and optimize your campaigns for maximized results and profit. Facebook just released a new Quick Creation Flow to improve split testing and make it easier and faster. It will allow you to create multiple creative variables for each main campaign, speeding up the process significantly.

What This Means for Hotels

Split testing will help you better evaluate what creatives are working best for your hotel. You can test different offers for different audiences, like featuring different services in your wedding package when targeting brides or different excursions your resort offers. This will speed up ad creation on a massive scale, too, making it much more simple to run and test larger number of ads for your resort.

 Snapchat

Tagging in Snapchat Stories Now Available

According to engadget, you can now tag other users in Snapchat Stories in their new Mentions feature. This is groundbreaking as far as Stories across all platforms go, with neither Facebook or Instagram offering this feature yet. To tag users, just type in the @ while creating your story, followed by their username. Viewers watching your Story can swipe up to see the tagged account’s public Stories or see their profile. This should be coming in the next few weeks.

What This Means for Hotels

This feature is a big one for hotels and resorts. By asking users to tag you in their Stories, you’ll be able to find more user-generated content and guest reviews that you can ask to feature on your profile. If users swipe on one of these Stories, they can also see all the public Stories from your hotel and resort, too. This is a great way to get more visibility and increase word-of-mouth marketing for hotels in a way that users will find appealing.

Facbook Messenger

Facebook Opens Up 360 Video in Messenger  

Facebook’s incredible 360 degree photos and HD quality videos can now be sent through the Messenger platform. This can be used to share specific high-performing content with individual users as appropriate, making Messenger a more visual platform.

What This Means for Hotels

There’s a lot of incredible use cases of 360 photos and high quality videos, but hotels and resorts can best take advantage of them by showcasing full, dynamic views of their properties, activities, and individual rooms. Imagine having a guest ask a question about a specific room type and being able to send them a 360 degree photo of the exact room in question. This could help answer guest questions quickly and increase bookings.

Pinterest

Pinterest Adds a New Following Tab  

Followers now mean more than ever before on Pinterest thanks to their new Following Tab. Users can click on this tab to see all of the latest pins (in chronological order) from the people they follow. This will help people see more content from those they want to see it from, and it makes followers more valuable because they’re more likely to see more of your content.

What This Means for Hotels

It has previously been difficult to get your pins noticed, even with a large follower count. This new feature allows you to turn pins into something resembling more of an Instagram feed for your followers. Hotels and resorts should find the best times to post online to appear at the top of the feeds. This will likely vary for each individual business, but take time zone of your guest’s home locations into consideration in addition to the time zone where you reside.

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Hospitality Social Media News is brought to you by Lodging Interactive, 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. For more information: Telephone: 877-291-4411, Email: info@lodginginteractive.com

Hospitality Social Media Marketing News – April 4, 2018 Issue

It’s just been two weeks since we sent our last social media update newsletter, and so much has already changed. Keep reading to see what these changes mean for hotels and resorts in the hospitality industry, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for biweekly updates moving forward! We don’t want you to miss a single thing that could improve your hotel’s social performance, so we’ll be compiling bi-weekly lists of the most important changes happening on social media and how it will affect the hospitality industry.

InstagramNew Working Hashtags & Account Links in Bios

Instagram just released a new feature that allows users to attach links and actual, working hashtags to your profile. Many hotels will feature their branded hashtag in their profile, and now this will allow you to make that hashtag clickable.When it comes to the account links, you’ll be able to put links to other Instagram accounts in your resort’s bio. This includes linking to your hotel or resort’s other Instagram accounts.

How Hotels Should Use This Feature

There’s two parts to this new update, and we’re going to break down what both mean for hotels and resorts.

Being able to add an actual, clickable hashtag to your profile is a big deal, especially if your resort gets a lot of user-generated content. Imagine having a potential guest click on that hashtag and see not only posts that you’ve shared, but pictures of and videos of smiling guests enjoying splashing around in your oversized pool or raving about their spa weekend. This is immensely more persuasive what even the most talented strategists could create on their own.

The account links also give hotels and resorts a distinct edge. Now, you can send users to other sister resorts and hotels if applicable. If your resort has separate accounts for your restaurant, spa, and/or wedding venue, this feature also gives you an excellent opportunity to promote those from your main profile, too. This will boost followers across the board on all accounts, and make your marketing seem a little more seamless.

