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HSMAI Recap: Focus on the Problem, Use Technology to Solve It

HSMAI's 2016 Digital Marketing Conference at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in NYC was one to remember. Each presenter and digital marketing expert had a wonderful story to tell about lessons learned and problems solved throughout the year.

Among other highlights: Hilton solved the problem of guests' room preferences by allowing guests to choose their own rooms; content marketers solved the problem of limited digital marketing budget by tasking their guests to speak on their behalf. A lot of great ideas were talked about, and great discussions ensued.

The conference delivered very compelling trends affecting digital hotel marketers and below are some of my key takeaways from this year's event.

  • But first, let me take a #selfie - Limited digital marketing budget? Why not utilize your guests as your marketers? Put selfie sticks in each hotel and allow guests to check them out for their day out on the town. Be sure to remind them to tag the hotel on their social media outlets, though! Free Digital Marketing advertising. Boom.
  • To be known - Get to know your guests! Try to cater their stay based on previous travel profiles, or where they come from, or the purpose of their trip. A free WiFi connection or an offer for some hot tea waiting for them in their room upon arriving late from the airport can make all the difference. A recent survey revealed that 39% of travelers would rather stay in a hotel that knows them, so it's important for hoteliers to personalize the stay to increase brand preference.
  • Emotion trumps utility - Connect with guests emotionally. Try to make your content functional, but not intrusive. Utilize multi-device settings to appeal to your customers as they access your content on all devices.
  • Personalize based on search type - Trying to beat out HotelTonight? Utilize your Booking Engine's technology to create mobile-device specific rates that are being searched for same-night stays.
  • Customize your landing pages - Target your landing pages toward your key demographics. Target your digital marketing campaign landing pages specifically for your offers or promotions. Most importantly, include photos that show the complete experience your guests will have, not only on your property but in your city! Travelers want help discovering places and activities in the local area (as we discovered in our recent customer experience study with Forrester), so be sure to paint a picture of the complete experience your guests will have during their stay.
  • Love and content are in the air! - Are weddings a big revenue generator for your hotel? Why not include a wedding blog and other wedding-specific pages to promote that? Guests can speak directly with future brides and give different points-of-view to the big day!
  • Lastly, but most importantly, focus on a guest's or hotelier's problems first and integrate technology to solve them. For example: Hilton saw a long list of special requests from frequent travelers – away from elevator, high floor, south-facing room – and found that these requests created a lot of manual and tedious work for the front desk staff. What did Hilton do? They automated the process. They created a map of each of their hotels and published it to their mobile app so guests can check in and choose their own rooms out of available inventory. Genius!

Let's work together to think outside the box and focus on what our real problems are. I challenge each hotelier to dig down deep and figure out the real issues, and speak with your digital marketing partners to solve those issues. Working together to get to the root of the problem makes everyone's job and experience a lot easier and rewarding, don't you think? Let me know your thoughts!

Lina Serpil is Sabre Hospitality Solutions' Director of Digital Marketing Sales in North America. You can reach her at lina.serpil@sabre.com or follow her on Twitter @LinaSerpil.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lina Serpil
Director of Digital Marketing Sales, North America
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