With the digital landscape constantly growing and the hospitality industry transforming to make room for new technology, running successful, revenue focused digital campaigns is becoming even more of a key to success in hotel marketing. Traditionally hoteliers have considered online media a branding initiative one that could only be supported with major budgets. Today, online media can be used as a direct response initiative to generate bookings by utilizing Dynamic Rate Marketing and tying campaigns to concrete packages and promotions. Online media is a major revenue driver for HeBS Digital clients, with more than 22% of direct online revenue coming as a result of display and meta search campaigns.
The advertising world is also seeing major growth in digital display, with U.S. digital ad spending expected to surpass television spending in 2016. Mobile is the fastest growing sector, accounting for 51% of revenue, an increase of nearly 430% from 2013.
Coupled with advancements in technology, hotel marketers have a new opportunity to invest in higher converting campaigns with smarter targeting capabilities. This allows them to reach potential guests at the right time in their travel planning journey, in turn generating higher returns.
Here is the checklist to maximize revenue through your online media budget.
1. Online medias share of the 2016 digital marketing budget should be at least 15%.
Allocating the correct amount of budget to display advertising is crucial to be able to take advantage of growing trends and emerging targeting technologies, and to reach potential guests in their travel planning journey. Dedicating 15% of your budget to online media allows you to run a comprehensive campaign on high-performing digital networks such as Sojern, Adara, and TripAdvisor.
Read more about how to incorporate online media in the 2016 budget in our latest whitepaper, The Smart Hoteliers Guide to 2016 Digital Marketing Budget Planning.
2. Take advantage of the two fastest growing sectors of online media: mobile and video.
With video ads growing by 35% and digital ads on mobile jumping 76% year-over-year in 2014 (Comscore), incorporating these mediums in your online media efforts is critical to staying ahead of the curve and achieving maximum success.
Mobile: Travel planning is no longer taking place on just one device. Nine out of ten people move from one device to another while planning travel, with 65% starting on their smartphones (Google Research). Cross-device campaigns allow you to serve ads at multiple touch points and ensure that you stand out to potential guests during the travel planning journey.
Simply resizing your display ads will not allow you to utilize mobile display to its full potential. Integrating a Click-to-call option or a Remind me button customizes your mobile advertising to the smart phone and allows a user to interact with an ad in a way they might not have on desktop. Great mobile ads are a result of creativity and technical ingenuity.
Video: One way to easily and effectively incorporate video into your online efforts is with YouTube TrueView, which allows you to reach targeted audiences with video ads on the Internets second largest search engine. Additionally, with more than half of YouTube views coming from mobile devices, this is a great way to boost your brand presence on mobile. TrueView allows two options to display ads. In-stream ads, which appear before YouTube videos, only charge once an ad has been watched for 30 seconds or more. TrueView in-display ads appear alongside other YouTube ads within search pages. These ads are less visually striking and charge on a click-by-click basis.
3. Launch online media as one component of a 360 degree, multi-channel approach.
Multi-channel campaigns are a proven way to boost revenue during low seasons, target top customer segments, and fulfill ad hoc business needs. With the average travel consumers journey including at least 18 site visits before making a booking (Google Research), it is important to reach a traveler at each touch point in the planning process, and promote a cohesive message across all channels. Be sure to also include retargeting within your campaign. Retargeting ensures that you capitalize on the traffic directed to your site. According to Digital Information World, users who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert.
An effective multi-channel campaign strategy should learn from past results and industry trends, placing the customer at the core of every marketing initiative and every brand moment to not only win the booking, but also to maintain the customer relationship long after the campaign ends. Read our checklist on multi-channel campaigns to learn more.
4. Devise an online media plan to address occupancy needs, seasonal needs, and peak online shopping periods, such as Cyber Monday and Memorial Day.
An effective online media plan increases traction during the times when your property needs it most, including major online spending and travel research times, such as Cyber Monday and Memorial Day.
Allocate a flexible budget to seasonal or holiday-specific campaigns to make a strong impact and build exposure for the duration of the campaign while effectively competing with your comp set for share of voice and market share. For example, Cyber Monday campaigns should include pre-sale and post-sale phases, with a sale extension to give family and friends more time to spread the word and capitalize on the special offer. By offering an extended sale you can allow your display campaigns the opportunity to run more impressions and increase return on ad spend (ROAS). Hoteliers can also utilize targeting strategies like remarketing to reach the 92% of website visitors that may never return (EyeforTravel).
Read more in our article, Cyber Monday: Is Your Hotel Taking Advantage of the Largest Online Shopping Day of the Year?
5. Run online media campaigns with a direct-response focus.
There are two primary varieties of marketing strategies. The first is commonly known as branding. The goal when branding is to build brand awareness among potential guests. While a branding campaign should be worked into bigger budgets, most hoteliers will want to focus on Direct Response initiatives. In hospitality, more so than in many other industries, Direct Response marketing is necessary since travelers are taking action online and hoteliers can track online bookings and ROAS to gauge the success of their marketing efforts.
When focusing on Direct Response marketing, HeBS Digital suggests running a Dynamic Rate Marketing campaign to promote real-time rates available on the hotel website and ensure that users visiting TripAdvisor can book directly with the property. These initiatives will help to convert travel planners deeper in the purchase funnel for more direct bookings.