Instagram screenshot

Instagram’s Updated Algorithm

A good while back, Instagram caused a Facebook-eque when they announced that they would be rearranging the newsfeed. Since then, users are shown content that’s deemed to be most relevant to them, and it’s no longer in chronological order. Instagram will be changing this back to the way it was, focusing on newer posts.

What This Means for Hotels

This is good news for hotels and resorts building up their following and engagement, as you’ll no longer get dinged by the algorithms. Make sure to find your peak posting times when your users are most likely to be online so you can post accordingly and get better results. In the meantime, post plenty of Stories, which last 24 hours.

SnapchatSnapchat’s Map Explore

In our last newsletter, we talked about how Snap Map was expanding. Now, the Snap Map Explore feature lets users better see what’s going on around them by seeing where their friends are on the map. According to engadget, users will be able to see updates from their friends who have chosen to share their locations.

What This Means for Hotels

If your target audience is active on Snapchat, this could be a big advantage for you. Imagine having users sharing stories and locations while they’re relaxing in the cabana or enjoying dinner in the resort. People at large conferences could be inspired to meet up with other attendees, for example, giving you a few extra heads during the dinner rush.

Twitter

Twitter’s Verification Will Soon Be More Widespread

Twitter is currently working on finding a way to scale that much-coveted blue checkmark, making verification more available to more users. Their verification system was originally created to help celebrities and influencers verify their identity and protect them from potential imposters or spammers. According to Business Insider, plan is to allow all users to access this feature to prove they are, indeed, who they say they are.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts who are not yet verified will be able to accomplish this much easier, getting a nice boost of credibility along the way. This will help customers feel more confident in who they’re engaging with, increasing the likelihood that they’ll reach out for help if they need it through Twitter’s messaging feature.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s Location Data

Snapchat historically hasn’t done so well with providing businesses data about how users are interacting with their content, especially when compared to Facebook. They’re trying to compensate for that with their new location data, where they’ll offer brands free statistics about how many users are visiting their locations.

According to AdWeek, the platform will soon be telling brands how many visitors came to their store, and how many came back at a later date. The data may even include information about demographics or users’ interests.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts are inherently location-based, and this update shows that Snapchat may be trying to take center stage as a location-based platform. This information, combined with a unique and highly engaged demographic that uses on Snapchat, could be an enormous advantage for those in the hospitality industry, especially if you want to learn more about your audience for future marketing campaigns.

Snapchat screenshot

Hospitality Social Media News is brought to you by Lodging Interactive, 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. For more information:Telephone: 877-291-4411Email: info@lodginginteractive.com

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Hotel Website ADA Compliance

Hotel ADA Website Compliance

 Hotel Website ADA Compliance

Hotel ADA Website Compliance – What You Need to Know

Most people can experience the world through the internet. Travel information and choices to make those travel arrangements are at our fingertips. Now imagine a world where you could not easily access the internet to search for hotels and airlines that provide accommodations and accessibility for your specific needs?  For most of us, this is not something we need to consider but, for the disabled, it’s a daily challenge.

To understand their frustrations in navigating a site is to understand what it means to make your hotel website “ADA compliant”. You need to view it from their perspective. That is, putting yourself in the place of a disabled person will better help you understand what it means in terms of making your website accessible.

There are four major categories of disability types: Visual, Hearing, Motor and Cognitive. For each disability category there are certain types of adaptations in the design of web content. Some of these can be helpful to most everyone, like well-organized content or clear navigation.

With the laws of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, the blind have gone from braille or audio tapes to screen reading software; the deaf have gone from using a stick to type commands to special keyboards or eye-tracking software. In all cases, the changes provided  more freedom and independence to the disabled.

Despite the possibilities offered by these technological advances, there are still sites that have not adapted basic principles that would allow the disabled to access, not only text, but also graphics.

What are the guidelines for an ADA compliant website?

The first thing you should understand is that there is no law regarding ADA compliance and your website, only suggested guidelines from the Worldwide Web Consortium or W3C,  the governing body of the web.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0 are based on four principles spelled out in the acronym, POUR.

