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Tips & Guide

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law in the EU that will come into effect on May 25th. You have probably received a lot of emails from companies who you’re your data on their file, asking you to agree to their new privacy terms. This can be quite frustrating and annoying when companies you have had contact with years ago suddenly make contact, but it is an important requirement and if you own a business, you will need to do it too.

Everyone seems to be getting into a bit of a frenzy about GDPR, but essentially it is just a new way to help consumers reclaim their data. It was created to protect EU citizens from privacy and data breaches which seem to be happening far more frequently. This law replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC from 1995.

Why is this so important?

When we get information about our customers and hold their data on our files  – it is only borrowed. We do not own it and it does not belong to us. Your customers will place their trust in you that you won’t use their data against them. You may have information on your customers such as their name, address, date of birth, medical information, place of work, education and anything else – this is all important information which we do not want getting into the wrong hands.

What is the GDPR trying to solve?

The problem is that too many companies are exploiting their customers’ data. Businesses will sell email lists which means that these people get daily inboxes full of spam and irrelevant content which causes frustration and annoyance. Even if the customer opts in to receive content in the future, they expect relevant content and not mass produced, one-size-fits-all rubbish. GDPR is meant to protect these people and allow them to have a say in how their data is used.

How is this different to the current law?

The new GDPR is designed to give more rights to people and reduces the risk of information being exploited by companies. The GDPR also has stipulations over the amount of time that this data can be stored. Just because you bought one thing from a company ten years ago, doesn’t mean they can hold your details indefinitely. Because GDPR is a legal regulation, it is a compulsory requirement and will apply as a law in all EU countries. This means that any company handling the personal data of EU citizens must be compliant.

What happens if you ignore the GDPR?

Do not ignore the new regulations, because you will get fined. The harshest penalty is €20 Million or 4% of the non-compliant company’s annual global revenue. You really do not want to be getting fined for non-compliance, so it is important that you act now and take note of the new legal changes.

What do you need to do?

There are a few things you will need to do as a business about the new GDPR. This includes asking for the customer’s consent to hold their data. It also means that if there is a breach in security at your place of work, you are obliged to notify your contacts within 72 hours of this breach. Consumers will also have the power to ask how, where, and why their personal data is being used. You must provide them with a copy of their personal data in an electronic format free of charge if they ask for it. If they want to be forgotten, you must erase their data. In some cases, companies will be required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). This applies if you are a public authority, for instance.

You also need to change the way you collect data in the first place. Moving forward, you can no longer rely on a pre-checked box to collect consent for communication. You must now be more deliberate in the way they are opting consumers in. You will recall how some companies almost trick people into ticking the box for consent at the end of communications. They can phrase it ambiguously, such as ‘if you do not want to not receive communication from us in the future…’ This will no longer be acceptable under the new law!

You also won’t be able to use statements like “we may process your personal data to improve our services.” You need to be specific about what you are using their data for.

Where to start

As a business you might be wondering how on earth to start acting on this new law. Take for instance if you were a GDS hotel. We will use this example to see how in general you should begin to act on the GDPR laws.

Your hotel reservation system currently holds a lot of data on many different customers, current, lapsed and potential. GDPR applies to all new and existing data. In terms of your current customers with bookings in your system, the consent exists under an “existing customer relationship.” You need to think about how long the relationship could be considered valid in this instance – perhaps a month after their booking has elapsed? In terms of lapsed customers, bookings that have been and gone and you have had no other contact with the customer, you should not store any customer’s data without explicit consent. You can’t include them in email newsletters without their explicit consent. You will need to ask these customers if they are happy for you to continue emailing them. You will need to state how long for and why you would be emailing them – e.g. current offers or loyalty programmes.

Moving forward, you should store the act of consent and exactly how you worded this consent for the future. (i.e., this person checked this certain box at this date.) This is because you must prove consent before sending any communications to contacts and if checked up upon, you will need to be able to draw on the consent and information easily.

You should also keep records of the privacy policies on your system.

Some companies consider running campaigns to get their past customers to re-join their email lists. Incentives are a good idea. As a hotel, you may wish to offer a 20% off your next booking reward if you consent to staying on their email lists. If the subscribers feel that there’s value in what you are sending, they’ll give you their consent.

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Tips & Guide

If your hotel isn’t doing everything it can to provide a quality customer experience and maximise positive feedback, you may be capping potential conversion figures. Consumers can be broadly split into two groups: promoters and detractors. The former is a customer who would recommend your hotel to others and the latter would not. You should aim to turn as many customers as possible into promotors and these tips will help you do just that.

Easy booking process

Before you can impress guests with outstanding service, you must entice potential customers into booking a room. The booking process and how easy it is to complete can have a big impact on conversion figures. In fact, research has shown that consumers looking to book a hotel will gravitate towards platforms that require the least amount of steps.

Professional website

Having a practical and professional website is a vital part of online marketing for hotels. Browsers must be able to navigate your website easily if you hope to create a smooth customer experience and generate positive feedback. The speed at which your pages load and the number of clicks needed to complete the booking process should also be kept to a minimum.

Great customer service

Good first impressions are vital to creating a comfortable and positive experience for customers. If a guest receives poor customer service upon arrival, it will set a precedent for the rest of their stay which is often difficult to rectify. Ensure that staff have a positive and welcoming attitude.

turn guests into brand advocates

Room quality

For customers spending sums of money to stay in a hotel, the quality and cleanliness of their room can determine whether or not they become advocates for your brand. A large percentage of negative hotel reviews refer to poor hygiene standards. Avoid these by ensuring that all of your rooms are kept to a high level of cleanliness and are equipped with essential amenities.

Engage with feedback

The mission to convert more brand advocates doesn’t stop after your guests check out. Engaging with customers after they leave and responding to feedback is an important part of digital marketing for hotels. Not every online review will be a positive one but they should all be seen as opportunities to learn and improve. Focus on customers who had a negative experience and try to change their opinion or provide some kind of incentive for them to return. This will hopefully convince them to edit their review and will create a better brand image in the eyes of other reviewers and potential customers.

