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What if hotels did email marketing like e-retailers?

How often do you visit a clothing or homewares website and immediately receive an email opt-in offer? My answer would be almost always. To the occasional online shopper, an email opt-in campaign is pretty common and many times expected. However, most hotel websites still wait until after the booking to utilize visitor emails.

So what would happen if hotels took the e-commerce approach to email marketing by capturing visitor information and sending relevant and targeted emails to prospective clients? We took a look a some of the main reasons why this should be a priority for many hotels.

1. OTA’s are already hitting inboxes, hard.

For some first-hand research, I signed up with a major OTA’s email marketing list without booking. Over two weeks, I’ve received an email approximately every other day promoting new deals and relevant discounts for my travels. I’ll agree that for a single property, that amount of emails would be a little overwhelming for the consumer, but it is important to acknowledge the impact that amount of branding will have on a future booker.

2. 50% of a hotel’s traffic will leave without booking, and never come back.

Individual properties on average have over half of their total website traffic come and go, never to return. The high bounce rate can be attributed to many factors including heavy competition, the elongated booking process, and the rise in mobile website traffic. Imagine if out of that traffic, a hotel marketer was able to capture emails at even a 5% capture rate- how could that affect bookings? Using the same logic and processes that many online retailers use, hoteliers can provide meaningful and relevant messaging to guest regarding special rates, original accommodations, or destination attractions they may be interested in. Allowing consumers to opt into a list with the promise of more information can not only increase second-time visitors but also brand awareness to lead to more bookings.

3. Mobile users are on the rise, mobile conversions not so much.

The stats are everywhere, mobile visitors in travel are very much on the rise. The increase in mobile responsive websites has increased consumer comfortability using devices for everyday, quick searches. Unfortunately, this increase in traffic has not correlated to increased bookings for properties. To ensure that this traffic is not lost forever, email capture and campaigns can be used to remind visitors of their mobile search findings again and again as they check their desktop or laptop devices. 


SMS and text automation technologies are on the forefront of hotel marketing, but these applications should not replace the relationship that can be built through email. What can change, is the steps of the process in which each is utilized. 

Using email is great not only for reservation confirmation, pre-stay, and post-stay communication, it is also extremely effective in building relationships with new visitors and potential guests.

The How- To:

Integrating pre-booking into a hotel’s marketing strategy is relatively simple. The first is to analyze the website traffic to get a better understanding of which segments of traffic are less likely to book (think: visitors from specific sources, landing on special pages, or even using a mobile device). Then, by creating custom targeted Spring Engage email opt-in forms, visitors can receive a relevant message based on their interests. Once an email is captured the information will be pushed to a custom list within a dedicated email service provider which can offer the ability to send an automated message immediately to the subscriber.

From there, a hotel marketer can track the behavior of a website visitor to learn more about which campaigns they are responding to and what messaging can ultimately entice them to book. Over time, strong and meaningful relationships can be built with guests… before they even enter the property.

3 Reasons We May Start Seeing Better Hotel Offers

When it comes to leisure travelers, booking a hotel is the very first step in their travel experience. It’s such an important and time consuming task for so many travelers as they ensure they make a decision that not only makes sense financially, but also provides the resources and accessibility needed to have a successful trip.

That is why it is so surprising that offers and packages are downplayed by hotels. Providing packages that are truly relevant to guests will not only guarantee an increase in direct bookings, but also ensure that guests are having a memorable experience.

We took a look at a few key stats that may convince some properties to take a second a look at their offers.

1. Offers are important to guests… more important than we think

A recent study compared the importance of special offers to both guests and hotels by region. The results, reported by Statista, showed that special offers held significance across cultures. However, with the exception of Europe, hoteliers did not think that offers were as important in booking decisions as customers did. (Find out more at Statista)


This data sheds light on an opportunity missed by many hoteliers when it comes to offering better and more relevant deals and packages for their potential guests.

It should also be noted the difference in importance across different regions. South American and Asian guests believe offers hold the most value with over 60% of the data set making booking decision based on offer availability.

