Hotels and Covid-19: What’s Next?

Hotels And Covid-19: What’s Next?

This is part #2 of the mini-series called “Hotels & Covid-19: What Now, What’s Next, What’s New”.

Whilst in the first post the focus was on the only one thing I’d do in these times, today I’d like to talk about the NEXT.

Though, not what is going to be next. (I’ve heard at least 100 different opinions on that, and I respect them all, but they are just what they are: opinions).

Instead, what we could prepare for.

Because it is clear and obvious that the hospitality industry will thrive again, we just don’t know when that’ll happen.

And also considering the very new and very bad reputation all major OTAs have been acquiring, consequence of their true nature of not giving a damn thing about customers nor those who they keep referring to as Partners (aka Hotels).

Even more so, when the boom of new reservations will begin, and new scenarios may unfold, those who will manage to make prospects feel safe, secure, in good hands, understood, will likely win the lottery.

Can you manage to deliver these feelings through your channels, starting from your website, in order to drive more (direct) revenue.

That’s what I will focus on in the next lines, talking about something that has been around for long time, that everyone talks about but no one respects: the customer journey.

And, more importantly, the number 1 strategy you can adopt to start respecting it, from now: retargeting.

Retargeting for Hotels: stay top of mind!

I’ve shown the below many times before, but let’s start from here, very quickly:

Customer Journey: Booking Phases

Customer Journey: Booking Phases

Optimistically, only 3% of your prospects are ready to book when they first visit your website.
This alone should explain how the battle on having the best price on Metasearch engines, is NOT always one worth battling, because it means competing with OTAs on their most proficient battlefield.
But, ok, let’s put this MSE topic aside for now, as it would require a dedicated posts, videos and discussions to further elaborate.
Back to the point: people visiting your site for the first time, at a certain point, leave the site without making any bookings… and most times they never come back.
Does this mean that all these people leaving are not interested in your hotel? Or does it mean that they prefer not booking directly with you, thus choosing an OTA site?
Not at all!
It means that they simply didn’t have the time because of billions of other reasons. Here some:

  • visitor is looking at your site via mobile. He’s interested in your hotel, but prefer to wait to be back home, where he can complete the reservation using his laptop: momentum lost.
  • visitor is on the tram and… oops, he needs to get off now: momentum lost.
  • visitor is literally a click away from completing the booking when… his daughter jumped on him claiming to play hide&seek: momentum lost.
  • visitor is a click away from giving you permission to swipe his card to guarantee a non-refundable booking but… phone call, his boss who wants the report on his desk in minus 5 minutes: momentum lost.

We could go on forever, but you get the point: the momentum may be lost, not the prospect.
Another even simpler reason is that those visitors haven’t reached the top of the pyramid, meaning they are not yet in their booking mode.
For all these reasons, this is what remarketing (or retargeting) is for: to stay top of mind for when, at some point, they will be ready to book.
Now, remarketing can be done using Google or Facebook.
For many different reasons that I am not going to explore now, I prefer working with Facebook.
No matter what the tool, the concept and flow remain the same. Here’s how Retargeting works:

Retargeting: how it works.

Retargeting: how it works.

Now, for the purpose of this post, I won’t get into further details and nuances of retargeting and how to technically set that up (to this point and if interested, stay tuned as I further videos and ‘how TOs’ coming soon).

I guess, in fact, that is not even what you are interested in. Nor technicalities are something you have to necessarily learn, that’s what you pay your web agency for, right?

What I want you to understand, even if you have already been running retargeting campaigns, is that there are soooooo many initiatives and strategies that you can adopt and explore, that you might wonder “how the hell have we not been doing all this already”.

And, in my opinion, you must be aware of all these possibilities, so that you no longer passively wait for your agency to bring you the results that you have been hoping for, but you have the knowledge to roughly assess the operational aspects of your investment.

Covering all these possibilities would be impossible, but let me say something: with Facebook Advertisement, there is barely something you can NOT do.

Let’s see together a few examples and how hotels can benefit, specifically talking about retargeting.


Retargeting Ad: an example.

First, this is how a retargeting ad for hotels looks like on Facebook:

Facebook Retargeting Ad for Hotels

Facebook Retargeting Ad for Hotels.

As you know, everything marked with the “Sponsored” label is an ad.

Other than that, they look just like any other friend’s post.

Let’s see now how to get different people see this kind of ads.

Not all website visitors are the same.

When I run into hotels that already have retargeting campaigns in place, usually they re-market to all users who visited their site but haven’t make a booking yet.

All good, indeed, that’s exactly what we want.

However, like all other marketing campaigns, retargeting is as much effective as more precise and specific we get.

In fact, all those users are shown with the exact same ad, with the same content and call-to-action, no matter what they actually did and how they behaved when visited your site.

For instance:

  • User A spent 3 minutes visiting the site.
  • User B visited the restaurant section.
  • User C made a booking search, meaning jumped onto the booking engine.
  • User D watched at least 50% of the beautiful video on your home page.

I mean, literally, everything can be tracked. And everything can be used to better target your visitors.

Think about it:

  • user who spent 7 minutes reading and watching everything about your rooms and spa, then jumped onto the booking engine to make a booking search
  • user who bounced immediately from your home page after only 7 seconds

Do you think they should be re-targeted in the same way? Do you think they are similar users, similarly interested in your hotel and services?

Of course not.

Thus, logically, showing them the exact same ad, simply because they both visited your website and didn’t book, is not as effective as it could be.

Let’s see some practical examples, trying now to define the booking phase and the type of traffic based on users’ interaction:

Behaviours defines traffic quality

The last column is the ultimate goal of the ad that we should respectively be adopting.

