Industry Update
Opinion Article 4 May 2020

COVID-19 Recovery Series: Media Budgets & Targeting

Where to spend and who to target after the coronavirus pandemic

By Brandon Mitchell, Media Analyst at Vizergy and Frank Zamora, Account Executive at Vizergy

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Amongst the many uncertainties and changes COVID-19 has brought upon the world, one thing is certain: the coronavirus crisis will end and people will travel again.

There is pent-up demand for travel, in fact there's already a term for it in China "revenge travel", those who intend to travel to make up for lost time or because quarantine is driving people crazy! Some are predicting a start toward recovery in 8 weeks, with China already seeing a 20% uptick in demand.

Planning for that pent-up travel demand, however, will require a data-first approach. It is more or less a fact that the profile of your hotel guests will be different after coronavirus compared to your guests pre-corona. With gas prices at a low, and likely continued restrictions on air and international travel, what we'll see this year is the re-birth of the road trip and similar drive market demand.

To help maximize ad spend dollars and to target the right guests, we have put together 10 suggestions to optimize your paid media marketing efforts in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider these below suggestions when determining who to target and what your messaging should be:

1. Targeting Previous Guests

Studies show that it costs 5x more to capture new guests compared to retaining existing guests. While hotels are shuttered and at reduced capacity, now is the perfect time to strengthen your brand's relationship with your previous guests. If you can convince previous guests that the hotel has strong policies in place for cleanliness and cancellation fees, guests are more likely to choose a property that they have stayed at before and have a positive association with than riskstaying somewhere new during a time of uncertainty and stress.

The goal is to nurture and manage the relationship so when guests are presented with similar options, they choose and prefer your brand. This may involve specific perks, offers or some type of rewards program. Invite would-be guests who have previously canceled reservations first.

2. Retargeting Campaigns to Recent Site Visitors

Searchers who have previously shown interest in your page can generate 10-50x the returns of your normal paid search efforts. These searchers have specifically shown interest in your brand, so continue to advertise to them and consider offering a special offer to those who checked rates but didn't book. Ensure any retargeting efforts prioritize cancellation messaging that make it clear it's easy to get out of a booking if plans change or coronavirus impacts the hotel's ability to stay open.

3. Road-Trippers & "Stay-cationers"

Just like any other rebuilding or revitalization, everything starts at the local level. When travel resumes, leisure guests will likely start with vacations within driving distance or opt for an in-town staycation.

Consider creating a targeted campaign to your drive market (2-3 hours drive) with messaging that resonates with this type of guest - offer in-house services such as a spa, on-site restaurant, or other amenities to generate interest. Even simple things like free parking can be a micro-factor in a decision on where to stay. Could you offer a free car wash to guests before they hit the road back home? Or maybe it's a pre-packaged lunch to go for the journey home.

4. Attracting Business Travelers

With some analysts predicting that business travel will resume before any other travel in major markets like Miami, New York, Chicago - it is important to test campaigns nationally as well - consider targeting searchers and business travelers coming from direct markets as a way to dip your toe into the national market. Proximity to airport, downtown and availability of room service or pick-up orders at your restaurant are important messages to include when attracting business travel.

5. Segmented Campaigns for Desired Demographics

With older populations being more susceptible to COVID-19, it is possible that guest demographics will skew younger than previously. Because of this, some hoteliers may find success by creating campaigns based around different age groups to see what performs best.

6. Targeting In-Market & Affinity Audiences

Use Google's In-Market Audiences to target searchers based on their recent purchase intent. Using these audiences can deliver your message to the right person at the right time based on search history, intent and purchasing patterns within Google. Additionally, Affinity audiences can be used to target searchers based on their habits and interests. These audiences can include family vacationers, travelers, travel buffs, trips by specific destinations and more.

7. Attracting Your Most Profitable Guests

With the world essentially paused, now is a great time to review and refine who your best guest is.

While data-enriching platforms (cc: TargetingHub) can make this easy, one can also analyze the available segments within your paid search audiences to identify who your best guest is. Location, Age, Household Income, Gender and device types are all important segments to consider.

8. Upper Funnel Targeting

Destination and Market-based Campaigns: People will be searching for new places and destinations to travel - think of this as a hard reset on brand loyalty and demand. If your previous campaigns focused around bottom of funnel branded paid search, it's likely you'll need to re-build your funnel by attracting a wider audience again, switching back on bottom of funnel campaigns without thinking about the wider shopping audience is likely to be less successful than in a pre-coronavirus world.

There will be a flood of guests who are particularly susceptible to targeted content, especially if the hotels they were using beforehand created a forgettable or negative experience. Make sure your brand is in a position to capture these new guests.

9. Metasearch Strategy

Because metasearch ads are only utilized when a searcher is looking to make a reservation, it is important to have a presence here to ensure your searchers are booking direct. Metasearch has become a near-essential component of hotel digital marketing in just a short space of time, now is the time to establish a foothold in this space.

10. Implement "Hotels Open in [Location]" Terms

As cities, states, businesses and hotels begin opening up again, an emerging trend of new search terms such as "Hotels Open in Dallas" may develop. Make sure your campaigns target guests who may be searching these new types of terms.Search behavior is likely to be different, with a new set of criteria around cancellation policies, cleanliness and availability. Make sure you're evaluating search trends and adding search terms you may not have ever utilized in the past.

For more tips on how to rebound from the negative effects of COVID-19, visit Vizergy's blog or contact us!

Frank Zamora

More from Frank Zamora

Brandon Mitchell

More from Brandon Mitchell

About Vizergy® Digital Marketing

Vizergy serves the world's hospitality industry with conversion optimized website design and fiercely competitive tools to maximize revenue. Our formula for success includes cutting-edge technologies, proven digital marketing programs and the best professionals in the industry. At Vizergy, hospitality marketing is not only our mission, it's our sole focus.

For more than 20 years, Vizergy has relentlessly developed and deployed the best marketing technologies and talent to serve thousands of hospitality clients with excellence. The company deploys complete travel life-cycle marketing solutions from responsive website design and development, to proven award-winning digital marketing programs, reservation solutions, media planning and deployment. Vizergy's platform has long been touted as the #1 digital marketing system for hospitality clients, easy to deploy, turnkey and SMART, empowering clients to win in today's complex and competitive hospitality industry.

For more information, please visit www.vizergy.com.

Contact: Ryan Ridge | Vizergy | +1.904.389.1130 | [email protected]

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