Added extras

Going above and beyond for your guests will make them feel valued and ensure that they have a reason to promote your brand and recommend your hotel to their friends and family. This could include things such as promotional offers for returning guests or extra amenities for special requirements. Researching competitors is a good way to identify areas where you can offer extra incentives that guests won’t find anywhere else.

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Tips & Guide

A/B testing is a great tool to be deployed by businesses who want to boost their conversion rates across a whole range of channels, from web design to email marketing. The method for creating optimal content can help hotels boost their reservations, converting leads that were on the fence and generating greater levels of interest. But can too much A/B testing for web design lead to lack of innovation? Booking.com’s website suggests so.

Booking.com has a reputation for being a website that is heavily tested. All aspects of the page, from colours to the font, have been tested to drive up conversion rates. You might think this would mean their website is slick and well-designed but a study suggests that’s not the case. Instead, it’s cluttered distracting design received a score of just 32 out of 100, compared to the industry average of 71.

While Booking.com might be an online travel agent, many of the same rules still apply to hotel internet marketing and there’s a lot you can learn from the A/B testing of the brand.

Uplifts become more difficult to generate

There are only so many different aspects of a web page that you can A/B test. Eventually, generating uplifts in your conversions will plateau despite you still investing in the process. When you look at Booking.com’s page, little has changed in the last ten years. New features have been added and the style has been updated but overall the design remains the same. So, while A/B testing might initially indicate that it’s boosted conversion rates, there’s little room for it to develop further.

AB testing lessons you can learn from

Isolation is a useful tool

With huge amounts of traffic, Booking.com isolates every little detail on its page to see what’s having an impact, from the image that’s used to advertise a destination to the font size. The isolations are excellent for measuring each variable. It’s something that you can’t do if you overhaul your website design but through the isolation method, Booking.com is able to try out alternative banner placements or highlight certain portions of text. With data being gathered at all points, you’re able to create a website that’s optimised for conversions.

But sometimes a redesign is better than optimising

While Booking.com proves how useful isolating A/B testing can be, it also presents an argument for redesigning.

Websites that have been optimised will reach a point when there is no where else they can go. Despite tweaks to content and features, there is a wall that they will hit. This is where redesigns need to be considered. A redesign allows for the website’s structure to be considered, reflecting the changing market and consumer trends.

In Booking.com’s case, a redesign would be the solution to the current cluttered and distracting challenges it faces. It would enable the brand to embrace a contemporary, simplistic web design that’s become more popular. A modern redesign could help the brand to create the seamless customer journey travellers now expect to improve conversion rates where optimising is no longer have such a large impact.

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Tips & Guide

Email has provided hoteliers with an incredible way to reach out to their guests, leads and past customers for decades. With the right strategy in place, it’s a powerful tool for driving up interest and reservations. For hotel marketing experts, the ability to personalise and automate is making their strategies even more effective and we’ve got some simple ways you can boost results too.

Email marketing means you can tap into your database to generate leads, improving revenue, and establish a trustworthy connection with travellers who have already made a booking. Strike the right balance and email campaigns have the potential to strengthen customer loyalty and increase the number of customers that return to your hotel. If your current email strategy could do with some new ways of working, we’ve got five hotel marketing agency ideas to get you started.

1. Get the personalisation basics rights

Personalising email correspondence should be something that you’re already doing. Just getting the basics in place can have a big impact so even if you’re already personalising emails it’s worth reviewing what you have in place to optimise performance. Did you know that an email with a personalised subject line can improve open rates by almost a third? It’s a simple, quick way to reach more people. Personalising the content of the email, such as by using an image from a destination they’ve been browsing or an offer that reflects their last stay, can boost your return on investment even more.

2. Create automated email series that are part of the experience

Emails that follow a reservation have exceptionally high open rates but for many hotel brands they’re an underused email marketing tool. Creating an email series that offers useful information in the lead up to your guests’ arrival can enhance the experience of staying at your hotel. For example, giving current weather information for your location, offering advice on the places to visit and providing a link to your app for speedy check-in are all excellent ways of building a relationship and improving brand loyalty.

3. Utilise opportunities to upsell

Your email marketing campaign needs to be useful to the customer but it’s also an opportunity to generate more revenue for your business. Emails sent after a guest has made a booking provide the perfect opportunity to upsell. Your confirmation email could note the available room upgrades, while your pre-arrival email can offer a deal for those customers that haven’t yet booked breakfast for their stay.

Transform your hotel%u2019s approach to email personalisation and email automation with these easy strategies

4. Target consumers that have abandoned carts

Emails that target customers that abandon carts is another automated email strategy that’s underused. Sometimes all potential leads need is a nudge back in the direction of your website. Remind them what they were looking it – cart abandonment messages generate a high level of engagement as the customer was already interested in the room. Boost your conversions further by adding a personalised offer to sweeten the deal.

5. It’s about the emails you don’t send too

While personalised emails and automation offer you plenty of opportunities to contact your leads, remember not to bombard them. Flooding inboxes will lead to a negative impression of your business, as will sending out promotional emails that don’t relate to the customer. Instead, focus on crafting content that’s personalised and timely to generate higher returns on each message.

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Tips & Guide

Few things are as important as the user experience when it comes to being able to harvest direct bookings from your website. If you’re looking to win guests away from online travel agents (and competitors) making it as pleasurable and stress free as possible to navigate with your site and interact with it is absolutely key.

Here are a few insider tricks to upgrade your website’s user experience by modifying your hotel website design and rethinking some of your existing tactics and processes.

Trick 1: Be Omni-Channel

We’ve all heard the need to think mobile first and we know that research shows that an increasing number of travellers will use their smartphone or tablet to book a trip. However, what’s notable is that an even greater number will start their journey on a mobile device but will still end up making the final booking on a desktop computer. Millennials are the exception that proves this rule, with Adobe Customer Insights also recognising this trend in its annual forecast for the holiday sales season.

What this jump between devices means for your hotel marketing solutions is that you need to develop an omni-channel experience. That means a guest will have the same experience and impression of your brand when browsing on a tablet or iPhone as they get a few days later when they sit down at their desk to actually make a booking.

A simple way to make this possible is to ensure that if a user signs in on their smartphone to check availability for a specific hotel on a specific date, they are able to resume their search on their desktop or other device at a later time.

