The post-pandemic travel demand, fueled by sheer lockdown-induced restlessness, accumulated consumer savings to the tune of trillions of dollars plus government handouts, has been fueling the 2022 travel rush.
Is travel demand going to continue strong this year? Or, as some industry experts are predicting, consumer savings will run out, the persistent inflation will is eat any payroll increases, rising interest rates will make everything more expensive and make shopping by credit cards or buy-now-pay-later very expensive.
All of this, plus the ongoing news about layoffs at marquis companies, and the looming probability of a recession will affect negatively consumer discretionary spending, which means tourism in general.
Many industry leaders are concerned that in 2023 fewer people will be traveling, those that do will be traveling less, going on shorter trips and to closer to home destinations, staying at cheaper hotels.
There is another wrinkle to the story that makes life of hotel marketers even more complex: Digital transformation accelerated by ten years during the pandemic (McKinsey & Co) and today's travel consumers are AT LEAST three times more tech- and digitally savvy. The average consumer spends almost 7 hours on digital media a day vs 19 minutes on print media (newspapers and magazines). Overall consumers spend more time with digital media than with TV, radio and print media combined (Hootsuite) hence the need for hotel marketers to have extensive digital marketing proficiency.
In this complex, unpredictable economic environment with accelerating digital adoption, and lingering after effects from the pandemic, hotel marketers have to come up with the right strategy and adequate marketing budgets, choose the right marketing messages channels and formats, and manage marketing campaigns to increase occupancies, boost direct bookings and decrease overall distribution costs, and increase repeat business.
The question is, What are hotel marketers' Top Digital Marketing Resolutions to ensure success in 2023?
If there is one area in particular I would recommend hoteliers to focus in this year, it would be gathering zero-party and first-party data from customers. I mean, this should be a priority any given year, but third-party data is getting more difficult to gather since Apple ceased tracking customers on Safari and iOS platforms since 2021. And soon enough - early 2024, unless Google change its mind again - Chrome will also cease tracking users.
What are the touchpoints where you can and should gather information about what customers like or dislike? Got their email address yet? Sending pre-stay offers with upsell opportunities or post-stay satisfaction surveys?
Getting that highly coveted email address and permission to engage is one of the ongoing challenges when clients book through Expedia or Booking. With OTAs expected to come back strong in 2023, even more of a reason to put this endeavour as a priority.
Finally, hoteliers should stick with basic, effective digital marketing tactics. Managing your Google business profile, including photos, informations and responding to reviews. Revamping your website to ensure SEO-friendly content, timely offers and best-price guarantees. And posting regularly on key social platforms where your target audience can be found.
Hotel marketers can succeed in 2023 by honing messages around the key themes of value and experience, both of which are expected to resonate with high-end audiences seeking a much-needed getaway.
For budget audiences, the message should also be about value, but digital marketing needs to carefully consider the channels used in 2023. Instagram will still resonate with some demographics, but depending on how high interest rates rise and inflation, there's a chance the more ostentatious travel influencers will suffer a pushback from their followers who simply can't afford what's being showcased to them. Brands can't afford to be seen as insensitive at a time when many travellers are struggling to make ends meet.
Ultimately, we feel this year will bring a need for hotel digital marketing to go back to basics: know your audience's wants and needs then find the right channel and right message. Do that well and you'll succeed in 2023.
2023 will be the year that personalisation on the hotel website becomes more commonplace. Digital marketing hotel professionals will promote the hotel's revenue strategy in order to have a consistent approach on indirect and direct hotel booking channels.
In my view, the right way of doing digital marketing is to leverage existing data to create successful strategies. For an effective digital marketing engine in the hospitality industry, hotel marketers must focus on a mix of:
scientifical and art,
personalised rather than one-size-fits-all approach and
interactive rather than one-sided strategy.
The year 2023 brings digitalisation to its peak with numerous trending innovations including a combination of re-evaluating audiences with non-forced brand awareness, quality content with better search visibility, integration with latest technologies, investing in social media marketing, mobile optimisation and, comprehending data and analytics.
It can be perceived that hotel marketers are left with numerous marketing strategies to improve their revenues. According to McKinsey, digital marketing can help companies win customers over and boost revenue by up to 8%. However, it is vital to implement them with great caution.
Successful digital marketing strategies in the hospitality industry will help hotel marketers' to be competitive, sustainable and proactive in the market. After all the new year is the perfect time for hoteliers to implement a data-driven marketing strategy to help increase their bottom line.
While the pace of travel recovery has been very positive overall, it's true that there are still many economic uncertainties to consider for travelers and hoteliers alike. However, I can recommend a two-pronged approach to hotel marketing that has proven successful in times like these.
