Now, promote your hotel through Facebook dynamic ads

If you think social media today is just about socialising, you can’t be more wrong. It has become a boon for businesses of all shapes, sizes to sell more. As your customer evolves in this fast-changing world, guest targeting will ensure that generic banner ads and other forms of display advertising are often ignored, blocked, or replaced by them.

One of the most consumed social media platforms Facebook has over 3 million businesses actively advertising on the platform. If used correctly the medium has the potential to serve almost all major marketing needs of the hospitality industry. With 1.28 billion monthly daily active users, it has become a distinctive platform for hotels to engage with visitors, and influence their decision-making at different stages. So what’s new on the block for marketers in the hotel businesses?

New recommendation tool: Last year Facebook had launched a new “Recommendations” tool to help users look for new experiences, things to do, events, and services based on suggestions from their friends. It can be optimised as a tool for your hotel bookings. Going beyond this Facebook has also announced the soft launch of a trip planning tool within the Facebook app, called City Guides. The app can be used to discover hotels, restaurants, activities and tours in various cities based on recommendations from friends. It doubles up as a planning tool with a “Book Now” button, which is at present being explored by a limited number of restaurants and hotels. But other hotels, restaurants, attractions and tours can all be messaged or called directly through the app.

How to optimise dynamic ads for hotel?

According to a Facebook-commissioned research that I studied, during an average planning period for travel, users spent five times longer on Facebook rather than on travel-related apps, sites and searches. Taking benefit of its insights, Facebook’s industry-specific ad platform, ‘Dynamic Ads for Travel’ also provides significant opportunity to hotels to engage guests with relevant content during the travel research period. Facebook’s own statistics show that consumers make 56 visits to travel-related digital touch points across devices.

This tool helps hoteliers to instantly retarget guests who have evinced interest in their website or mobile app. For example, if a visitor checks a hotel website but doesn’t end up booking, they can be retargeted with a tailored ad that features the exact date they looked along with relevant trip details. This means you can add dynamic elements to your ad creative with relevant information to automatically populate your ad. If a visitor has booked a flight recently, then you can make use of a dynamic ad for a hotel cross-sell opportunity. Now, if the visitor clicks on the “Book Now” call to action, then information about their destination, check-in and check-out dates can be dynamically populated on the landing page they’re directed to. This further brings down the effort to re-enter travel information, while speeding up the time to convert.

The dynamic ad helps you target visitors with high travel intent history – guests traveling alone, in groups or with kids, those who searched for or booked flights recently, but haven’t booked hotels, or high value audiences such as loyalty members. You can also give upgrades or other ancillary experiences to guests who have already booked a flight or hotel. Not just this, you can get more hotel bookings by letting people know about your current availability and by advertising the property and rooms.

Show ads across all ad placements

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) switched to Facebook’s specialized dynamic ads for travel from regular dynamic ads, resulting in a 20% lower cost per booking. Dynamic adverts let you automatically puts advert on Facebook & Instagram to people who have previously shown any interest in visiting your website or mobile app. To tap into the medium’s potential when creating dynamic ads, make sure you select every available ad placement because it allows Facebook’s delivery system to allocate ads budget based on performance across the placements.

Facebook is already an important part of the digital marketing mix for hotels, and I expect that to grow further. As it offers more advanced options, count on me to present you with the latest tips through my blogs and YouTube episodes!

For more titbits of advice, do watch the #AskAviArya show. Here’s the link of my latest episode – http://bit.ly/2tOZ2hX

Cheers!

3 Badass Ways to Nail Facebook Advertising

While Instagram is the future of travel promotions, Facebook still reigns in the present. Its audience targeting features are unmatched, and until other platforms can offer the same features, Facebook will be the biggest marketing puzzle. It is necessary for any marketing campaign – online or offline – and most hoteliers have figured this out by now (I hope).

Being in the industry for so many years now, I have explored hundreds of targeting options and their combinationsto drive prospective guests’ attention towards the hotel and bring them true value. I’ll share my 3 most favourite tools to target the relevant audience in this blog. Read on!

LOCATE opportunities

You can target people in your location on the basis of 4 characteristics. For example, if you want to target people in Mumbai, these are your options –

  1. Everyone in the selected location, for e.g. People who live in Mumbai or it’s their latest location.
  2. Only people who live in Mumbai.
  3. People who have recently been in Mumbai.
  4. A person travelling to Mumbai – their most recent location being Mumbai but their home is hundreds of kilometres away.

