How the Hotel Industry Is Adapting Its Marketing and Customer Experience

How the Hotel Industry Is Adapting Its Marketing and Customer Experience

Marketing

As U.S. states re-open (in fits and starts) after the COVID-19 lockdown, many may have expected to see a return to “business as usual.” Interestingly, what these first few weeks have shown is that the way businesses are now operating is anything but “usual.” In fact, it is probably fair to assume that going forward, we will continue to see a shift in business practices and priorities. The hotel industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, is demonstrating how to be resilient both in its customer experience and marketing as times change. Let’s take a closer look at how hotels are evolving.

The Hotel Experience Has Changed

Many in the lodging sector closed for months during the lockdown, while others operated at a fraction of their maximum occupancy. In some cities where COVID-19 cases were rampant, hotels closed their doors to the general public, and instead offered up free lodging to essential workers so that they could be close to their workplaces and keep their own families safe from exposure.

Now that more and more hotels are beginning to re-open to the public, we are seeing some very interesting changes in the industry. Prior to COVID-19, most hotels relied on their list of amenities to attract potential guests. Pools, on-site dining, spas, room service, valets, bellhops and more were just a few of the luxury offerings that distinguished one hotel from another. But with a new focus on safety, many of those extras are no longer available.

According to a recent article by Conde Nast Traveler, your hotel experience will feel different from the moment you enter the lobby. While the lobby has traditionally been a busy social hub of the hotel experience, it is very likely travelers will now encounter limits on the number of guests in the area, as well as paperless check-ins and digital room keys downloaded to the hotel app, replacing the previous key cards. Perhaps even before entering the lobby, guests may notice the lack of valet service or even bellhops. In order to reduce the number of touches exchanged between travelers and staff, hotels may opt to remove some of these services. so be prepared to park your own car and carry your own luggage.

Of course housekeeping changes will be at the top of the list when it comes to safety precautions. Many hotels are opting to put a “safety seal” on hotel room doors, indicating that no one has entered the room since it was thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. The room may also look sparser than expected, as items such as decorative pillows, notepads, and pamphlets, which can be hard to disinfect, may be removed. Cleaning protocols will be enhanced to include CDC-approved cleaning supplies and techniques, and a several-day buffer may be instituted between guest stays in a room. Some hotels may continue to offer room service, but it will be done using a contactless approach. Amenities such as on-site dining, pools, and spas will operate with more structure, limiting the number of guests and times of operation.

How Hotels Are Changing Their Messaging

To reflect this changing experience, hotels have needed to adapt their marketing strategies. For example, one True Interactive client, a luxury hotel chain, recognies that travelers will have a different set of priorities when booking reservations. So our client has shifted messaging to focus on a more flexible booking and cancellation policy. A deposit at time of booking is no longer required, and a more lenient cancellation policy requires only 48-hour notice for a full refund. While the hotel chain is doing everything they can to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay, they still recognize the pervasive sense of uncertainty experienced by many leisure travelers right now. The chain is making big changes to accommodate travelers looking for flexibility when booking: the option, in other words, to change their minds.

Our client’s actions are consistent with how many other hotels have adapted their online experience. If you visit most hotel websites today, you will find reassurance front-and-center that your health is their priority. The Radisson Hotels’ home page, for example, features a banner guests can click on for more information about Radisson’s flexible booking policy and health/safety protocols. The latter are spelled out clearly, detailing efforts like team member temperature checks, and the installation of protective screens at the front desk.

Holiday Inn’s home page also addresses COVID-19 concerns head-on. The hotel’s “book now, pay later policy” requires no deposit and includes flexible terms for cancellation.

A page dedicated to explaining the hotel’s cleaning philosophy is worded in friendly, reassuring language, as his example from a Cleveland-area Holiday Inn : “When you’re ready to travel again, we’ll be ready to welcome you.” Holiday Inn also highlights the hotel’s partnership with the Cleveland Clinic to develop best practices for “returning to work and keeping guests safe.”

Contact Us

To stay competitive, all businesses are wise to re-evaluate their policies and safety standards, ensuring they are aligned with what consumers now expect. Moreover, businesses need to communicate these policies clearly. If your business needs help navigating the digital landscape in this new world, contact us. At True Interactive we are experienced and ready to help you at every turn.

Photo by Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

How Higher Education Can Adapt Digital Marketing Approaches

How Higher Education Can Adapt Digital Marketing Approaches

Marketing

COVID-19 has affected businesses across every vertical in different ways. Some are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the demand for staple goods such as toilet paper and health-related products such as hand sanitizers and face masks. Others, ranging from hotels to restaurants, are struggling to find ways to keep employees on the payroll. The higher education industry is being affected as well. Let’s take a closer look based on our observations and client work.

Challenges for Higher Education

This pandemic has created several challenges for the higher education industry – some for which many were prepared for, and others which have left colleges and universities scrambling to adapt. Many of our higher education clients have robust online class offerings. In fact, many offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are 100 percent online. Those clients have experienced minimal disruption to their class schedules.

