We’re in the midst of January, and the grey skies, freezing temperatures and long nights are naturally making us think of potential spring and summer getaways. But simply by dreaming about potential destinations, we’ve already begun what’s known as the ‘consumer booking journey’. And at some point in the future, this journey will have taken its course – we will have chosen a hotel to stay at. Traditionally, this was a multi-faceted operation. In 2019, it’s much simpler.
Word of mouth
How does the consumer booking journey normally start? Well, often by having our interest piqued when in the ‘dreaming’ stage of the process. We’ll have discussed it with our friends. Maybe a colleague recommended the hotel to us at lunch, or maybe an old friend recommended it over a drink. Maybe a family member mentioned the place during Christmas dinner, or maybe… well you get the picture. By doing this our friends and family are our influencers – they are influencing us to go to a particular hotel.
Word of mouth has always been a huge factor in marketing. Businesses seek it as it helps a company to grow organically. The thing is, it’s always been unscalable, and often out of a hotel’s control. Fast forward to 2019, however, and much social interaction has moved online, and to mobile phones. And the latest generation of consumers – millennials, now spend one in every five mobile minutes on Instagram or Facebook.
The move to social media
Word of mouth’s new home on social media is something hoteliers can tap into. While previously companies could only indirectly influence word of mouth through advertising, suddenly they can directly affect it. How? Through content creators or influencers.
By having online influencers market on social media channels like Instagram, hoteliers can advertise their experiences with unparalleled success. The online influencer has been chosen specifically by the consumer – and as such the influencer feels closer and more personable than a standard celebrity. Moreover, the consumer sees the influencer as someone they trust. In this sense, word of mouth through influencers is just as valuable as it would be from a friend or family member. Interest in the hotel is evoked.
Ahead of the competition
This interest can come to a consumer’s attention at any stage in the consumer booking journey. Crucially, however, it can affect a consumer before a journey has even begun. By seeing their favourite influencer enjoying an experience at a hotel, the ‘dream’ phase of the consumer booking journey can be ignited. The consumer might not have even known they wanted a trip.
By diving in before all the other stages of the consumer booking journey, the hotel using influencer marketing has got in ahead of its rival competitors. Not only that, but this strategy can be used to avoid ending up in a pure price comparison exercise with their competitor set on online travel agencies.
Getting in early has never been more important, as studies say that the customers of today now spend more than two-thirds of the booking process in the “dreaming” and “planning” phases of the consumer booking journey, presenting a shift in when hotels need to be capturing the attention of potential customers. To get in before these phases have even started is a unique bonus.
And when it comes to the middle stages of the consumer booking journey, influencer marketing can be equally effective. Crucially, it can evoke desire in a product – which gives it a competitive advantage when placed alongside traditional marketing in the ‘planning’ stage of the consumer booking journey. How does this happen?
With the majority of influencer posts being made on Instagram, images form the basis of influencer marketing. These instantly generate an emotional response that cannot be matched by other forms of media. Information presented by an image is processed 6,000 times faster than by text.
And these images tap into the aspirational drives of their audience with ease. Because their followers are personally attached to who they are, the most successful influencers often appear to be living the lives consumers wish they were experiencing themselves. Traditional marketing channels such as television and radio still suffer from a disconnect between audience and business. This disconnect is made all the more glaring by the rise to prominence of their influencer counterparts.
Closing the journey
New social media innovations mean that influencer marketing can even have a direct impact on the final stages of the consumer booking journey. Instagram has unveiled a host of features that could change the game forever. New action buttons on posts and stories have recently been unveiled, for example. These give users the option to ‘book’, ‘get tickets’, ‘reserve’, or ‘start order’. Previously, travellers could only get in touch or make a reservation with a hotel using a ‘message us’ button. The gap between the influencer and the hotel’s website has just been closed.
And this comes after Instagram’s recent native payments feature, which does what it says on the tin. Companies can now take direct payments on the social media platform.
We know that over 87% of millennials prefer to spend their money on new experiences rather than physical goods, so the opportunity has never been greater for hotels. However, they need to adapt and embrace this change.
Swayy is the easy way to do this. It is the hospitality industry’s leading online influencer booking tool. It seamlessly connects and evaluates influencers and hotels, whilst also offering a host of features for both parties that also make it a leading online influencer campaign management tool. The consumer booking journey has changed, and Swayy helps hotels move with that change.
For more top tips from industry experts, check out our recent interview with Shawn Lim – Marketing Manager at The Andaman – A Luxury Collections by Marriott hotel.
Interested in working with full time, pre-vetted hotel influencers? Click here to find out what Swayy can do for you. If you are an influencer interested in a collaboration, click here to see how Swayy can help you find the best hotels.