The last one is truly fascinating for me. I can combine it with interest targets such as road trips and adventure trips. Next, I can target them with amazing hotel deals near their location. This will bring value to them, and guests to you.

Not just geo-location, you can also target people who are currently travelling through behavioural targeting. They are identified through actions in Facebook such as check-ins and engagement on certain posts, etc. This opens up a world of opportunities for you to target people who are residents of a particular area, but are travelling somewhere in the world at this moment. Grab these opportunities with both hands.

Celebrate meaningful LIFE EVENTS

 This is where Facebook proves to be awesomely insightful. Imagine you change your status to “In a relationship�? and start seeing ads for a week-long getaway in Paris. Or you land a new job, and receive promotional offers at the nearby restaurant.

If your hotel has a store, target the audience which have upcoming birthdays so that they can tag their friends and better halves as a hint of what to get them for their birthdays. The possibilities are endless!

It was also a creative move by Facebook to allow targeting of friends of people who are approaching a specific life event.

Your next guest looks like the current one – LOOKALIKE AUDIENCE

 People just like your guests are waiting to hear from you! You can find and connect with Facebook audiences who are similar to your guests with Facebook Lookalike Audiences. The platform looks at the profile data in your custom audience and creates a new list of users with similar interests and demographics.

It empowers you to use customer information from website and phone app visitors, people who like your page or people in your custom audience. It is created automatically from the sources you upload or connect on Facebook.

I’m really impressed with the way it helps you to effectively connect with people who are more likely to respond to your promotions.

Success story–In May last year, Goibibo ran an ad to increase its app installations. The ad format was “mobile app install�?, and ran simultaneously on Facebook and Instagram. Apart from targeting to 18-45 year olds with an interest in travel, it used website custom audience to retarget ads to people who had already visited their website. Other than this, Goibibo used Lookalike Audiences to find people who resembled those already using the app.

Using these targeting methods, it was able to reach the people who were most likely to become paying customers. As a result, it witnessed an amazing 20x increase in signups, and 15.7x increase in installs.

You too can achieve high growth rates, that too with one month of implementing these targeting methods. With so many different ad formats out there, and ad targets on top of that, I knowit can be hard to decide where to start. But Facebook is a goldmine of data, so don’t be sluggish – hunt for the treasure NOW.

These were just 3 of my favourite targeting tools. For more titbits of advice, do watch the #AskAviArya show. Here’s the link of my latest episode – https://goo.gl/SU8g2S

Cheers!

OK Google, book me a hotel! Or Hey Siri, book me a hotel!

In every blog I write, I try to bring forth new trends that I believe will change your hotel’s marketing landscape. After so many years in the hospitality and digital marketing industry, I know which innovations will click, and which will not.

One such trend is the use of voice search for hotels. It is the core of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now. They are getting smarter by the day, and learning conversational context. By 2018, 50% of consumers will interact with cognitive computing.

I believe bots will soon eliminate the need for apps. What is the use of app world, when everything is going to be voice activated?

What’s the present scenario?

Voice activated search is already being used by some hotels and OTAs, although the technology is still in its initial stage. KAYAK, a fare aggregator and Meta search engine, last year integrated with Alexa and came up with its own voice activated service. And it’s pretty smart, too. You can look up flights and hotels based on price, availability and dates. You can even ask questions like – “Alexa, can you ask KAYAK where I can stay for under $300?”

Like I said, there’s still a long way to go in the evolution of this technology. For example bookings still need to be completed through taps and clicks. But that’s why it is such a ripe time to invest in this technology.

Let me take you through some of its advantages.

A quicker way to engage

A study by Google found that 20% of queries on its mobile platform are voice searches, and the use of voice assistants has increased by 40%. As I have said repeatedly, mobile is soon going to be the mainstay of hotel searches – and voice based search will become even more popular because of it.

The obvious advantage of it is that clicking will be replaced by talking; allowing a better booking experience for all types of guests, especially last minute bookers. Imagine booking a hotel while you’re packing your bags!

Replacing mass search with curated search

At present, the hotel search experience revolves around offering a huge choice. A simple search turns up hundreds of results. But that’s not very helpful for you, is it?

What I like about voice search is that it offers the opportunity for a more curated approach. It’s better even for the guests, since they can filter and refine the process. Your guest can just ask Alexa or Cortana or whichever platform is integrated, to find a hotel in New Delhi within 5 km of India Gate and which has a swimming pool.

