As 2016 marketing strategies are finalized, it’s important to reflect on emerging trends. Instead of allocating the budget strictly to tried-and-true methodologies, consider these six trends for your strategy.
Connectivity Is King
Millennials are driven not by brand loyalty but by novelty. They seek connectivity and innovation. By embracing the Internet of Things (IoT), you can appeal to their drive for new experiences and novelty, as well as their need for constant contact.
The popularity of live video services like Periscope and Meerkat is another symptom of the connectivity craze. Millions of active users are consuming 65+ minutes of live video daily, because streaming offers an opportunity for interaction. These services require the best WiFi available, which must be seamless from lobby to pool, outlet restaurant to hallway. Jennifer Rooney wrote, “Connectivity will become the new currency for competitiveness,” because the brand engagement battlefield is taking place on the connectivity front, today.
The growing popularity of VR (virtual reality), which is being tested by Google already, is a way to innovate with connectivity. You could integrate a VR strategy into your guest experience ahead of the curve to highlight your connectivity or to mitigate unsavory aspects of the customer experience, such as check-in lines. While this seems a little futuristic, we must recall that the room service delivery robot that was featured at FastForward 2020 seemed unrealistic just a few years ago, too.
Convergence of Online & Offline Marketing
According to Gartner’s 2015-2016 CMO Survey, 98% of marketers agree that online and offline marketing efforts have merged, defining digital as a mainstream priority for hotel brands. It’s no surprise then that digital budgets increased by 10% in 2015, and will continue to increase in 2016.
Increasing Digital Dexterity & Social Savvy
Social networks are tuning-out brand pages in response to the inundation of uncustomized marketing content. Guests not being able to see filtered updates will result in lower CTRs, less driven traffic, and fewer conversions. The best way to react is to engage fans with highly customized content so that likes, shares, and comments signal to social networks that guests do want your content. For teams overwhelmed with excessive guest data, external companies like Clairvoyix can filter-out the noise and create reliable guest profiles that will prevent your content from being part of the clutter that gets caught in the filter.
Organic search referrals to a hotel site are attributed with 30-35% of a hotel’s total website revenue on average, so SEO is paramount in ranking on SERPs to reach potential guests. A lot of brands make the mistake of presuming their social teams have optimization cornered, but it takes an SME to keep up with Google’s 500+ annual algorithm changes (and that’s to say nothing of Bing and other search engines’ algorithm updates). A sagacious hotelier might bow-out of the SEO game and enlist an external expert whose soul vocation is to maintain a working knowledge of search engine algorithms.
Internal Social Marketing Is Growing
As people seek greater connectivity, many companies are responding with internal social networks like Slack that allow for faster communication. Companies like Zappos have created anonymous, private feeds for employees to vent frustrations to their leaders. As sites like Glassdoor put attention on companies’ internal cultures, these private, internal communication methods can release some of the pressure without the external attention public venting causes. If you haven’t already found a good communication method for internal marketing, then it should be a priority.
Mobile Sites & Apps Matter More
The importance of mobile-friendly sites is still garnering attention due to Google’s April 2015 Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Update and other subtle tweaks. According to BrightEdge, a strategic 21% decrease in non-friendly URLs on the first three SERPs has penalized brands that overlook their mobile users. Hotel brands with unfriendly mobile sites will continue to feel the impact on the 30-35% of website revenue that comes from organic search referrals.
Another concern is that mobile popularity can lead social traffic to an app rather than the traditional access point. Because apps can strip the five UTM parameters, marketers might not realize traffic is referral-based or linked to social channels: this attribution error can quickly lead to mis-distributed budgets and confusion. According to comScore, 60% of guests are visiting via mobile: by paying attention to that large audience, you can avoid penalties and react appropriately to your social traffic.
Shared-Economy Companies Own the W&O in SWOT
If you have service gaps or lack a great customer experience, a clever shared-economy tool will eventually fill the gap for you. From Postmates to Uber, innovators are clamoring to offer solutions to hotel guests.
Luxury hoteliers should be cognizant of AirBNB, and for the affluent segment, Inspirato with American Express. A greater threat than AirBNB alone is the organization of small, professional management companies that oversee groups of AirBNB properties, offering the sophistication and consistency of hotel chains. This disruption in 2016 could push AirBNB from leisure travelers into the luxury segment as luxury travelers’ needs are finally met in the shared-economy space.
As your guests look outside of hotel properties for solutions, you should reflect on which internal options are being overlooked or abandoned. Whether you consider partnering with an outside shared-economy tool or improving your own services, you shouldn’t ignore the service gaps guests are highlighting by seeking outside options.
Innovators Reach New Segments
Whether it’s to shelf your old friend Newslauncher to try Google’s native-advertising platform when it premieres in 2016, or to experiment with a partnership (think IHG & Uber), 2016 is the time to innovate. Differentiating your brand is vital in an industry with an increasing number of boutique and sub-brands.
As you initiate a 2016 strategy, watch emerging trends and innovations that could set your brand apart as a novelty that will attract new segments and enliven brand advocates. While some trends turn into yesterday’s fads, others like IoT are sure to stay and gain momentum.