With that said, when we dig deeper into the data and examine marketing trends closely, we see some revealing details, such as:

  • When it comes graduate-level healthcare related degrees, we have seen a steep drop in overall demand (impressions and clicks are down significantly in Google) as well as a reduction in the number of people completing lead forms seeking more information about a degree program. These results are not surprising. We have all witnessed the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers over the past weeks, devoting countless hours to the point of exhaustion. They understandably need to put the rest of their lives on hold.
  • Conversely, we have seen a 5 percent lift in conversion rates from February to April for master’s in education programs offered by our higher education clients. Those programs are for people who possess education degrees and are looking to earn an advanced degree such as a master’s in education or a master’s in early childhood education. As K-12 classrooms around the country have turned to an abbreviated school day utilizing virtual learning, teachers are reclaiming a few extra hours of their day, and appear to be spending time looking for opportunities to further their own education and advance their careers.

Because of the vast difference in conversion rates between higher education degree programs, it is important to tailor your marketing approach. Now may be a great time to ramp up pay-per-click (PPC) spend for graduate-level teaching degrees, while pulling back on PPC spend for healthcare degrees.

Why Higher Education Needs to Stay Engaged Online

Although higher education is in a unique position with many already offering online learning prior to the pandemic, clearly there is still much disruption in campus programs. Colleges are struggling to complete the 2019-20 year in a virtual format. Many are offering pass/fail options versus a standard letter grade. There are virtual graduation ceremonies in the works,  and some are choosing to delay graduation until a later date in hopes there can be an in-person ceremony.

And a bigger question looms: will campuses will open on schedule this fall, and if they do, how many students will feel comfortable returning? This USA Today article speaks to the conflict being reported widely throughout the news media: students and their parents are going to be tempted take the 2020-21 school year off rather than return to an online format, especially if colleges and universities charge normal tuition rates for an online experience.

In this uncertain climate, all higher education providers must use digital to stay closely connected to current and prospective students as well as their parents. Doing so is especially important now as colleges and universities try to attract students to an experience that is radically different than the one that students signed up for. Right now, many schools are wisely investing more dollars in social platforms to keep students in isolation engaged during the 2019-20 year. They will need to do even more as the uncertain 2020-21 year approaches.

Be Ready to Pivot

Amid uncertainty, we are sure to see online learning play an even bigger role in higher education. Colleges and universities need to be ready to tackle the challenge. Competition is already strong resulting in high cost-per-clicks (CPCs). Currently we have seen CPCs range as high as $90 or more. As more and more colleges enter the online market, we should expect to see those CPCs increase further, and smaller colleges with limited budgets may be forced out by bigger players.

Contact True Interactive

It will become increasingly important to take full advantage of targeting options including geographic, household income, age, and interests to help make the most of your advertising dollars. The one-size-fits-all approach will quickly lead to failure. At True Interactive, we have extensive experience in the higher education field. We are happy to review your current marketing plan and work with you to ensure you are on the path to success. Contact us to get started.

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

How to Adapt B2B Marketing during Turbulent Times

How to Adapt B2B Marketing during Turbulent Times

Marketing

Businesses that market to other business can and should keep engaging with their clients and prospects during the disruption we’re all enduring right now. Let’s take a look at why this is so and how a B2B brand should stay visible.

The B2B Customer Journey Is More Complex

The B2B customer journey is more complex, and the sales cycle is lengthier. The decision-making process for purchasing a product or service for a business requires more research and approvals. So in a B2B setting, it’s even more important for a brand to maintain frequent outreach to stay on a prospect’s radar screen. During a disruption of operations, your prospects may postpone their decisions, thus making the sales cycle even longer. But if you fall off their radar screens, it’s going to be harder for you to re-connect with them when they are ready to re-engage.

What You Should Do

So what should you do to remain engaged? Here are a few tips:

1 Examine Your Analytics

Your B2B customer is just like a B2C audience: likely stuck at home during a period of social distancing (unless their profession dictates otherwise) doing their jobs exclusively online. We’re seeing dramatic shifts in both desktop and mobile search behavior across the board while people practice social distancing. Now, dig deeper into your own audience behavior. For instance:

  • What changes do you see in click-through rates for different paid media campaigns you’ve been running and at what time of day? They’ve probably changed depending on the type of product you offer.
  • What changes do you see in the content your prospects are searching for?
  • Where is your audience spending your time? It’s quite possible they are engaging more on social than they ever have while they combine professional and personal priorities while they work at home. A social platform such as Facebook, which might not have been your natural choice to advertise, might make more sense right now.
  • In addition, if you are a global B2B brand, your mileage may vary depending on where you do business, as different countries are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with varying degrees of severity and with different recovery time frames.

2 Be Ready to Adapt Your Tactics

Depending on what your data tells you, be ready to adapt the nature of your campaigns, for instance:

  • Adapt your keyword strategy to be more in tune with the topics they are looking for right now. Carefully manage your keyword exclusions to avoid having your name appear next to COVID-19 content.
  • Be prepared to invest more into paid social media if your audience is navigating there. In addition, consider that Facebook’s and LinkedIn’s audience targeting tools make them ideal for experimenting with the type of audience segments you want to reach.

3 Mind Your Tone

B2B audiences are experiencing the same feelings of doubt and uncertainty that B2C audiences are. Re-examine the tone of your content. Be prepared to tone down overly salesy, chipper content that will come across as tone deaf. Use phrases and images that emphasize that you are here for your customer and seek to partner with them during a difficult time.

4 Invest in Thought Leadership

Sharing thought leadership (such as blog posts and white papers) is a great way to augment your digital advertising with top-of-the-funnel awareness. Why? Because during a slowdown in operations, it is not uncommon for B2B customers to brush up on professional knowledge, and they’re also going to be more receptive to practical ideas for managing their businesses during trying times.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to create and execute digital marketing for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business clients. We’re here to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay