OTA vs Hotel Brand Marketing - Guest books rooms directly from hotel rather than OTA.
We need to be very careful with this because if we fail to certify our independency with OTA, we lose control of our business.
We need to be very careful with this because if we fail to certify our independency with intermediaries, we lose control of our business and worst we cut the contact with direct sales in the digital sphere.
Online travel agencies are part of our sell strategy. These channels allow us to act fast, try promotions, stimulate buyers, support branding actions and many other goals. Among the options we have as independent hotels the digital medias should come first for costs, market penetration, ubiquity of our customers, coverage and self-management of content.
OTAs are certainly friends, but at a price. OTAs add to the top line revenue when needed, at the same time, hotel brand dilution happens, and they take a pound of flesh.
The relationship between hotels and OTAs cannot be categorized as black or white, it is a bit grey.
OTAs bring in distribution and reach. For small hotels especially this is of great benefit, because not all small hotels have the budget for marketing and branding.
How hotel marketers can shift bookings from OTAs to the hotel website
Here at World Choice Hotels, we have been helping hoteliers drive revenues through the direct online channel since the firm’s inception in 2015, and educating hoteliers on how to use the OTAs only as part of a balanced distribution strategy. Here are several strategies and action steps to help achieve OTA independence, which we define in two distinct categories:
Business-Level and Digital Technology + Marketing-Level initiatives
Hoteliers must be more innovative with their special offers and come up with value-added promotions that bundle the “Opned” hotel rate with F&B credits, parking garage credits, event and entertainment tickets, etc.
The point here is to create unique and enticing offers, packages and promotions for the hotel website and market those via the direct online channel in a multi-channel campaign fashion. Over time, this approach will convince travel consumers that the hotel website is the one and only source of intriguing and meaningful hotel offers and it will become the preferred choice for booking the hotel.
Any hotel promotion or special offer should be marketed via a comprehensive multi-channel marketing approach that includes the desktop, mobile and tablet websites, email marketing, SEO, SEM, social media, and online media.
For example, if the hotel needs help from the OTAs and decides to have a 24-hour sale on Expedia, the property should simultaneously launch a multi-channel digital marketing campaign promoting the same 24-hour sale via the direct online channel, including:
- Promo slide on the Home Page promoting the 24-hour sale
- Landing page with SEO content about the 24-hour sale
- Travel consumer deal alert via online newswire services
- Paid search (SEM) campaign on Google, Bing, Yahoo
- TripAdvisor CPC and Business Listing Offer Campaign
- Email marketing to the hotel’s opt-in list
- Social media postings on the property’s Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles - Online media campaign (Google Display Network, TripAdvisor Banner Advertising, other Media, etc.)
What Can Hoteliers Do?
It seems clear that any digital marketing strategy requires hotels to be able to differentiate their product and make themselves stand out from the crowd. Larger chains have the benefit of brand awareness, attractive loyalty programs, and the negotiating power to establish multiple channels without an OTA contract. At the same time, the ability of independent and boutique hotels to differentiate and compete need not be cost prohibitive. Following are eleven digital marketing strategies collected from a variety of travel industry blogs:
Embrace your specialization:
Your hotel needs to appear in the distribution channels most relevant to your market segment. For example, if you have a boutique hotel, try to get listed on tablethotels.
Make the most of your website:
Your website should be constantly updated, available on all mobile devices, and reflect your hotel’s unique features and characteristics. Content with professional, attention-grabbing photos can significantly increase your direct bookings.
Stand out from the crowd:
Be personal and tell a story! Hotels have so many things to tell; even a fifteen-room motel along the highway can have a great story.
Customize the guest experience: Provide additional options for customers making a booking. Create partnerships with local attractions, tours, restaurants, and offer them as add-ons after the customer has booked with you.
Differentiate on booking packages: Innovate with room types as product offers. Use your own booking engine to offer promotions and special offers that you do not offer on the OTAs (e.g., a package with a day at a nearby spa).
Guest conversion by rewarding loyalty:
Reward returning guests that book directly through your website. This can be easily achieved by offering, for example, a 10% discount code for any returning customer, which is still much less than the commission paid to OTAs.
Social media marketing for your hotel:
Have a presence on the most popular social platforms. It isn’t just a way to increase your online presence; it is also adds new communication channels. With social media, you have a platform where you can communicate with customers on a more informal level and take advantage of your distinctive traits in order to transmit a friendlier feel to your guests. Social media is a driver of brand awareness, customer relationships and retention.
Targeted market campaigns:
In order to provide relevant offers and experiences to your guests, you need to know not only who your target market is, but also what they do and what they want. Helpful resources to find such information include surveys, online reviews, Google Analytics, and Facebook and Twitter insights. As you explore existing data from various sources, you will start to see similarities. Use these similarities to better understand your guests, then give them what they want. Targeted marketing becomes much easier when you have a better understanding of the needs, desires and behaviors of your audience.
Have a digital marketing strategy:
Part of knowing your target audience means knowing which tools they use to plan a trip, like search engines, specific websites, social media sites, and reviews. The more your hotel appears in searches and social channels, from the beginning of the customer journey (initial planning) to the end (reviews and post-stay socials), the bigger edge you will have.
Make booking easy:
Make booking on your hotel website as simple and efficient as possible. If people can check availability and book a room on any page of the website, regardless of the device they are using and whenever they want, you will be less likely to lose them.
Win mobile bookings:
If you don´t have a mobile website yet, it´s time to create one! In 2016, it is estimated that more than 50% of all online bookings for US travelers will be completed on a mobile device.
As the above examples show, some common traits emerge for hotels who want to improve their digital marketing strategy:
This is true for hotels of any size and character. Regardless of the channels through which you market your property, having a say in how your hotel is promoted and how customers are managed, emphasizing your strengths and offering them as perks and, most importantly, standing out from the crowd are critical to effectively marketing your hotel.