In this case the number of results will be limited, but they will all be relevant to the guest. It is a win-win for hoteliers, OTAs and consumers.

Predictive search

A brilliant thing about Voice Search and the AI behind it is their learning process. Based on past needs, they can make informed suggestions and predictions. For example, Google Now can send an alert on your phone in case you have a flight and there are traffic delays on the route.

The more interactions there are, the more the system learns. This will lead to more helpful, accurate and most importantly, personalized suggestions to the user.

Check out this video of a software demonstration by Viv, an AI platform, of the travel related opportunities of voice search – https://goo.gl/fuKs5Z

What does the future hold?

In the not so distant future, speaking to your phones will be normal. It will become easier for guests to both browse and book hotels. And like I said, instead of choosing from hundreds of generic options, guests will be able to pick from a curated selection.

You will need to adapt to this scenario in order to survive – you will need to be a part of the curated selections of users. Ultimately, you have to be more visible on voice search as well.

Keep following the #AskAviArya show and stay ahead of the game, always. Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/aviarya?sub_confirmation=1

Cool hotel, bro! Millennials love User Generated Content

It’s no secret that millennials love to travel. They want to indulge in experiences, not materials. But they also want the biggest bang for their buck. And they are taking over the world, quite literally. Millennials are going to be the biggest demographic in the world, and the most important target group for your hotel.

The biggest method to draw them in is to capture and share experiences that they would also like to have. The wanderlust bug bites millennials often, and it travels through social media. They don’t respond to traditional media the way previous generations did.

Let the numbers decide – A survey by Crowdtap and Ipsos reveals that millennials spend 18 hours a day with media in some form or the other and 30% of that is spent on user generated content. 71% of millennials check a social networking site once a day.

How to encourage them to post?

It doesn’t take a lot of effort really. Young guests already share so much on social media about their trip. However, you can influence how and when they post. I will suggest creating and specifying photo opportunities in your hotel to encourage guests.

Other than that, you can hold contests and create specific hashtags.

The 57 Hotel in Australia does a fantastic job of encouraging guests to share selfies taken in their room.

By encouraging guests to use specific hashtags, the hotel can track what has been posted, and share this media with their followers. Every traveller who shares his or her selfie on Instagram is broadcasting to the followers that the 57 Hotel is a great place to stay.

What this approach shows is that you don’t have to just ask for content, you can cultivate it. Add a little incentive. Flatter your dear guests. It all comes down to engagement in the end.

Another great example is Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly campaign.The campaign asked guests not only their posts, but their ideas to improve the hotel experience.

An Integrated Approach to User Generated Content

User generated content is a brilliant way to increase authenticity among travellers on social media platforms. Why not take this one step further by integrating it into the website. Loews Hotels is leading the way with their #TravelForReal campaign.

They prompt patrons to share images of their stay by using #TravelForReal, then sharing good images on social media and website. Some great ones are even used in their online and print advertising (with due permission). The images are overlaid with the text “Everybody Needs – ___”. Each image fills in the blank to better communicate the hotel’s story.

How to Add User Generated Content to Your Website

Adding user generated content to your website helps build trust and authenticity around your brand. It also provides you with a regular stream of new content for your website without much effort. What’s more, a study found that visitors to websites that include User Generated Content galleries spend 90% more time on site, which is crucial because the longer someone stays on your page, the higher the chances of booking are.

If you don’t have an agency, you can use any of the free tools or applications available that you can use to curate a social media feed, including posts from your own social media accounts, as well as posts from others that use your particular hashtag.

Invest time in deciding which hashtag to use for your hotel and how you will promote it (both digital and offline). Your hashtag should be specific to your hotel and match your property’s unique story. To prompt guests to start using your hashtag, make sure first you’re using it in all of your own posts. Run a social media contest or even better, take cue from the 57 Hotel and suggest photo opportunities in the hotel itself. In no time you will have an army of storytellers producing trustworthy content that resonates with travellers.

Once this is done, take inspiration from The Flanders Hotel in New Jersey. They have used ‘Juicer’ to put together elements from social media feed into their website. Each post gives a sneak peek into what a typical day is like at The Flanders Hotel, like yoga, shows, wedding functions, parties, etc. to reach and appeal to more guests.

Hotel brands, whether luxury or boutique, independent, etc. should all collaborate with social media users with a strategy in mind.  Look for prospects which match with your brand’s personality, and can act as potential ambassadors for millennials. If you are not already in this game, now is the time to dive in.

