Direct digital marketing both tailors property offerings and provides convenience to guests.
Published by Lodging Hospitality
Written by John Parkinson
Picture the following scenario: A business traveler gets in really late to a hotel after dealing with arduous airport delays. All he or she wants to do is retire for the evening before the start of a big conference or presentation early the next day. The hotelier wants to expedite the check-in process, but still wants to be able to inform the guest about the amenities, events, and other offerings at the hotel. However, this guest is too fatigued to want to go through a laundry list of offerings. Ultimately, a significant marketing opportunity is lost.
Fortunately, new software has been developed to help in these situations. One such software is called Concentri, and its hospitality-specific eConcierge program. This program can help a hotel offer that same fatigued guest the convenience of performing an onsite mobile phone check-in—thus avoiding lines—and also keep that same guest informed about hotel offerings through text messages or e-mails during his or her stay, allowing the hotel to provide helpful guest service and extend its marketing reach.
The Concentri platform was developed by Akron, Ohio-based Knotice. “From day one, we said let’s develop a platform that reaches today’s consumers that is multichannel and it needs to make relevancy easy,” says Brian Deagan, co-founder and CEO of Knotice, discussing the inspiration for its creation.
Concentri was created to facilitate direct digital marketing campaigns, which Knotice defines as relevant digital marketing communications that are addressed to specific individuals through e-mail, a Web browser cookie, or a mobile phone number. For example, the aforementioned eConcierge program can be configured to deliver three e-mails to a guest at regular intervals once they have booked a room. The first e-mail welcomes the guest; the second educates them on amenities and events in the area they may have an interest in; and the third e-mail is an upsell message asking if they want to extend their stay or take advantage of some offering at that specific property. Each of the three e-mails contains content based off of known or behavioral data about the guest captured in a universal profile management system.
Maintaining accurate guest data is a necessary prerequisite for using the platform, but the comprehensive level of data required varies correlating directly to the marketing initiative, according to Deagan. “When we are rolling out an e-Concierge program we need that guest and stay information if we going to do that effectively. On the flip side, if someone said, ‘I just want to be able to do some very simple on-property mobile alerts when they arrive and when they depart,’ that takes a little less data.”
John Fareed CHME ISHC, a partner with Fareed Zapala Koepke, a hospitality marketing consultancy based in Orlando, Fla., raises a couple of questions about who at hotels will be responsible for capturing the data on the front end and how will it be utilized when following up. “How are we going to be able to identify the needs of each guest, prior to them coming, and then responding to it in a personal way?” he asks.
Deagan believes much of the data collection is already an ongoing process at most hotels. “They [hotels] are developing their e-mail and mobile databases, collecting Web analytics, and they have information in a customer relationship management (CRM) environment,” Deagan says. “What is happening is people are spending a lot of time moving the data back and forth from system to system to do whatever marketing campaign they want to do. We just capture it ourselves and make it really easy to integrate with backend business systems.” Deagan points out that Knotice “doesn’t pull in online behavior from Web analytics packages,” but it does help hoteliers automate data they collect.
There are other offerings on the Concentri platform, allowing hotels to outsource their marketing completely to Knotice, or have them provide assistance before allowing the hotel the autonomy to manage its marketing. Also, hoteliers can use an a la carte approach deciding which digital medium (Web, e-mail, or mobile phone) to communicate through.
Once the hotel has basic information, it becomes possible to build and maintain direct customer relationships over the long term. The thing to remember, though, is that the guest has to be receptive to the message. Hotels should recognize the line between providing worthwhile information to guests and delivering something guests consider spam. Business travelers do not need to know about your Father's Day special. And not everyone wants a holiday e-card from your hotel. One way to respect guests is giving them control over how often they receive emails or text alerts. That's especially crucial post-stay when the hotel wants to communicate on an ongoing basis.
Michael McCamish, e-Commerce marketing manager for Gaylord Entertainment, says his company had been looking for a way to utilize digital platforms through the Web and mobile channels to meet their guest needs and grow revenue. Last summer, Gaylord was able to implement its centralized e-mail program. “Since the launch in July, we have sent over 300 e-mail campaigns,” McCamish says. “In mid-September, we launched a daily, three-e-mail triggered campaign sent to incoming guests based on their arrival date.
“By having a centralized marketing platform, we are able to improve the guest’s experience by showing them relevant offers and information,” McCamish continues. “We can take the work out of finding information that the guest deems relevant, either through past buying history or exhibited preferences, and provide it in a quick, easy and accessible way.”
McCamish points out one consideration when adopting the platform. “As with any company that is growing and has multiple databases, our customer records and data can be inputted in a number of ways. This becomes a challenge for setting up a profile management system that has an end goal of segmenting the data to better market to the individual,” he says. “In reviewing our data—past and current—we were able to discover problematic areas and outline a plan to remedy the problems. The faster data standardization can be implemented, the faster—and easier—the system can be used to its full potential.”
“Direct digital marketing is a wonderful tool, but we have to figure out the best way to make use out of it,” Fareed says. His concern is that historically hotels have sometimes not made the best use of new technology, and they end up giving up on it before fully realizing its potential applications.
As laptops and mobile phones have become ubiquitous travel components, hoteliers have an opportunity to stay connected to a guest throughout a stay and to provide more guest service. That, in turn, can lead to garnering more revenue. As the world becomes more electronic, e-concierge software programs open up a new way of continually communicating with guests.