Food For Thought: How Hopper Intends To Change Online Travel
By Martin Soler, Partner at Soler & Associates
Brand building versus performance marketing is a major issue in the hotel industry. Very few hotel companies are actually building brands. Performance only has been in the DNA of hotel marketing for a while now, but nobody can beat the OTAs at performance marketing. And yet longevity lies in the brand. As the CMO of Hilton so graphically explained it, marketing needs to get off the sugar rush and start working on the protein. In the upcoming Hotel Yearbook on Digital Marketing I'll be covering the topic alongside other experts who have been doing it right. But for now, let's focus on some other interesting trends. And if you're not subscribed to the newsletter yet (and are really interested) here's the link to subscribe. Best, Martin.
Food for thought.
Is Instagram Disrupting the Reviews Space?
During a lecture at EHL recently I realized just how much Intagram is being used as a review source. Before going to a restaurant, customers will look at pictures and comments for the place. It's real-time, it's visual and it's a lot harder to game. The idea of taking a shot of one's plate before eating it is becoming acceptable table manners. Of course the system can be gamed, making nice looking plates that have no taste isn't that hard. But what is striking here is how the "legacy" method of reading reviews is about to become obsolete. It forces hotels, restaurants and destinations to bring back the Kodak moments that people can share. It's also going to make reviews instant, for better or for worse. What counts is what is visible in the moment, not the cumulative and complex algorithm of thousands of reviews. It's worth figuring out now.
Are Brands Relevant Again?
I recall an infamous statement by Pandox CEO a few years ago at IHIF where he genuinely questioned the need for hotel brands, making the point that the distribution anyhow came from OTAs and that unflagging and going independent a hotel wasn't such a loss in revenue. He eventually kept the hotels branded, but it did signal a trend of why should hotels even be branded. Hotel chains have traditionally focused heavily on distribution - but with OTAs taking over that part of the business the cost of being branded outweighed the added value they brought. Until recently. The dozens of sub-brands every hotel chain has created or acquired seemed like a lesson in bad marketing. But maybe that isn't so. As was correctly pointed out in the comments thread of the link below. If hotels and brands focus on making excellent hotels and delivering great experiences for their audiences maybe they actually have a chance of being exceptionally good. Independent hotels know this well since they never had a choice. The question then remains about representation companies and how they'll find their place. But that's another discussion.
Hopper Intends to Change Travel Booking
According to Lalonde, the Founder and CEO of Hopper 20% of the trips they "sell" aren't based on the traveler having dates and a location. It's a sign of a shift in travel recommendations. With more data and better personalization, applications and systems like Hopper can recommend great trips. But it requires a lot of data. There's a lot more in the interview that I recommend you read if you haven't already. The price prediction function that Hopper pioneered has been copied by Google already and more will follow. It will undoubtedly change the way guests book and should change how hotels manage rates.