Well, that’s all for today folks! Now, go ahead and try these out for size, and let me know how you fared at them! For more, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel – https://goo.gl/jISycf

Is your hotel losing millions in mobile booking engine revenue?

I’ve written countless blogs and talked a lot about the importance of mobile searches on the #AskAviArya show. But let’s be honest – have you fully leveraged its value yet? I meet a lot of hoteliers and marketing managers during conferences, my talks, or for coffee etc. Off late I’ve realised many of them don’t do enough to optimize their mobile websites. While they have invested in a beautifully designed website, the booking engines still feel like they’ve been designed by amateurs. Mostly the layout is poor, and the box is hanging off screen. Usually the CTA is so small I’ve to get my son to click on it because my fingers are too big for it.

A common argument that I face is – “Avi, our guests use mobiles to research and find inspiration; they still don’t feel secure entering their payment details on phone.”

I refuse to buy that argument. Consider what transactions people have started completing on their phone. More than 50% of millennials already confirm bookings on smartphones or tablets. Not to mention people are now even installing their bank’s apps in their phones to streamline all transactions.

I get it – changing the whole booking engine technology can be a tough task. But let’s talk business. If you haven’t fully optimized the booking engine for mobiles, you’re losing out on a lot of revenue. With the same traffic, your conversions can increase by about 50%.

I have gathered some tips and tricks on how you can optimize the booking engine for mobiles. Read on –

  • Not all ‘Mobile devices’ are the same

Mobile devices can include both smartphones and tablets. Make sure that your website is responsive to both. Since they use different methods of managing space and aspect ratios, make sure the design caters to that. There is also a difference in the way they are used. Smartphone users typically want their information fast and quick, and hate lags. Instead of bogging them down with an endless river of room images, make more space for check-in dates and a prominent button that says “Book Now!”

A tablet user is someone who doesn’t prefer the smaller screens of smartphones, but would rather sit comfortably with a device in his hand and then book. A clear overview is important for them too.

  • Live ‘App’ily ever after

Not just a well-designed space, a dedicated app lets you do many other great things. You can integrate loyalty programs, keyless entry feature, upselling etc. Any cool factor will make your guests download the app. And once they have it installed, they will use it for future bookings, not some OTA. Most importantly, app is the perfect way to establish a brand.

  • Lightning fast and super secure

Mobile booking engines should be as secure, if not more, than desktops and laptops. Once the booking is confirmed, even vouchers and receipt should be re-formatted and optimized for phones. Guests can bookmark these vouchers or save a copy of barcode on their phone, letting them check-in easily.

Also, if you have one of those archaic websites that still uses flash – say goodbye to it. Flash still doesn’t work on a lot of devices. It’s also particularly prone to hackers.

  • Butter smooth integration with website

The transition from browsing rooms to checking rates should be as smooth as possible. To get this in order, the mobile website and booking engine should be integrated as a single direct booking platform. It will help improve the user experience a lot. Not just that, it will help you formulate optimized pricing strategies and work more efficiently.

  • Don’t play hide and seek with guests

A large number of visitors to your hotel website are quick scanning for important details like prices and amenities. If these are hard to locate, they won’t hang around for much long. Making the booking process as easy to navigate as possible will increase your conversions. Here’s the checklist to getting the basics of conversion spot on – a distraction free design, prominent search engine, and a visually attractive Book Now button.

Lemon Tree Hotels have one of the best mobile booking processes in India

When was the last time you picked up your mobile and tried to complete a booking? Do that now and chances are that you are going to be disappointed.

Still want to stick around with that clunky old booking engine? It’s time you realise that the mobile guest is as important for conversions as research and inspiration. You need to take care of them, and so does your booking engine.

If this blog inspires you to keep your website in the best of health, I recommend you watch the latest episodes of the #AskAviArya show as I talk with Nicholas Bayerle, founder of The Billion Dollar Body. Check out the trailer here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeiBonBqQno

You’ve got mail (and bookings!)

Even as I write this blog, hoteliers are trying to come with new ways to capture more direct bookings. In my experience, newsletters are a tried and tested medium when it comes to online marketing. I’m disappointed to find that not much effort is focussed towards them.

Even after all the marketing budgets to drive guests to the website, more than 97% of them drop out of the purchase channel. Email marketing can help capture and even remarket to those guests – you are missing out on a great opportunity to attract guests. A big reason why I love newsletters is that they can carry a lot of relevant information. And that’s the basic requirement from content in 2017 – engaging, trending, and informational content. Let me take you through tips to create a well drafted newsletter.