 Are you missing these insider tricks

Trick 2: Make payments as easy as possible

This sounds like an obvious trick but it’s surprising how many hotel website’s design doesn’t factor in the constraints of smaller screens and other accessibility issues when designing their payment gateway. Your booking engine should make it quick and easy to pay, offer a choice of payment options, not force a registration and avoid soliciting an excessive amount of detail.

Offer the option for payment details to be stored so that returning visitors can complete new reservations in a matter of minutes. This will not only upgrade the user experience, it will also serve to boost your conversions and room occupancy rates.

Trick 3: Implement a thematic search function

Not all guests will know that they want to stay at a specific hotel when the arrive on your site. They might know that they want a beach holiday or a city break, but don’t have a fixed idea in mind of the location that should be. Inspire your visitors to indulge their sense of adventure and discovery by implementing a thematic search function which allows guests to search by the type of stay they are looking for, a specific location such as a town or city or a particular amenity such as a spa, business facilities or all-inclusive options.

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Tips & Guide

While attracting new customers to expand your reach is important, creating a sense of brand loyalty is just as crucial for success. For hoteliers, it can be a difficult balance to strike but there are some simple ways that hotel brands can establish themselves as the preferred choice for their guests.

Customers that don’t feel appreciated throughout their stay may afterwards fail to return, meaning you could be losing a significant slice of recurring revenue. After paying out for a trip, many travellers want to be sure that they’re going to get the experience they want. Meet expectations the first time and offer an incentive to come back, and you could have a lifelong customer that always comes to you first.

Just like when you’re trying to reach out to new guests, hotel internet marketing has its place in boosting the number of retuning customers but other factors are essential too. To get you started, we’ve got five ways to become the number one hotel choice for your customers.

5 ways to become the preferred choice for your guests

1. Utilise loyalty programs for hotels

One of the key ways to boost customer loyalty is to give them an incentive to come back. Here loyalty programs for hotels are essential. Every consumer loves to feel that they’re getting something extra for their money, in fact six in ten travellers will let potential rewards influence their booking decision. Encouraging guests with points is a common loyalty program strategy but segmenting guests to offer exclusive loyalty deals, such as a room upgrade or free excursion during their stay, can also deliver a return.

A established loyalty program not only means more returning customers, it means more guests choosing to book directly, reducing the commission paid to OTAs.

2. Establish a relationship

From the very first booking you should aim to establish a relationship with each customer, understanding why it is that they first choose your hotel. Having your staff interacting with your guests while they’re visiting the hotel means you can provide offers and interact in a way that encourages them after they’ve checked out.

3. Consider the user journey

Guests want simplicity when it comes to booking. Even if their initial stay was good and you’ve deployed an efficient hotel internet marketing strategy, they won’t return if booking was complicated and time consuming. Mapping out the user journey to make it as simple and hassle free as possible could be the extra bit of encouragement guests need to return.

Remember that smartphones are increasingly the access point for consumers. Many tourists will at least research their trip while on the go and over half will ultimately book via mobile devices, it’s not a segment you can afford to miss out on. Whether they’re booking through a dedicated mobile app or through your website, you should offer a consistent, user friendly experience to all consumers.

4. Stay in touch

To encourage guests to come back, don’t forget to ensure you stay in their minds. Even top hotel brands can be forgotten despite a great experience if they don’t maintain contact. To begin with, make sure you send a simple thank you for your stay email. This should then be followed with regular, interesting emails that provide updates, promotions, and content that will make your guests eager to return.

5. Ask for feedback

Asking for feedback is a simple way to improve loyalty and provide you with invaluable data to make improvements. Requesting feedback during check-out or as part of follow-up communications shows that you value their opinion. Make sure you respond to all feedback, both negative and positive, to cement this. Where actions need to be taken, show that your hotel is proactive in addressing concerns.

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Tips & Guide

Hotels operating today face the tricky task of balancing direct bookings and using online travel agents (OTA). Both have distinct advantages and in order to maximise profits and occupancy, hoteliers will need to use the two effectively.

For many hotels focussing on increasing direct bookings, they can be worried about how it will affect their relationship with their OTA. But there is a way to utilise both channels and keep all parties happy.

OTAs might be relatively new to the travel market but they’ve transformed the way that the industry operates. They’ve opened up a new way for hotels to grow their client list. OTAs have expertly positioned themselves as the place for travellers to go when they’re searching for their next holiday deal. Despite rate parity typically occurring across hotel websites and OTAs, many consumers wrongly believe that heading to an OTA will secure a better deal than if they went directly.

On the other side of the booking argument is direct booking. While you’ll often need to put more effort into getting people to your site, there are obvious benefits. Firstly, you’ll eliminate the commission you would otherwise be paying to the OTA for securing you a reservation, boosting your revenue.

When consumers book directly it also gives you complete control of their experience from start to finish, allowing you to create a unified experience. With the right online hotel reservation system in place and follow up communications, it’s a way to foster brand loyalty and improve customer satisfaction rates. What’s more, it’s a way to build up your customer loyalty program database to maximise marketing opportunities.

With most OTA agreements meaning hotels need to offer price parity rates across both the OTA and through their direct online hotel reservation system, it can be a challenge to increase hotel bookings while still keeping partners happy

Increase direct bookings and keep your OTA happy Yes, it's possible

How to increase your direct bookings without jeopardising OTA bookings

Key to getting the most out of booking engine for hotels without infringing OTA agreements is to add value. Under your agreement you’re unlikely to be able to offer a room rate direct on your site that’s cheaper than what’s offered through an OTA.

However, you can add value to your customers to encourage more to come directly:

• Promote exclusive offers – Even under an OTA agreement, you can offer exclusive deals through your website. Giving travellers an added extra incentive could just be the thing to sway them. An offer could include a free night when paying for two, a complimentary room upgrade, or added extras, such as inclusive breakfast.

• Connect on social media – Social media platforms are the ideal place for hotels to drum up business. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate exactly why travellers should be booking directly to the consumers that are looking to make a reservation.

• Create an enticing loyalty program – A loyalty program can help tip those travellers that are on the fence when it comes to booking. It also provides you with more opportunities to improve your marketing results and entice customers to return.