2. Experience is the number one driver of travel for millennial guests

Travelers are looking for more than just a fun time, they’re looking for a memorable (and shareable) experience. A 2016 study of millennials reported that experiencing a new culture (86%) and eating local cuisine (69%) were the top two reasons people 18-24 years old want to travel. (Forbes)

Offers and packages offered by properties shouldn’t be generic (ie “breakfast package” or “couples retreat”), they should give guest a one of a kind, insider’s experience of the city. Offering accommodations such as tastings/ drinks from local restaurants, providing rentable bikes with area maps and guides, or including tickets to a popular attraction can allow guests to easily experience the way they want to.

3. Ease of Travels means better reviews

Traveler reviews should be incorporated in all aspects of packages and promotions offered by a property. Are there certain features that guests are recommending? Or inconveniences they’re experiencing that could be easily resolved by offering an extra incentive?

By taking reviews into consideration, hotels can combat bad reviews while also creating an easier experience for travelers. A study conducted by Orbitz, revealed that the word “location” was the third (relevant) keyword most used in hotel reviews (Tnooz/ Revinate). While many times, a hotel’s location isn’t thought of as a changeable aspect, hotels can use packages or special offers to still give visitors the experience they want despite location. For example, a property sitting on the outskirts of a city should provide complimentary and easy transportation to their guests.

In addition to the value personalized offers can bring to the guest experience, they have the opportunity to increase direct bookings for a property (taking revenue away from third parties). On average, a property is spending about 20-30% of their total booking value on an OTA listing, so why are the majority of packages and promotions offered to direct bookings so much lower?

By providing personalized and valuable offers and campaigns to guests, hotels give guest a better experience, decrease negative reviews, and keep revenue where it belongs.


What Google's Travel Release Means for Hotels

The travel industry has spent the last few years adjusting to changes in research and booking behavior. Recent Google releases have kept hoteliers on the edge of their seats as they wait to see how new features will affect the online booking climate, in particular direct property bookings. Will they help hotels? Hurt OTAs? How can properties build relationships with guests if they’re not even seeing the information provided on the website?

Yesterday, July 12, Google announced their new release at a NYC event and to the public on their Adwords blog:

Some of the key highlights surrounding travel related updates:


Hotel Smart Filters: We’ll now give people the option to filter Hotel search results based on specific needs. For example, travelers can filter based on rating or price with one tap on their phones. We"ll make it easy to search for exactly what people want, like "Pet-friendly hotels in San Francisco under $200" to find the perfect hotel for them. This feature is available in the US and will roll out globally later this year.

Hotel Deals: Everyone loves a good deal. When searching for a hotel, you may now see a "Deal" label calling out when a hotel’s price is lower than usual compared to historical pricing or when there are discounts to the normal rate for those dates. These deals are automatically identified by our algorithms when we see a significant reduction in price. In our early tests, we've seen that hotels marked as deals receive about twice as many bookings as other hotels.

Hotel Tips: Tips are another way we're using real-time analysis to help users find the best hotels for their needs. Tips provide just the right information at the right moments when users are searching for hotels. We may show Tips to people when they could save money or find better availability by moving their dates slightly. For example, you may see a Tip like, “Save $105 if you stay Wed, Jul 13 - Fri, Jul 15”. We’ll be rolling Hotel Deals and Tips out globally beginning now and over the coming months.



The updates reflect the  changes in booking behavior the industry has been watched evolve. Guests now expect information to be readily available and easy to access across devices and systems.

The good news is that Google's new features are not necessarily a negative for properties. In fact, Google encourages travelers to use more specific keywords in their search which can provide valuable information to hotels. By recognizing which search results a property is winning and losing, hotels can adjust their market positioning to create campaigns that better fit the needs of their target market.

Hotels can ensure that visitors who are looking for specific features or deals have a site experience that reflects their interests. By targeting specific messaging and offers on the property website, customers wants and needs are kept at the forefront of their site experience.

