Hospitality Marketing: How to Identify the Most Important Customer Touchpoints
Before COVID-19, global tourism was at an all-time high.
Until 2020, the travel industry had become a highly lucrative sector in which marketing had played an important role in attracting people to discover new horizons.
Among the most popular techniques that companies use to attract their guests are advertising their business on Facebook and Instagram.
Specialists in hospitality marketing recommend that these campaigns should always be accompanied by other strategies to increase brand awareness and online visibility.
In order to deeply understand the impact that digital marketing strategies have on the consumer, the following paragraphs will dissect a hospitality marketing concept called the “Travel Consumer Journey”.
What is a Travel Consumer Journey?
This travel purchase funnel is a widely used strategy in the hotel marketing industry to define the different stages that people go through when making travel plans.
For each of the 5 phases, marketers plan how to best reach their target audience and they also map out crucial customer touchpoints throughout their travel experience.
1st Phase - Dreaming
Before people start planning the first details of their next trip, they are fantasizing about their dream vacation. In this stage, people are just looking for inspiration about where they would like to travel next and what they would do.
Similarly to brainstorming, there is no planning involved yet. Instead, it is mostly about exploring all the possibilities that travelers come up with at that moment.
Tips to target Dreaming consumers
Promote on social media to gain awareness and online visibility.
Use high-quality images to attract customers.
Inspire curiosity with interesting and relevant SEO copy.
Be listed on websites that rank the best hotels in a certain area or in a specific category (eg. Family-friendly, suitable for people with allergies, etc.).
For luxury travelers, hotels have to implement more sophisticated marketing strategies to attract their attention.
Hospitality marketing experts should be up-to-date with the different needs that people have when looking for a suitable travel location.
One important statistic is that 72% of travelers who conduct mobile research prioritize relevant and valuable information over the reputation of the source that provides said advice.
Therefore, it is especially important to include many high-quality pictures to give people a visual impression of how their travel experience could look like.
2nd Phase - Planning
Once people have decided to make their dreams a reality, they start researching the most suitable travel destinations.
This is when they are actively looking for locations, hotel reviews, prices, more specific pictures, activities at the destination, etc.
Specialists in hospitality marketing know that online interactions have become increasingly important when people are deciding on their travel plans.
Hospitality marketers have to ensure that travelers are connecting with the corresponding travel brands.
With this in mind, brands need to be there when people search for specific information about a specific destination.
For example, this can include searches for hotels in Amsterdam or car rentals and flights in New York.
Tips to target Planning consumers
Let customers dream and plan at the same time by having an engaging website design.
Include the right accommodation type for the target audience.
Create an interactive questionnaire that will give travel suggestions for undecided customers.
Use pay-per-click ads to maximize the website traffic.
Include long-tail keywords in the ad copy and content of the website because many people search for specific travel needs.
The goal is to provide the most convenient option based on the query of the traveler. This should be clear from the copy of the ads to the design of the website.
Providing the best answer with tailored information for the customers’ search queries will make the website stand out from the competition.
3rd Phase - Booking
Once consumers have decided the details of their travel itinerary they are ready to proceed to make the reservations.
Depending on how intuitive or difficult it is to do a booking on the website, brands can lose valuable customers to other more friendly websites.
Therefore, travel marketers should simplify the user’s booking process and make it a priority.
Tips to target consumers in their Booking phase
Use clear call-to-actions to streamline the booking experience.
Add discounts to prices to make the offers more attractive.
Help customers fill in the forms to speed up the booking process.
Send a confirmation email after the reservation is done.
It is important for customers to know that there are no hidden fees when booking over a specific website.
Such fees occur more frequently when booking over an Online Travel Agency (OTA), as compared to booking directly from the service provider.
Therefore, it is more attractive for customers when they see that they can avoid hidden costs by booking directly with the hotel.
Furthermore, regarding last-minute bookings, mobile searches on Google have gone up by 85% of non-branded hotel searches.
Due to the spike in popularity of last-minute bookings in the last years, the following paragraphs are outlining 4 tactics to increase last-minute reservations that are used by hospitality marketing experts.
1 - Incentivise Last-Minute Booking
People are drawn to get the best deals when looking for their travel destination.
This means that hotels can, for example, give their customers the choice to upgrade to a better room for a discounted price in case there are empty rooms left.
Other methods include giving away meal vouchers or tickets to a local event to add value to the offering.
2 - Boost Posts on Social Media
As previously mentioned, social media like Facebook or Instagram are powerful tools when it comes to gaining brand awareness.
When combining this knowledge with the previous point, ads can inform people about special offers like last-minute deals or local events.
Travel companies should avoid spending too much at the beginning.
Specialists in hospitality marketing say that it is better to first pay a low amount in order to test how well the ads are performing before increasing the budget on boosted posts.
3 - Use Google Ads to Target Specific Consumers
Creating ads on Google allows marketers to schedule ads for specific days and times of the day.
Companies could use that to their advantage by planning different ads for people who are in the area of the hotel at the moment.
Having a planned ad schedule in mind allows hotel marketing managers to turn on personalized promotions for special occasions.
Instead of creating individual ads from scratch, they can combine features from different ads together for a dynamic ad rotation.
4 - Use an Email List to Create Custom Messages
The advantage of using emails to promote an offering to different target audiences is that hospitality marketing experts can customize the messages for each segment.
For instance, hotels can advertise family deals to bigger households or they can promote ‘staycations’ to locals who prefer to stay in their own city for the holidays.
Follow-up emails are also a great way to remind customers to take action.
By including good visuals or naming some activities they can make a more clear idea in their heads about the experience at the destination.
4th Phase - Experiencing
This is arguably the most important phase for customers as travel companies can ensure that their guests’ expectations are met.
Expert hospitality marketers think about how they can continue serving the best experience to their consumers even after the booking confirmation.
Providing useful information as well as serving their personal needs during the trip can increase the probability to boost loyalty and drive word-of-mouth.
Tips to create a smooth Travel Experience
Make sure to be present on mobile because more people are searching for nearby activities on their phones. For example, "places to eat near me" has more than doubled from 2015 to 2016 on Google Maps.
Provide useful information (curated maps with tourist/local attractions) for first-time travelers to ensure they have the best experience and tips recommended by locals.
Furthermore, smartphones enable travelers to be more flexible and spontaneous than ever before when venturing on trips.
Therefore, it is crucial to be present on mobile apps like Google Maps, Yelp, etc.
5th Phase - Remembering
Hospitality marketing specialists know those happy customers are the most valuable ones because they can give travel companies a boost in new reservations from word-of-mouth.
Therefore, it is key to promote the best reviews and to maintain a 4-5 star rating that grants travel brands a high level of authority and trustworthiness.
To get even more out of the most satisfied customers, companies should re-engage them and keep them involved with their brand.
That is a good way to build loyal customers who can become brand ambassadors and spread the positive word about the travel company.
Tips to get the most out of Happy Guests
Encourage guests to leave a positive review.
Re-engage customers with emails to stay as their top of mind option for their next vacation (remind them of the experience and activities they had).
Promote discounts for returning guests.
Customer reviews are becoming a powerful tool to attract new customers that trust and can relate to the experiences of previous visitors.
The goal that hospitality marketing experts seek with the Travel Customer Journey is to have gained loyal customers who have now become ambassadors and as such are willing to spread a positive word of mouth to other people.
Their positive experience can greatly help to gain new customers.
Summing up, it is important to distinguish the different phases in which travelers are in.
Based on this, it is key to have the right strategies in place to capture their attention and present your offering in the appropriate way (addressing their needs and questions).
Being present at every touchpoint phase will greatly increase your sales chances.