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Tips & Guide

It might be tempting to place all your marketing efforts into the digital space given how fast it’s developing and the benefits of online efforts. But don’t make the mistake of neglecting bookings via travel agents and other offline means.

Offline marketing and revenue can still represent a significant portion of your hotel’s overall income. With the right company strategy, you can cover both online and offline booking efforts, maximising the revenue you generate and allowing you to tap into far more customer segments. While more than half of travellers choose to research or book hotels online, forgetting your offline options can mean losing profitable sources of reservations.

Here are some easy strategies to implement if you want to keep a toe in both traditional and online marketing.

Create Integrated Campaigns

Why separate out your campaigns between digital and non-digital, online and offline?

Integrated marketing plans that consider both methods can be extremely powerful and effective at gaining bookings. Prepare campaign briefs that include a core message, end goal, and a list of valid communication channels, as well as any assets which will be required during your campaign. Once the brief is approved, you should share it with all relevant staff members in order to ensure a symbiotic relationship is cultivated – this will in turn help ensure the success of your campaign. You might choose to include channels such as your website, e-mail and participating travel agents within your offer – perfect for a well-organised and well-implemented campaign blending offline and online methods.

If you’re offering an exceptional deal to customers or have increased your level of service, you want to make sure all your potential leads know about – this is where an integrated campaign helps. It gets a message out to a greater number of prospects.

Online and Offline Booking Efforts

Brand Consistently

It’s of vital importance that your branding remains identical both online and offline, helping to create a unified message and establish a brand identity. Whilst a multi-channel campaign can be of great value, this only applies when your customers are able to identify your branding regardless of which channel they are personally engaging with.

Digital marketing for hotels should meet a guest’s expectations, so your activities need to also match up with what your customers have come to expect from your establishment. Whether producing a video tour or providing an offline brochure, the branding should be all your own.

Allow Different Booking Methods

Whilst this could be more difficult to trace with less advanced revenue management software, facilitating multiple methods of booking helps you maximise all potential revenue strands. It would be wrong to suggest that those who purchase offline are automatically technophobic – data suggests that all segments use travel agents to some degree. By making this a real possibility you avoid alienating potentially profitable customers from your hotel offering, and boost the likelihood of real, in-person bookings. Ensure your digital channels include multiple methods of contact and for making bookings. This will help to reassure less technologically-savvy guests whilst also making the most of your online platform.

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Tips & Guide

Mobile marketing has achieved a staggering dominance in recent years, with the growth of mobile-first browsing and search providing more and more opportunities for getting your hotel in front of mobile customers. However, the cost per acquisition (CPA) often prevents hoteliers and hotel marketers from engaging with this important new development.

If you’re weighing up the gains you make through mobile marketing with the results, you might be tempted to switch your marketing focus. But you’d be making a mistake. Over half of online traffic today comes from mobile sources and it’s a figure that’s still growing. As consumers seek to access information while on the go, you could miss out on those all-important prospects and room reservations if you’re not embracing the digital revolution.

Why Mobile Marketing Is Important for Hotels

There has been a growth in the number of web browsers finding and reserving their hotel stays via mobile technology. Previously, mobile browsing might have been limited to research but improving security and better access means that more travellers are putting their personal and payment details into mobile devices.

Frequently on-the-go, hotel guests now require marketing to reach them where they are, rather than expecting them to passively find out about products and services via broader-based methods. Mobile provides the ideal solution for ultra-targeted hotel advertising strategies, which can cut through the noise and provide heavy audience segmentation. This appeals to hoteliers eager to expand their hotel marketing solutions and improve their conversion rate.

Analysis Reports

Relevance of CPA

A low cost per acquisition (CPA) could lead you to believe that your ads are under-performing but in actual fact a low cost per acquisition is an aspect of maintaining a healthy quality score.

A low CPA does not necessarily suggest your ads are lacking in relevance, though it could indicate that you need to revise your current strategy to maximise output. The way that you should judge your engagement will vary, depending on the mobile marketing method used. However, the cost of acquiring a new customer who takes part in real, revenue-boosting activities after viewing your ads is likely to develop over time if the ads are adequately effective in appealing to their target audience.

Investing in Mobile Marketing

The cost of investment presents a concern for many hotel marketers, but this should not present a barrier for hotels with ambitious plans or for those where their target audience is frequently found on mobile.

Mobile is particularly important for marketers looking to break into tech-savvy markets with their hotel offering, such as targeting the millennial generation. It’s also arguable that at the current rate technological change, mobile marketing, regardless of the resultant CPA, is still a very worthwhile investment for hoteliers.

Nonetheless, keeping your CPA low is likely to be a key factor in determining the level of mobile-first activities your hotel indulges in. However, it shouldn’t prevent your hotel from investing should you see your hotel as having a future in the mobile marketing space, allowing you to develop a solid foundation to build on.

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Tips & Guide

Analysing the right data is paramount for effective revenue management. Your potential customers are swamped by hundreds of offers emblazoned on websites when they’re browsing the plethora of hotels available at the click of a mouse. The key to setting yourself aside from the competition is to ensure your website and your digital distribution channels are different. You can make it the right type of different by ensuring data drives how your website looks. But what types of data? Read on to find out the data you really should be utilising for better revenue management.

Net Gain per channel

This is a critical data category for hoteliers who have multiple domains and channels. Instead of analysing the demand, or traffic, for each channel, look at your net gain. Is it costing you more to keep the channel than what you’re gaining from it? Could you incorporate it into your other channels? Ensuring that you use your reservation system for hotels to analyse your net gain per channel is crucial in determining how successful your revenue management is.

Historical data

How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve came from? Analysing historical data from revenue management software in hotels is a dependable tactic you can use to make your revenue management more profitable. For example, if the lifetime value of guests who’ve visited you from deal websites such as Groupon is lucrative in the long run then you’re doing the right thing. If not, then maybe a change is in order.

Revenue management System

Pace Reports

You can learn a lot from the hotel pace report available from your revenue management software in hotels. These provide you with detailed data about your hotel’s performance by room types, week parts (weekday vs weekend performance), holidays such as New Year and more. Viewing these allows you to plan ahead for the future and adapt accordingly.

