There is a saying that goes, "I don't have enough money to buy cheap things." That statement also rings true for implementing free analytics: hoteliers simply cannot afford it. Many hoteliers will invest thousands of dollars in best-in-class hotel website design and digital marketing strategies and technologies. After launch, those same hoteliers will utilize cheap or free analytics tools and base integral marketing decisions on inferior information, which can result in millions of dollars of missed revenues.
Today's hyper-connected traveler spends about 17 days in their journey to a decision on a booking. In that time, they visit 18 sites during 8 sessions, making about 6 clicks (Google 2015). In addition, 89% of travelers begin a travel activity on one device and continue it on another. Hoteliers must use a sophisticated analytics tool that can paint the full picture of today's multichannel campaigns and multi-device usage to understand the true conversions, ROIs, pathing and behavioral metrics.
In this article, we will outline the major reasons why free or cheap analytics tools are not an option for success in today's complex hotel digital marketing landscape.
Many free analytics tools also provide a paid premium version that can start at the higher end of the price tier for analytics. One premium version of a free analytics provider starts at $150,000 per year, which is nearly twice the cost of an annual Adobe Analytics license. What does this tell us? Even free tools recognize their own deficiencies and make up for them via paid versions that many hoteliers are forced to purchase after they reach usage limitations, which can become even more costly in the long run.
Can the data from free analytics tools even be trusted? According to Blast Analytics & Marketing, if you have a high volume of visits, your data could easily be off by 10%-80%, or even more. Certain metrics, such as visits and pageviews, are perceived as accurate. However, you can't rely on revenues, transactions, goal conversions, and conversion rates. Hoteliers run a huge risk by making data-driven decisions on this potentially inaccurate data.
In addition, the data in the dashboard is at least 24-hours old, does not represent the whole picture, and only shows sample data. Adobe Analytics shows accurate results in real time.
With free analytics, you are on your own in terms of support. If something doesn't appear to be tracking correctly or if you have a question on how to analyze certain results, you could shell out additional money for an independent consultant, who may not even be a full-time employee of the platform, or you could spend hours on your own trying to find a resolution. With Adobe Analytics, you receive 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support with trained consultants and engineers, as well as monthly learning labs. This type of support is crucial for today's hotel digital marketer, who must be ready to defend their digital marketing investment at any given time.
SECURE DATA THAT YOU OWN
Adobe Analytics provides data ownership, data protection, and controlled security. Administrators can grant permission to any report, metric, or module based on customizable user groups, with multiple levels of customization and access to reports, including administrative privileges, which are secured based on the role of the user to prevent unauthorized access. Adobe Analytics also has a documented history of protecting the privacy and trust of its clients.
With many free analytics tools, you don't own your data, which is a crucially important corporate asset. What are some real life scenarios in which owning the data can affect the hotel?
Let's say that you are the Director of Digital Marketing at a hotel and your boss tells you that you are going to switch analytics platforms, and you need executive reports with all of the year-over-year data for your investors. Here is how it can work in two scenarios:
If you have a free analytics tool:
You want to export all of your historical data, and you do it on your own by exporting aggregated reports (raw data pulls are not allowed). However, there is a very large chance that you will reach the courtesy limits – usually around 50,000 rows for standard reports or 200,000 rows for ad-hoc (not pre-calculated) reports. In addition, you typically cannot migrate historical data from one free analytics account to another.
If you have Adobe Analytics:
You want to export all of your historical data, and you do so by reaching out to Client Care (support that free analytics tools do not offer). You provide your suite ID from which to retrieve the data, the date from which you wish to start the export, and the FTP Site to receive the files. Your request is received, processed and your data is delivered. You also receive a Data Feed ID that you can later reference, should troubleshooting be required. Or you can migrate historical data by pointing the suite ID to a new account.
When you own your data, it is yours without limitations.
INTEGRATION AND FULL SUPPORT HeBS Digital issues multi-source monthly reports to our clients, including data from Listrak, DART, Adobe, and more. We do this through API connections to data warehouse, and we export the Adobe data to there as well, where it is all merged into one common report. This is a feature that is not allowed with a free analytics tool. Free tools allow you to look around the data and get superficial metrics and statistics. However, if you are dealing with large quantities of data and want to be able to extract and combine it with other data sources, as well as break it down and work with a partner to come up with comprehensive big picture action items, you need a tool such as Adobe Analytics.
Multiple Users & Dashboards
Free analytics tools typically allow one login and level of access, and one dashboard per login. Adobe Analytics allows for multiple users and dashboards, all customizable to the user.