For example, the new feature release will empower researchers to use keywords like never before. Instead of searching for “hotels Jamaica,” travelers can say things like “kid friendly hotels Jamaica under $300.”  Then, when visitors hit the website from that search result, hotels can use targeted messaging to display amenities specific to visitors with children as well as any applied discounts.

Overall, the feature enhancements will allow people to search and book hotels in an easier and more responsive way. As the population discovers the ease of use and better experience, the industry may see a rise in direct website visits and bookings, allowing hotels to keep more revenue per booking.

Meeting Customer’s Expectations in the New Age of Personalization

It is no wonder that personalization has been the hot topic for hotel marketers and technology professionals over the past couple of months. Research has shown that guests searching for travel information are no different than any other online consumer; they are now expecting a significant level of personalization during their travel planning. In order to bring the attention back to your hotel website and increase interaction, hoteliers need to incorporate personalization strategies sufficient to meet the demands in this new online environment.


The use of customization and targeted search are not new concepts for online shoppers. Top retail brands have set the bar high providing online shoppers with item recommendations based on their recent search history and preferences. For example, shoppers at experience personalization in a few different ways when browsing through the site:


  • “Recommendations” tab for those looking to browse popular items

  • “Nordstrom Rewards” for users that sign in and shop

  • “Suggested Items” that are similar to the item you have chosen

  • “People also bought” suggestions that match your taste

  • “Recently Viewed” items to keep track of your shopping history

  • “Frequently bought together” items that complement your item

  • “Reviews” from shoppers that have bought item you’re interested in




Custom features such as these have shown significant consumer engagement across the board and in many cases, an increase in online sales. According to (, 61% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers custom content and are more likely to buy. This feature is especially successful with sites that see a lot of shopper traffic, such as Amazon and Overstock . Amazon specifically reports that its recommendation feature: “People who bought this item also bought these items,” generates 35% of its revenue . The same can be said for Netflix users, as 75% select movies and television shows from their recommendations. (


Why is personalization so important? With 70% of consumers expecting personalization, it is not something to be ignored (Momentology). More and more people want to be recognized as individuals, with 4 out of 10 travelers willing to share their information in the interest of personalization (Skift). As more brands strive to incorporate personalization techniques, it is important to remember that customer data plays a critical role in the success of your marketing strategy. The CMO Council discovered that 44% of marketers admit they do not have good visibility into customer lifetime value and retention rates and this creates a large issue when it comes to connecting with your guests.


Utilizing customer data and knowing your traveler means providing better customer service, creating satisfied customers and more likely to return guests.  This focus on personalization will reflect positively onto the customer, as 78% of consumers believe organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships (Triblio).


The CMO Council recently reported that 36% of marketers feel that the current market environment is cluttered and confused, making it more challenging to engage with customers.  With this information in mind, the main priority for marketers now should be incorporating more personalized services based on specific customer data.


So, what does a personalization strategy look like for Independent Hotels?


At the core of this process is the need for independent hotels to deeply understand their guests wants and needs throughout the booking process. Creatively and innovatively using visitor data can give marketers the advantage to make a connection with guests before they even book. In fact, some of the most valuable visitor data can be tracked from the very first visit to the website. For example, visitor referring source is an important piece of data that can not only tell marketers what brought visitors to the site, but what they’re looking for when they hit the home page. Another valuable piece of data is the visit history. Marketers should evaluate the average number of times guests are visiting the site before booking to learn about their guests and ensure they’re seeing the most effective piece of content on the visit that means the most.


Determining who guests are and how they behave will tell hotel marketers which tools they should implement to develop a strategy focused on their niche and personalizing the experience for guests. Understanding and predicting the guest needs will allow marketers to present each guest with the messaging, campaign, or offer that will be most meaningful to their experience.


Why Independent Hotels Should Take Notice of the Growing Technology Landscape

Fueled by a more tech savvy market with ever-changing demands and competition from bookings giants, the landscape of hotel technology is growing at a more rapid rate each year.  Hotel tech companies are creating applications that bring the focus back to hotels, personalize the guest experience and build closer relationships with travelers. With this growth, independent hotels have the opportunity to take advantage of these new technologies and create a strategy to remain relevant in today’s high tech market.

