Since 2012 I was working as a hotel digital marketing consultant. Back in the day, there were many new technologies that consultants like me could implement for hotels. Channel management software, revenue management systems, website booking engines, Google Ads campaigns, pop-ups, and many more. Those were the times of digital transformation of the hospitality industry.
Stuck in the past of hotel marketing
The problem is that ten years later, most independent hotel marketing teams are still stuck with strategies and marketing management practices based on these decade-old technologies. And most direct bookings-focused digital marketing consultants encourage them to do so.
There is nothing wrong with focusing on the website and direct bookings, but that alone is no longer capable of making significant differences in sales, revenue and marketing performance.
Still being stuck in the direct-booking-only mindset, both technology and strategies are getting way overoptimized for irrelevant functions. Today, when every single hotel has a standard website, a booking engine, a channel manager, and basic direct booking strategies in place, it is difficult to innovate.
In this article, we will go through some of the most common hotel marketing gimmicks that promise ground-breaking results – but their actual impact is questionable.
Chatbots on hotel websites
If you think that installing a chatbot on your hotel brand website will lead to a significant revenue increase, then you should probably go out to get some fresh air.
While it’s true that having chat and other easy contact options on a hotel website offers easy to contact for potential guests, but it also feels cheap and gimmicky. If your hotel brand wants to represent a high level of sophistication, personalization then having a real person answering chats is a far better option.
Chatbots are the cheapest possible option for hotels to offer instant customer service on websites, and guests also know this. They will not be amazed by an awkward AI trying to answer their questions.
Overpriced and annoying hotel website pop-ups
You know these very well. Exit-intent pop-ups, that offer marginal discounts and direct booking benefits in return for signing up, leaving an email address, or making a reservation on the hotel website.
In one of our recent surveys, around 85% of online bookers shared that they find hotel website pop-ups and other conversion tools annoying. The same survey revealed that over 60% of the same travelers lose interest in a hotel brand that tries too hard to convert them on the website.
But most importantly, slightly over 80% of people confessed that if they wanted to make a booking, they would have done it without the exit-intent pop-up or other urgency tools.
These findings indicate that these online conversion tools are not adding to the brand experience, and hardly contribute to getting direct bookings.
Hotel ad companies that take a commission from bookings
As a marketing consulting group, clients regularly send us needy emails from Sojern and similar companies, that offer commission-based remarketing and display advertising campaigns.
While these campaigns might be a fantastic option for hotel teams that do not have in-house capabilities for advertising management, it is not a good choice for hotels that manage marketing on their own.
These companies will set up campaigns to deliver ads to anyone who visited your hotel website, plus a broad lookalike audience similar to your website visitors. As a consequence, potential guests who you acquired with your marketing efforts will see the remarketing ads.
And here comes the trick: most people do not book during the first session, but they will get back to the hotel websites after a couple of price comparison checks. If they see the remarketing ads meanwhile, the advertising company will attribute success to that booking. In plain English, they are hijacking your revenue.
Do not fall for these.
Gimmicky direct booking benefits
People who book hotels were not born last night. They are not stupid. Trying to catch them with direct booking benefits that are also available for non-direct-booking guests will undermine the credibility of your brand.
Based on the results of a recent survey we did with over 2,000 people who frequently book hotels directly, false direct booking benefits are upsetting. Over 60% of online bookers shared that they lose interest in a hotel if they notice misleading techniques.
In many cases, booking on a hotel brand website is more expensive than choosing an OTA or travel agent. To counter this, hotel marketing teams try to include value-adds and direct booking benefits to offer a better value than the basic OTA prices. These typically include breakfast, meal plan upgrades, access to facilities like pools, spa, or gym – or credit for F&B services.
Understandably, these cost hotels. To avoid additional operational expenses or opportunity costs, management teams try to come up with benefits that they would offer to anyone.
Do not try to fool your direct booking guests with welcome drinks, water in the room, or complimentary newspapers in the lobby as an extra, if everyone gets it.
To get more hotel bookings on all channels, focus on brand experience
When crafting digital experiences for your potential hotel guests, always put yourself in the shoes of your customers. When people look for hotels and visit your website, they want to get convinced that your hotel or resort is the best choice for them. You cannot buy their decision with digital marketing and conversion gimmicks.
The most effective way to get the attention of potential guests is to develop a relevant and attractive brand experience. Having a beautiful product presentation with well-crafted information is proven to increase the conversion rate significantly more than tricks.