Booking Windows

Remember to factor in outliers when viewing your lead times; what if your average booking window is 15 when outliers are removed, but it initially appears to be 30? You could then go onto create a marketing strategy with an average 30-day lead time in mind and completely miss your target audience. The only solution to this is to consider each booking window carefully so you know exactly when people are booking, what they’re booking and why they’re booking.

Cancellations

Do you find your hotel taking in a lucrative amount of bookings, only to be dismayed when you realise a large percentage of your would-be guests end up cancelling their stay via? Are people with longer lead times more likely to cancel their stay with you? If so, how can you engage with them during their lead time so they don’t cancel?

Effectively analysing your cancellation rate and who’s changing their minds about their stay can save you potentially thousands in retaining guests as opposed to losing them. If you find there’s a certain demographic or customer group who’re cancelling more than others you can act decisively to combat the problem.

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Tips & Guide

Need to increase your revenue at your hotel? Special offers are one of the first ports of call for hoteliers around the world looking to increase their profit margins, and with good reason – people love a bargain. A hotel offering a special deal that could shave a substantial amount off their holiday bill instantly becomes an attractive option. But how can you make your special offer superior to the plethora of other special offers on the market? Check out this step-by-step guide to make your deals stand out from the crowd and boost your direct bookings.

Step 1: Identify your target audience

One element that forms part of marketing hotels strategies and hotel advertising strategies all over the world is identifying who you want to bring in and how to customize your offer to appeal to them. Analyse your visitor profiles to see who’s finding your hotel most attractive; is it honeymooners? Groups of friends? Retirees? Corporate booking agents? Once you’ve determined who’s finding your hotel most attractive, you can build on your appeal and take more of a market share.

Step 2: Decide on your plans and packages

Once you’ve identified who you’re selling to, it’s time to move onto the next step of your marketing hotel strategy; formulating your plans and packages. Get creative. If your hotel is aimed at groups of young friends, why not create offers that include vouchers to local bars? Likewise, if you’re trying to entice families to make group bookings, you could add in incentives such as theme park inclusions as part of your special deal.

Hotel Discounts

Step 3: Selling your package

Properly executing the next step is vital to your success – selling your package. When you’re creating your new special offers in your CRS, make sure you create a unique URL so you can track how well your campaign is going. You can then adjust accordingly if need be. Another useful tactic is to create a dedicated landing page as part of your hotel advertising strategies. This should offer a direct booking option, rather than having your potential customers routed through the home page and via the standard path to the booking engine.

Step 4: Your marketing channels

In order for your offer to be successful then it’s imperative than you market your offer through the right channels. Here’s a couple to consider.

• Social media If your offer is geared towards younger travellers then it’s especially important that you make the most of social media. You can easily set up Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ads to target certain demographics and age groups so you know that you’re hitting your target market.

• PPC As you already know, you’ll only pay for each click that your ad receives, but pay-per-click ads are also extremely versatile. You can edit your ad to only appear on certain devices, at specific times or in certain locations, allowing you to reach your desired target audience more effectively with minimal spend.

• Email marketing The least expensive booking to acquire is that of an existing customer. So, promote your great deals to your existing client base, using email marketing and automated emails to promote and follow up.

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Tips & Guide

With more ways of booking a stay than ever before, it’s important hotels learn from their guests’ behaviour both before and during the reservation process in order to improve the service offered and optimise the journey to conversion. Better understanding guest booking behaviour not only allows for smarter conversion funnels and more frictionless experiences, it also provides a more enjoyable guest experience. Creating amazing reservation systems for hotels is just half of the battle; in the increasing technological world, understanding guests’ behaviour via these systems is a must.

So what can you tell from your guests about how they book?

Booking direct means they’re shrewd

Booking direct doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up to date with the latest technology. But it does mean they know what they’re doing when it comes to managing their money. Booking direct with providers generally offers up the best deals, increased flexibility, and loyalty point opportunities – all while ensuring they are in the best possible position for room upgrades. So those who take advantage of this know exactly what they’re doing.

It’s no secret that hoteliers prefer guests to use their own online booking engines due to the zero cost of commission per booking. So in order to make the most of bookings, it’s imperative hotels do all they can to attract traffic to their site and owned distribution channels.

Using OTAs means they’re looking for a deal

Online travel agents use clever marketing tricks to portray a better value for money service than elsewhere. However we know this isn’t always correct. As mentioned above, booking direct often provides the best deals due to there being no commission.

In order to rebuff these myths, hotels must make the most of their position and advertise rates and special offers via every available channel.

Hotel Room

Booking in advance means they’re looking for experience

There are two types of guest; the last-minute booker and the prepared traveller. Those who book in advance are looking for an experience over a basic stay. They’ve reserved the time to research hotels, taken into consideration location and amenities, and are looking for the whole package. Those who wait until the last minute however are often the opposite; they’re looking for convenience.

It’s imperative that hoteliers are able to capitalise on both of these types of bookings to place them in the best possible position in the increasingly competitive sector.

…Just like mobile bookings

80 percent of internet users own a smartphone. So it’s not surprising that mobile browsing is increasing year on year. Mobile behaviour can tell a lot about the person and their needs – especially where hotel bookings are concerned. Those who make reservations on a mobile device, just like above, are often looking for convenience – not the personal experience those who take the time to book on a desktop are.

To take advantage of these types of bookings, hoteliers must optimise their website for mobile, making is simple to select dates and make a reservation.

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Tips & Guide

Hotels have never relied on their reputation as much as they do today. Research shows that online reviews are incredibly powerful, with a recent study from BrightLocal underlining this in no uncertain terms. Its comprehensive Local Consumer Review Survey was able to conclude that 8 out of 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a personal recommendation from someone they know. What’s more, 91% of all consumers read online reviews – meaning there’s no hiding place if your online reputation management strategy has strayed off course.

In a world where one or two bad reviews can go viral and spell disaster for a hotel, it’s important to remain professional from start to finish. However with the day to day running of a hotel often taking precedent, it can be difficult to keep on top of feedback – particularly negative feedback.

Although a set of negative feedback can prove detrimental for a hotel, it is actually how the hotel responds to such criticism that is much more important in the long-run. So part of the online reputation management of a hotel involves responding to the negative feedback in a sympathetic, yet factual way. But as we’re aware, this isn’t always part of the overall marketing strategy. So, what can you learn from your rivals when it comes to handling negative feedback?