The Evolution of Booking Technology

Hospitality tech has come a long way since it was first introduced in the 1960’s with the Central Reservation System (CRS) formerly used by airlines. The CRS grew into a sophisticated network where hotel companies could manage booking and room rates over various online channels. In 2000, integrated hotel tech took a new turn with the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s), distributing travel information on an even wider scale and stirring competition for direct bookings with brand hotels (  As a result, OTAs (which include, and experienced the greatest jump in bookings and "hotel direct" reservations — reservations made via direct calls and on property — decreased by 8.4 percent over the past 2 years. (

Online travel agencies have commoditized the travel booking experience. This is creating price comparison platforms for travelers to take the process into their own hands. Most OTA’s have also become compatible with mobile booking, allowing guests to book last-minute and creating more “on the go” opportunities for business travelers. While these innovations seem positive on a large scale, they are taking away from the personal experience travelers are now seeking. Not to mention they are taking toll on brand hotels- especially in terms of direct bookings.

B2B Applications

Over the past few months, there has been a positive buzz around the rise of third party tech available for integration with independent and boutique properties. These applications are being designed with better personalization capabilities and with a better guest experience in mind.

From the very first site visit to applications focused on building loyalty within guests, independent properties now have access to technology that was before only used by large brands. Some of the categories of technology that hoteliers can now consider when creating a direct booking and guest personalization strategy:

  • Real time website personalization built by developing custom content and campaigns for different customer profiles. This is shown to increase direct bookings in an easy and seamless process.
  • Post booking social sharing and customer advocacy to build reach through guests social networks.
  • In-stay personalization through customer text and messaging systems to ensure guests are having the best experience, leading to higher reviews.
  • Review management and guest streamlining to ensure guests needs are addressed, even after they’ve ended their stay.
  • Email marketing platforms to remind guests of their experience and keep them up to date on packages and promotions running.

So what do all of these new technologies have in common? Guest Engagement.

Tech Strategy for Hotels

In order for hotels to take advantage of the growing abundance of technology resources available, a focused strategy must be developed. Properties will need to evaluate both the goals of the hotels and the preferences of their guests to devise the best marketing mix. It can be developed by understanding the booking process and catering to the customers needs from the trip planning phase through and beyond their stay.

By combining tools and resources that target different stages of the guests booking and stay, properties can implement personalization for their customer from the minute they hit the property website through their check out from the hotel. The growth of the technology landscape has, for the first time, given small and independently owned properties the ability to utilize an in- depth relationship management strategy that before was only available to large brands.

Competing with Billion Dollar Marketing Budgets

Marketing teams across the industry are being asked the same question- how do we keep bookings direct? Both independent and branded properties are faced with the challenge of changing the consumer booking behavior while competing with companies who have marketing budgets in the billions (Business Insider).

Large brands have taken notice of their disadvantage and are standing together in an attempt to change consumer behavior during the booking process, with the popular Marriott campaign, “It pays to book direct” and Hilton’s recent, “Stop Clicking Around.” These efforts are moving the industry in the right direction to transform the changes in travel.

Independent properties are hearing the message and many have also joined the fight by creating promotions and campaigns focused on encouraging site visitors to book directly with the hotel. But the challenge for independent hotels is projected to stretch much further than that of chains. Boutique and independent hotels need to convince the consumer to take an extra step by going through their property website to complete the booking following the search process. So how do independent hotels compete with companies who have billion dollar marketing budgets?

Independent properties should be able to sell their ‘experience’ simply through the website. Here’s how:

1. Finding A Niche

What makes an independent hotel stand out? Their independence. The rise of Airbnb has proven the consumer's want for more unique and personalized vacations. Travelers now expect their hotel to have just as much character as their vacation so they can show it off to their friends through pictures and social. Independent hotels have a lot going for them in this arena. By playing off the uniqueness of their rooms and the history of the property, a brand can be built around the one-of-a-kind experience that can be had at the hotel.

