Millennial Business Travelers: Three Key Characteristics

Millennial business traveler

 

We hear a lot these days about the spending power of Millennials. With over 70% of this audience reporting it would like to visit all 50 states and over 75% wanting to go abroad, both domestic and business travel are key interests for this demographic. Business travel, you say? Yes, indeed. Millennials are rising up in their fields and wielding more buying power than ever before. So, what are their specific needs for business travel? And how can you address them?

 

Technology

56% of Millennials report they are one of the first to try a new technology, so travel businesses need to be on the cutting edge. For Millennials, mobile-friendly design is a no-brainer. They have little patience for navigating a site that isn’t quickly optimized for different platforms. Indeed, most use a mobile device first, with desktop computers functioning as an afterthought. Using a mobile-first strategy with seamless booking options ensures that your property will meet these expectations. Along with this, they expect efficient, reliable sites that load quickly and make it easy to book.

 

Design

This generation grew up with Apple products and has come to expect beautiful design and packaging. Clean lines, ultra-readable text, and gorgeous visuals are par for the course for the Millennial consumer experience. That doesn’t mean you need a lot of bells and whistles, though. Simplicity reigns supreme. Good design should be in the service of the user. Customers should be able to book rooms easily by accessing the booking button from any page, for instance, as well as quickly find visual and written information about your rooms and property.

Then, the key is to keep all of this content updated so that your site feels relevant, credible and fresh. Even short updates to destination information or linking to a social media feed on your homepage will go a long way in this regard.

 

Frugality

Growing up with information at their fingertips, this generation knows how to research the most economical products available. They are price-savvy comparison shoppers who use the Internet and apps to find the best deal quickly. Not only that, but many cite budget and debt as major concerns. These travelers are more likely to pocket some of their per diem checks than they are to splurge. Hotels catering to them would do emphasize free or low-cost amenities like breakfast, WiFi and more. Such perks could make the difference in a booking decision.

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How To Post Like A Social Media Magnate

Who doesn’t feel like the king of the universe when they scroll down their Twitter or Facebook feed and see tons of likes, shares, and comments? 

Social media is an effective way to engage with potential guests and has cemented itself as an important marketing channel, but far too many businesses, hotels included, either hand off their account to some young relative or ignore it altogether. In this post, we’ll cover best practices and creative tips to help you drive engagement on your social media channels like a pro.

 

Best Practices
1. Images, stats and quotes engage best
Statistics overwhelmingly show that people interact with visuals on social media more than plain text updates. Sharing photos is an easy way to engage with your audience, especially high-resolution, high-quality pictures of your property. Booking.com does an excellent job of using photos of its partners’ properties to drive engagement. After visuals, stats and quotes collect the most eyeballs on social media. Stats get 10 percent more retweets than those without while including a quote in your tweets makes it 19 percent more likely to get retweeted than non-quotes.

My weekend actually starts in sweatpants on my couch, but I wish it started here.

 

2. Shorten URLs
While this may seem like a small detail, shortening your URLs with services like bitly will save you characters, which is important for optimal social media performance (the ideal length for tweets is 100 characters, while the ideal Facebook post is 40 characters). Plus, you can track your link statistics.

 

3. Post at the right time of day
The jury is still out on the right times to post on social media. Common practice says downtimes such as before office hours, during lunch breaks, and after work are the best times to post, but studies present conflicting data. The best way to find out what is best is to test different times with your audience. Every audience is unique–maybe most of your audience is in a different time zone or maybe they have atypical schedules. Try testing different post times to determine what works best for you.

 

4. Respond to customers—the good and the bad
Engaging with your customers is essential to a good social media presence. Encouraging conversation by responding to customers builds engagement and fosters good sentiment from your audience. While this is easy to do with customers who sing your praises, it is more difficult and even more important to respond to negative customer feedback. Sometimes a simple, “I’m sorry you feel this way. What can we do to improve your experience next time?” goes a long way.

Think of a negative customer review or comment as an opportunity. But, whatever you do—respond. The world of social media a very demanding, fast-paced space with 42% of customers expecting a response within an hour. If the comment goes unanswered, you have no chance to remedy the situation, but by responding to the customer graciously, you have the chance to mitigate the negativity and earn respect from the customer.

