The Rise of Messaging Apps for Hotels

Messaging apps are changing the way people communicate and, as messaging companies like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat build out their services, there are greater opportunities to reach out to guests by connecting hotels with users.

messaging apps

Gartner recently conducted a mobile apps survey showing that the number of people using messaging apps is steadily growing. Some interesting finds from their survey include:

 

  • People are looking for an app that has many services without the user having to leave the app. The main reason is that people are searching for a more engaging experience.
  • Businesses and app providers need to enhance their services by developing more engaging strategies for messaging and personal assistant apps.
  • For personal assistant apps, marketers should be looking at what’s needed to create a more friendly search strategy.
  • Social media apps are still the most popular but usage fell behind messaging apps. Messaging, personal assistant and shopping app usage was on the rise because of features like user-generated videos, customer service chats and m-commerce capability.

 

Messaging apps, like social media channels, change as features change and these changes happen quickly. Messaging apps are no longer just on a peer-to-peer level. People are now also using messaging apps to connect with hotels, watch content and browse offers so their adoption into businesses is rapidly growing.

 

Facebook Messenger boasts 1.2 billion monthly active users and its integration with Uber and Lyft shows their plans to move toward broader partnerships. Then there’s WhatsApp with plans to introduce a new commercial messaging platform specifically for businesses. Caesars Entertainment Corporation became the first to use messaging apps in the hospitality industry when they recently debuted WeChat Pay at selected locations and plans to have it roll out to all outlets in Caesars Palace and resorts in 2018.

 

Social media and messaging apps have become an ingrained part of daily hotel business. They have features that are valued by guests and potential guests who are on-the-go for both internal or external communications. With increased messenger app usage, hotels need to consider changing their content marketing strategy to reach out and connect with their guests and potential guests.

 

The projected growth of messaging apps is expected to be 2 billion people using messaging apps by 2018.  Hotels are always looking to see how to reach out to guests in all phases of their travel journey, creating memorable guest experiences and turning satisfied guests into loyal customers. As these messaging apps are expanding their functionality to connect brands with users, it is well worth exploring how they could be incorporated into your hotel marketing plans.

Learn more about Lodging Interactive’s live chat service for hotels.

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Stay.Play.Explore Local Content

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of its localized Stay.Play.Explore micro website services for hotels. Stay.Play.Explore provides hotels with fully curated local destination content and lifestyle activity based information for hotel guests.

“Hotel websites rarely provide deep localized content to inform and inspire guests when they’re in the travel planning phase,” said DJ Vallauri, Founder & President of Lodging Interactive. “Our Stay.Play.Explore micro websites provide curated local content tailored around things to do near the hotel and differentiates the property against its competitive set. This kind of localized, human curated content helps to drive direct bookings.”

 

Lodging Interactive Stay Play Explore Live Like a Local Marketing Micro Websites

 

Lodging Interactive marketing landing pages for hotels.

 

 

SIMILAR STORIES

 

Stay.Play.Explore adds value to any property seeking to drive more direct bookings and minimize its dependence on OTA’s. By providing deep, local information that is designed to complement the local destination, hotels are playing a more involved role in the guest’s travel planning process. Lodging Interactive copywriters curate and create unique content to appeal to all travel demographics.

“Stay.Play.Explore for branded properties, is the perfect content addition to brand.com property pages,” added Mr. Vallauri. “Providing potential guests with recommended weekend sightseeing itineraries and helpful local hints communicates to all demographics, business travelers, leisure travelers and family vacationers.”

Facebook integration of the Stay.Play.Explore micro website also extends the value to the hotel’s social media network.

 

Lodging Interactive Facebook marketing for hotels.

“Inspiring travelers throughout the travel journey is critical in closing more direct bookings. Anytime you can enable travelers to ‘Live Like a Local’ in a foreign destination, you win,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on how to add Stay.Play.Explore localized content your hotel’s brand.com website pages, visit Lodging Interactive or call 877-291-4411 ext. 704.

Contact
DJ Vallauri
President & Founder
Phone: 877-291-4411
Fax: 877-833-7375

Lower Hotel Guest Satisfaction Associated with Bookings made through OTAs

The 21st annual J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study was just released. The study measures overall hotel guest satisfaction and this year’s study showed that guests are more likely to be less satisfied with their stay when booking through independent travel websites.