Hit the bull’s eye

Targeting relevant guests is one of the most important components of email marketing, and most businesses don’t get it right leading to failed campaigns. You need to target your guests by age, location and past behaviour. For instance if your email is tailored to women aged between 30 and 60 it can talk about spas and yoga facilities available in your hotel. At the same time you can send a separate mail to younger visitors promoting the hotel’s nightclub. If you want to target an audience from distant locations, then attract them with letters promoting the discounts, or offers for local attractions.

Keep a crispy subject line

Are you aware that around 82% of customers’ inboxes are filled with promotional emails? If you don’t want your email to be categorised as spam, then get your act together. Try to generate emails with a catchy subject line to break through the clutter and hold the attention. The emails could be categorised under newsletter, promotional email/lead nurturing, personal email, and transactional email. So depending on the type of email, you have to set the tone right. You have to offer more than what is expected from the guest from clicking through to your site.

Create a one-time compelling offer

Most of the hoteliers I know try to sell rooms by making use of urgency and paucity as people tend to make quicker bookings if they know number of rooms available is limited. But remember to create a one-time offer on your hotel rooms using either time or product limits, and don’t repeat the offer to the same visitor. For instance a hotel room could be available for a limited amount of time and product limit would mean that the offer is limited to the number of available rooms. But all such offers should be implemented after the success of relationship building exercise through emails, newsletters. You can measure the success of an email marketing campaign through open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, bounce rate and revenue attribution.

Turn lookers readers into bookers

Your email or newsletters should be able to capture the reader’s attention in approximately 8 seconds or less. Like I mentioned earlier, your content should provide some value or information to the reader. For example, if your hotel is situated in Goa, you can write a newsletter on “5 kid-friendly water activities in Calangute”. If the reader looks up to you to get knowledge, chances are you’ll also be the one to get booked. Figure out interesting topics on deals and discounts, events, food and beverage, and more such things which would attract the reader to your hotel. You could also take to upselling, cross-selling through the newsletters to boost sale.

Customize the mail

Once the guest has registered with you, make sure you send a customised welcome message instead of starting a booking conversation. The welcome message may also include information on the room booking incentive for newsletter subscribers such as free breakfast, bottle of wine, room upgrades, or local travel guidebook. Even if the guest is not ready to make a booking decision, you can always stay in touch through the newsletter. Mention different ways through which the guest can connect with you and try to reinforce your brand value. It could be through a web contact form, email address, phone number, Twitter links, and more.  Don’t forget to link back to your ‘Book Now’ page so that if readers want to make a decision she should be prompted to do it at a click away.

Do share this blog with an hotelier or friend who may need it!

Meanwhile you can watch my Ask Avi Arya show here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0MwgJxvbC77-uBaupprShA

How to Win the Direct Bookings War?

Whether hotel operators or OTAs,  everyone is vying for guests to book with them – but over the years, it seems that OTAs have got a bigger share of the pie. If you are a hoteliers, you’ll agree that direct revenue is crucial to increase return on investment, and owning customer relationships.

But if you really want to make inroads in winning back market share and taking control of guest interactions, you need to wage an offensive and make radical changes.

I’m here to help youwith just that. Implement the following steps, and your chances of success will increase: 

Bookings-driven Design

What’s the biggest tool to get direct bookings? That’s right, your hotel website. It has one goal – to convert lookers into bookers. It’s not an art canvas to post photo galleries, or a Wikipedia page to give out information about your hotel. It’s your conversion engine – invest in the layout so that every bit of content, every photo inspires the visitor to book a stay.

The Hudson, New York, makes it too easy to book a stay.

It needs more than your average run of the mill. When your potential guests visit your website, make sure they enter an environment that motivates them. Then make sure that it is easy for them to book.

Include prominent call-to-action buttons on every page of your website. Use high resolution, large photos.

Design the website for your guests, not for yourself. Then it will become the conversion engine that gives you more direct bookings.

Gate them in!

We know rate parity won’t allow you to publicly sell your inventory for less than what you sell it for on some OTAs. It’s a big let down, because this way OTAs remove the incentive for guests to book directly with you.

But there are smart ways to get around this. Rate parity agreements do not apply to patrons who are a part of your hotel’s database. This includes email subscribers, loyalty program members, social media followers, etc. Why not send private, compelling offers to these individuals? Trust me, this can give your property a big impetus in direct bookings.