Mishandle one of these situations or leave it unattended, however, and the negative sentiment can spread. Be sure to avoid automated messages at all costs, as being impersonal is just about the quickest way to make the customer feel even worse.

Who knew Flo was so insensitive?

 

An interesting scenario arises when dealing with people who poke fun at brands on social media—affectionately known as “trolls.” While there is no protocol for dealing with these situations, avoid responding negatively. Responding earnestly, like poor Xbox Support below, may feed into the joke, but will avoid potential conflict. In certain situations, replying to jokes with jokes can be both appropriate and a unique way to handle the situation while gaining brownie points from your audience.

You don’t want to know what happens in Grand Theft Auto, Xbox—trust us.

Keeping our fingers crossed for McCheese/Hamburglar 2016.

 

Spammy posts are best left ignored, and usually fairly easy to identify. Be wary, as social media is as good a platform as any for spam and phishing.

 

5. Think before you post
While this may seem like common sense, you would be surprised at how many big-name brands forget this simple rule. Just type in “social media fails” on Google, and you’ll see how many mistakes brands have committed, garnering negative PR and customer sentiment. Your hotel should not post about hot-button issues and should generally stay away from public tragedies unless they directly affect your local area. And, of course, be genuine in these scenarios—try not to offer condolences where they are not welcome. Insincerity never results in a positive outcome.

 

6. Be useful
Offer help. Answer questions and concerns. Provide content your audience wants to see. This is the main objective of social media as a marketing channel. While page likes and follower counts certainly aren’t bad and can make you feel good, meaningful engagement is much better.

Social media has received so much attention as a new marketing channel because it provides an avenue for companies and organizations to connect with customers directly in a meaningful, conversational way. The old school advertising tactics of “talking-at” customers is over. Be someone who people actually want in their news feeds by providing quality content that creates value for them. Some consumers come to social media to find deals, so posting promotions that your hotel is running on Facebook is certainly a good idea, but be sure to keep a healthy balance between promotional and informational.

 

7. Tailor your post to the specific channel
Remember, every social channel works differently and what may make a great post on Twitter might fall flat on Pinterest. You should tailor your posts according to the intended purpose and limitations of each channel. Check out this awesome infographic that Hubspot created to show the components of a quality post on each of the major social media outlets.

Facebook’s recipe for success.

 

Creative Counsel
Now that we’ve covered some best practices for your posts, you may be wondering how to amp up your voice to engage the socks off your followers.

 

1. Write catchy calls-to-action
Grab your audiences’ attention in 90 to 150 characters. An effective CTA increases the likelihood that will click the quality content that you provide your audience. Check out this post on our blog for a rundown on how to write effective CTAs.

 

2. Borrow from what inspires you
During his Ziggy Stardust days, David Bowie was asked by a reporter, “Are you original?” He replied: “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.”

Newsflash: Nothing is original.

Content demigod Janet knows this. Identify sources of content that are useful to your audience and check them for regularly for shareables and inspiration. For example, Janet regularly reads local magazines and websites for events to share with her hotel’s audience. Check your sources on the regular and keep a running list of potential things to share in case you content drought later.

Be like Janet—and David Bowie.

 

3. Be timely
The name of the game on social media is keepin’ it fresh. Tailoring your content to seasonality, holidays, special events, etc. is good source of fodder for when nothing else is going on. Is autumn coming to in your area? Share a photo of the colorful leaves around your property and nearby autumn activities. Is there a convention coming to your town? Post about your available lodging nearby. Hotel Tonight has done a good job recently of utilizing temporality in their posts by targeting empty-nesters at the start of the school year.

You deserve a vacation, parents, and this pool looks awfully nice.

 

Be sure that your content is relevant to the timeliness of your post. Luckily for hotels, there are many timely things to post about, but try to avoid forcing your way into events for the sole purpose of earning likes. Make sure the event or time is relevant to what your audience wants to read. Don’t be like OxiClean …

Bit of a stretch, Oxi Clean.