  •     Perceivable: As a medium of communication, the internet provides access to knowledge and, as far as web accessibility is concerned, this means the brain needs to process web content through the senses (vision, hearing, touch) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.).
  •     Operable: Some people use adaptive or alternative devices that accommodate their disabilities. In terms of web accessibility, this means users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the keyboard, or an assistive device.
  •     Understandable: Language and function is vital in web accessibility. This means content is clear and limits any confusion or ambiguity.
  •     Robust: For web accessibility, this means a wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the subsequent DOJ publication of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design requires businesses, including hotels, to make accessibility accommodations that enable the disabled public to access the same services as those who are not disabled and this would include hotel websites. However, it does not specifically address websites. These rulings can be confusing in terms of how they apply to website accessibility because they are only suggested guidelines. Regardless, this has not stopped an onslaught of lawsuits for failure to comply with WCAG guidelines as a basis to claims.

Then there is the Section 508 Standards under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that requires government agencies  to make information and communication, including websites, accessible to people with disabilities whether they are government employees or members of the public. Section 508 was most recently updated to incorporate WCAG guidelines and although hotels may have government travelers, they are not government agencies.

How should hoteliers achieve website ADA compliance?

First and foremost, you need to understand and comply with WCAG guidelines and make it part of best practices. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an accessibility checklist that can help you check your website for accessibility.

  • Provide text alternatives or ALT Tags to graphics, animations and videos. Consider that if you disable the presentation, the web content should still effectively communicate the message.
  • Ensure text labels are used for all buttons and calls to action.
  • Provide text descriptions to all internal and external links.
  • Ensure keyboard accessibility.  Website should be enabled for navigation by screen readers or alternative keyboard devices so that users can search, find, navigate through and interact with web content. Consider how you would get to content if you could not use a mouse.
  • Allow for longer time to complete a task on the website. Consider slower muscle movements by a person with a motor disability or slower mental processes by a person with a cognitive disability.
  • Pop-ups and image maps are not used on websites.
  • Website contains easily resizable text.
  • Adhere to ADA compliance at the property itself and create a Website Accessibility Statement page, an Accessible Amenities & Services landing page as well as an Accessible Rooms landing page.

Remember, the above are only guidelines and, as mentioned previously in this article, there are no laws governing ADA compliance and websites. Still, you should keep in mind that 20% of the population has some form of disability and spend $19 billion on travel.  In addition, people with disabilities usually travel with a companion, potentially increasing spending to $40 billion.  Hoteliers would be smart to include this group of website visitors by adhering to the WCAG guidelines.  

Please contact us for a complimentary, no obligation ADA website audit.  At the very least, you will understand what your website exposure is and the corrective action you will need to undertake.  

 

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.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses.  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 and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Lodging Interactive & IBM Watson Launch AI Platform

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the roll-out of its CoMMingle AI social media management platform for the hospitality industry.  A hospitality industry first, CoMMingle AI leverages the power of IBM’s Watson Supercomputer, enabling Lodging Interactive to analyze big data sets across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter through the use of Artificial Intelligence technologies.

“Our CoMMingle AI platform allows our agency to read through and analyze the engagement effectiveness of social media posts and to surface the commonality of the top performing posts,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder and CEO of Lodging Interactive. “While such a task is humanly impossible to do, our CoMMingle AI platform can analyze tens of thousands of social media posts and their corresponding images in mere seconds.”

 

CoMMingle AI Social Media for Hotels

 

 

CoMMingle AI Creates Higher Social Engagement

The CoMMingle AI platform can be used to identify social media trends and consumer engagement rates across a hotel’s own social posts as well as to analyze its competitive set, to determine how well their social media initiatives are performing.

“With our CoMMingle AI platform we can analyze historical engagement data to help us create social media posts that will resonate with consumers and achieve conversion results,” added Mr. Vallauri.  “We can remove any guesswork on how to achieve the highest engagement results.”

IBM Watson Lodging Interactive

The Lodging Interactive development team chose to integrate the CoMMingle AI platform with the IBM Watson Supercomputer because it was determined to have the most advanced language, tone and data analysis capabilities.  In addition, The CoMMingle AI platform can scan images used in social posts to determine the commonality of the top performing posts.

 

CoMMingle AI Semantic Interpretations and Keyword Relevance Cloud and Images Count Cloud –

The Keyword Relevance Cloud emphasizes the most relevant keywords.  The Keyword Count Cloud emphasizes the keywords that appear more frequently. Keywords are extracted and normalized from posts and may not exist verbatim in posts.

Image descriptors are extracted from image posts by analyzing the image. Each descriptor is scored based on a confidence level.  The sum of each descriptors’ score emphasizes the descriptors with the highest level of confidence.  The Image Count Cloud emphasizes the descriptors that appear more frequently.