 

Here are some key findings of the JD Power 2017 study:

  • OTA vs. Direct Booking: Guests are more likely to experience issues that decrease their satisfaction with their stay when booking through an independent travel website instead of directly with the hotel.
  • Reward Membership: 75% of hotel reward members are more inclined to book directly with a hotel than the 47% that are not members, and guest satisfaction is higher.
  • Mobile Apps and Reservations: The number of online reservations made on mobile devices has risen to 25%, up from 14% in 2014. Of these users, most are in a younger age group or business travelers. 38% of guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device don’t use it during their stay. Only 4% use the mobile app at check-in and only 1% at checkout but guests that do use the app show they have a greater satisfaction with their stay.
  • Loyalty: Those guests who use a hotel’s mobile app have a greater satisfaction with their stay and greater loyalty to the hotel.
  • Social Media: 86% of people who experience a problem are very likely to post to social media. Despite this, those who share their experiences via social channels appear to be more satisfied overall.
  • Hotel Reviews: 52% of guests have read a hotel review in the past month and 46% of these guests wrote a review in the past six months. Also, people who read and write reviews are more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

An increase in mobile usage has caused a growth in mobile app services in hotels. This presents both opportunities & challenges for hoteliers. Major chains like Marriott and Hilton have launched campaigns promoting direct bookings with promises of discounts and perks.  But Phocuswright estimated that OTA’s will have increased their share of online U.S. hotel bookings to 52% by 2020.  With this growth comes the likelihood that guests will finalize their booking through an OTA rather than book direct with a hotel.

 

Bookings through OTAs are notoriously associated with lower guest satisfaction. Over the last 10 years, the CoMMingle division of Lodging Interactive has seen this come to light through our own analytics in reputation management for hotels.

One way to influence your reputation is by incorporating mobile apps into a hotel stay because it is associated with higher guest satisfaction. It makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

 

The fact of the matter is that mobile apps have become central to the guest experience. The challenge for hotels to have guests book direct are many but hoteliers can help themselves by creating and strengthening guest relationships and providing great customer service. The best way to combat dissatisfied guests who booked via an online travel site is to be armed with a strong mobile and social media strategy that will provide quick action and resolve issues. To do this, hoteliers will need to seek resources to help them know their rankings on various online sites and social media channels. With these tools in hand a hotel can get enough control over distribution to entice those direct bookings and increase revenue.

Takeaways from Google’s Presentation at 2017 SMX Advanced Seattle

The mecca for search marketers are the SMX conferences where they find sessions and training workshops covering all things SEO and SEM related. At the June 2017 SMX Advanced conference held in Seattle, Google’s presentation did not disappoint search marketing gurus.

 

Google’s Mobile-first Indexgoogle's presentation smx advanced

 

The Google presentation included the latest goings-on regarding their Mobile-first Index. Here are a few important summary points:

  • The switch to Mobile-first Index could take as many as four to five years to completion but is expected to start rolling out in 2018.
  • A responsive website is preferred by Google within their Mobile-first Index. If your website content is only for the desktop, you would still get indexed but how well you get ranked after the Mobile-first complete launch is another story.
  • Google is reconfiguring all their page speed metrics to be Mobile-first so we can expect many updates are forthcoming.
  • Google said that anything longer than a 5 second load time for mobile is too long and you will need to improve site speed to have your website rank well within the new Mobile-first Index.
  • A new mobile testing tool is under consideration that would allow site owners to see what would change on their site once the Mobile-first Index is launched.
  • The Link Graph is not working well for mobile so Google said they continue to work on it to see what they can do to make PageRank effectively work on the Mobile Web.

 

Concentration on a Better User Experience

 

There were some other important takeaways but all of them, in the end, were to benefit the end user with a better experience:

  • At Google’s May 2017 keynote, AI-First was the theme but, at SMX Seattle, there were no plans mentioned for machine learning updates coming any time soon but Google Voice Search Analytics is underway.
  • While there is no exact word count qualifier, websites with word counts of 1536 words or more, rank no.1 and 2 on Google.
  • If you’re in Ecommerce, you need to optimize your conversion process to be 3 clicks or less for a better user experience
  • User engagement is still the measuring stick for Google to see how well their algorithms are performing.
  • Google made a whopping 1,623 algorithmic changes to their index in this past year alone.
  • Well known SEO consultant, David Mihm, said that when many people get the online conversation about you going, it is most favorable for establishing a strong Local Ranking Factor within Google’s local search algorithm.
  • Google has no plans to add a new meta tag (allowing publishers to control whether or not their content would be shown) to Featured Snippets and no plans for Featured Snippet Analytics.
  • Removing old, outdated content that has no traffic might give you a ranking boost. Disney gave a convincing case study to prove this.
  • Google still frowns upon buying links and is going after the big sites selling them such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine. They say not to purchase links as it considers the practice of buying links a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Google will not penalize you if you hide content for a better user experience (UX). Examples include the “read more” and “more” links on your site.
  • Google has a clear focus on Progressive Web Apps (PWA) for providing a better user experience.