 

4. Have a sense of humor

Studies consistently show that people prefer to share humorous and positive content on Facebook and other social media, so keep it light and don’t be afraid to crack a joke from time to time. People want to buy from humans—not marketing drones. There’s one thing big companies with lots of money can never compete with, and that’s your personality. It’s like Eve says: “I do what they can’t do, I just do me.”

 

5. Don’t be condescending with “like-bait”
Using like-bait photos and statuses—which often beg users to like the post, like the Oxi Clean photo above—does little to benefit anyone other than your social media agency. While they may win some likes and comments, you are not creating value for the consumer or building trust in your brand. Avoid the temptation to boost vanity metrics and instead focus on creating value and trust using the rest of the steps above. For anOnion-like take on engagement-bait posts, aka examples of what not to do, check out the Condescending Corporate Brand Page.

Who do you think I am, DelMonte, Jack Bauer?

The Science of Supply and Demand: Is your hotel maximizing room revenue?

The theory of supply and demand is one of the fundamental principles of economics.

However, it’s not something constrained to leading economists.

And when it comes to maximizing your hotel’s revenue, supply and demand is a principle that should be cleverly implemented.

For those less familiar with the theory – or if swotting in school is nothing but a distant memory – let’s use ice cream as a refresher (pun definitely intended)…

Demand is the measure of how much a certain item is wanted. The demand for ice cream is typically weather-dependent. So, in the winter demand for ice cream goes down.

Supply, on the other hand, is the measure of how available a certain item is. The supply of ice cream is fully-dependent on demand. So, in the winter demand for ice cream goes down, and therefore the supply goes up.

The next piece in the supply and demand puzzle is price.

There’s absolutely no point in monitoring supply and demand if you’re not going to use the fluctuations to your advantage.

Price has a big role to play and is the connector in the supply and demand theory.

Let’s look at ice cream again as an example – but this time in the summer months.

Demand for ice cream in the summer is high, causing the supply to become limited. So, an ice cream vendor can charge higher prices during peak times.

 

How can hoteliers use the principle of supply and demand for revenue management?

Measuring and monitoring the supply and demand of your hotel rooms is the number one tactic you should employ when it comes to boosting your revenue growth.

Here are 5 important things to consider in order to maximize bookings and revenue at your hotel at any time of the year:

1) Generate demand – don’t just manage it
Strategic control of your hotel’s inventory is the name of the game to engage revenue management disciplines.

Your aim with revenue management should go beyond increasing room rates or occupancy – you should be working towards maximizing your hotel’s average nightly room revenue using the principle of supply and demand.

By making smart pricing decisions with the available data, you’ll be able to generate demand instead of simply managing it.

2) Consult your sales and marketing staff
You can’t boost your hotel’s revenue on your own. You’ll need to enlist the help and support of your sales and marketing team if you’re to achieve great things and surpass your targets.

Figures from HotelExecutive.com show that hotels integrating marketing and revenue strategies and departments benefit from a 6% uplift in revenue.

Take a holistic approach to revenue management and include your sales and marketing experts in daily, weekly, and monthly revenue forecasts. It’ll go a long way towards giving you the competitive edge if you can collaborate to attract new and repeat guests.

3) Break down your analysis to forecast correctly
All the best revenue management strategies are primarily based on market intelligence and forecasts of supply and demand.

Analyzing your competitor set, and combining that information with powerful room distribution technology, can help you build a reliable forecast picture.

Combining the data from both a channel manager and a revenue management system can be an influential tool for your analysis.

Think about breaking down the data further looking at booking channels, room types, average length of stay, booking behavior, and traveler segment.

It will help you to create accurate forecasts and will give you the ammunition you need to adapt your pricing based on supply and demand.

4) Pay attention to your local competition and react
Do you know the pricing strategies of your nearest five hotels? It’s entirely possible for you get access to this information quickly and accurately.

Using a pricing intelligence solution that analyzes your local competition in real-time will save you hours.

Once you have access to this valuable data, you can then begin to react to the local market intelligence and make more meaningful room pricing decisions to put your hotel ahead.

5) Choose the right technology for your hotel
Just because you can afford a super-sophisticated piece of technology, it doesn’t mean you always need it.

