Top hotel marketing trends for 2017
By Stuart Dickinson, Freelance journalist, copywriter and media developer
Another year, and with it, more rapidly evolving marketing trends for hoteliers and managers to consider as we head into 2017.
We round up the top marketing trends hoteliers must consider in their 2017 budgets.
1. Go mobile or get left behind
Perhaps the biggest trend, and one we've seen coming for some time, is that mobile will overtake desktop as the traveller's search and booking device of choice. Mobile responsiveness is mandatory. According to Google, conversion rates on mobile sites have increased by 88%, while mobile travel searches are up 25% year-on-year from 2015.
In fact, Google now rewards mobile-friendly websites with higher search rankings, and as of January 2017 the search giant had warned that inaccessible mobile content will be penalised. With innovative platforms like PayPal and Apple Pay, mobile payments are also set to overtake credit card payments in the near future. Make sure your marketing efforts are mobile friendly.
2. Video is more important than ever
In an age of information overload, the attention span of online users has dwindled noticeably. A recent Animoto survey revealed that four times as many consumers would rather watch a short video relating to a product or offering, than read about it.
Video allows you to grab attention in unique, effective ways, and lets you put out timely content that amplifies your offerings. The Data and Marketing Association notes that 69% of marketers are picking up on the trend, saying their budgets are "increasing" or "significantly increasing" towards creating video content.
These days, guests (especially Millennials) appreciate a more personalised touch to their booking experience. Get to know them before they arrive by creating qualifying fields in your booking process – Why are they travelling? Are they on honeymoon? Maybe celebrating an anniversary or birthday? Trips like these deserve personalisation from your staff.
You can also welcome back return visitors or regulars in a special way. Software is available that will enable you to recognise these guests and give them the attention they deserve. Remembering what guests like during their respective stays will go a long way towards earning loyalty in 2017 and beyond.
4. Content is (still) king
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has evolved, especially following the 2016 updates of Google's Penguin algorithms that weed out shady SEO practices.
Having a website with quality content will get you far better mileage with Google, as opposed to spamming various keywords in your copy. Create a blog on your website and update it weekly. Include social media plugins on your homepage that update as you post. Write unique, clear and concise copy for your web pages. All of this will go a long way towards boosting your SEO score.
5. Maturing social media platforms
Like the hospitality landscape, social media is evolving rapidly year-on-year. In 2017, we'll see more of a shift towards ecommerce, with platforms like Instagram and Snapchat ramping up efforts to integrate advertising opportunities into their growing online presence. The opportunity is there for hotels to showcase their offerings and brilliant visuals on highly personal channels. More and more businesses are also finding ways to leverage off Facebook's live streaming capabilities, and we're sure to see more of that going into 2017.
When it comes to daily maintenance of your social channels, remember that there are dozens of social media automation applications that can help you schedule posts during busy periods.
6. Managing your online reputation
Every guest with internet access is a potential critic, meaning that online reputation management tools are essential if hoteliers want to effectively keep their brand afloat in 2017. Using software that allows you to track online chatter and immediately respond to negative reviews will make managing your online reputation that much easier.
You'll also be able to see what's being said about your competition, meaning that savvy marketers will be able to stay ahead of the game with tactical reactions.
7. Big data analysis to improve hotel offerings
The rise of 'Big Data' could warrant a separate article on its own, but it's important to note how applied analytics is starting to impact the hotel industry, especially going into 2017. It involves massive data sets analysed by computers to reveal important trends in guest behaviour.
Relating to trend number three above – personalisation – it helps hotels construct unique guest interactions and experiences. An American Express study revealed that 83% of Millennials were happy to allow hotels and other travel brands to track their habits in exchange for a better, more personalised experience.
Additionally, by using software tools that give you both high-level and detailed reports based on data gathered over time, you'll be able to see which of your marketing efforts are actually paying off. Big Data lets you see the big picture.
Of course we'll see many more trends develop going forward, but by keeping an eye on the seven above will certainly help you stay ahead of the game as we march into 2017.