Give the People What They Want!
Remember when your mom would pack your school lunch and include everything she knew you liked? Ham & cheese sandwich, Twinkies, grape juice, maybe even a pack of baseball cards.
Even if you weren’t this lucky as a kid, we all know the feeling of having an experience tailored to our individual needs and desires. It’s the feeling of being understood, and it’s increasingly what consumers expect from their online experiences.
If you shop on Amazon.com, for instance, you’re already familiar with how personalization can be employed in ecommerce. Every time you visit the site, you’ll see recommendations for products you might like based on your past browsing and shopping habits.
On your hotel website, this approach could involve serving each site visitor a batch of content tailored to what you believe their individual needs and preferences might be based on their demographics, location, the search terms that led them to your site, past booking history, preferences, reward program affiliation or consumer segment (corporate traveler, leisure traveler, event planner, etc.).
How and Why Should You Personalize?
Having a website that delivers personalized content to different visitor types generally involves additional investment in a software service or website Content Management System (CMS) designed to facilitate this. Is it worth the extra coin? This questions depends on how diverse your offerings and target segments are. If you’re a hotel with a lot to offer and many different types of guests, content personalization can help cut away the clutter and make the visitor’s path to booking more clear.
According to a study by identity management firm Janarin, “74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) appears that has nothing to do with their interests.” If you can eliminate this frustration, you’re one step closer to conversion.
Another compelling reason to personalize your site’s content is the fact that relatively few businesses are doing it. A Sailtrhu survey reports that only 31% of consumers feel that brands are continually delivering personalized experiences. Add to this a Forrester report forecasting that “companies fully invested in modern personalization will outsell their competitors by 20%” and you could be looking at a significant opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition.
Spare Your Email Marketing From the Junk Folder
If email marketing is part of your digital strategy, personalizing the content of promotional emails can be an extraordinarily effective way of engaging your audience. Few people welcome promotional emails with open arms, and it’s hard to blame them. If you feel like you’re getting the same email that’s been send to thousands of other people, what’s the likelihood that it’s relevant to you? This is suggested by Sailthru data that reports 40% of consumers believe most promotions deliver nothing of interest and 44% say they receive too many offers and promotions.
Email personalization provides users with something they are more likely to feel is worth clicking on. And this can pay off. Experian has found that personalized emails deliver 6X higher transaction rates with 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates.
Cast a Wider Net with Retargeting
Retargeted ads are another personalization phenomenon that most of us are familiar with but might not know by name. Have you ever left a website, only to have an ad for the same site appear to you elsewhere on the web? This is what’s known as retargeting and it can be a powerful way of influencing the purchase decision of someone you already know is interested in your hotel.
Like the personalized content on your site, you can tailor the content of retargeted ads to appeal to the preferences that a user demonstrated when they were on your site. If a user specifically visits your weddings page, for example, you could retarget them with an ad showcasing your wedding packages.
It’s a smart way to allocate your advertising dollars since you’re only paying to advertise to those who have previously visited your site. Retargeted ads can appear on search engines, social media, and related sites (e.g. car rental, airline or tourism sites).
A similar method of retargeting can be employed with email, sending automated messages to users who have begun but haven’t finished the booking process on your website, reminding them to complete their booking.
Create Customer Personas to Personalize Effectively
It’s one thing to have the technical means for personalizing content on your website, email marketing and ads, but it’s another thing to have the knowledge and understanding to be able to personalize this content effectively.
An effective exercise for strengthening this knowledge and understanding is to create customer personas for different market segments. Divide your target guests into ‘types’ based on their demographics, preferences and habits. Then try to determine what the most attractive features of your hotel are to each group.
The more specific and detailed these personas are, the better. For example, the millennial business traveler may have a very different set of expectations and needs than the baby-boomer business traveler. Do you research, canvas your staff for insights, and look at what guests have said on your social media and TripAdvisor profiles to get an accurate gauge of guest preferences and behavior.
Another helpful tool for defining your target markets and customers segments is the Destination Canada Explorer Quotient, an online, government-sponsored resource which offers detailed data about, and insight into, the psychographics and behavior of visitors to Canada.
It All Comes Down to the Experience
As a hotelier, you’re not selling a product, but an experience. In today’ travel market, this begins online where, for better or worse, travelers are inclined to see their online experience with your hotel as an extension of their on-property experience. The more you can do to make a guest feel understood, welcome and well-cared-for through a personalized online experience, the more confident they will feel about ultimately trusting their travel experience to your hotel.
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