The first requires access to comprehensive, forward-looking business intelligence data. Having visibility into business performance along with your competitive set will lay the foundation for any strategic decisions in the future. A marketer can utilize this data to determine when the hotel has peak and need periods, and which markets or traveler segments to target, on what booking channel, and when. This will ensure that messaging, promotions, or offers are reaching an engaged audience.
Second, this data-driven approach can be further maximized by hotel marketers applying a holistic flexible omni-channel approach for digital marketing. Just as the data will uncover many shifting trends in demand across the world, the return on investment from major hospitality digital marketing channels – including GDS advertising, search, display, video, social, metasearch, and SEO – can vary rapidly. Actively managing these channels holistically and not in silos is key to maximizing incremental revenue from digital marketing investment.
Here are my Top Ten Digital Marketing Resolutions:
I will fish where the fish are! 90% of travelers turn to the Internet when looking for travel inspiration
I will invest adequately in digital marketing and digital technology to decrease OTA dependency and increase direct bookings
I will not forget hotelier's "old" friend Google and implement the action plan in "Who is hotel marketer"s best friend going into 2023?"
I will invest in CRM, the only viable avenue to retain customers, increase repeat business and turn guests into brand ambassadors.
I will invest adequately in Content Marketing, the best "hotel marketing message amplifier."
I will make my property the "hero of the destination" by expanding area attractions/activities content on the website.
I will create Short-Term Rental (STR) hotel product not to lose potential guests to my STR competitors.
I will invest in the creation/marketing of Ancillary Services – my hotel is more than a place for providing temporary sleeping quarters.
I will use marketing to help my property's labor shortages by eliminating 75% of inbound and guest calls by implementing marketing tools
I will not fall easily for industry buzzwords while abandoning fundamentals that generate solid revenues.
I agree with everything Max said. While today's consumers spend a lot more time with digital media than with TV, radio, and print media combined; we must also acknowledge that the human attention span is becoming shorter and shorter even on digital media, changing from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2019 (Forbes). The challenge is: How can marketers fit their rich marketing content into a "micro-moment" to engage their consumers?
Nothing beats the power of short videos at this point. Major social media platforms have already embraced such a consumer trend and created extra space for both marketers and consumers to publish quick video content. Naturally, sharpening the story-telling skill with short video content should become the top priority of any hotel's marketing efforts in 2023.
Given the uncertainty in the economy and the intense competition for audience attention, I encourage hotel marketers to go back to the basic.
- Use data to know your most valuable guests better. Consumer behavior has changed because of the Pandemic and economy; hotel guests may come from different countries with different search and buying behaviors. Does your hotel collect the most updated and relevant data for marketing decisions?
- Strengthen your value proposition to your target market. Customers who can"t perceive the differences between hotels will buy from the cheapest hotel. Why should guests buy from you instead of your competitors?
- Communicate your value proposition clearly on your website. Recently I booked a hotel because it is the only one communicating complementary shuttle hours.
- Reach out to your existing customers through emails. Your customers know your property and don"t need to invest in search time. A personalized email invitation sent on an anniversary or birthday may provoke sweet memory and action to travel. Alternatively, an email focusing on discounts may be perceived as spam.
These "basic" suggestions may sound obvious. However, with the wrong persona and value proposition, digital marketing campaigns will be a waste.
As a general rule, a high-profit margin is usually considered to be around 20%. During the third quarter of 2022, a peak period for the hospitality industry, the global hotel and tourism sector saw an operating profit margin of just over 14%.
One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is that salaries are a significant component of operating expenses, often accounting for about 50%. This underscores the importance of avoiding overstaffing. To achieve success in 2023 and meet the top digital marketing resolutions, automating various processes, particularly the "logistics" of travel, is becoming increasingly crucial.
A prime example of this low-staff/high-result trend can be seen in the staffing levels of Kodak and Instagram. While Kodak employed 300,000 people in 2010, Instagram only had 12 employees. This highlights that even our traditionally "high-touch" industry is finally entering a post-human era, as many businesses are overly reliant on human labor.
As a result, automation is becoming necessary for companies to remain competitive, or they may end up like Kodak in the future...
There are four resolutions I'd encourage hospitality marketers to keep in mind.
- Work to manage your marketing costs. You can't control demand, but costs are much more manageable. Think in terms of driving not just revenue, but profitable revenue and you'll never go wrong.
- Google increasingly represents one many hotels rising costs. Given all the changes we're seeing in search this year, you may want to look towards email, SMS, and social to reduce your dependence on the search giant — and further control your costs.
- Don't discount. Instead, focus on packages, value adds, and upsells to increase your share of wallet while guests are in market.
- Build your skills at agile marketing. In an uncertain market, the teams that win don't try to predict the unpredictable. Instead, they get better at adapting quickly.
The best part is that all of these skills will serve you well and help you succeed regardless of what happens this year... and beyond.