 

Language, Tone and Image Analysis –

The tone analysis calculates the emotions and communication style of the posts. Understanding the tone of posts with the highest engagement helps write future posts that use similar tones.

CoMMingle Social Media

CoMMingle AI Keyword Cloud

CoMMingle AI Image Cloud

 

Lodging Interactive, through its CoMMingle Social Media Marketing and Engagement division provides full service social media and reputation management services to hundreds of hotels worldwide.  For more information on Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle AI please visit 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.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses.  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 and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

 

How to Make the Most of Competitive Research

competitive research

Whether you run a hotel, marketing company or any business for that matter, knowing your competitors has become an inherent part of marketing strategy. It is crucial to learning how to position your business and allows you to get – and stay – one step ahead. How well do you know your competitors and, more importantly, what can you learn from their ideas and ways of conducting business?

 

Competitive research is not just about analyzing data, but using the knowledge gained to make your business stronger and more prevalent than your competitors. This can be a daunting task if not approached properly and dismissing your competition can cost you drops in rankings and conversions, loss in revenue, a bad reputation, etc.

Benefits of Competitive Research

The potential benefits of your analysis would include:

  • Understanding the market: No matter the business field, understanding the market in which you conduct your business is vital to the survival of your business. You need to know who are your competitors as well as potential competitors so you know where you need to position yourself within the market.
  • Tracking competitor pricing: You know your expenses and the mark-ups needed to make a profit but keeping an eye on your competitor pricing is an important part to factor into establishing your own pricing as well. You always want to remain a viable player within your market.
  • Targeting and reaching customers: Your research could help you find new tools and practices to better serve your existing customers. It can also provide insightful information on potential customers and help you create clear marketing plans to reach out to those new customers.
  • Forecasting potential sales: Through your analysis you can discover new opportunities that could lead to potential future sales.
  • Identifying problems: You can get a clearer understanding of things like why other sites are ranking higher than your own or what content you should be producing or how to better leverage pricing.
  • Reducing business risks: Making sure you keep track of things your competitors have tried and failed at will help you learn what to do – or not to do – for your own business and could potentially spur new ideas and business ventures out of those failures.
  • Building relationships: Through alerts you could set up mentions of your company (as well as your competition) and these mentions can be used as a basis for building relationships.

 

Getting to Know Your Competition

How do you conduct your competitor assessment and how can you use the information to gain a competitive edge in your market? When looking at competitors, there are no undercover spy rings used to sabotage your business rivals. Instead the research is meant to gather data to help your business learn what is the best way to improve your site rankings, gain customers, build relationships, improve customer service, spot new opportunities etc.

 

Now-a-days there is an abundant amount of information we can simply collect through the internet. A good start is to create an outline of general information like name, location, website address, products/services offered including pricing, weaknesses, strengths etc. Such a manual  search would also include running website audits, conducting a competitive keyword search and keeping an open mind to filter in new ideas and strategies.

 

Also, your search should not only include your current competitors but there should also be a consideration for those up-and-coming who might become a future competitor. You need to think that, once you show you can be successful, who will want to come take that piece of the market away from you?

 

When all is said and done, it makes it hard to compete when you have an awesome customer service philosophy and enforce those principals in your customer service staff. Their enthusiasm will become contagious and spread to your customers. Just look at Apple. Not only is the staff knowledgable of Apple products but, you could be in a crowded Apple store and still feel like all the attention is on you – as if you were the only one being serviced in the store.

 

Competitive Research Tools

There are so many competitive research tools available so you will have to carefully weigh your needs to know whether or not they stack up to what you want to achieve, the amount of time you want to spend on the research and at what cost you’re willing to absorb. There are market research groups that can conduct audits that include the likes of audience research, brand analysis etc and run reports for you but this option can become very costly.

 

If you can make the time to do your own research, you can sign up for free services to gather the information you need for your analysis. You can set Google Alerts, monitor RSS feeds, monitor Twitter by subscribing to competitor feeds for any mentions of your competitor names including their executives. You can audit competitor websites by browsing through it as if you were a customer paying attention to graphics, ease of use, load time and special pricing for example. You can even access public records for real estate, legal files or even financial records through the SEC database for public companies and state filings for privately held companies.