Blog posts are also great marketing avenues. Send timely blog posts to your patrons – remind them why it is such a great time to travel, and pitch them the relevant deals and offers.

Loyalty programs

Why do you think guests go to Disneyland year after year?

Because most families prefer going to places where they had a great time in the past. Business travellers especially, return to the same hotel if they have a convenient stay at an affordable price.

Why not incentivise these potential guests with loyalty programs?

The awesome thing is that you can leverage loyalty programs to get repeat bookings. This also results in a marketing database that gets you more engagement. They are likely to respond well to new deals and offers. They may even engage with the content you share on social media!

This brings me to my next point.

Content is King

I agree – content marketing is a big time investment, and the results are not easy to measure. But there’s no dearth of reasons to invest in it.

Compelling content drives new traffic from search engines. It’s an important part of your SEO strategy.

Content is what keeps people sticking around on your social media channels. Compelling content, such as how do guides and photo galleries inspire guests to book with you helps. Your hotel’s social media page should be a reflection of the brand itself, and provide updated information about the hotel.Further, engage audiences and set yourself apart.

,To engage audience, you can highlight special offers, destination specific tips, and upcoming local events.With so much content fighting for attention, yours should provide value to the target audience.

Consider hiring an agency, whose job is to churn out and share new, compelling content. With an increase in direct reservations, it’s worth the investment!

Manage online reviews 

What’s the best place to find new guests to increase your direct bookings? Join conversations already taking place about your hotel! From OTAs like Expedia to online directories like Yelp, there are many platforms where guests are already talking about you.

Make no mistake – even if future guests want to book directly with you, they’ll first check out channels such as TripAdvisor. The average guest visits a whopping 38 websites while planning a trip – and only one of them can be your website! The rest are OTAs, online review platforms and community forums.

So why not just hop in and voice your opinion? In one of my previous blogs I talked about how to effectively manage online reviews. Respond with good energy to positive reviews and low ratings. It’s not the reviews themselves, rather your response that will affect direct bookings.

Here’s a simple advice I offer to hoteliers – just set up Google Alerts to your email whenever someone mentions your property’s name online. This will help you keep updated on the buzz around your hotel. Respond to reviews on time.

A personal message from the manager greatly improves the brand’s perception.

Here’s a reply you may want to use for your own hotel –

Talk about the great things guests can check out on your website. Provide links whenever possible.

Mobile websites – duh!

It’s embarrassing to even bring this up. This should be a no brainer, but quite often I see hotel websites with booking engines which are not optimised for mobiles.

Come on folks, it’s not 2007 anymore. And it’s super easy to optimise your website and booking engine! Every day you wait you lose some of that direct revenue.Look no further than http://www.lemontreehotels.com/ for an example of amazing mobile website design.

Hey, this will all take investment, no doubt. But that’s the reason I see so many hoteliers failing to increase direct bookings! This leaves a huge window for you to put in work and reap the benefits. Most properties feel they are too busy to actively indulge in these “online gimmicks” – but guess who’s going to take its advantage? That’s right, you – the one who understands it’s importance and does the work.

It can be done. Try it.

If you know a hotelier or manager who’s looking towards winning the direct reservations war– share the blog with them!

Do check out my #AskAviArya show on YouTube, where I keep sharing my experience, advice and insights – https://goo.gl/qr7wjx

Yes, it’s possible – Get more than half the business from online leads!

I’ve one very strong belief – no matter the nature of your business, at least 50% of your business can come from online channels. I can understand the raised eyebrows – the most frequent question that I get asked is “Avi, what should I do to make that happen?” The remedy answer has remained the same: reputation management of your brand, online social media, web design, and a refined content marketing strategy. I will be unfolding the concepts of these subject matter and give live examples of success in my training course.

Read through the blog, and learn what’s in store once you sign up!

Social media marketing

Whenever I mention social media to entrepreneurs, they immediately think of brand building and not sales.  No one actually buys a product because of an Instagram post, right?

Wrong!

The fact is that social media is not just a brilliant way to build brand awareness, but if done right it can provide valuable leads. The icing on the cake is that lead generation on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter is cost effective. It can reduce your marketing costs by around 50%, while increasing the revenue at the same time.

The first step is to pick the right channel. Facebook is the most obvious choice, but in the B2B sector 44% of marketers have generated leads through LinkedIn. 39% have done it through Facebook, and 30% with Twitter. Next, you can use the following tips to get more business.

