By Robert King, General Manager, Travel & Hospitality, ClickSquared
More than almost any other industry, travel and hospitality has the ability to create memories and instill joy that can last a lifetime. Emotions are often charged during travel, with anticipation, excitement, and at times, anxiety and frustration. Just one experience can create a lifelong memory, with stories recounted again and again. Of course, the opposite can happen for the traveler who has a trip spoiled due to unforeseen circumstances or ineffectively managed problems.
And unlike most purchases, travel often involves an extended period between “purchase” and “consumption.” For many leisure destinations, a booking window of 60-90 days or more is not unusual. This window is a challenge as the excitement surrounding the purchase comes under attack by daily realities, distractions, and the inevitable hassles of travel preparation. The stakes in this emotional tug-of-war can be quite high — for many hospitality companies, cancellations represent a substantial loss.
The opportunity for Travel and Hospitality marketers is to understand and influence these emotions in a way that help maximize the guest experience – from planning and booking through departure. What kind of experience are they looking for? Why did they book and what are they hoping to get out of their time away? What will keep them excited and motivated? How can you help make their stay as memorable and fulfilling as possible? Tailoring customer communications based on these emotional insights can build stronger engagement, resulting in fewer shopping cart abandonments and cancellations, and greater guest satisfaction, repeat visits, and word-of-mouth advertising.
Marketing the Happy (Marketing luminaries call it “neuromarketing.”)
According to Wikipedia, neuromarketing is:
… A new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.
Simply put, there are numerous factors that determine why someone responds to certain marketing messages, makes a decision, and ultimately takes action. One factor that can’t be overlooked is emotional resonance.
We see frequently that consumer decisions and feedback aren’t always rational — many times they are based on emotions — and often aren’t even fully understood by the customer. Responses to guest satisfaction surveys, for example, tend to skew high or low, with few “in the middle.” Guests are inclined to complete a survey if they had a particularly good or particularly unfavorable experience, and their responses generally reflect their overall emotional bias regardless of the nature of the question.
Of course demonstrated customer behaviour has far more significance to a marketer than customer surveys or expressed interests on a preference center. The simple reason is that people often say one thing and do another. A person may rank price low on the drivers of their travel purchase, but if they always book a ”special deal” promotional package, their demonstrated behavior is much more relevant to future marketing communications.
Business intelligence tools that take potential motivators and consumer behaviour into account are increasingly available — and are a key tool in many marketers’ arsenals. Organizations that know how to use them most effectively can achieve and maintain a competitive advantage by doing so.
Web Analytics and Consumer Emotion
One highly effective way of capturing a consumer’s decision-making process and potential motivators is through advanced web analytics. Many organizations tag each and every page of their website, and extract volumes of data that enable macro statistical analysis and trending.
Too often however, little if any of this data is associated with an individual web site visitor, or used to glean insights about that individual. But innovative organizations are now fully embracing an approach that tracks a consumer’s activity on their site: everything from hotel locations, room or suite types, pricing packages and amenities, and recency and frequency of visits — then consolidates this information to create a behavior profile for the individual guest.
These marketers use this information to create personalized web pages — and where the guest is known, personalized email and direct mail –based on the inferred behavioral or motivational characteristics of that specific guest. It takes personalization – and relevancy– to a whole new level.
Using this type of insight allows you to extend your personalized, relevant, email messaging to a personalized, relevant online web experience. Pre-determined business rules (who’s looking at what, exiting from which page and when, abandoning check-out and at what point, etc.) help to determine what content is most appropriate for each visitor.
This information is also helpful to prevent cancellations. Each time the identified visitor returns to the site, you can personalize a reminder of upcoming events near the hotel based on that visitor’s demonstrated interests. Rather than focus on cross-selling and up-selling (which also have their place), focus on what is likely to keep the customer excited about their upcoming visit. Personalized web content can also be an effective way to re-engage a guest who previously cancelled – display packages that she’s previously shown interest, or additional packages that are complementary with those expressed interests.
On another front, behavioural insights derived from web activity are very useful when creating email campaigns. Knowing which web site visitor clicked on what link, and visited which pages, is extremely valuable to help create an even more personalized, relevant email dialog. Are they clicking on golf packages? Then this guest should be flagged in your database as someone interested in golf, regardless of what they may or may not have told you about their interests. Follow-up communications can then be selected (or even created) as indicated. On the other hand, are your customers searching for a vacation for two adults and two children in Hawaii? A family-focused follow-up email (rather than, say, a romantic getaway) would be a behavioural-based response that is much more likely to tap that consumer’s emotions.
Organizations that are doing this wisely have several different consumer protection processes in place. They make it clear that this is not data which will be shared with third parties without the guest’s permission. Every piece of information a website owner collects about a guest should support a simple goal: to develop offers and services to enhance each guest’s stay.
Real Data Means Real Relevance
What all of this exemplifies is that insights gleaned from thoughtful data analysis can enable you to be far more relevant with your guest communications. By gathering and analyzing this data, and creating a full view of your guest from multiple touch points, you can gain a more comprehensive sense of individual wants and desires. That equips you to market more effectively: consistently speaking to guests as individuals, in a manner that is always focused on enhancing their personal stay experience. In turn, this investment in relevance pays dividends in terms of satisfied and loyal guests, and ultimately future promoters and brand advocates. Happy returns indeed.
With more than 20 years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry, Robert King has held marketing, sales and senior management positions at a variety of organizations. Mr. King works with ClickSquared clients throughout North America, Asia and Europe to develop and implement highly targeted, timely, interactive customer relationship programs that result in increased ROI.
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