When choosing hotel technology, such as a pricing intelligence solution, it’s important that it suits your property’s needs and size. Look for features and benefits that speak to your hotel’s requirements. For example, technology that can offer data which is pulled in real-time will be much more beneficial to your competitor and pricing analysis.

Don’t create more work for yourself by choosing complex technology – something smart and simple that helps you take the guesswork out of your pricing strategy will give you all the control you need.

How to use Instagram to promote your hotel and attract guests

Posted May 18th, 2016

9 interesting things we learned about TripAdvisor’s new method for ranking hotels

9 interesting things we learned about TripAdvisor’s new method for ranking hotels

Posted June 8th, 2016

If you have a profile on Facebook or Instagram, the order in which you see updates from your friends, family, and the brands you follow, is decided by what’s known as an algorithm.

For the most part, your Facebook newsfeed will show you the most recent status updates – but the social platform often makes headlines when it changes the algorithm to display updates in a different way.

TripAdvisor has recently announced some changes to its ranking algorithm and the way it displays popular hotels – and it appears to be good news for hoteliers.

Here are 9 interesting things we learned about the new method for ranking popular hotels:

  1. Travellers and guests are sharing experiences faster than ever before
    Back in 2006, there were six million reviews on the TripAdvisor website. Today that figure stands at more than 350 million – and travellers are adding 200 new reviews and photos to the website every minute.
  2. …and the record number of reviews resulted in ‘fast-risers’
    There were instances of newly-listed hotels skyrocketing to the top of rankings after securing their first few 5-bubble reviews – also known as ‘fast-risers’. Eventually, as more travellers submit reviews, the rankings would level out. But of course that’s less than ideal because fast-risers would temporarily enjoy higher positions, and other hotels would appear lower than they would have otherwise.
  3. Hundreds of millions of reviews were analysed to fix it
    When designing the change of algorithm, TripAdvisor analysed hundreds of millions of reviews covering the past 15 years. They researched how the rankings of properties were impacted over time. The result was an enhanced popularity ranking algorithm placing more emphasis on quantity and consistency, as TripAdvisor explains: “Doing so helps stabilise the ranking for all businesses, reduces fast-riser behaviour and creates a more accurate overall ranking for our travellers. We’ve tested the enhanced algorithm extensively – both internally and by analysing how travellers interacted with the site as we’ve gradually rolled it out.” For hotels, this change happened between February and April 2016.
  4. Ranking continues to be based on quality, recency, and quantity
    TripAdvisor’s method for ranking properties continues to be based on quality, recency, and quantity. But how does the site define these?Quality
    If all other things between two properties are equal, then the one with the most 4- and 5-bubble ratings will rank higher than a business with lower bubble ratings.

    Recency
    TripAdvisor says that recent reviews are more valuable to travellers than older ones, therefore, more consideration is given to newer reviews.

    Quantity
    Multiple reviews help travellers make a more balanced and informed decision. TripAdvisor says that a hotel doesn’t have to have more reviews than others – just enough for your guests to make a comparison that is statistically accurate and meaningful.

  5. You’ll be rewarded for your consistently good guest experience
    The new algorithm does a better job of rewarding your great customer service – so the more you deliver outstanding guest experiences, the more you’ll benefit. As TripAdvisor explains: “A property that has many consistently good reviews will rank higher than one that has many reviews, some of which are good and some of which are poor, all other things being equal. That’s because we can have more confidence in our ranking if a large number of travellers are reporting consistent experiences at that property.”
  6. It’s all about your current guest experience
    If you’re relying on those excellent reviews circa 2010, then sadly the new algorithm isn’t going to pay off for you and your hotel. Lots of recent reviews are more highly-valued by TripAdvisor because they give the site confidence in the current experience at the property. If your reviews predate most of your hotel’s staff, then work on getting some fresh reviews posted online.
  7. Smaller properties can compete with larger ones
    TripAdvisor says that smaller properties can compete with larger ones. While the website found that smaller properties tend to have fewer reviews (due to fewer customers), the more personalised guest experience and service results in more guests willing to give feedback and write positive reviews.
  8. Management responses don’t count…
    Replying to reviews and acknowledging both positive and negative feedback is crucial to building loyalty and future bookings. Management responses are not a consideration for the popularity ranking algorithm. However, TripAdvisor says responses still make a big impact on your prospective guests: “Our surveys show that 85% of travellers say that a thoughtful response to a review improves their impression of a hotel, and 65% are more likely to book a hotel that responds to reviews versus a comparable hotel that doesn’t.”
  9. Your commercial relationship with TripAdvisor doesn’t matter
    If you have a commercial relationship with TripAdvisor – including hotels that use metasearch, Instant Booking, and business listings – it has no impact on your property’s ranking, which is re-calculated on a daily basis.

