Source: Milestone Inc.

If you’re in the hospitality industry, you have seen firsthand the lingering impact the COVID-19 pandemic left in its wake. It affects everything from customer expectations and behavior while simultaneously accelerating the digitization of the industry along with the rest of the world.

According to McKinsey, it accelerated digital transformation by ten years. Our guests have adopted technology like never before. In fact, 83% of US adults now want to book their trips online, and 64.4% of the population—or 5.16 billion people—spend time online every day.

While the full impact of the pandemic continues to emerge, one thing is certain. Hoteliers must embrace technology with our customers, which means adapting marketing strategies including omnichannel digital marketing to meet and exceed customer expectations in every category, including:

  • Embracing digitization to align marketing efforts with changing traveler behaviors and the digital customer journey.
  • Personalizing marketing efforts across three essential marketing categories to create a consistent omnichannel experience everywhere your customers interact with your brand.
  • Creating high-quality discoverable content to make sure your customers can find you even if they’ve never heard of your hotel.

Traveler Behavior and Expectations Have Changed

The way people think about travel is fundamentally different than even 10 years ago. Increasing numbers of travelers want to book their trips online. The emerging Gen Z and Millennial traveler markets make decisions based on ratings and reviews, recommendations from influencers, and whether or not the destination is “Instagrammable.” Another key factor is the ease of booking, including website navigation and payment processes. Finally, flexibility with more frequent last-minute travel plan changes is more important than ever.

Changing Search Algorithms: 5 Trends to Watch

Because everything moved online following the pandemic, the way people search has changed too. As a result, Google made significant changes to its algorithm in 2022, focusing on making search better and safer, delivering useful, relevant results, and creating a better user experience. Hoteliers wanting to stand out in 2023 need to be aware of 5 trends:

  • Multisearch: The ability to search for a variety of assets and use Google Lens means hoteliers that deliver high-quality content, as well as helpful images, will stand out.
  • Helpful content: Travelers often seek out specific data, so by delivering helpful content that speaks to different questions and touchpoints, hoteliers can ensure online viewers find critical answers quickly—and on their site.
  • Omnichannel experience: With nearly 45 touchpoints across multiple apps and devices, it’s critical to create a consistent experience with similar content on every platform.
  • Personalization and localization: Local search isn’t going away. However, by tailoring content to specific audience needs and engaging with your audience, you can deliver a personalized experience.
  • Influencer marketing and expert community building: People make more bookings based on recommendations from online influencers, so hoteliers should court influencers and their followers with high-quality, visual content, which Google is beginning to emphasize.

Marketing That Aligns with the Digital Customer Journey

Because post-pandemic customer expectations and online engagement are so drastically different, understanding the different phases of the digital customer journey is critical to succeeding in the changing landscape.

The digital customer journey is a potentially ever-looping flywheel that has become complex with five well-defined phases: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and retention.

These phases take place across three distinct—but interconnected and interdependent—marketing categories and hoteliers need to embrace digitization at each level.

  1. Customer Engagement Marketing. In the dreaming and planning phases, search optimization, social media, email, and omnichannel marketing campaigns help your customers connect with you before they book.
  2. Customer Acquisition Marketing: In the booking phase, improve the pre-visit experience by ensuring an easily navigable website with a seamless payment experience. Creating touchpoints like automated welcome emails, an invitation to register for your loyalty program, and asking about special requests can further wow them.
  3. Customer Retention Marketing: In the experiencing and retention phases, digitization can level up the on-property and post-visit experience by delivering on your pre-visit promises. Digital check-ins, keyless entry, virtual concierge, guest apps, and digital touchpoints can make your guest stays top-notch, create—and close—feedback loops, and encourage them to come back.

Messaging, Consistency, and Personalization Matter

Consumers have increasingly high expectations when they interact with brands online, and hoteliers must step up to the plate to meet them. A few considerations:

1. Align your brand messaging across the board to win customer loyalty in this era of high inflation, job insecurity, and economic volatility:

  • Ensure all departments are in alignment on the overall marketing strategy to avoid mixed messages and wasted marketing dollars.
  • Create aligned KPIs to deliver a better customer journey and more profitability.
  • Use this to deliver consistent helpful content that speaks to audience wants an needs.

2. Establish an omnichannel strategy to ensure consistent messaging and experience across all touchpoints:

  • No matter where your customers interact with your brand—Facebook, TikTok, website, or your app—you must deliver a similar experience.
  • In addition to any always-on campaigns, create omnichannel marketing campaigns at least 5-6 times a year based on seasonal events and promotions.

3. Create a personalized experience to create an impression that goes beyond the brand name to attract guests traveling to the area who may not be familiar with you.

  • Follow E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) principles to create more organic growth.
  • Put out experiential content, including nearby attractions or events and the on-property experience.
  • Create custom offers and content designed to drive guests your way.

When it comes to incorporating search into your marketing strategy, you must ensure your hotel is discoverable by delivering relevant and interesting content. For travelers who haven’t heard of your hotel, you can leverage nearby attractions and events to create content that begins building awareness about your property. 

The Traveler Experience Comes First

Ultimately, it’s all about the customer experience. If you’re unsure where to begin, remember that you don’t need to implement all of the possibilities at once. Make changes incrementally, and ensure that you prioritize quality. When making decisions, consider questions like:

  • “Is this the best for the customer at their stage in the digital journey?”
  • “Does it lead to a better traveler experience?”
  • “Does this help reach our goals?”

2023 is sure to bring more change. One thing is clear—the changing landscape means that the hospitality industry must adapt to the digital frontier or risk getting left behind by travelers. By integrating best practices for digital marketing and aligning with the new customer journey, you can tap into powerful opportunities to stand out and attract new audiences.

About Milestone Inc

Milestone drives online discovery and customer acquisition with our digital presence platform and performance marketing services. Over 2,000 companies in Hospitality, Retail, Financial Services and Automotive industries use Milestone to drive online growth. Our customers include global brands in hospitality, banking, retail, automotive, including Marriott, US Bank, One Nevada Credit Union, VMWare, Nissan, Motel6, Preferred Hotels, Sun Outdoors, mid-market companies, and SMBs.

Milestone platform includes Website CMS, Schema Manager, Local listings, Reviews management, FAQ Manager, and Analytics. In addition, Milestone offers Performance Marketing Services - Content, Design, SEO, Paid Marketing, and Analytics to our clients. Annually, over 300 million visitors use websites developed on Milestone CMS, 540M consumers click on content powered by Milestone Schemas, and 3.7B consumers search for businesses powered by Milestone Local. Milestone platform is amongst the highest-rated Martech platforms with awards and recognition from Forrester, G2, Adrian Awards, US Search Awards, Search Engine Land, CMS Wire and many more organizations.

Gaurav Varma
Director of Product Marketing
+1 408 200 6949

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