Marketing Automation Can Help Hotels Win Direct Bookings
In the US, over 95% of customers prefer OTAs over other options for travel and hotel booking. The emergence of OTAs has indeed dented the direct bookings of hotels in a big way.
Most hoteliers use OTAs because they help the hotel reach more people, generate revenue and keep room occupancy levels high. But the high commission structures dent the bottom line. But just how much is too much? Over time, OTAs end up hurting the hotel just as much as it does help them. That’s why this time around, we will take a look at how marketing automation can help hotels drive direct bookings, ending their over-dependency on OTAs.
Chains vs Independent Hotels
Years of precise planning, quality service, and an effective marketing strategy have made chains like Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt, the world’s leading hotel chains. However, this rise in popularity means that it is harder than ever before for independent hotels to hold their own. A study revealed that hotel chains were growing three times as fast as independent hotels. Due to independent hotels having fewer resources, less brand recognition and a limited budget to invest, most times, they need to rely on a cost-effective and efficient marketing strategy to survive and thrive. This was one of the most significant reasons for such hotels to welcome OTAs.
How OTAs Hurt Hotels?
A study undertaken in Europe and the US found that direct bookings led to 26% more revenue when compared to online OTA sales. Therefore, having a dedicated website with an efficient online booking tool will help hotels substantially increase revenue.
The growth of online platforms such as Priceline, Oyo, Airbnb and TripAdvisor had initially brought in benefits but now offer several pitfalls. Being able to scale rapidly scale and often with less capital gives them significant market power in short periods. Such a consolidation of market power is seldom advantageous for customers. It often leads to situations wherein the hotelier suffers as it becomes less profitable for them when compared to the business enjoyed by the intermediating OTA.
A few OTAs which possess large market shares impose unreasonably expensive commission rates from hotels, making it difficult for them to profit from their hospitality business. Several of them also introduce one-sided contracts which restrict hotels from charging their usual amount when marketing directly to customers. Hence, guests end up paying more through both the OTA and directly, and the hotel earns less either way as well.
How can Marketing Automation help Hoteliers?
Marketing automation has been successfully used in the tech industry for over a decade. In fact, most major hospitality brands and OTAs use it successfully to drive bookings on their websites and mobile apps. If you’re in awe by the hotel recommendation of OTAs based on a guest’s budget, past reservations and browsing history then please note it’s because of smart marketing automation. You can benefit from marketing automation too and boost direct bookings for your hotel or travel business.
Reviews and Feedback
As per a study by Google, 36 % of travellers booked hotels based on online reviews, proving just how useful online reviews can be in the online world. A marketing automation program lets you read reviews from several third-party OTAs so you can analyze and address them accordingly and emerge as a customer-centric and proactive hospitality brand.
Drip Email Marketing
Use marketing automation to create personalised drip email campaigns. After obtaining guest email ids on check-in or during online booking, you can keep your customers engaged by sending drip emails before, during and post-stay. You can send them emails regarding your hotel location, airport transfer facility, what to expect before they check-in. You can send offers to help keep them engaged during their stay. Post-stay you can request TripAdvisor or Google reviews.
Marketing automation can also help you manage customer queries. Invest in a robust chatbot that allows you to build a stock of response templates for your customers. This way, customers can chat and get their queries answered 24×7.
Marketing Analysis & Reporting
Another essential aspect of marketing that you can automate is your marketing analysis. A thorough analysis of your marketing campaigns will help you decide which ones give maximum returns and which ones you need to be scrapped. The data regarding guests, their demographics, and the time of the year can be periodically analyzed by a marketing automation software, allowing you to focus on building your marketing strategy rather than creating reports.
By focusing on guest profiles, marketing automation platforms help hoteliers create tailor-made emails for their guests based on their preferences and past stay history. Hence creating such personalized marketing strategies will help in customer retention. You can also drive repeat business by inviting them to stay with you at discounted rates on their anniversary or birthday.
Customer Experience Management
Paying attention to feedback is extremely important in the hospitality industry. Understanding the needs of your guests can help you fine-tune your service in time while the guests are in the property and before they leave a negative TripAdvisor review. Greeting negative remarks or experiences with a personalized, timely email regarding the issue, will help turn the guest’s negative emotions into something positive. This, in turn, helps to create a loyal clientele who come directly to you to book again and even recommend your hotel to acquaintances.
Post Stay Emails
Once a guest has checked out, make sure you stay on the top of their minds by sending them follow up emails. The first one could be a mere feedback report, followed by personalized emails telling them you loved hosting them, and then share offers as an incentive for them to come back and book directly with you. Such emails have over 13% click-through rates(CTR( and are opened almost 40 times out of a hundred.
Data Segmentation & Management
Marketing automation assists in consolidating data such as email metrics, purchase history, reasons for stay, social media data, time of booking, occupancy rates, personal preferences and much more. You can then leverage this data to switch from generic campaigns to personalized campaigns to hit the right guests with the right message at the right time. For instance, a generic promotional email might ask you to book a spa without knowing if that’s what you actually like. But by utilizing the right data, you can target specific guests and send to past guests who have used the spa, messages reminding them of their stay and asking them to visit again. According to Marketo, such targeted promotional emails are opened 30% more and get 50% more click-throughs when compared to generic campaigns.
Build a Vibrant Online Presence
Marketing automation tools also help improve the overall customer experience and build a brand’s online presence at the same time. Social media allows you to use your guests as brand advocates for your hotel. Leverage marketing automation techniques to track online trends and relevant hashtags and use them to engage your guests and potential customers. Start interesting conversations, share reviews, and market the hotel via exciting discounts and offers.
Putting all these strategies together allows hoteliers to create a plan to help target and drive more direct bookings effectively. While OTAs have a considerable market share and command an online presence, independent hoteliers have a real chance to increase their direct bookings using marketing automation.
Using the right mix of tools and technology, hoteliers can transform their booking service to provide the best booking experience, helping them drive their direct bookings. If you’re a hotel marketer, interested in implementing marketing automation for your hotel, then give us a shout here.