 

Though Google’s process to Mobile-first Index completion is a complicated one, there is no time like the present to be prepared for the effects it will have on your website rankings.

Is Facebook Still a Relevant Platform for Hotel Social Media Marketing?

Most social marketers still consider Facebook their most valuable hotel social media platform and it shows by the amount of ad revenue poured into the platform. 2017 ad revenue for Facebook is nearly three times as much as Google.

 

According to eMarketer, Facebook grew by 12.8% to 1.34 billion users in 2016 and recently Mark Zukerberg announced that Facebook has hit 2 billion monthly users. But so far this year growth has actually waned to 9.6% and is predicted to slow to 7.9% growth through 2018.

 

As a consequence ad revenue is predicted to slow down.  A contributing factor is that Facebook ads have nearly saturated user news feeds to the point where consumers don’t even look at the ads anymore. For hotel marketers, this means there will be some fierce competition for ad space and the cost to advertise will increase all while consumer engagement declines.

 

 

Despite these issues, hotel social media marketers are not stopping or slowing down any advertising in Facebook. In fact, 62% of marketers consider Facebook their most important marketing platform. The reasons seem to be because of the sheer size of Facebook’s user base and perhaps the hope that Facebook will make some changes to turn this situation around.

 

Facebook is acutely aware of the growing ineffectiveness of their news feed ads and the rapidly declining click-through rates it causes so they presented another option in Messenger ads for both Facebook and Instagram.  Facebook states over 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month and, if stats hold true, this could mean booking possibilities for hotels.

 

According to a recent Social Media Examiner report, marketers need to change it up a bit and use varied ad formats as a work-around to the news feed overload. SME shows 75% of the participants in their report said they would use video content and 61% would use live video. So adding video to your hotel content strategy might be just the thing to catch users’ attention.

 

Like anything new, there are bugs to work out. Facebook has had their share of questionable metrics but corrected the problems and have shown their resilience over the years by turning mistakes into lessons learned. None-the-less, hotel social media marketers should be mindful of metrics for any new Facebook ad initiatives to ensure that they are getting the most out of their advertising spend.

 

 

Lodging Interactive Integrates Live Chat Services Into Facebook

PARSIPPANY, NJ – July 11, 2017  Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the integration of its fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat services into Facebook’s social media platform. As a result hoteliers can now benefit by providing Live Chat services to consumers when they visit their hotel’s Facebook page.

 

“Consumers are increasingly using Live Chat services to engage with hotels in real time and our Facebook integration ensures the hotel always has fully trained Live Chat agents available 7 days a week to respond to potential guests,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “Our fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat service is a game changer for hotels who truly are looking to step up their customer service.”

In today’s fast paced mobile environment, hotels can effectively differentiate themselves against their competitive sets by providing online Live Chat customer service. Engaging with potential guests in real-time while on the hotel website provides opportunities to surprise and delight resulting in more wedding, group and event leads and creates guest loyalty to a hotel.  Research continues to show that 65% of consumers would return to a website that had Live Chat services over one that didn’t.

 

“Customer service is the NEW MARKETING and hoteliers who understand how low current customer expectations bar is,  can deploy our CoMMingle Live Chat service to win new customers,” added DJ Vallauri. “Our fully managed Live Chat service offers US based, fully trained Live Chat agents and provides coverage 7 days a week. And now with our Facebook integration we’re increasing opportunities for hotels to always be available where and when their guests are.”

 

For more information about the fully managed CoMMingle Live Chat services for hotels visit: www.LiveChatForHotel.com or call 877-291-4411 extension 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.

 

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User-Generated Content (UGC) Influence on Hotel Bookings

User-generated content (UGC) means digital content created, uploaded and shared publicly online by consumers or end-users through pictures, videos, blog posts, discussion boards, product or service reviews, comments, tweets etc. UGC can initiate a conversation among unpaid contributors through popular social platforms that include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and so many other social networks. So what does this all mean for your hotel and the possibility of encouraging bookings? Now-a-days just about everything!