In other words, what do we want our retargeted users to do, when seeing and clicking our ad?

For instance:

✅ Audience: Users who visited the website, but didn’t make any booking search.

They are likely looking around, meaning your hotel is one of the many options they are scanning.

They are either dreaming or planning their trip.

What does this mean? All those sense-of-urgency and scarcity message have no appeal to people in these phases.

This is also why we shouldn’t be aiming to convert (objective= Purchase) them into customer at first glance: they are not there yet.

Instead, for example (but there are other approaches too), we might want to ease these prospects into a chat conversation with us.

Why? Because people in their planning phase are insecure, scared. They fear taking the wrong decision.

Thus, they bombard themselves with too many inputs, trying to gather as much information as possible, with the goal – and the anxiety – of soon to be getting to a point: decide where to go (thus, where to book).

Will I regret choosing this hotel? Or should I book this other one? Oh, s***, there’s also this boutique hotel that looks so nice, but it’s a bit over budget. What should I do?

Planning phase

Unspoken words: this are the internal discussions planning people are having with themselves.

Why not easing them into a 1-on-1 conversation with your BOT or a human (your Staff) so that he can have all his doubts cleared up?

You see now, what respecting the customer journey means?

Btw, when you have your prospects finally open up a chat with you… you have no excuses: that prospects should NEVER go back to any OTA site to complete the reservation.

So, practically, how would this ad look like?

Facebook Ad: Planning phase

Facebook Ad: Planning phase.

Another approach, with a slightly different angle: rather than asking prospects to start a chat with us, we point them to a landing page on our site where (s)he can download the travel itinerary you’ve prepared. For FREE!

Facebook Ad Hotel Retargeting: Planning phase

Facebook Ad: Hotel Retargeting >> Planning phase

Are we selling something? Are we forcing prospects to make a booking, even though he or she is not at that point yet? Are we bombarding them with meaningless and inflated urgency and scarcity messages that look the same all over the globe?

That’s what respecting the customer journey means.

More importantly, that’s how you WIN over any customer journey: GIVE first, then TAKE.

Key Takeaways:

  • Show a photo that is also found on the website, more likely on the home page: it has to be a picture your users are familiar with, they will easier associate the ad to your hotel, even before reading the text.
  • Start with a question: it automatically ease users into a conversation, which is the goal of the ad.
  • Try different angles, meaning copy, images, formats. It doesn’t mean that this example is the one that undoubtedly outperforms all other version. The principle is: what works for other hotels, may not be working for you. So test, test and, again, TEST!
  • The Insider Travel Secret Guide perfectly relates with planning phase these users are in: prepare some travel itineraries using Google Maps, it’s free and takes minutes, but do it well. Read this other post on how to do it:

Another example, different booking phase.

✅ Users who visited the website AND made a booking search.

I know I know, people in planning mode could also have made a booking search.

Point being, check your Google Analytics figures and see what the CTR (click-through-rate) is, meaning how many people actually performed a booking search, out of the total number of website visitors.

You will notice that most of your users do NOT click your Check Availability/Book Now button.

When I gain access to any Google Analytics account of hotels, this is the second thing I go look for (conversion rate first) and, on average, the scenario looks always the same: 70+% do not make any booking search, a.k.a. a huge pool of prospects we let go, likely forever.

Thus, those who did make a booking search, are likely to be considered WARM traffic, probably even HOT, floating among planning and booking modes: prepare, they are ready to (virtually) swipe their cards!

Booking Mode

Translated, now we can be more aggressive with our retargeting ad, as the available time to stay top of mind is getting quite slim.

Many options in our arsenal, but I would like to propose something relatively new, and I am still relatively new at working with, but extremely powerful, yet unknown in the market: Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel (DAT).

I spare you the details but, in a nutshell, this is what I call the Hospitality’s trump card: want a magic wand? here it is!

What follows is an ad I’d suggest using for remarketing to people who previously made a booking search, using Facebook DAT:

Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel

Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel.

A user made a search with arrival the 20th of May? DAT now dynamically inserts the check-in date each user submitted in their respective booking search. And the Book Now button is set up to bring users to the booking engine with those pre-selected dates applied by default.

Now, the beauty of Dynamic Ads for Travel, is not just about having shopped check-in dates dynamically filling your ad, but the fact that we can use this and many other revenue-related KPIs to further define our audience.

For example, let’s assume that you want to push more sales and revenue by giving an advantage, let’s say an additional 10% discount, to those users searching for 3 or more nights.

Make sense, right? The greater the number of nights, the more juicy a reservation is, especially if they turn into direct bookings.

On the flip side though, you don’t want to make this discount publicly visible, because you’d be forced to make it available throughout all OTAs, who would otherwise complain and/or cut your ranking, with all that it entails in terms of additional commissions.

Thus, very simply:

✅ create an ad that targets to visitors who made a booking search for at least 3 nights;
✅ include the relative discount code or rate code in the destination link of the Book Now button.

Here’s how to create a Custom Audience in Facebook for the example above (people who Search-ed for at least 3 Nights):

Facebook Custom Audience

Searches for 3 or more nights.

Where you see custom_param2, that is the field I have been feeding Facebook with, by sending the number of nights included in each Search.

Hotels’ magic wand: ad super in target, happy likely-soon-to-become-direct-customers who can benefit from an extra discount and… ciao ciao OTAs.

Believe me, what I showed you above is 0.1% of the endless possibilities Facebook Advertisement allows us to reach and explore.

What a better time then now to learn and get ready for the recovery?

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