3 Hotel Digital Marketing Strategies You Need to Know in 2019
Building your hotel digital marketing strategy in 2019 is no easy task.
Today, hotels are faced with an ever-increasing amount of online reviews as well as ongoing changes from OTAs such as Booking.com and constant algorithm updates from platforms like TripAdvisor.
But, if you’re in a competitive industry such as the hospitality sector that is dominated by established sites, all is not lost.
You can still get tons of bookings with a resourceful marketing strategy that revolves around collecting more online reviews and improving your responsiveness to them.
If you want to level up your hotel online marketing game, your best bet is to focus on what your customers are saying about your business online.
We recently published an article on the Bedvine Blog, to discuss what the most successful hotels are doing to improve their online reviews management and how to deal with negative feedback.
In this post, I’ll run through 3 actionable online review optimization tips for a better hotel marketing strategy.
1. Keep track of your online reviews
Have you been put in charge of the digital marketing strategy for a hotel? You should perform an electronic word of mouth (eWOM) audit first.
The reason for this is simple: It helps you forecast and predict how your business will perform.
Back in 2015, Edwin N. Torres, Dipendra Singh and April Robertson-Rin were able to calculate the approximate relationship existing between ratings, the number of reviews received on TripAdvisor and the average size of every online booking transaction.
Their results were staggering:
“Each TripAdvisor star equated to an incremental $280 per booking transaction, and each review represented a total of $0.12 per booking transaction”.
Hopefully, that gives you a good understanding of just how monitoring online reviews is crucial.
Collecting more online reviews and receiving better ratings can significantly improve your ADR, RevPAR, occupancy rates and profitability figures:
When your selling hotel stays online, you need to know about previous customers’ experiences, opinions and satisfaction levels.
Monitoring online feedback will help you take key management actions, such as targeting new investments in services that customers desire or trying to improve areas of dissatisfaction.
In this way, monitoring online feedback could be considered an asset in itself.
Unlike some hotel managers who think reviews are fundamentally biased, we believe they represent a fairly honest representation of customer opinions and deserve better attention.
Most customers complaining online are looking for their problems to be identified and ultimately fixed.
If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and take into account web reviews, you will be able to improve the perceived quality of your hotel and therefore protect your brand.
Want to monitor your hotel eWOM without spending hours on it?
There are a lot of resources you can use out there to monitor your reviews in a quick, efficient and holistic manner.
If you are on a tight budget, Google Alerts is a good place to start.
Google Alerts lets you receive alerts by email every time Google’s crawler finds reviews, blog posts or web articles where your brand is mentioned.
If you want to access more detailed metrics, you can also use a platform like the Bedvine Ranking and Review Feedback Tool.
Using this cloud-based software, you create a bespoke list of hotels you want to track and the ranking and feedback tool will do all the hard work for you.
Here is how it looks:
The platform is easy to use and the information clearly displayed, both with graph and tabular views, that let you analyse your own performance over time on multiple OTAs and compare it with your competitors.
TrustYou is another one of the many online feedback tools around, so take your pick.
Being able to monitor your reviews from a single source is awesome. But it is not a achievement on it’s own.
It’s better to focus your efforts on using this information to come out with a curated digital marketing plan aiming at generating lots of reviews and better handling your responsiveness to them.
How? You can focus on two main actions:
Encourage review postings
Answer every online review
2. Collect lots of online reviews
There’s been considerable research into reviews and hotel performance.
Patrick De Pelsmacker, Sophie van Tilburg and Christian Holthof for instance, highlighted the fact that displaying a high number of reviews actually operates like a green light in the customer mind:
“People book online with hotels they are aware of, they trust and which are popular. It’s just human nature.“
Those that read our article on how to deal with bad hotel reviews learned about the awareness effect of feedback in general.
Why is the number of reviews you receive so important?
The more reviews your hotel receives the better, as potential customers are becoming more aware of your product and will believe your place is popular. This will boost your chances to be booked online.
Also, don’t get too scared if you’re seeing a few bad reviews along your way. Negative comments have proven to hold an almost neutral effect on financial metrics, as they deteriorate customer’s consideration for your hotel, while improving customers awareness about its existence and its chances to be booked.
When examining hotel review metrics, Melian-Gonzalez, Bulchand-Gidumal and Lopez-Valcarcel teach us that collecting as many reviews as possible is also essential to get an accurate and representative sample of people’s opinion.
Here is their explanation of this phenomenon:
“Research paints a picture of an inverted U-shaped relationship between customer satisfaction and quantity of eWOM. The more satisfied and most unsatisfied customers will be the ones who will generate more commentary…“
The first reviews your hotel receives will be inevitably biased, as your hotel is exposed to an over-representation of unsatisfied customers complaining online.
By receiving more reviews over time, you can correct those defects and make the feedback you receive better reflect your customers opinion as a whole. This will help you achieve your long-term average score.
