With the explosion of the “digital way of life,” the traveler’s customer journey has become increasingly complex, which necessitates independent hoteliers to rethink and overhaul their marketing and technology stack strategies and investments.
Today’s online travel consumer is exposed to more than 38,983 micro-moments in any 60-day timeframe and visits an average of 18 websites via multiple devices across eight sessions before making a hotel booking (Google Research).
Google defines this customer journey as a fluid series of interconnected stages: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases, in which every phase both influences and is being influenced by the other steps of the journey.
The OTAs have been investing heavily in digital marketing initiatives and technology solutions to engage the traveler throughout the customer journey, acquire them as OTA customers, and keep them engaged throughout their lifetimes.
As a result, the OTAs have de facto monopolized the guest relationships and left independent hoteliers in a tough position.
This investment by the OTAs is rewarding them well: over the past 6 years, the OTAs have increased their market share by over 40% at the expense of the hotel direct channel.
What should independent hoteliers do to reassert themselves in the customer journey to get in front of travel consumers and win the direct booking?
To begin with, independent hoteliers must understand that digital marketing consists of three distinct, but interconnected and interdependent categories: Guest Engagement Marketing, Guest Acquisition Marketing, and Guest Retention Marketing.
Second, independents must “play” in all of these three categories: Not in one or two, but in all three categories.
Only and only then they will be able to re-establish relationship with the digitally-savvy customer in all phases of the customer journey: Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing and win the direct booking, resulting in decreased OTA dependency and lower distribution costs.
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