 

Regular Competitor Assessment

You not only need to know all your competitors, you also need to regularly assess your performance and compare it with your competition. In the vast ocean of online marketing, this will help you remain aware of things like new product/service offerings, new team members, sales wins and losses, promotions as well as keep track of sudden drops or improvements in rankings, get new product ideas, learn from competitor mistakes and see how you stack up against them as well as what you need to do to react to any changes found.

 

Nothing in business remains stationary for too long as economic and/or social issues will always manifest themselves. Such broader changes inevitably cause changes in the market and you need to adapt your business model to these changes to help your business grow and evolve. This is when you can reap the benefits of competitive research and ensure the survival of your business.

3 Ways to Market Your Hotel Wedding Space on Pinterest

Are you looking for ways to increase RFP’s for your Hotel Wedding Space? Read on and learn how Pinterest can help your hotel.

Did you know that 81 percent of brides-to-be admit that they begin planning their wedding on Pinterest before the big question is even popped?  For brides and grooms-to-be, Pinterest is the number one source when looking for wedding inspiration.

The image-based platform is the perfect way to engage with brides, where you can position yourself not only as a prospective venue option but also as a resource for potential customers. Since brides-to-be and grooms-to-be begin pinning and creating wedding boards much earlier than you might expect, it is crucial that you are properly marketing yourself on Pinterest, so you can serve as wedding inspiration for brides and grooms to be from the very beginning.

3 Hotel Marketing Ideas for Wedding Space on Pinterest:

Pin inspiring images that link back to your site: There is no shortage of high quality images and creative content on Pinterest, especially when it comes to weddings. Find out what it is about your specific location that sets you apart and dedicate a board to it.

However, pinning high-quality photos and inspiring descriptions is just one piece of the pie, or in this case, only one piece of the wedding cake. Every image that you share on Pinterest should link back to your home page or wedding venue page. This simple step is sometimes overlooked. Just as it is easy to get carried away when pinning beautiful content, it is just as easy to forget adding links to each of your images.

Include your location in your pin descriptions: Optimizing your pins by including effective keywords into your description will help to get your images to show up in Pinterest’s search results. Take it one step further by adding your location into your pin descriptions. People may be searching as specific as your town or as broad as a region, so keep this in mind when incorporating your location into both your pin and board descriptions.

Reach out and engage with others: Search for local attractions in your area and begin interacting with them frequently. This will help build trusted relationships while also allowing others to notice you. Re pin, comment and like interesting content that is relevant to you and you will begin to see an increase of traffic to your page.

 

Promote Hotel Content Marketing by Choosing the Best Images

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  In today’s hotel content marketing no truer words have ever been spoken.  Images help to sell your hotel.  People will remember 80% of what they see versus 20% of what they read. The perfect image will resonate with the potential hotel guest who makes purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection to your hotel visuals. So how do you pick the best image to promote your content and relay your message?

choosing images hotel content marketing

When choosing an image, it’s clear that it needs to support your subject but it’s just as important to make sure the image captures the right feeling. For example, in trying to promote a hotel’s beachside activities, we can find a slew of beach photos but choosing the one that evokes the emotion ‘I want to soak in some rays on that beach at that hotel’ is what you want.

 

Creating images with an authentic feel allows the viewer to be there without physically being present. The best image choice comes when you entice the senses and provoke emotions. You want them to imagine experiencing that cozy bed, that pristine beach, that happening locale or that scrumptious looking dish at the hotel’s restaurant.

 

There are many online options for finding images to use in your hotel content marketing, and it’s all contingent on whether you have the budget to pay for it, the amount of time you have to invest in your search, whether or not you need a high resolution image and image sizing considerations.

 

What’s also important to remember is that images use a lot of data which can considerably slow down a page, not to mention wreak havoc on your site ranking. You will want to resize and optimize your images to avoid frustrating your hotel site visitors with a slow loading page.

 

Images are meant to support your hotel content marketing efforts and, if you’re looking to simply augment your hotel website, blog posts, social media content etc. then there might not be a need to look beyond your own hotel staff. With today’s smartphone technology, any one of your hotel staff can become an amateur photographer producing some solid photos of your property, activities or even local events and places.

 

The whole point is to capture the traveler in any stage of their travel journey through authentic, genuine images in your content. The emotional response you will get from your image choice is just as valuable to a hotel as the more traditional sales driven campaigns since it provides a spark that can fuel the discussion about your hotel’s values and culture. What type of images do you choose for your hotel content marketing? Choose wisely.

Snapchat and Instagram Leading in Chat Usage over Facebook Messenger?