Melian-Gonzaled, Gidumal and Lopez-Valcarcel confirmed those findings by proving that as the number of reviews grows, better feedback and scores are showing up:
Now let’s reiterate the fact that every additional TripAdvisor star your hotel receives brings your business an incremental $280 per booking transaction.
That’s something to keep in mind when looking at ways to improve your hotel digital marketing strategy and your financial metrics.
But how do you encourage customers to leave a review in practice?
How to encourage hotel customers to leave reviews?
This is no small task to deal with!
First things first, get your visitors involved during check-outs by asking them questions about their stay or inviting them to fill in an online or paper form to evaluate their experience on the spot.
It may took you some time, but you will slowly perfect and polish your online review collection process.
Today’s most popular hotel brands have given us a roadmap for how to grow your reviews count: send your clients a link to a popular review website by email or directly with their invoice printouts.
One of the very best ways to grow your numbers is to use a guest survey software you can customise to collect feedback from your customers.
Users of the Bedvine booking engine get a direct access to the guest survey tool which is super easy to use:
Don’t be shy to use these satisfaction surveys to their full advantage.
A study called “Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities“ explains that you can collect more reviews when you make customers feel unique and needed.
That’s where guest satisfaction surveys can help you raise attention and boost response rates.
For example, the Bedvine’s customer survey platform lets you create customizable questions based on guest profiles and trigger or hide questions depending on the answers you receive.
According to this study, you may also want to create some challenges and goals for the clients to reach so as to stimulate review collection on the long run.
That can be achieved for instance by offering small discounts to customers leaving you a review on their next stay at your hotel.
Encouraging clients to post reviews on TripAdvisor is also a simple way to improve the process.
Indeed, the TripAdvisor team engaged into a gamification shift some years ago to solve the problem of under-contribution online communities are generally facing. Users are encouraged to leave reviews at every trip they make by receiving TripCollective badges.
If you just registered an account with TripAdvisor, it’s likely you received an email that looks like the one below:
The TripCollective badges offer a quick way to make customers feel unique and important:
When leaving reviews on TripAdvisor, Internet users are also building their own digital reputation by receiving virtual awards. This helps TripAdvisor maintains its user base engaged with the platform.
Now, with such effort deployed in collecting more reviews, you’re already halfway towards earning additional bookings.
So even if you already have got lots of visible online reviews, it’s still totally worth pursuing an embedding strategy on your website as well.
According to the stats published by Aluri, Slevitch and Larzelere:
“Travelers exposed to a hotel website with embedded social media channels have higher levels of perceived informativeness, enjoyment, social interaction and satisfaction and, indirectly, purchase intention”.
This is definitely an online digital marketing strategy worth pursuing!
TripAdvisor makes it easy to embed reviews and awards you receive across the web. You can grab embed codes from the TripAdivsor Widgets and place it directly into the body of your website’s HTML to help your reviews get a greater visibility. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about HTML, you can just send the widget code to your web designer directly!
Last but not least, another effective way to build your hotel online marketing strategy is to response every single rating your receive.
3. Answer all online reviews you receive
Replying to all online reviews is a great method to establish presence within your audience, redirect negative situations and improve customer satisfaction, all of which are essential elements to boost your hotel profitability.
When you reply to online comments, you’re putting your customer relationship management policy in prime places to reach the right people - namely, those who are interested in your hotel and who will enjoy your customer care enough to book with you.
Remember: you want to reply to online feedback in a timely, personalised, polite and empathic manner.
That’s why preparing an online review response plan is essential to your success. Here are 3 easy steps to go for:
Step 1: Let your functional staff reply to reviews
When writing guests review responses, you should know that it’s better to assign this task to your functional staff rather than to your executives.
This way, you avoid more frustration for your customers, as members of the operational team always have more insights into the business than executives do to address customer remarks.
Step 2: Reply to comments with a personalised message
Whether you’re replying to an angry customer or receiving lots of positive feedback, you need to make your reply as personal as possible. This involves some effort, but this strategy can really pay off when implemented with care.
online customers are incredibly smart; they will smell duplicating generic responses from three blocks away and will forget about you.
Think marathon, not sprint, when you’re trying to reply online comments. Prove that you have something unique to tell them and send a strong signal that you read complaints and care about them.
Step 3: Reply in a polite, honest and empathic manner
Your response approach matters a lot and determines whether you quickly appear as a transparent and honest team.
Post polite, thoughtful, insightful comments, and other readers will trust your brand.
The benefit of this honesty and transparency is that it helps build trust with your customers. The best ways to build credibility for your hotel is to be transparent and not shy away from critics you may receive.
Naturally, there are tons of ways to promote your hotel online marketing strategy besides the tactics listed above. Which strategy ultimately proves the most effective for you depends largely on your unique competitive landscape and the resources at your disposal: time-frame, skill set, team size etc.
We’ll stand by our stance that generating more reviews and better responses to them is the best long‐term method to get more bookings.
What are your thoughts on that topic? Have you found huge success with any of these strategies, or has a method not mentioned here worked wonders for you?
We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.