  1. Contests

Contests are a big hit on social media. The focus is more on quantity rather than quality, but you can’t deny the attention that it gives your brand. It’s ideal to get a repository of emails.

  1. Convert SM page to a lead generation machine

If you want to turn your page from a branding tool to an online business generator, you have to stop focusing on just likes & followers and start making it a lead generation machine. Treating it like a website is a good idea.

Gold Gym’s Facebook page is a great example of leads focussed design. Every button and Call To Action like Sign Up and Find Your Gym serve the purpose of getting actual clients.

  1. Track mentions and tags

If you’re not doing this already, you are losing a lot of business. Listen to what people are saying about your company, especially on Twitter. Invest in some sort of social media monitoring tool that lets you monitor online conversions about your brand.

  1. Create events

Facebook events and tweet chats on Twitter are a creative way to generate leads. Just don’t miss out on including a relevant Call To Action. Topics can include anything related to your industry – if you are an hotelier you can host a tweet chat with your chef or sommelier answering the audiences’ queries in real time.

Reputation Management

If you think online reputation management is crucial only for e-commerce businesses, then you’re mistaken. It’s as important for brick and mortar stores, if not more. Always keep the following 2 principles in mind –

  1. Review your reviews strategy

With a simple Google search you can find what users are saying about your product or service.  Focus especially on the negative reviews. Respond directly and immediately to them. Acknowledge the problem and explain how you’ll improve the situation.

  1. Feedback mechanism

It’s also a great way to understand what processes can be improved, and how. Do you need to add more employees? Do you need to train them better?

Design your way to success

If you’ve been living under a rock, now is a good time to understand the value of (good) content and design on your website. No matter what the business model or channel, content is king. Designing a website which attracts leads like honey attracts bees is not too time consuming or expensive. Visitors on your website should clearly understand on the landing page why they should do business with you. Most likely, there are lots of competitors in your business and you’ve to differentiate yourself within seconds.

Mailchimp does a good job of it by highlighting the ease with which you can send mails through its service.

What are the reasons your clients should associate with you? Pinpoint the X factor and make it prominent.

A short headline goes a long way in creating a great first impression. Since there’s no way fixed formula, it’s important to experiment. Other techniques include placing a prominent Call To Action and a Chat Now button.

These methods are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve a lot more wisdom to share in my training program. Sign up soon! Take the first step towards higher online sales here – http://askaviarya.com/training/

Don’t abandon hope – guaranteed ways to increase checkout rates and decrease abandonment

For marketers, managers and hoteliers, abandonment at the checkout stage can be a real hassle. According to a research, around 81% of online visitors abandon the process at the booking stage in the travel industry. At a time when hoteliers are under pressure to increase direct revenue, this is a real thorn.

But don’t lose hope yet – a lot of these visitors do intend to return. You just have to turn that intention to a decision.

Here’s how you can do that.

Issue no. 1 – Just browsing

More than half of website visitors don’t even have a fixed destination in mind when they’re browsing your page. They’re just looking for their idea of a dream vacation. They passively browse through photos, prices, and deals.

Solution

Just because visitors are passive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active. There are still plenty ways you can inspire visitors to plan their next vacation.

Take the lead by using amazing visuals. Like I’ve said in my previous blogs, tell, or rather show your hotel’s story on the website. Know more about your target guests, and tailor content and imagery accordingly. You can show a story about the great location of your property, the emphasis on a comfortable stay, etc.

Convince them that NOW is the time to travel, that they deserve that break from their busy schedule. This can help the visitor take the decision to travel – and if he does, yours will be the property of choice.

Issue no. 2 – Price

Not surprising, is it? Most of the visitors abandon the booking process when they reach the billing stage. They may find it too expensive or low value, or may be put off by the final tax-inclusive cost.

Solution

I’ve 3 ideas to avoid this abandonment cause –

  1. Don’t shy away from heavily advertising your special offers. Visitors are always on the lookout for a great deal, so display whatever promotional deals or loyalty programs you have clearly.
  2. Show all inclusive prices, such as taxes and other charges. Nobody likes bad surprises, so display such costs upfront.
  3. Include a currency converter widget or link in your website. Many of your guests will be from foreign countries (hopefully!), and may find conversion of costs inconvenient. Don’t let this situation arise!

Issue no. 3 – Forms, surveys and too many questions (It’s like exam time again for visitors!)

Asking guests and visitors to fill in some information in forms and surveys is a great idea – I agree. But the process doesn’t have to be so long, complicated, and intrusive!

