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. The trick is catering to the new generation of curious travelers that seek novelty in a hotel experience. We believe that the opportunity for independent hotels to remain competitive relies on a more direct marketing strategy, one that utilizes personalization and promotes authenticity.
Boutique hotels have the opportunity to understand and target their guests more closely than a big brand. The benefit of having a smaller clientele base is having the ability to foster stronger guest relationships from the first site visit to the first stay on the property. This begins by taking control of your hotel website data and learning important information about your customers. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to do this. Geolocation is a great tool for targeting customers based on region, allowing you to pinpoint exactly where your site visitors are coming from. Aside from location, you can become more familiar with your customers based on their online activity. Custom segments can be created for site visitors based on X amount of site visits, repeat visitors who have yet to purchase, or even visitors from a specific referring source. Knowing this information about your customers gives you the ability to create personalized, targeted messages that are most relevant to your clientele.
With the increasing number of millennial travelers, the cookie cutter approach to loyalty programs is becoming a thing of the past. In fact, 66% of high-frequency millennial travelers mentioned “unique rewards” as an important factor when choosing a loyalty program and “easy-to-earn rewards” as the second-most popular answer, with 41% of mentioning it as a key factor (skift.com). The reality for boutique hotels is that guests are less likely to return to an individual property multiple times, therefore, loyalty rewards must begin at their first stay and be easy to earn. Rather than x number of stays, loyalty points could be maintained and earned through social media engagement and email submissions or recommending the hotel to friends. A new approach where hotels find ways to engage guests beyond a hotel visit and are able to give millennials creative ways to earn points and rewards is the next big thing for loyalty programs.
These types of programs can be maximized by personalizing which loyalty programs features appear to which guest. Each site visitor can be targeted with personalized campaigns based on their location, their referring source, or even the keyword they searched. For example, engaging a visitor who is interested in local fine dining with a complimentary dinner will be more meaningful and effective than a general offer. Email capture is another easy way to reach out to guests and build brand awareness. In 2014, email marketing was mentioned as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States (hubspot.com). The Lodging, Travel, and Services industry was also the strongest performer in email open rates (silverpop.com). Creating an engaging and provoking email newsletter that your guests will look forward to will build a lot of rapport for your hotel brand.
Nonetheless,“Boutique hotels speak to how people travel now,” says Rob Blood, the founder and CEO of Lark Hotels; more millennials find unique experiences more enticing than an average stay (fortune.com). With more focus on personalization and engaging content, independent hotels will have no problem finding guests to fill their rooms.
Our final message to you: Identify what makes your hotel special and highlight those unique features that you know your guests will love. Don’t be afraid to get creative, the possibilities are endless.