Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important for hotels. More importantly, digital marketing strategies must make a business stand out from the crowd. This is where independent hotels stand at an advantage with a unique story they can tell.
Chain hotels may offer a centralised infrastructure and regularity. But this is not what the millennial market wants (now the largest group of hotel consumers!). They want a unique experience that is tailored around the individual. The more niche and different your idea, the more attention your digital marketing strategy will gain. And at the end of the day, which hotel doesn’t want to go viral?
The Changing Market
We currently live in a rapidly changing world. Trends come and go in the blink of an eye. The world is becoming increasingly accessible. Most noteworthy, there has been a shift in favour of independent hotels.
Brett Hollenbeck, an assistant professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management, conducted a recent study on this shift. From 2000 to 2015, chain hotels’ lead in revenue over independent hotels who have seen a decrease from 32% to 19%. This is a significant difference and indicative of a changing trend.
In the past, travellers only had access to word-of-mouth feedback and information in travel guides. As a result, picking a chain hotel always seemed like the safest option. You knew exactly what you would be getting and the experience would be similar every time.
However, people now have access to almost every hotel in the world at the touch of a button. Gone are the days when reliable, standard hotels were wanted. Now people want a unique experience with quirks that can be shown off on social media. More importantly, they want to feel special.
An Individual Experience
An increasing number of people are turning to accommodation alternatives such an Airbnb. This is partly due to the exclusive service many of them offer. Perks such as unique locations, intimate settings, and a tailored service are all appealing. A host who knows their customer’s name makes them feel welcomed. They feel like an individual instead of one of the masses.
This experience of individuality is something chain hotels often struggle with. A centralised infrastructure can be useful, but it has the negative result of inflexibility. Strict procedures are in play to ensure everything can run smoothly across all branches. However, this does make it more challenging to pay attention to individual customer experiences.
On the other hand, independent hotels are more than capable of achieving this. The lack of rigidly formalised procedures means that independent hotels have more opportunity to cater to guests’ requirements. Spending some time chatting about the area and recommending the best spots is easy for the hotel. However, the appreciation of the customer is invaluable as they in-turn leave a review highlighting how great and accommodating their experience was.
Take Advantage of a Single Location
The prime difference between chain and independent hotels is that the former has multiple locations, and the latter has one. However, this single location can actually be a huge benefit.
More often than not, people choose where to go before where to stay. The location is important to the traveller. A regulated and centralised infrastructure means chain hotels can struggle to benefit fully from their location.
Contrastingly, independent hotels can cater the experience entirely around their specific location. Chain hotels often are unified across all locations in interior design and the services they offer. This can result in a corporate and sterilised aesthetic that doesn’t reflect the unique setting they are in. Instead, independent hotels can work to create a design and experience that authentically represents the traditions and history of the location.
Another option would be to partner up with local experiences to offer exclusive offers to guests. After all, they are there to explore the area. Enabling them to do so will make them appreciate their stay even more.
The Value of Reviews
Leading on from this, in the age of digital marketing, the value of reviews has accelerated rapidly. Dr Hollenbeck cites reviews as the factor that is “levelling the playing field between chains and businesses”. His research shows that if an independent hotel received 10 reviews on average, they would have approximately a 1.7% higher revenue. This is significantly higher than the predicted 0.7% higher revenue calculated for chain hotels.
Independent hotels must, therefore, use this to their advantage. Potential customers have access to everything that has been posted online about a particular hotel. For independent hotels, this is the prime factor that will determine whether someone chooses to book. Reviews will highlight exactly what a person can expect, and will draw attention to all the little quirks and benefits on offer.
It is important to use the personal relationship developed with customers to encourage them to post about your business online. Ultimately, spending time making sure each individual enjoys their stay will make a person feel special and excited. And in this digital age, millennials will turn to social media to post about their experience.
Digital Marketing: The Key to Success
A chain hotel may have a huge marketing department. However, this marketing department is often working to create an advertising campaign that works for the brand, rather than specific individual branches. On the other hand, independent hotels can dedicate time to creating a campaign that fits them perfectly. Instead of having to conform to a system, they remain in control.
Reviews are a great way of showing off all that a hotel has to offer. However, customers must first find you amongst the masses. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) can be useful. However, with a hefty fee of up to 20% commission, direct bookings are preferable. This is where a digital marketing strategy can be the key to success.
92% of people say they trust earned media above all other forms of advertising. If a review were to be read by thousands, this would be a great advertising potential. And now, with the rise of Instagram Influencers, this is both possible and a great tool in a digital marketing strategy.
The Influencer Technique
Finding the perfect Influencer can be challenging. Hotels are often inundated with requests and the process is time-consuming. However, with Swayy, all Influencers are pre-vetted and checked for quality control. Fake followers are detected using advanced software, and a genuine audience is guaranteed.
For an independent hotel, brand values are of vital importance. Now Swayy has made it easier than ever to find someone who aligns with your values. You select an Influencer from a database of reliable accounts and the entire process is streamlined. It takes an average of 1 minute to evaluate an Influencer who has applied to collaborate with you. The results can be invaluable.
The content created is authentic and works like a traditional word-of-mouth review but on a far larger scale. An independent hotel is likely to have a more specific target market than chains. When advertising to an Influencer’s following, you are appealing directly to this targeted market. This is far more effective than a billboard and assists you in developing your online presence.
It can feel daunting to be an independent hotel amongst the masses of chain brands. However, the revenue gap is decreasing and the success of independent hotels is on the rise. In this digital age, independent hotels can use online platforms to stand out from the crowd. Millennials continue to love the unique experiences boutique hotels have to offer and love to write about these experiences online. Embrace the flexibility of being independent. After all, being different is your greatest asset.
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By Amelia de Normann