Tripleseat joined hundreds of industry professionals at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s recent Marketing Strategy Conference in New York City, where experts from some of the hospitality and marketing industries came together to discuss the top issues for hotels in the year ahead.
Michael Marx, Senior Director of Visa Research and Insights, shared key research findings in a session called “Emerging Trends to Maximize Customer Engagement and Loyalty,” which highlighted three areas that hospitality professionals should consider in their marketing strategy for 2020: the need for speed, visualization and gamification, and personalization.
1. The need for speed
This first trend highlights the fact that today’s customers want and expect instantaneous service from hotels with a personal touch, and usually via social media. 57 percent of 18-to 34-year-olds, 50 percent of 35-to 54-year-olds, and 33 percent of adults age 55 and up say that they use social media for customer service questions or concerns.
If they haven’t already, hotels should have plans in place to receive and respond to customer messages through social media, brand apps, and texting if they want to retain their loyal customers. The important piece of this is responding. Hotels aren’t expected to solve customer problems right away, but they do need to let customers know that they’ve been heard and they’re working on a solution.
“They expect ubiquitous availability,” Marx said. “They don’t expect to reach a person immediately, get their question answered or event the right answer. They want engagement right away.”
2. Visualization and gamification
Hotels also need to adapt to the way that consumers want to interact with content. They need visual cues and they want to build loyalty by earning things through gamification. This means that brands can get customers’ attention with their visual content — photos and video content are more effective at getting a message across than a 500-word description of why someone should book their travel with your hotel.
“Your customers increasingly are going to have to be engaged very, very quickly. If you don’t hook them with your communication within 8 seconds, what will they do? they will move to the next screen,” Marx said.
Consumers have accepted the concept of gamification into their daily technology consumption. Think about the FitBit or Apple Watch, where users track their steps and exercise and get praise for completing their goals, as well as virtual badges or rankings among their friends. Hotels that introduce loyalty programs that allow consumers to earn rewards and prompt return visits.
“It’s increasingly becoming the norm for all ages,” Marx said. “More and more consumers look at relationships with you as a game where you can earn things.”
This trend can be the hardest one to implement, but it is very rewarding for the brands that can pull it off. The trick is to think of personalization is providing customized offers, perks, and content based on the data you collect on their preferences. Consumers are more willing now to give up some personal information in return for personalized rewards. But you have to follow through.
Something as easy as sending an email on a customer’s birthday with a special offer can go a long way. Treat your customers like VIPs and offer choices just for them based on their preferences, but don’t go overboard with too many choices that could overwhelm and cause them to pick nothing at all. Tailor your offers to your audience and give them the right choices that will cause them to take an action.
“It’s being able to understand how to use the data more effectively to right choice the data you offer to those customers,” Marx said.
Adapt your marketing, but listen to your customers
Staying on top of these trends in 2020 will allow your hotel to be more competitive, stand out, and attract a loyal customer base. It’s important to cater to the expectations of today’s technology-savvy consumers but also pay attention to their needs as you implement these trends and modify them as you get to know what your direct audience wants.