5 ways your hotel should be managing room rates to get ahead of the competition

 

5 ways your hotel should be managing room rates to get ahead of the competition

Posted June 14th, 2016

Among other things, your hotel should be monitoring the room rates of your competitors so you can see just how competitive your pricing is and react in a timely manner when needed.

Here are a few examples of what you can do with the information at hand:

  1. Value-match competitors

One of the ways you can use competitor pricing to increase your hotel’s revenue is by matching them on price.

Set one room rate at the same price point as competitors, and set another room at a slightly higher rate. This allows you to attract deal seekers without sacrificing the opportunity to make a slightly bigger profit.

Keep in mind that value-for-money is the key point here – value-matching goes beyond bringing your hotel in line with your competitors’ rates or simply making your hotel rooms cheaper.

  1. Run effective promotions

Continuing with the idea of value-for-money, promotions are one of the best ways to keep up with, and stay ahead of, your competition.

When you notice your competitors are doing it – probably in the lead up to an event in your local area – find out what their rates are, and then set your rates at the lowest price possible to draw a crowd. This is your opportunity to be proactive and truly get ahead of the pack. Look at the details of the room offers. Do they include breakfast? How many nights is the special rate on offer? Are there any spa or restaurant incentives factored in? Think about how your hotel can give guests that little bit extra.

A word of caution, though: you should only do this in short promotional bursts so your hotel isn’t perceived as low-quality or constantly discounting.

  1. Meet market demand

Monitor your competitors’ rates to look for signs in the market that indicate demand is increasing and inventory is getting booked out. Then you can react accordingly.

For example, when your competitors increase their rates or you notice their rooms are closed out, increase your own room rates to make sure you’re not losing out on revenue and profit. You can read more about the science of supply and demand in our recent blog.

  1. Maximize midweek bookings

While discounted promotions are great, they rarely sell enough to offset reduced revenue. Instead, look at your competitors’ rates and add value to increase midweek bookings.

Create and promote special packages which offer additional services. Think clearly about who your weekday audiences are. We recently wrote about attracting midweek guests, with some great tips for boosting revenue during quieter times. Did you know that for a two-night stay it’s likely your guests will travel about four hours’ drive from your hotel’s location? You can read more on this, here.

Another great approach is collaborating with tourist attractions locally and submit advertisements or editorial to newspapers and websites in population centres within the vicinity promoting midweek breaks that include bus tours, wine tasting trips, or a concert.

  1. Sell distressed last-minute inventory

Data from Hotels.com shows that 50% of travelers who book via mobile devices do so for last-minute or next-day stays. This trend represents a huge opportunity for hotels to sell their very final rooms, right up to the last minute. By monitoring your competitors’ rates in real-time, you’ll be able to make the right pricing decisions to ensure those final rooms are sold without compromise.

The best way to do this is through a pooled inventory system via a channel manager. A seamless two-way connection to your hotel’s various booking sites is key to ensuring the constant flow of information is reliable.

Bonus tip:
Understand the importance of real-time data

Without real-time data, you won’t notice competitor rate changes – or by the time you do, it will be too late to respond in a way that maximizes your own hotel’s revenue.

Having real-time data allows you to assess the level of live demand in the market so that you can react faster, and more accurately – whether it’s increasing your rates or lowering your rates and putting promotions out.

To get this real-time data, you will probably need a pricing intelligence solution – but it’s important that it suits your property’s needs and size. Look for features and benefits that speak to your hotel’s requirements.

Choosing complex technology that’s geared for larger properties will just create more work for yourself – instead, choose something smart and simple that helps you take the guesswork out of your pricing strategy and gives you the control you need.