Here at Revinate, one of our primary focuses is helping hoteliers build valuable, lifelong relationships with their guests to keep them coming back again and again. One question we’ve been getting lately is, what about the guests who only stay with us once? Or, especially for luxury properties, what about the guests who stay with us as a treat during the holidays?
In retail, holiday sales have traditionally been viewed as transactions with the customers buying gifts rather than as interactions with the people receiving the gifts. This is a lost opportunity: Holiday shoppers and gift receivers tend to be more receptive to new brands during this time of the year; to win them over, brands should make an effort to directly engage consumers.
The same concept applies to hotels. For example, guests who purchase a special holiday deal via an OTA are uniquely receptive to new hotel brands during this time, as it’s an opportunity to build special memories with that brand.
To develop loyalty with new guests, however, successful hotels understand the importance of developing an ongoing marketing strategy that goes beyond the short holiday booking window.
This year, consider the following strategies to implement a more holistic approach that will allow you to capitalize on the busy season and build long-term relationships with seasonal guests.
1. Assume that holiday guests are in discovery mode
Many holiday-season guests are looking for a special experience. But guests who book special last-minute holiday rates through OTAs and other online booking sites might not necessarily know what they’re going to book. They may be more spontaneous than guests at other times of the year, and therefore more open to suggestion. Their mindset opens the door for interaction and developing loyalty.
For example, if an OTA guest’s email is captured upon check-in, there’s a wide range of personalized engagement tactics that a hotel can employ with segmentation. Guests who arrive with children can be selected to receive a special offer for a holiday cookie decorating event. Couples can receive an invite to a holiday cocktail-making class, hosted by the hotel’s expert bartender. And, the hotel can use these interactions to gain data about guests’ interests for future communications. The possibilities are endless for personalized interaction with guests.
2. Give guests incentives to return
If your guests have a great experience that feels relevant and uniquely tailored, they’re more likely to fall in love with your brand and book with you again. But that isn’t something you want to leave to chance.
To set guests up to become repeat bookers, you should absolutely offer them an incentive for them to book directly with you for their next stay. This is especially important for guests who initially booked through an OTA – you want to minimize the amount you’re paying in OTA commissions if you can. For example, upon checkout or via email after their stay, you could offer them a rate code for a 10% discount on their next booking within a certain time period. This offers guests the incentive to book directly with you by giving them the added benefit of a discount.
3. Use insights from guest interactions to appeal to present and future guests
There’s a lot you can learn from a guest’s previous behaviors–whether the guest books during specific seasons, uses specific amenities, responds to certain offers via email, and more. Information collected during all of these transactions can work to inform your marketing and guest engagement efforts.
Lookalike modeling allows marketers to profile guests according to data they have about other guests who have similar behaviors and characteristics. This data can inform your segmentation for email marketing and on-site offerings. For example, “a guest booking this amenity is likely to respond to this offer too.”
Amazon, Netflix, and others have been doing this for years: “People who bought this item also bought this item,” or “since you’re interested in this, you might also be interested in this,” or even “because you bought this, you might like this.” Amazon also offers the bundling option: “People who bought this, also bought this, so why not buy them together at a discount?” It’s a great way to not only offer upsells and cross-sells, but also help customers navigate their holiday shopping experience in a way that leaves them with positive feelings about the brand.
The same strategy can apply to hotels. Perhaps guests who bought ski lift tickets at concierge also booked a massage at the spa. Why not offer a spa discount to guests who buy ski tickets in the future, or even bundle them to encourage guests to purchase both?
4. Make new holiday guests aware of the benefits of being repeat bookers
A recent COLLOQUY survey found that most younger holiday shoppers look to loyalty programs to get better or free deals throughout the buying season. That is, shoppers eagerly get involved with loyalty programs in the season when they have time to earn discounts and access deals.
Accordingly, hotels can derive the conclusion from this study that guests will be searching for hotels that offer existing guests great benefits, such as special rates, a personalized guest experience, or even other perks like first dibs on tickets to local events.
Imagine, for instance, a hotel that gives guests who previously stayed with the hotel special access to an exclusive tasting event at a local winery.
5. Don’t forget to appeal to the gift recipient
Chances are if, for example, a family is traveling together, it’s not only the guest who made the holiday booking who will be new to your brand. Chances are, the guests traveling with the booker will also encounter your brand for the first time. Considering that they’ll be interacting directly with your hotel’s brand, there’s high potential to engage these guests.
A hotel can recognize these customers by including incentives to engage throughout the hotel. Some hotels include incentives for guests to opt in to email or text communications at various points during the stay. Would you like an email reminder of your upcoming spa appointment or tee time? Would you like to receive special offers on rentals or lift tickets at a nearby ski resort? There are ways for the front desk or concierge to capture guest contact information throughout the stay, even if the guest did not make the booking.
Once you’ve made direct contact with these guests, you can engage them further using any of the tactics in this post to build relationships with them and gain their loyalty. These tips can set you up for successful marketing in the new year and ensure that the next holiday season has fewer strangers and a lot more loyal customers.
This article was first published on the Revinate Blog.