Don’t leave feedback unanswered too long

It’s imperative that review sites are checked regularly – particularly during busy periods. Leaving back feedback lingering on review sites for too long without a response, or replying weeks after the review is left, looks unprofessional and insincere. There have been far too many instances where companies, not just hotels, have refused to respond and implement change in a process. This is a recipe for negative press.

Reputation Management

Take feedback seriously

Even if you know that a complaint isn’t quite factual, it’s important that you take it seriously. Don’t forget that most responses are in the public sphere. And even if they aren’t, with technology, it can easily be made public. When responding to a complaint or bad review, get the facts from those involved and respond in an upbeat tone. It’s important that you first address the reviewer, apologise for the experience, and issue a call to action – such as offering the guest a discounted stay to allow you to rectify your mistakes or encouraging them to speak with you further so you can resolve the issue.

Don’t let just anyone respond

You must consider who will respond to these reviews – both good and bad. The manager of a hotel is often the best person to respond as guests will usually feel like their complaint has been taken seriously. It’s also one of the best ways for the manager to hear first-hand and honest reviews of the hotel and service offered by the staff. Understanding when to involve the most senior employees is a vital part of a hotel digital marketing strategy, and as a result can have a significant impact on how guests and potential guests perceive the hotel.

If your hotel digital marketing strategy is internally focused, taking some time to study the reviews and responses provided by competitors can offer a lesson in both how to and how not to approach your public guest feedback.

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Tips & Guide

With 2018 just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to step back and consider new ways to nurture direct bookings over the next 12 months.

For those hotel brands looking to increase their hotel online distribution and grow direct engagement with guests, hotel channel manager software can be a sensible starting point. Read on to discover other ways that you can grow your hotel’s direct bookings in 2018.

Identify trends to inform the decision making process

Before implementing any new marketing strategies for the new year, it is important to analyse existing data and identify key channels. Doing a data mine of 2017 booking trends and sources will allow you to see how many customers booked via an OTA and how many went directly to your website. You should also be able to track the customer journey and touchpoints, notice seasonal trends and popular room and rate types. Pulling reports from your hotel channel manager software should be able to give you much of the information you need. Once you have this data to hand, you should be able to identify gaps and opportunities and begin to formulate a data-led growth plan.

Offer the best rate

In order to edge out OTAs, it is important to offer the most competitive price to guests directly. If you don’t have price comparison available already, adding this to your hotel booking engine can also help to drive up conversion. Make it easy for guests to feel confident that they are getting the best rate by going direct and then, facilitate room type, rate and date comparisons too.

Incentives

The main reasons that customer chooses to book through OTAs is because they are quick, easy and offer competitive prices. It’s important to show potential customers that they have something to gain by booking direct. You might offer more flexible cancellation policies for example or guest reward programs to incentivise the direct booking.

Online Booking

Be responsive

Being able to quickly and easily find a hotel and book a room on any device is a basic consumer expectation. If you haven’t yet got to grips with mobile SEO, responsive web design, mobile apps and mobile optimised booking engines, investment in these areas is an easy way to drive up direct bookings.

Change rate displays

Recent research has shown that rate displays can have a big impact on conversion figures for hotels. The common way of displaying rates in a Per Person format has been proven to be less effective than Total Stay or Per Night. A simple change to your website booking engine settings or app can increase the number of direct bookings and improve your RevPar.

Use a booking abandonment tool

Often, consumers looking for a hotel will browse the internet in search of the best deal. During this research period, users may abandon the search or leave your website before completing their booking. Use CRO techniques such as automated emails and retargting to encourage those guests back to complete their reservation and enhance your conversion rates.

Maintain OTA inventory

Making sure that the level of rooms available on OTAs is a vital step in generating high direct booking figures. Limiting the inventory on external OTAs will ensure that you maintain a healthy level of direct bookings which are more profitable.

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Tips & Guide

It seems that the days of booking trips and holidays through travel agents are gradually becoming a thing of the past. New data from Barclays Corporate Banking shows that 37% of Britons planning a holiday will book their accommodation directly through the hotel’s own websites rather than an OTA or high street travel agent. This figure has increased consistently every year and is predicted to stay on the same path.

Some of the biggest brands in the hotel industry have seen an increase in direct bookings in line with this finding. Premier Inn for example reports that 87% of its bookings are carried out directly on the company website. Hotels do still have a fight on their hands to win direct bookings though with aggregator and comparison sites taking up a large proportion of the market.

Try these additions to your hotel digital marketing strategy to generate more direct bookings this quarter.

Go mobile

The world is going mobile and in order to engage with an increasingly growing consumer base, it’s important for hotels to serve the smartphone generation as seamlessly as desktop users.

Research published by Google has revealed that 60% of travel-related searches are carried out on mobile devices. This shows that there is huge potential to engage with more consumers. But, equally, there’s risk of losing bookings to other operators if the hotel booking engine or hotel website is not mobile friendly.

An effective mobile reservation system for hotels can massively improve the customer experience. It’s important to provide an end-to-end mobile experience that gives potential guests a simple and streamlined way to make a booking from a mobile device. This means developing reservation forms which can be filled in easily from a smartphone handset, removing the need to create an account before allowing a guest to book and ensuring form designs are responsive for easy completion on mobile devices.

Concierge Services

Stand out

The hotel industry is full of brands that are often indistinguishable to customers looking for a place to stay on their holidays or business trips. This is what causes many people to use comparison sites and aggregation services to book their accommodation. It is easy for hotel companies to get lost in the sea of generic brands so it’s important to distinguish yourself and personalise your services.

Personal touch

In the digital age, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology race and forget how important customer interaction is. In order to generate more direct bookings and entice more customers to communicate directly with a hotel, a personalised approach is very important. Big comparison websites work on algorithms and operate with zero human interaction. This illustrates an opportunity to offer something different.

Personal interaction with customers in the form of phone calls, personalised emails and real-time customer services add to customer confidence and satisfaction. A live chat button on your site or quick responses to social media enquiries are great places to start. You can take it further by employing marketing personalisation to serve users with content tailored to their interests or time emails to perfection.

