The last 18 months have been like no other in modern history. Billions spent on furlough schemes, millions of people locked in their homes and thousands of rooms & holidays not booked. It’s been incredibly tough for everyone but as we look towards 2022, we need to think differently about our marketing. The worst (in the UK at least) seems to have passed, so how should we adapt our approach in a ‘post pandemic’ world?
The pandemic has seen an even bigger shift to digital in the last 18 months with big tech players like Facebook, Google and the like all seeing their value increase even more to all time highs. With more time at home and online, the routes to market for hoteliers and hospitality narrow even more. Not only with more searches being done on Google, but also those people who previously we would’ve dealt with before, perhaps being on furlough or not in a job at all.
With changes to booking behaviour and previous patterns, how should you adapt your marketing strategy?
In reality, it probably won’t change much in 2021 or 2022. Your users will still be finding you via Google and the other large booking websites as much as they would have done before, if not more.
My belief is that the bigger challenge will be about your own marketing skills and set up. How well your website is performing, how well you’re monitoring your costs & profitability and how well you’re able to report and understand the data that is available.
To win new customers and keep existing ones booking again, your organisation needs to have these skills at close quarters - either in house or with a responsive agency partner who’s able to give you the data that you want when you need it (or ideally beforehand!).
What skills are crucial to have, to win going forward?
Here are some key areas that I believe are important to make the most of any ‘post pandemic’ boom.
Get your data spot on
Time after time we speak to clients who overlook the value of their website and booking data. Having a clear, and most importantly accurate, link between your website traffic and bookings is crucial to making decisions. More often than not we look into clients' Google Analytics and CRM data and find it is incorrect. Therefore, knowing what is really ‘working’ in marketing is impossible and finding out can take many weeks or months.
In order to make good decisions on how to spend your (perhaps reduced) budget can only happen if you are able to see a direct link between spend and revenue. For hospitality businesses, taking that even further to see additional and discretionary purchases while on site, is a massive bonus. If you’re able to trace your best spending clients (in your hotel or venue) back to a specific source is huge. If you can understand this, you can be more confident to bid more to acquire them, perhaps allowing you to increase your cost per acquisition costs and maybe allowing you to increase your volumes where others can’t.
With roughly 7 in 8 companies not having their data set up correctly, getting this right can be a huge competitive advantage.
Invest in existing customers
One thing that has come to the fore from the pandemic is that health and safety are top of the list when it comes to booking trips and holidays. Once seen as a ‘norm’ when travelling, this is now a massive differentiator if you can get your messaging right. But cutting through in a market when users have tuned out or aren’t keen to travel isn’t easy.
This is where your existing customers can play a crucial role. They will have already visited your venue, engaged with your team and be familiar and comfortable with the surroundings; all key things to help build confidence and take away any negatives when it comes to booking that precious trip away. As humans we’re designed to avoid loss, rather than seek out wins, and so this can be used to your advantage when there is uncertainty in the market or travellers mind.
Improving your communications with existing customers is a great route to filling capacity when the market is still finding its feet.
Playing on familiarity, safety and perhaps even encouraging ‘loyalty’ discounts, are all key messages that can be used to help increase bookings at a cheaper rate than acquiring new customers when the rest of the market will be looking to do the same.
Move fast with the times
Whilst we’re perhaps over the worst of things in the UK, we still can’t say for sure what will happen next. The UK government’s handling of the pandemic has been very questionable to say the least with mixed messages and fast u-turns becoming the norm in the travel & hospitality sector. So when things start to get clear, it’s crucial to be able to get in front of your audience as soon as you can.
Use of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, email and other digital channels can be turned on and off almost at the press of a button. The ability to react fast to changes, not only in terms of being first, but also in relation to competitors and the market, need to happen daily, if not weekly, to ensure you make the most of the opportunities out there.
Obviously the speed and velocity in which you respond to the market will depend on how many rooms, tables or spaces you have to fill, but ideally you don’t want to hang around! Having someone internal to make changes and importantly, report on them, would be ideal, but if not then there are many great hospitality marketing agencies out there who can help.