6. Maintain an average ROAS of 1000% from your direct-response online media campaigns.
By utilizing advanced targeting techniques such as retargeting, intent targeting, and geo-targeting, hoteliers can achieve an ROAS of 1,000% or higher. A highly optimized and smart plan also factors in the hotels occupancy rate, average daily rate, and budget.
Running A/B tests with creative and targeting separately are great ways to determine what works and what doesnt. Optimization throughout the campaign will aid in refocusing the targeting and drive an even higher ROAS.
7. Incorporate Google Display Network (GDN) targeting and retargeting display advertising campaigns.
According to Google, the Google Display Network (GDN) reaches over 90% of global internet users across 2 million sites an extremely sizable value in reaching potential guests. There are many robust targeting opportunities available including interest categories, demographics, similar users, and contextual targeting based on the content of a site. In addition, remarketing through GDN allows hoteliers to target the active searcher who has already proven they are interested in either booking or finding out more information. GDN advertising is an excellent tool for all hotels but especially for those working with a limited budget or trying to increase bookings as part of a multi-channel campaign.
8. Run Dynamic Rate Marketing on the major travel ad networks.
We live in an age in which everyone demands information in real time. The modern consumer has no time for ambiguous ads. The OTAs have been capitalizing on this for years and collecting commission from hotels while showing real-time rates on their website for specific dates. Through Dynamic Rate Marketing, a property can shift share away from the OTAs and back to the direct online distribution channel.
Dynamic Rate Marketing dramatically increases campaign effectiveness, boosts conversion rates, and increases direct online bookings by serving potential travelers room rates for the dates they have been searching. By working with top travel ad networks that utilize first-party data, hotel marketers can effectively serve ads to the right audience, and learn from that audience for future media optimizations.
Learn more about Dynamic Rate Marketing, a new way to boost conversions.
9. Utilize meta search marketing to gain direct bookings instead of depending only on the OTAs or the OTA-like, commission based Book on TripAdvisor and Book on Google.
The most popular meta search sites in the hospitality and travel space include Google and TripAdvisor. By providing real-time availability and pricing, these sites provide travel planners with everything they need to research and book their stay. With a presence on these meta search marketing sites, hoteliers can level the playing field with the OTAs and encourage travel consumers to book directly with the property. This will generate incremental revenues with a high ROAS.
In order to run a successful meta search campaign it should not be handled like a set it and forget it initiative. Meta search can drive significantly higher returns when optimized and bid on a daily basis. Meta search is not simply a distribution channel; it is a key component in the effort to drive direct online bookings.
Leaving meta search in the hands of Google and TripAdvisor through a commission based model means the hotel has to drive a 1,000% ROAS in order to consider a campaign successful. With a more hands-on approach, hotels can aim for 500% to 600% ROAS and feel confident that they have achieved the return they need.
Learn more in our article, Treating Meta Search Marketing as a Distribution Channel Results in Loss of Direct Revenues for Hoteliers.
10. Focus sufficient budget to generate important group leads and RFPs for corporate meetings, SMERFs and weddings.
The wedding and meeting space is always innovating and incorporating new ad formats to reach meeting and wedding planners and generate RFPs for hotels with event space.
Brides typically do the majority of the wedding planning, so it behooves a property to generate content on the hotel website with the bride in mind. Outside of property generated content, there are undoubtedly two major leaders in the wedding space. Both The Knot and WeddingWire have emerged over the past five years as leaders in the wedding planning space. It is imperative that a hotel that considers weddings a priority have representation on at least one of these two sites. WeddingWire is catered to a more affluent audience, so hotels catering to higher-budget weddings should look to secure advertising on this site.
For meetings, email sponsorships are often a great way to reach planners. However, because meetings are a continuous endeavor, the property should build an email list of meeting planners that can consistently be reached with custom eBlasts directly from the property. Some meeting planner sites have lists of their own that you can buy space on or purchase entirely to reach those planning meetings in your destination. To reach wedding and meeting planners, GDN is also a useful tool that allows you to target relevant search terms and serve ads on related sites.
As digital display advertising continues to grow in 2016, more hoteliers will increase their online media spending to remain competitive and steal share from the OTAs. Direct response display campaigns are crucial for driving revenue and boosting returns. In order to take full advantage, hoteliers need to ensure that their media campaigns include the right tracking, A/B testing, ongoing optimizations, and a cross-device strategy. By working with a partner that combines hospitality expertise and industry best practices, hoteliers can ensure the success of their campaigns in the coming year.
About the Author and HeBS Digital
Patrick Merryman is an Online Media Planner at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industrys leading digital technology + website design, full-service digital marketing and website revenue optimization consulting firm, based in New York City (www.HeBSdigital.com).
HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the best practices in hospitality digital technology and full-service digital marketing, social and mobile marketing, and direct online channel distribution. The firm has won over 300 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Stevie Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, IAC Awards, etc.
A diverse client portfolio of top-tier major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel brands, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, branded and independent hotels, and CVBs are benefiting from HeBS Digitals direct online channel consulting, technology innovations and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digitals consultants at (212) 752-8186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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