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Tips & Guide

Loyalty programs have been around for a long time and hotel companies all over the world have been crafting their own unique variations in attempts to improve conversion figures and increase the number of repeat customers for decades. As the industry continues to grow rapidly in the digital age, more competition is emerging and the industry-wide battle for market share has been catalysed by the growing popularity of aggregator websites and online travel agents.

In recent years more hotel operators have sought the help of a hospitality marketing agency in order to develop effective loyalty programs and improve their hotel distribution management. This is a key step that can help you improve your prospects and devise appealing incentives that will improve customer loyalty and drive up sales figures. Here are some of the important factors to consider when designing a loyalty program for your hotel.

Know your customers

Many hotel operators often make the mistake of assuming they know exactly what their customers want, without basing their thoughts on any reliable research or information. Before deciding on the type of reward system you want to incorporate, it’s vital that you find out as much information as possible about your customer base and why they choose to book with you. Don’t assume the answer is cost or location. Ask. A well-informed and highly researched customer profile is vital to identifying the most appealing incentives. For example, research should show you the varying age groups within your customer base, allowing you to craft an appropriate reward system for each part of the demographic.

Loyalty Program

Make it easy

In order to maximise the number of customers that take advantage of your reward system, the conditions and requirements need to be simple and easy. If a loyalty system involves a series of stringent tasks or requirements, many customers are discouraged to take part. Wherever possible, the steps of a loyalty system should be streamlined and integrated into the already existing booking process. Minimising the amount of effort required from guests and maximising the reward is a recipe for success with any loyalty scheme.

New technology

Looking at examples like Hilton illustrates just how important it is for hotel companies to embrace new trends and adopt emerging technologies in order to remain successful. Technology has made it easier than ever to create digital rewards programs. Call in a hospitality marketing agency to assist and look at ways to use technology to automatically enrol customers into a loyalty program via your app or website. Smartphone use and time spent using apps are both rapidly increasing which means it’s important for hotels to tap into the trends with digital rewards structures.

Tailored incentives

Creating tailored or customised rewards can help diversify your reward strategy and increase customer engagement. It also means your hotel will appeal to a wider market. This concept works in direct conjunction with the idea of creating an in-depth customer profile. By knowing your customers well you can craft specific and effective reward systems.

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Tips & Guide

Smartphones and tablet devices are intrinsic to day-to-day lives. So much so that mobile browsing surpassed desktop internet use for the first time last year.

In many sectors, mobile internet use is driving huge changes and presents immense opportunities. In 2016 for example, Adobe data showed that Black Friday became the first day it retail history to generate over $1 billion in mobile revenue. The total figure of $1.2 billion was a 33% increase in the amount of mobile sales generated the same day the previous year.

In travel especially, the mobile revolution is having a marked impact. Google research shows that travellers rely on their mobiles more now than ever before. The search engine says, “Recent Google data has shown that there are already more searches on mobile than desktop for select travel categories, such as family vacations and luxury travel. And when it comes to planning vacation activities, mobile devices are giving travellers increased flexibility. Many travellers are willing to plan activities on the fly, while they are at their destination.”

Why then, is the rate of cart abandonment 2 in 5 for travel products? Jumio data shows that consumers abandon travel bookings on mobile because of poor user experiences. Offering a seamless mobile experience is the cornerstone of hotel responsive web design but, it could be that the speed of your site, rather than more practical factors such as your hotel website booking engine could be letting you down.

According to Kissmetrics data, almost one third of users say that mobile sites or apps are too slow to load. Almost half (47%) expect any site they visit on their smartphone or table to load in two seconds or less.

If your mobile page, whether that’s the home page or hotel website booking engine, takes longer than three seconds to load, 40% of users will abandon the site and go elsewhere. This is of course terrible news for both your conversion rate and for your occupancy rate.

Online Booking

If your mobile hotel website booking engine, or any other part of your site, leaves users dissatisfied, either because it’s slow to load or because it isn’t mobile-friendly, 79% of users are less likely to book with you again. This means a slow, unresponsive site isn’t just bad news for your bookings now, it can also continue to have a negative effect later on, when those same customers require another hotel stay.

The rise of the mobile internet has been fuelled by the convenience of being able to browse on the go. It should come as no surprise to learn that 46% of people say that waiting for a mobile page to load is their least favourite aspect of the online shopping experience. With page speed so crucial, taking every measure possible to factor in hotel responsive web design and streamline page load times should be a priority for your marketing team.

Speed is clearly a crucial part of mobile conversions. The quicker your pages load, the lower your bounce rate and the less frustrated the user. A consequence of this is that you’re likely to see fewer abandoned bookings from mobile devices.

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Tips & Guide

In today’s highly competitive, often frenetic, digitally-driven world of business, being ‘in the know’ and operating with the latest, game-changing tools is crucial not only to stay one step ahead of your competitors, but like it or not, being in the game with them at all. And, don’t doubt it; that very much goes for the hotel industry.

Nowadays, hoteliers conduct a significant slice of their business online; particularly the marketing and booking of rooms. To that end, the overarching aim is turning online browsers into paying guests. But how do you achieve that as effectively and efficiently as possible?

One of the online marketing solutions for hotels that more and more businesses are turning to is conversion rate optimisation (CRO). It’s the art of increasing the percentage of visitors that become customers – converting casual website users into paying users. But how does it work? How does it successfully improve conversion rate? Well, it’s a very strategic, advanced and dependable solution – potentially encompassing a number of different techniques drawn from across the spectrum of digital marketing for hotels.

For instance, the CRO solution offered by Digital Hotelier operates as a genuine 360° solution for driving up conversion rate; day-after-day, 365 days a year – and, thus, significantly improves online-derived hotel revenue. And it achieves this through the application of several digital marketing and web analytics techniques. So, in addition to the relatively general likes of browser and platform analysis, these include:

A/B testing

Also referred to as ‘split-run testing’ or ‘bucket tests’, A/B testing is a controlled experiment with two variants (A and B). It basically tests website users’ responses to two different variables (say, a specific change to a webpage’s design and the unchanged version), determining which is more effective and so which will better boost conversion.