Ability to see the full travel consumer path to purchase
With today's always-connected travel consumer, it is imperative to track their activity on the full path to purchase.
In Adobe, you can see the contribution of branded hotel keywords vs. generic keyword terms to each booking. You can see last click, first click, and stacking (everything that happened on the way) and channel. Free analytics typically only have last click attribution.
A hotel website built as per industry's best practices requires tracking of hundreds of touch points with the user's path-to-purchase journey across the website. New developments such as dynamic content personalization, tracking how many initiated bookings came as a result of the latest promotion on the homepage, and the need to track multi-device pathing behavior makes analyzing results even more complex.
Today's hotel website requires hundreds, even thousands of so-called custom variables to track the user's increasingly complex path to purchase across the hotel website, in
hundreds of combinations of custom event metrics, custom event variables, and custom page variables. Unlike Adobe Analytics, which practically offers unlimited number of custom variables, all the free analytics tools severely limit the number of custom variables – some to a single digit number - which means operating your website "blind" to the user's path to purchase behavior.
BUILT FOR MULTI-PROPERTY WEBSITES OR HIGHLY TRAFFICKED SITES
Free analytics tools are not designed for multi-property websites or those with large amounts of traffic. They do not provide enough custom variables and goals to do comprehensive tracking of all the activity and user actions. In addition, you cannot set up multi-property reporting suites with a roll-up corporate reporting suite or regional reporting suites. Lastly, free analytics tools will limit the amount of server calls per month (based on page views). Once you exceed the monthly limit, you will be forced to upgrade to the premium version, which can cost you twice as much as Adobe Analytics.
Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager (DTM), a capability of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, is the most sophisticated tag manager in existence today. It is universal and omni-channel so you can apply unlimited external tags, tracking codes and pixels without ever touching the website. By utilizing DTM, you will tremendously improve page download speeds, which ultimately affects SEO and conversions on the website.
BrightEdge, the most sophisticated SEO management system in the industry, is fully integrated with Adobe Analytics and "does not speak" to any free analytics tools. This integration provides invaluable blended data and actionable steps to improve SEO, website performance, quality of content, and more, which is not available with free analytics.
INTEGRATION WITH INDUSTRY-LEADING TOOLS
A number of Adobe industry-leading tools and applications work only with Adobe Analytics, and not with free analytics, including:
- Adobe Media Optimizer (AMO), the most sophisticated paid search and online media management and optimization platform is fully integrated with Adobe Analytics, and not with free analytics. AMO allows not only campaign set-up and management, but also the use of bid rules and performance benchmarks so that your campaigns are being optimized thousands of times a day 24/7.
- Adobe Test and Target (Adobe TNT): the most sophisticated A/B multi-variant testing tool which is crucial for evaluating and optimizing the site usability.
- Adobe Survey: The Adobe survey tool can be used on the main and mobile sites to evaluate usability and overall visit experience. With Adobe Analytics integration you can profile the user behavior in the context of the survey results. For example, we know that visitors who confirmed a booking tend to report X, Y, Z, while visitors who abandoned bookings reported A, B, C. With this information you have a better profile of the visitor's journey, and can identify patterns such as the pathing, the time on site, the top pages visited, the top pages abandoned, and the specific packages they viewed, before completing a booking or not.
In summary, by using the free analytics tools, the hotel does not see the full picture, does not report on the full results, and does not take advantage of the full range of website and campaign optimization opportunities. As a result, the hotel puts itself at the risk of missing serious revenue opportunities to the tune of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
About the Authors and HeBS Digital
Max Starkov is President & CEO and Sara O'Brien is Senior Marketing Manager at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry's 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 275 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian 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, franchisees and independents, and CVBs are benefiting from HeBS Digital's direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digital's consultants at (212) 752-8186 or [email protected].
NextGuest provides hoteliers with everything they need to thrive in the digital world, with bespoke technology solutions developed to meet the needs of luxury hotel clients coupled with elegant design capabilities that bring brands to life. We marry the power of data with brand discovery to uncover unique strategies that apply to everything from website design, content marketing, CRM, and more, helping the world's top hotel brands maximize ROI as they acquire, convert, and retain guests throughout the travel planning journey. While each of our services is available on its own, the integrated technologies, marketing, and consulting offerings work together to increase digital engagement and generate revenue for hoteliers, allowing them to focus on what matters most — serving their guests. www.nextguest.com | [email protected]