Independent hotels who understand what is important to their guests can start to build their ideal experience before they even enter the hotel. Creating an authentic experience is something that many large companies don’t have the ability to do as their audience ranges from hotel to hotel.

2. Using Segmentation

The brands and OTA’s have dedicated teams to evaluate their traffic and segment out their site content, but small brands and independents may actually have the tools to do it better. Many marketers on the independent level have the opportunity to interact with the guests at many points in the guest/ hotel relationship. From the booking process to in-stay and post-stay marketing campaigns, they understand guests needs and wants on a more personal level. Understanding and predicting the guest needs will allow marketers to present each guest with the messaging, campaign, or offer that will be most meaningful to their experience.

When independent brands break down their guest traffic, they can make more intentional decisions about what will drive a booking from each segment because of their personal experience with guests.

3. Implementing the Right Marketing Mix

Over the last three years, the hospitality industry has seen a boom in the amount of technology providers offering tools to address the needs hotels face every day. So, for the first time, the applications and capabilities that were previously only used by large companies, are now available to any size property. The challenge for independent properties is creating a mix of the tools and platforms available to create the best experience for their visitors.

While this process takes time and energy to implement, many solutions keep the hotelier in mind by offering tools that are easy to use and interpret on a tight schedule. Independent properties should consider the entirety of the guest experience when creating their marketing mix, from discovery of the property to the booking process to the in-stay and beyond.

At the core of this process is the need for independent hotels to deeply understand their guests wants and needs throughout the booking process. Determining who guests are and how they behave will tell hotel marketers which tools they should implement to develop a strategy focused on their niche and personalizing the experience for guests.


A Personalization Strategy All Hotels Can Handle

Personalization has hit the hotel industry hard over the last few years. With personalized content now the norm in retail ecommerce, hotel marketers have seen a growing need for customization and personalization on the digital front in order to meet guest expectations.


The problem that many hoteliers are finding is that since there are so many different ways to personalize a guest experience, they give up on the concept altogether knowing their team or budget wouldn’t be able to handle the intense overhaul that an in-depth personalization strategy would require. One study suggests that this is the case across many industries and lists these top issues as reasons why marketers have yet to implement a real time personalization strategy Lack of resources (43%), time to implement (39%), and absence of knowledge or skill set (30%) (DMNews).  This problem originates as many articles and speakers, though they may have great content, propose strategies are many times only applicable for a brand or large chain.

In addition, many of these personalization techniques are really aimed at gaining a brand loyalty that could only be managed by a chain- like custom thermostat or guest room preference information. At the end of the day, independent hotels are trying to focus on one thing- increasing bookings, especially during their low seasons. And while creating a personalization strategy for repeat guests is important, an independent hotel must first personalize the experience for new guests to create loyal customers.

So how do you personalize the experience for a guest you have yet to meet? Data.

Creatively and innovatively using visitor data can give marketers the advantage to make a connection with guests before they even book. In fact, some of the most valuable visitor data can be tracked from the very first visit to the website. For example, visitor referring source is an important piece of data that can not only tell marketers what brought visitors to the site, but what they’re looking for when they hit the home page. An independent property tested this strategy by only focusing campaigns on visitors hitting the site from a review website and saw a 500% increase in direct bookings for that segment of website visitors.

Another valuable piece of data is the visit history. Marketers should evaluate the average number of times guests are visiting the site before booking to learn about their guests and ensure they’re seeing the most effective piece of content on the visit that means the most. One  hotel that used this strategy was able to see a 5x ROI and an increase in customer engagement on the website.

The key to success in both of these strategies is understanding both the target clientele and then evaluating how they’re behaving on the website. Once marketers are able to break traffic into relevant segments, it’s much easier to determine the messaging, campaigns, or content that visitors will be most interested in seeing when they hit the website. These strategies can be seen used across many industries, in fact, 76% of marketers define real-time marketing as personalizing content in response to customer interactions (DMNews).

In an ideal world, every hotel would have a large team and an unlimited marketing budget so that each guest could have a totally personalized and custom experience. But until that happens, using targeted and intentional messaging based on a deep understanding of website traffic can give hotel marketers the personal edge they’re looking for.