User-generated content (UGC)Various studies have shown some compelling statistics:

  • Neilson has shown that consumers look to recommendations from those they know for purchases 92% of the time.
  • McKinsey has shown that word of mouth marketing generates twice as many sales as paid advertising.
  • Tomoson has shown that, on social influencer marketing, ROI is $6.50 for every dollar invested.
  • Reevoo showed that 72% of people searching out hotels would use UGC as a basis for their purchasing decisions.
  • TurnTo Networks just released a consumer study that shows 90% of consumer purchasing decisions are based on UGC

 

Benefits of UGC for Hotels

 

In today’s digital world, no one can deny the impact of social media on companies, products or services provided. People share their activities, opinions and interests through the various social networks.  UGC becomes an invaluable resource for hotels where these exchanges can create booking opportunities. Its benefits can be seen through:

 

  • Authenticity & credibility: We have grown skeptical of traditional marketing content to make purchasing decisions because the source is the brand itself. Instead, more and more, the trend is to search out the opinion and comments from peers to make purchasing decisions. We want to hear from people like ourselves with authentic accounts about experiences.

 

  • Personalization: Hotels get to have exchanges with guests or prospective guests where they interact with each other through the many social networks. UGC is unique in that it taps into consumer trust and relationship building. This is where brands learn what resonates with their target audience. So these exchanges create a meaningful interaction and encourage other guests to submit content.

 

  • Cost benefits: The costs of traditional advertising and marketing campaigns are always a strain on hotel budgets. But the cost of content creation is included in this marketing approach. After all, the source is the user’s exchanges posted publicly through social networks.

 

  • Re-purposing unique content: Users contribute new content all the time so information is always fresh. Hotels can re-purpose influencer content into blogs, web page copy etc. It helps the hotel marketing team keep content interesting and encourages users to stay engaged. It allows the hotel/guest relationship to develop beyond check-out.

 

  • Social traffic increase: A social media influencer in the hotel industry has established credibility and has a large follower base. They don’t have to be celebrities. They can be bloggers or thought leaders. In all cases, their authentic approach can have an impact on consumer behavior. It wouldn’t be far fetched for consumers to be persuaded to listen to their views, appraise the information and check out your hotel site when considering a hotel booking. It would also be important to keep in mind that, in this digital age, millennials are the largest and most influential of all age groups. They are turning off traditional ads and looking to engage in real-time conversations with brand advocates for their purchasing decisions.

 

  • Building SEO value: According to Kissmetrics, 25 percent of search results for the top 20 largest brands are links to UGC. Positive guest reviews can raise your SEO ranking. Also, gaining knowledge of the most frequently used words and phrases used by your audience can help your keyword optimization research.

 

  • Audience insights and sales leads: Through UGC, hotel marketers can analyze exactly what content is being shared and helps understand what your guests or prospective guests find most engaging. This information can provide valuable insights that can help generate leads and increase sales.

 

In the end, it’s all about people – your guests, your followers, your brand champions – and their experiences, thoughts and mentions of your hotel. If your hotel hasn’t considered UGC within your marketing strategy, you will be missing out on the possibility of a great many booking opportunities.

Google’s Focus on AI-First and the Implications for Your Hotel

What seemed like something far into the future is right here, right now.  Alexa, turn off the bedroom lights. Siri, find me a luxury hotel in downtown Chicago. Hey Google, show me photos from my stay at Hotel ABC. Asking assistance or search using your own voice simplifies what you want and the right result should happen, right?  Read on for Google’s Focus on AI-First and the Implications for Your Hotel.

Well behind what seems like simple voice commands are companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and especially Google blazing the way through AI and machine learning. In fact, Google’s May 2017 keynote made clear that they were moving away from their mobile-first approach to an AI-first focus.

 

From Mobile-first to AI-first

Mobile-first meant that, when designing websites, you would first need to design your mobile website and then work your way up to create a responsive desktop design. Since most web searches are now on mobile, Google had their primary search engine index based on mobile version content.

Now Google’s focus is toward applying AI to solve problems and accomplish tasks through relevant searches that rely on the use of conversation – natural language – instead of typed keywords. Essentially they are using natural voice as an input to computers and using training to make it easier for speech recognition.

They have even gone so far as to use enhanced picture attributes for image recognition – not saying a word but simply snapping a photo of a marquis with a band or play’s name and, just from the photo, know to search out dates/times for the event displayed.

AI and the Hotel Industry

Google’s latest focus shows how they expect artificial intelligence to become a very large part of our lives – from products to services – and the hotel industry has and will feel its effects as well.

Google says 20% of mobile queries are voice searches and, with 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide, voice queries with the likes of Cortana, Google Now or Siri will continue to grow. The result will be users moving away from desktop and using only mobile or home-based products like Google Home, Apple’s HomePod or Amazon Echo for their searches.

In the hotel industry, some brands have already begun to incorporate AI into hotels.

Leading Hotels of the World has been using AI to improve the hotel research and booking processes. There’s also AI concierge Connie used by Hilton Worldwide or, more recently, AI Rose at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Then there is AI chat bot Edward at the Radisson Blu. Now the latest to consider guest and employee services through AI is Best Western who is testing Amazon Dot devices in its hotels. In all cases, these AIs are designed to deliver the best guest experiences and at the same time alleviate some staff workload.