Heatmaps

A heatmap is a graphical presentation of data, in which individual values featured in a matrix are represented as separate colours. A common web analytics tool, a heatmap’s often used for identifying areas of a webpage most frequently scanned by visitors – and, thus, which are contributing most to driving online revenue.

digital-marketing

Bounce rate analysis

Bounce rate is the total number of visits, per session, to a website’s landing (or entrance) page that register just one, single hit there divided by all the hits (including those leading to hits deeper into the site). Analysing this enables you to discover how that page is performing – generally, a bounce rate that’s 26-40% is very good (41-55% about average; above 70% pretty much means ‘panic stations’ and needs seriously addressing).

Speed testing

The faster your website runs, the more likely you’ll get conversions; it’s as simple as that. Should your website – and, thus, its booking pages or click-through booking engine – be running slower than your competitors’ (or you suspect it might be), then it’s more likely that would-be guests will either not complete their customer booking journey or not even get that far before leaving your site. Online users are fickle in that regard – but can afford to be owing to the huge variety of choice out there when it comes to hotel booking. You need your site running at a decent speed.

Frequency and reach testing

Finally, in basic terms, this form of testing should lead to analysis of just how many users are being reached by a particular online communication, whatever form it might take – and how often they’re reached over a certain period of time, be that several weeks or months (the frequency). Ideally, ‘unique’ reach models should be able to account for the total reach of a communication by accounting for – and, via, its analysis, identifying – cases when users have seen it on different devices or when that device has been shared by multiple people. Just how effective are your communication efforts at boosting your CRO? Are they genuinely paying off? This form of testing can efficiently inform you what’s working and what’s not.

To sum up then, there are several different techniques that can be deployed to improve a hotel’s CRO. And when a choice collection of them – like those outlined above that are deployed for their clients by Digital Hotelier – are conscientiously put into action, a hotel’s conversion frequency can’t fail to improve. Indeed, done right; there’s a good chance that rate might just soar.

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Tips & Guide

Building guest loyalty has to be an essential part of any hotel online marketing strategy. Not every guest can be a first-time guest, and it’s vital that every hotel has a plan in place to attract repeat customers as well as those all-important new ones. Indeed, many hotels would go out of business entirely if it weren’t for their regular guests. It’s also often easier and more cost effective to retain existing clients than it is to win brand new ones, so building guest loyalty is an essential part of revenue management.

So how can you start to build that sense of loyalty among your guests? What additions to your hotel online marketing strategy can you make to convince them to stay with you again and again, over and above other local venues? Here are some top tips.

Have a loyalty scheme

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to boost loyalty among guests is to introduce a scheme that incentivizes it. Loyalty schemes can offer a number of rewards for guests, encouraging them to come back and give the hotel their custom once more. From free meals in your in-house restaurant and discounted spa treatments to completely free stays for the most loyal customers, one of the best ways to increase loyalty is to make loyalty worth it.

conceirge-service

Show that you care

Consumers – millennials in particular – are more likely to become loyal to a brand if they feel like it values their opinions and cares about improving. Set up a system that dispatches an email to a guest a few days after their stay, asking them to leave an online customer review and encouraging them to provide some feedback. Then, further down the line, send out an email letting the customer know that their feedback has been implemented, and suggesting they return to the hotel to check it out for themselves.

Keep in touch

If you’re in the early stages of developing loyalty with a customer, you’ll need to try and remain in the forefront of your guests’ minds. Whether you’re encouraging them to follow you on social media channels or sending out a text message to let them know about an upcoming special offer, you should try to remain in touch and make sure that your hotel is the first one that springs to mind the next time they’re booking a trip.

Dazzle your guests

Ask yourself: what would make you return to a specific hotel for a second, third or fourth stay in addition to a great experience and other online customer reviews? It could be an unforgettable memory, a special event or some truly excellent customer service. You should always strive to impress every guest and give them a reason to return. From personalising your interactions with each guest, to going out of your way to make their stay special and memorable, these are the actions that your customers will remember – and they’ll be the things they remember when they sit down to book another trip.

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Tips & Guide

Push notifications are nothing new. They’ve been used on the internet, and especially on mobile devices, for quite some time. Push notifications for hotel websites, on the other hand, are a relatively new phenomenon that are just starting to be used by hotel digital marketing agencies. They’re something all hotels should be looking into as part of their overall marketing strategy.

When consumers are browsing for a hotel to book for an upcoming trip, it’s very unlikely that they book the first one they lay eyes on – not the savvy consumers of today. They like to use comparison sites and OTAs to find great deals, and that might involve checking out a number of hotel websites before making the final decision. Imagine having a tool that could reel those website visitors back in after they’ve left?

A push notification is an alert that is ‘pushed’ to a visitor’s computer or phone screen. The notification will pop up and make itself visible no matter what the visitor is doing, even if they’re not currently on your website. The visitor must have accepted or ‘opted in’ to the notifications during a previous visit in order to receive them.

So how can you leverage these powerful pop-ups to bring potential guests back to your hotel’s site? Let’s examine some of the top ways.

Personalise your messages

Push technology allows you to personalise messages for certain user behaviours and preferences. So if a user was browsing your hotel website’s spa section before they left, you could use that as a hook to bring them back in.

personalized-messages-user-interaction

Segment your visitors

Segment visitors by location, age and other criteria to ensure your notifications are personalised even further. You could segment based on active or inactive users, as well as previous site history, then create web push notification messages that are hyper-specific to each segment.

Always use push notifications for abandoned carts

Has a visitor to your website added a room to your cart and then abandoned it entirely? A well-timed push notification has a great shot at bringing them back. Perhaps they forgot about the booking, perhaps they needed a little extra nudge – whatever the reason, stay in the forefront of their minds and reduce cart abandonment rates.

Don’t be too ‘pushy’

Some people find push notifications a little intrusive, so try not to go overboard with them. Only send out messages when there’s something relevant to convey, whether it’s a new offer, a discount or information that you think will be useful for a certain audience segment. Sending out too many push notifications is the fastest way to cause users to revoke your push permissions.

Continue relationships after purchasing

Web push notifications don’t have to end when a guest has reserved their room or completed their booking. Keep the relationship alive and build brand loyalty with notifications that are relevant to future guests. Continue to upsell products or upgrades, and keep future guests informed about things like traffic, weather issues and events in the area.

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