Q1 In Review: What We've Learned About the Changes in Hotel Marketing

Over the course of the first few months of 2016, hoteliers around the world have noticed a shift in the industry. Throughout our research, we have highlighted four topics have been at the forefront of many independent and branded hotel’s market discussions- the home sharing and OTA competition, business versus leisure traveler preferences, how to optimize loyalty programs, and the need to increase direct hotel bookings.    

Home Sharing Economy

Two of the biggest factors affecting the hotel industry have been the rise of the sharing economy and the prominence of OTA’s in the online travel market. With 60% of all hotel bookings now done digitally, Expedia and Priceline are leading the pack with revenues reaching $35 billion (failteireland) (

Airbnb has created significant competition for lodging services, bringing in an estimated revenue of $900 million in 2015. It’s growth is projected to continue as more millennial travelers are attracted to the unique housing options. With this new market, independent and boutique hotels must inform guests of the perks and amenities they will receive only from a hotel.

  • Reliability: When guests book with a hotel, they have the luxury of knowing exactly what to expect when they arrive; no fear of cancellation, and more importantly no fear of fraud.

  • Amenities: Many guests love the perks that only hotels can provide: room service, quick and on call maid service as well as the facilities like pools, workout rooms, and coffee shops.

  • Location: Many times hotels hold better location compared to home sharing services as 74% of Airbnb properties are outside the main hotel districts.

  • Rewards: Loyalty programs and stay rewards are one of the best ways to encourage visitors to choose an independent hotel over a home sharing service. Personalizing these programs to guests preferences can lead to an even better guest experience.

Business Travel

Business travel has been on the rise, projected at 480.5 million in 2015 (  Hotels need to take this unique opportunity into account for their marketing strategy. Targeting working travelers may be in the increase in bookings that your hotel is looking for.  The trick is  first knowing the preference differences between business and leisure travelers and then marketing to those guests accordingly by highlighting relevant offers. Here is what we found:

BUSINESS TRAVELERS:               

1. Location

2. Internet Access

3. Loyalty Points

4. On-Site Amenities

5. Mobile Booking



1. Price 

2. Reviews & Recommendations

3. Comfort & Amenities

4. Nearby Attractions & Food

5. Packages & Specials



Loyalty programs are also on the rise, but only 41% of hotel chains reward customers for at least one form of engagement (Cap Gemini). More attention to personalization will be the key to a program’s success, as 82% of consumers said loyalty programs would be better if they allowed them choose the categories of reward they wanted (Collinson Latitude). Forty one percent of millennials say they joined a hotel loyalty program because the rewards were easy to earn, proving simplicity is another important factor for customers. Millennial travelers are a crucial demographic to the hospitality industry with their increased travel spending and attraction to loyalty programs, as 63% of millennials said they had joined a program within the past year, versus 55% of the general population (Colloquy).

3 Ways to Faster Engage your Guests and Help Increase Loyalty Programs for Hotels:

  1. Specific Targeting

  2. Email Capture

  3. Initial Offers

Direct Bookings

When guests choose to come directly to a hotel’s website to search and book, they are looking for a more personal experience. Independent properties should take advantage of the expertise of a hotel representative who can provide more flexibility in terms of a room choice, reservation changes, and price negotiations. The hotel agent knows the facility inside and out to provide the best recommendations for local restaurants and attractions, and accommodations for the guest.  

Successfully deploying a direct booking strategy means increasing website personalization to ensure visitors are gaining access to direct booking rewards when it means the most. With site personalization, when a website visitor comes directly from an OTA or third party, hotels have the opportunity to give them a unique and targeted experience that encourages them to book direct.



A Message to Independent Hoteliers:

The pressure is on. Recent mergers are putting fear into the minds of not only their top competitors, but independent and boutique hotels with less brand awareness. However, the fight for travelers attention may not be as scary as it seems for smaller hotel properties. In fact, MMGY found that 59% of millennials stayed at independent hotels last year, which is 20% more than baby boomers.

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