For hotel industry websites, you will need a strong mobile-friendly site providing relevant content to create the best possible mobile user experience. From personal mobile devices, to home to hotels, the rocketing presence of AI into the world – and into the hotel industry – is a sure thing and Google is leading the way. So hoteliers need to be ready for the next wave of what it takes to provide great customer service.

Airbnb Web Traffic Highest Among Travel Sites: Hotel Brands in Check

If hotel brands were in a chess game with Airbnb, they would now be in check position. According to Bloomberg, Airbnb Inc. was valued at $31 billion this past March and is looking to raise funds for expansion. With this kind of growth, hotel brands now consider them more like a rival than a business partner and as a hindrance for direct relations between hotels and their guests.

Recently eMarketer reported that Airbnb has the highest traffic of all travel sites – that includes the likes of Booking.com/Priceline Group and Hotels.com/Expedia – and it even eclipses the larger hotel chains.

Airbnb vs. Hotels

At the base of this new standing is Airbnb’s resounding use by millennials. This group looks for more personal experiences in their travels that fit, what they believe, is the uniqueness of their lives. They find this in a home-based stay rather than in a more boxed offering from an average hotel.

But Airbnb is not taking a breather with just this demographic’s allure to their site. They are seriously looking into expanding their services with more personal recommendations, like connections to tour guides and special expeditions. They are even looking to expand beyond the core that gave them its current status by considering to market to business travelers – all through their platform. With the growing number of millennial business travelers who like to mix business with pleasure, Airbnb has already signed up 250,000 companies this year.

Airbnb vs Hotel Brands: The rivalry begins

According to Phocuswright , hotel online bookings through third-party travel sites grew to $31.4 billion in 2016. Hotel brands are now trying to claw their way to winning direct bookings and move away from the expense of commission hungry travel sites.

The response from large hotel brands was to offer lower rates and perks to loyal members that book direct. But these traditional approaches don’t sit well with younger travelers who are less likely to be part of loyalty programs. They prefer travel sites because of their package offerings like combining airfare or car rentals.

The sad part is that hotel brands are doing this by only operating through the old-fashioned wheel-and-deal: Offerings of all kinds from lowered special rates, amenities etc. If the deal is all the ammunition brands have, then they are going to be pushed off the chessboard.

So hotel brands need to get a bit more creative with their marketing. For example, Hilton allows points used toward Amazon.com purchases and Choice Hotels allows customers to redeem points at Starbucks. Or they allow certain services like free Wi-Fi if they book direct.

It’s definitely going to be a challenge and hotel brands need to carefully weigh all the possibilities of their next moves to get out of the check position, reconsider their marketing strategies to lure guests of all ages to book directly to avoid a checkmate – game over!

Social Media Consumption and Your Hotel

At the risk of sounding like my father, there was a time when it would take months for news to reach the other side of the world but the Internet has brought the world closer and made it a smaller place. We literally now have the world at our fingertips.

In more recent years, the explosion of social media through platforms like Periscope, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook as well as instant messaging apps, we can have the latest news within minutes of an event happening anywhere in the world. It’s given a whole new meaning to the Wordsworth sonnet ‘The world is too much with us’.

What is media consumption?

Simply put, media consumption is the total amount of information and entertainment media that an individual or group has listened to or viewed. It traditionally included the likes of print (books, magazines, newspapers), television, film, music and video games.

It not only incorporates content but also the device through which the content is delivered. So media consumption has grown to include modern formats with use of cell phones, tablets, personal computers and social media networks. eMarketer’s latest report shows adults in the US now spend more than 12 hours a day consuming media. What makes usage so high is media multitasking. That is, a person can be on more than one media platform at the same time.

 

 

Social media consumption and your hotel

In recent years, there has been much research that has quantified just how much time we actually spend consuming media. According to a Nielsen study last year, television and radio are still the most popular medium among US adults and, with hand devices like smartphones and tablets, it has made it even easier to live stream our favorite shows, sports events or movies.

Pew Research showed that 65% of adults use at least one social networking site and not surprisingly, when it comes to teens and millennials, social media platforms are the preferred media. This younger crowd spends a lot of time watching television, playing video games, listening to music and checking social media. The average person spends almost 2 hours on social networks each day. 

With so many social media outlets available, the shift from traditional brand advertising to consumer centered marketing has empowered the consumer and influences how your hotel does business. The important things to remember are know your audience and what social media platforms they prefer. Adapting your marketing approach will make sure your hotel stays one step ahead of the competition.