Solution

First of all – stay clear of asking any personal information. Also, make the process short and simple, and do away with any unnecessary question. Lastly, make sure the questionnaire appears AFTER the booking is complete. The idea is to ensure that the booking process requires the minimum number of clicks.

Issue no. 4 – Bad website design

This one seems the obvious problem, yet it’s frustratingly the most common. How will you encourage guests to book with you, especially the millennials, when your first impression has glaring errors?

Solution

The first thing I want you to do is check your mobile website. The number of users visiting your mobile website is increasing day by day, and it makes no sense to not invest in it. The common problem I see is the excruciatingly long amount of time it takes to load the website. Invest in a visually appealing mobile optimized website with a seamless booking process. As I’ve written before, Google’s algorithm now also prefers mobile optimized websites, so look forward to improved organic search results as well. Browse through http://m.lemontreehotels.com/ to take inspiration.

I’d written a blog on the website crimes that should result in capital punishment; you can check it out here – https://goo.gl/jNxD5d

Guys, just some small, quick fixes can go a long way in improving your booking process. As a hotelier, you should do everything in your power to make the process as seamless as possible. Strive to create a visually appealing, fast, and mobile optimized website. Get on it ASAP, and check out the #AskAviArya show after that – https://goo.gl/8fuoy2

How to ‘getta’ grip on ‘Meta’ search?

Let me get this straight – Google is the new OTA. Ever since it added the instant booking option on its metasearch engine, hotels have the opportunity to increase their direct revenue at lower costs. According to a study, 54% travellers in China, 42% in Germany, 38% in France, 45% in the UK and 48% in the USA use metasearch engines to find the best hotel prices while booking. The bottom line is, you will be missing on a whole lot of potential guests if you don’t advertise on metasearch engines like Google and TripAdvisor. I’m writing this blog this fine evening to give you some tips to do exactly that.

In my experience, to be successful in digital you’ve to spend smartly, not more. Let’s dive in and see how you can put your money to good use.

  1. Make hotel rates lower than OTAs

OTAs dominate search rankings with their huge marketing spends. It’s rare to see a hotel on top in search results. Since they have very high Cost Per Click (CPC), it is tough to leapfrog them. But if there isn’t a lot of difference between the CPC, you can rise in rankings by lowering your room rates. Since the algorithm is designed to put lowest rates at the top, your hotel can be given preference – and that might give you the clicks you deserve.

  1. Customize strategies for different metasearch sites

Every metasearch engine has its own process of functioning. Let’s go through 2 major ones.

Google – I believe it is going to be the biggest player in travel search in the near future. Since the guest actually starts his or her journey on Google, it is a blunder to not advertise on the platform. While CPC model has been notoriously high, the recent commission based pricing (on confirmed bookings) is perfect for small hotels.

TripAdvisor –   The existing dominant player, over 70% of travellers use this platform to compare and consult before making bookings. It acts more like an information avenue – guests don’t yet have the intention to book. The platform is ideal for brand awareness.

  1. Be mindful of changing designs

Metasearch platforms keep experimenting with their designs, schemes, algorithms, structure, etc. For example, the Google Hotel Ads blurb box has been shifted to the right from the left. Don’t take them lightly – they can have an impact on your clicks and conversions.

Such platforms may keep testing different ways to display hotel prices. Such changes will definitely impact your CPC. Also, make sure that the correct and updated information is available on the site.

  1. Make it a marketing channel

Viewing the platform as a marketing channel will help you get more direct bookings at a lower cost. It is an opportunity to position you on a level playing field with OTAs. Reviews are extremely important on a metasearch site. They are often pulled in from different sites and sources to offer an overall view of the hotel to the viewer. Make sure you have a strategy to keep improving such reviews.

  1. Experiment yourself!

As with all things digital, you can’t simply run an ad and just forget about it. Not just room availability checks and bid management, regular tests to maximize return on investment must be conducted. Such tests can include Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), monitoring conversion rates and trying different variations in CPC.

In the direct bookings war, you need to get all the weapons you can in your arsenal. Small hotels do not enjoy the same budgets as big chains and OTAs, but if you spend smartly online you can achieve more direct revenue. Since commissions are usually lesser than what you have to pay OTAs, it is more cost efficient as well at present. Make hay while the sun shines!

Share this blog with someone you think needs it. And if you haven’t caught up with the latest episode of the #AskAviArya show, click here – http://bit.ly/2qElPa6