A study about how customers select hotels.
Google has released a study that highlights the five stages of travel that people go through in selecting their hotel. Whether the traveler is dreaming about their next vacation, planning for it, booking their stay or experiencing it firsthand, the study provides insights on how to connect with your customers at each of these key moments in their travel buying cycle. Here is the condensed version with key actionable points for you to accomplish.
Stage 1: Dreaming
Most vacations starts with a dream. A destination featured on a magazine; a photo of a friend walking on a beach posted on social media; or a youtube clip showing a recent vacation may be the spark of inspiration that’s needed to start the dream.
Reach travellers during this stage by emailing your past guest with news about events and promotions happening in your hotel. Past guest who already experienced staying in your hotel are an easy sell. Encourage your guests to share their experience on social media. Their post can be the spark that inspires other people to consider your hotel during their next holiday. Write about the top things to do in your area. This will generate plenty of new content on a regular basis, and google loves new content – giving you a boost in rank for niche keywords.
Stage 2: Planning
After the initial dreaming, the customer has decided to take action and moves to the planning stage where google’s statistics tell us that they’ll be visiting 20+ different websites in order to find the ‘perfect’ hotel.
Also according to Google, 66% of travellers will shop around before booking their hotel. So how will your website stand out from the rest? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ensures your website ranks higher than your competitors. Update your website at least every month with fresh content. Your website must also be easy to update and should be mobile responsive so it looks good in both desktops and mobile devices. Look for a turn-key Website Solution that is easy to use and made specifically for hotels.
Stage 3: Booking
After dreaming and planning, the traveller is ready to take out the credit card and book their dream holiday – hopefully with you! In the booking stage, it’s essential that your website is easy to navigate and your brand keywords are strong – for when they search for your hotel name, you come up first!
Every hotel must be found on most of the popular online travel agency portals.This ensures you get free advertising on the travel agency sites where most people start their planning stage. Consider using solutions such as The Channel Manager and Booking Engine.
Stage 4: Experiencing
The traveller has made the booking and is about to experience your hotel. And while online marketing is important, the result of this stage is largely dependent on your staff at the hotel and the experience the traveller will get while staying with you. This is all about customer service and ensuring the traveller leaves with memorable experiences to share that will in turn influence other travellers to go through the same cycle.
A great customer experience is critical, because satisfied customers will most likely share their experience in social network and review sites. Efficiently keep track of what customers are saying about your hotel on all social media and review sites with a Reputation Manager. Use reviews and customer feedback as your guide. Do respond externally to reviews, and don’t forget to take action internally to improve service.
Stage 5: Sharing
Most people choose their travel options based on recommendations from family and friends. So when your customer posts a photo of the incredible views from their room balcony or takes the time to write a raving review of the hotel service you gave them, sharing these moments they had – will encourage their family, friends or even other travellers in their network who are at the dreaming stage to consider your hotel. Encourage your guest to interact with you on social media. By all means, ask for their reviews if you’re confident of your service.
By targeting your customer at each one of the five stages of travel not only will ensure your hotel brand is with them along their journey. But your hotel will also stand out from its competitors by enabling your customers to share their experience. A referral from a satisfied client is a valuable seal of approval and the highest compliment you can get. In our strive to become relevant, let us not forget that the purpose of our business is to create a customer who creates customers.