Generation Z as the Next Influencers

According to e Marketer, Facebook Messenger currently dominates the U.S chat app market with 125.4 million users. But the research company recently predicted that Snapchat and Instagram will become the preferred messenger service over Messenger among 18 to 24-year-olds. They also said WhatsApp is up 9.5 percent from 2016 and will have 20.5 million U.S. users by the end of this year.

 

In light of this forecast, eMarketer lowered Messenger growth projections by 9.4 million users through 2021. But don’t count out Facebook Messenger from the running. The adoption of Messenger by older internet users has been slowly increasing and, according to eMarketer, U.S. monthly users will grow 2.4% this year to 172.9 million people in the U.S. And then let’s not forget that Facebook owns Instagram as well as WhatsApp.

 

Mobile users on messaging apps.

 

 

There will be 2 billion people globally that are expected to use messaging apps by 2018 and will be growing to nearly 2.5 billion by 2021. The number of mobile internet users who have used news, weather, sports or map apps at least once per month will be steadily increasing through 2021.  An average of 20.7 apps per month will be used by Americans this year but as more users choose to combine services into a single or fewer apps, eMarketer expects this number to decline. For example, as large percentages of U.S. users seek out their news through Facebook, news apps usage would see a decline.

 

Lodging Interactive Smartphone Penetration

 

The new predictions also include a look at ad spend which show in-app mobile ad spending will account for 80.6 percent of U.S. mobile spending by 2018. Mobile web spending  is growing but its total mobile share is decreasing and ads that only run on mobile apps will rise 29 percent this year to $7.57 billion.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as people’s needs change and every generation has different needs and expectations. Baby boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials might currently have the most disposable income but, as Generation Z currently makes up 25% of the U.S. population and accounts for $44 billion of the U.S. economy, they will be the next group of influencers on purchases and – hotel bookings.

 

As Generation Z matures, they will be the ones using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers. So when considering your advertising or marketing spend, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the expectations of this future hotel guest. Then you will know what to consider in your content marketing strategy and what messaging app is best to invest your budgeting dollars.

Hotel & Travel Inspirations via Instagram

Finding the next adventure through visual imagery on social media

 

The best travel stories are relayed through visuals. But where once it was common to look for travel inspirations through magazine photos and enticing advertisements, we now use social media to search out those new experiences and adventures.

 

In today’s social media driven world, interest in a location or hotel is fueled by visual assets shared through social networks. What started out as sharing experiences with peers created communities of people sharing the same interests.  Powerful visuals are incredibly engaging. They can help build an emotional bond between your hotel and your guest that are shared with people within your guest’s networks. And there is great potential for guests to make purchasing decisions based on the emotional connection they make with your hotel.

The Power of Instagram

One of the most powerful tools to tell your hotel story is through Instagram.  With now more than 800 million active users, 8 million Instagram Business profiles and 80% of users following at least one business on this platform, Instagram is satisfying viewer hunger for imagery and, with this, comes the growing influence on travel decisions.

 

Posts with a location get 79% more engagement and User-Generated Content has a 4.5% higher conversion rate. This gives credence as to why Instagram is such an effective marketing tool.

 

Lodging Interactive offers hotel twitter and instagram marketing.

 

 

Everyone is buried in day-to-day activities and look to the magnificent landscapes and far-away places for a release from the mundane. Photographers take extraordinary photos of beautiful places that leave us breathless. Travelers find a special little nook and hotel nearby that offers a unique experience.

 

Lodging Interactive offers resorts exceptional hotel internet marketing.

 

 

All of these images make us want to be there too. We want to experience and see what the photographer or traveler saw. It’s more genuine than just looking at a magazine, ad, brochure or pamphlet. The visual story shared will be authentic and being authentic is what today’s traveller expects. Going from seeing the visual on Instagram to making a hotel booking is a far cry from what it was a decade ago.

Instagram Influencers

But visuals on Instagram are not only a place to inspire travelers to be or do what others have done but also gives people the desire to create and share their own original adventures. This gives rise to influencers who can provide an incredible ROI.

 

Through these Instagram visual assets, hotel digital marketers have a great opportunity to tell a unique – impactful story, build guest loyalty, raise brand awareness and increase engagements. So be different than other hotels on Instagram. Leverage your place in this medium – use Instagram Stories or Live videos and tag places in your posts so that it allows people to easily discover your content when searching those places. Dare to be different!