Eâ'mail and, to a lesser extent, SMS texts have revolutionised the way opera-tors in the hospitality industry market their business.
These electronic communications are not only cheaper than traditional direct mail, they also allow users to react more quickly to changes by sending out promotions, almost at the push of a button.
However, according to Gordon Drysdale, business development director at marketing technology provider Forth Communication, more important than the media used is the level of knowledge you have of your customer's preferences.
Drysdale says that, for hoteliers who use multiple systems, from their main reservations and property management system to their other associated databases - like the restaurant, spa and golf course - the ability to pull together all these data sources to give complete customer information is essential for marketing purposes.
But marketing isn't about simply sending targeted correspondence. In this article, we have highlighted other paths to raising the profile of a business and directing guests to special offers - all using technology to a certain extent.
From bespoke recorded phone messages, through television screen messaging via a ticker, to managing TripAdvisor reviews - technology has given marketers many more strings to their bows.
customise your messageb
Ignition One Already used by a number of hospitality groups in the USA, Ignition One's Digital Marketing Suite software gives online marketers the ability to customise display ads in real time to specific audiences based on their web history.
For example, a consumer who searches for luxury suites but fails to book might be shown a retargeted display ad with a photo of the hotel suite, along with a call-to-action encouraging them to revisit the site to finish booking.
SAS Enterprise Miner SAS Enterprise Miner streamlines the data mining process to create predictive and descriptive models based on large volumes of data from across the enterprise.
The software has been used by InterContinental hotels Group (IHG) to gather, analyse and understand huge volumes of data. This allows the company to uncover new opportunities and deep insights about customer preferences.
case studies technology in action
TGI Friday's gives callers the message TGI Friday's has used bespoke recorded messages played to callers who are placed on hold or transferred to improve its marketing.
The American-themed bar and restaurant chain worked with On-Hold Marketing to produce audio snippets in an American accent that also contained the company's jingle and key messages, which could be changed to align with its current advertising. Friday's says the initiative has increased customer awareness of current promotions and menus, and driven traffic to the corporate website.
While the productions are bespoke to every restaurant, all are consistent with the company's wider promotional drive, including radio and other media.
An On-Hold Marketing system is usually fitted to a phone system via a USB connection.
Ramada Encore installs on-screen portal The Ramada Encore London West is using a guest portal on in-room televisions to promote food and beverage sales in the hotel.
Using an IPTV infrastructure and Quadriga's Sensiq system, guest messages are created using a "promotion ticker" which scrolls across the television home page, directing guests to information about special offers. Sensiq allows guests to click on promotions as well as browse the web and access on-demand entertainment through the remote control device.
Analysis of how the campaign has been received in the first months showed 28% of guests had accessed the portal and 41% of them went through to the "Offers & Events" pages, which features promotions on the restaurant and café detailing breakfast and lunchtime specials.
St Ermin's ups its TripAdvisor rankings Destination review website TripAdvisor has launched an improved management centre with free tools to help hoteliers manage their listings and reviews on the site. It has also introduced an online "widget centre" where managers can find tools to encourage guests to write reviews following their stay, and links which hospitality businesses can include on their website or Facebook page to highlight their TripAdvisor reviews (www.tripadvisor.com/widgets)..)
St Ermin's hotel in south-west London promoted use of the review site among its guests and has gone from a ranking in the 400s on the website to position 26 in just six months.
"The TripAdvisor ranking system has gathered so much pace, it has overtaken the more traditional way of ranking a hotel," explains director of sales and marketing Stuart Leakie.
opinion - Make the most of e-mail marketing
Gordon Drysdale, business development director, Forth Communication There is still a place for direct mail marketing campaigns within the hotel sector, but increasingly hotel marketers are realising the potential of utilising more cost-effective digital marketing channels, such as eâ'mail and SMS, to promote special offers to their customer base.
The hotels we work with tend to send out traditional direct mailing campaigns three or four times a year on average, to target both individual consumers and corporate clients. By comparison, eâ'mail campaigns are run two or three times a month. The most critical advantage of eâ'mail over postal mail is the cost element, somewhere between 0.3 and 0.7p per eâ'mail, depending on volume.
Another advantage of using eâ'mail is the speed with which you can set up a campaign. If you have templates set up on your broadcasting system and you have a list of people you wish to contact, then you can have the eâ'mail broadcast within seconds.
This speed enables hotels to react quickly to fill gaps in bookings for the weekend coming, to offer quick turnaround discounts, or to attempt to cross-sell or upsell. Currently we are seeing a number of hotels selling at a room-only rate but then using eâ'mail to upsell. They do this by sending out an automated eâ'mail acknowledging guests are due to arrive soon and asking them if they would like to reserve a place for dinner or breakfast, or a round of golf, and so on.
Post-stay eâ'mails often include follow-up surveys - asking guests about their thoughts on their stay and attempting to glean additional information such as birthday, partner's details or interests (for example, fine dining, romantic breaks, sporting weekends, and so on). These surveys allow hotels to continually monitor their performance and enhance the data they hold on the guests, which can further assist the targeting of future marketing activity.
SMS text messages can be just as effective as eâ'mail in many of these regards but, obviously, hotels have fewer characters to play with, so the information they send out has to be succinct."
Five ways to make the most of marketing
â- Ensure data is cleaned and screened
â- Use as many data sources as possible to build an accurate and complete customer database
â- Make sure data is segmented appropriately for each marketing communication, so that the right information reaches the right people
â- Use reporting functions to measure and analyse results and inform future activity
â- Ensure that you have an intuitive interface which is easy for the guest to use