As we look back on 2015, the hospitality industry had an exciting year. Startups, such as Airbnb, solidified their place in the market. There were countless mergers that changed the OTA landscape such as Homeaway and Expedia or Marriott and Starwood. Consumers demanded more videos, went even further mobile, and continue to book on OTAs. 2016 looks like it will be a continuation of 2015’s trend with slight changes in consumer behavior. We’ve rounded up the top trends expected for 2016 and how you can best prepare for the upcoming year.
Video Will Continue to Dominate
We previously reported on Youtube’s dominance and how to use video across different channels such as Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Video is the best way to grab potential guests’ attention in this media heavy world. If you haven’t already, you need to craft a video marketing strategy for your property.
Before the new year, create a video content calendar for 2016. Come up with at least one video per month and make each video topical. Focus on something related to your property that will interest your guests. Some ideas include: local points of interest, guides, maps, history, and employee stories.
Create a strategy for marketing these videos after you produce them. Decide how you will share them via email and social. They should be fully integrated into your existing email and social strategy. Videos will also improve your SEO because their bounce rates are lower, which means that your website users will stay on your site longer increasing your rankings. Additionally, your website will be able to rank on Google’s video search.
Revisit Your Branding and Make Refinements
As the new year approaches, think about updating your brand assets. This includes updating pictures on your website and social media channels. It’s important to keep images up-to-date and fresh to present the best image of your property.
Revisit the story your property is trying to tell. Your story and branding will drive the content you produce and the social media strategy you create. The story you tell should attract the type of guests you are looking for. If you are a ski and snowboarding lodge in Japan, your story is much different than a luxury hotel on the beach in Hawaii.
Identify Your Consumer Base
It is likely that you have at some point or another created customer profiles. Customer profiles help you figure out how to attract certain types of guests. The way you target a family is different than how you attract a serial adventure traveler. Your property likely attracts different types of guests and therefore, it is helpful to identify what drives your guests.
The New Year is a good time to create or revisit your guest profiles. Take the time to see if you existing customer profiles match the type of people who came to your property in 2015. Make the necessary changes and add as many profiles as you see fit.
Email is still one of the best ways to market to potential guests. There are many ways you can get creative to engage your guests and even cross-promote on other channels. In a previous post, we listed seven types of email to build relationships with guests.
Here are some examples:
- Offer an upgrade or some other low-cost swag when someone shares a piece of content via their social channels
- Send a pre-arrival package
- Send a post-stay checkup email
- Share guest stories
- Notify past guests of upcoming seasonal events
- Share owner, manager, or employee stories to humanize your property
- Share your regular blog content
- Gather and share interesting articles
If you are looking for tools to power your email strategy, you can check out our other blog post on the best email marketing tools. It includes platforms like Constant Contact and MailChimp.
You probably already use Google Adwords to market your property, but the new year is a great time to revisit your keywords. Check how well you current keywords are performing and add any new ones that may have become relevant since your initial search.
Consider adding display ads to your strategy as well. Display advertising is a type of online advertising that relies on elements such as images, audio, and video to communicate a message. They appear on websites that relate to keywords or topics you identify. Display ads can get expensive quickly, so they are better suited to properties with deeper pockets.
With display ads, you can also implement what is called retargeting or remarketing. This form of online advertising targets Internet users based on their previous web interactions. For example, you have probably experienced this when you are online shopping and then leave the website only to see an ad for that exact product on say, Facebook, for example.
Your reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, etc. matter when guests are looking for a place to stay in an unknown city. Before the new year, make sure that you do a thorough search for any online review, and respond when appropriate. It is best to respond to all reviews, but the negative ones are especially important. It looks bad for your property to have an unresolved negative review on the books. Even if you cannot change the guests’ experience, you can mitigate damage to your brand by explaining circumstances and being gracious and magnanimous.
Reviews are also a good way to gauge how your property performed over the past year. Guests’ reviews will you give you great insight into what you are already doing well at, and where there is room for improvement.
You can read our entire guide to responding the negative reviews here.
Add Marketing Channels
Make it a goal to experiment with at least two new marketing channels to your property in 2016. Adding new marketplaces to your strategy with a channel manager like myallocator is relatively easy, as you can still manage the same amount of inventory in one central location.
Add a marketing channel that caters to a niche market. A niche marketing channel is one that appeals to a smaller, more targeted group of people. One example includes Bud and Breakfast, which helps cannabis loving travelers find friendly accommodations.
One of the biggest benefits of a travel manager is the ability to add new channels with ease. Use this to your benefit and extend your property’s reach with only a little added effort.
Continuously gauge the new channels performance. If it works out, great–you have another successful channel! If not, you will not have wasted that much time and can find another channel to join.
Reduce Operating Costs
One of the best ways to increase your bottom line is to decrease your operating costs. Make it a goal in 2016 to identify your biggest cost contributors. In general, the largest cost contributors include labor, energy, marketing, and software.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce your operating costs:
- Avoid overheating bedrooms and hallways
- Adjust the settings on your TVs so that they don’t remain in “quick start” mode even when they appear to be off
- Use LED lights
- Reduce labor costs by cross-training employees
- Use free online software to manage email and social media when possible.
Decreasing operating costs can be tricky and tiresome. We have a blog post, a free ebook, and a free webinar recording about this topic to help you better understand your largest cost contributors. Some operating costs are like throwing money away, so take the time to audit your property’s expenses and learn how to decrease them.
Add a New Social Media Network
Social media will continue to be extremely important in 2016. Consider adding Pinterest or Instagram to your social media strategy. If you’re a superstar and already on both platforms, consider Snapchat or Periscope. Pinterest and Instagram are especially great for hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, etc. because they are visually driven platforms. Travelers love to get lost in pictures and videos of other people’s travels, and are often two of the most engaging platforms.
Also, brush up on everything that changed in 2015. For example, Facebook introduced Newsfeed controls and On This Day flashbacks, Twitter now lets you post GIFs and has a While You Were Away feature. And now, Instagram offers a better instant messenger. You can see all the changes in Outbound Engine’s Social Media 2016 guide here.
Mobile Optimize Your Website
Mobile will only become increasingly more important, so you should take your mobile website seriously. If you don’t have a mobile website yet, create one. But, if you do have one, take the time to go through all of the pages and make sure everything displays correctly.
Then, go through the booking process on multiple different mobile devices such as an iPhone, an Android phone, and a tablet. The way a website displays will vary based on the device, so it is best to test on multiple devices.
This includes making sure your booking engine is also mobile optimized, like mybookings is. If your booking engine is not mobile optimized, users are likely to abandon your site and book on an OTA or with a competitor.
In 2016, more than half of all online bookings for U.S. travelers will be completed on a mobile device, according to Skift. While this stat is for the United States, mobile will continue to have a global impact.
The main goal for 2016 should be to reach more potential guests and drive up your occupancy rates while giving your guests the best experience. The upcoming year is a great time to revisit your strategies. Take a look at how well you did in 2015 and identify where there is room for improvement.