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August 26, 2015

Is Social Media Marketing Dead? Thinks Out Loud Episode 135

August 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

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Is social media marketing dead? Probably not.

Is Social Media Marketing Dead? – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about how to lead mobile-focused digital transformation within large organizations (a topic we’ve been talking about a fair bit lately). Here are the slides for your reference:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 54s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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August 26, 2015

Tim Peter Moderates HSMAI Webinar: “End of Summer Check-up”

August 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

Tim Peter Moderates HSMAI End of Summer Check-up WebinarHSMAI has a new webinar out, “End of Summer Check-Up,” that’s moderated by our own Tim Peter and that looks at where we are so far in 2015, where we expect to be the rest of this year, and how to use that information to plan for 2016. Here’s the official write-up:

“The season for digital marketing reflection is here! As an industry we reflect on the performance of YTD initiatives, look ahead to the big ideas and proven initiatives that will generate increased online revenue opportunities in the second half of 2015 and forecast and budget well for 2016. What did we do well in the first half of 2016? What should we be doing in the second half of the year to boost revenues? How and what should we budget for 2016?

Listen to this webinar event at your convenience to learn:

  • What were the most successful digital marketing formats and initiatives in the first half of 2015?
  • What are the tactical, immediate revenue-generating marketing initiatives you can utilize in the second half of 2015?
  • What are the important digital marketing and distribution factors that will impact the industry in 2016 and beyond you should be concerned about?
  • How to structure your 2016 digital marketing budget so that you can maximize revenues, better utilize your marketing dollars by increasing campaign effectiveness, and generate the highest returns possible from your property website and digital marketing initiatives.””

In the webinar, according to HSMAI:

“Emily Ditman, Manager, Digital Marketing at HeBS Digital, covered digital marketing trends and events so far in 2015, and discussed what the new developments mean to hoteliers. She also discussed budgeting for 2016. Nicole Ferrer, Corporate Director of Sales & Marketing at Triumph Hotels in New York City, presented the hotelier’s perspective, and Victoria Fabiana, Agency Development Manager, Google, offered new travel consumer Path-to-Purchase research, new revenue-generating advertising initiatives, formats hoteliers can take advantage of, and the importance of video and YouTube in hotel marketing.”

You can review the HSMAI webinar here. It’s free for HSMAI members and $59 for non-members.

Tim, of course, has worked for over 20 years developing innovative e-commerce and internet marketing programs for hotels, restaurants, technology providers, and retailers. Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor and the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm to help hotels and resorts across diverse segments achieve billions of dollars in online revenue. He’s also the author of the HSMAI white papers “Engaging Online Travel Shoppers Through Integrated Marketing” and “Best Practices for Hotel Website Analytics,” both available here.


If you’re looking to learn even more about how your guests’ changing environment shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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August 20, 2015

What Do Your Customers Really Know About You? – Thinks Out Loud Episode 134

August 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

What Do Your Customers Really Know About You? - Thinks Out Loud Episode 134

What Do Your Customers Really Know About You? – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about how to lead mobile-focused digital transformation within large organizations (a topic we’ve been talking about a fair bit lately). Here are the slides for your reference:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 13m 47s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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August 17, 2015

5 Hotel Marketing Posts You Must See This Week: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

August 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

5 hotel marketing posts you must see this week: Couple relaxes at resort reading on a tablet.I’ve got an amazing Thinks hospitality marketing link digest for you this week, Big Thinkers. So, pardon me if I skip any lengthy setup and instead get you right to the 5 hotel marketing posts you must see this week. Enjoy:

  1. In an absolute must-read, Rafat Ali of Skift advises travel brands to stop hate-selling to your customers. Even as someone who has continually argued in favor of A/B testing and conversion rate optimization, I also completely agree with Rafat that marketers must first “be human.” Great stuff. Don’t miss it.
  2. This list of “6 Key Hotel E-commerce Tips: A Cheat Sheet to Drive Direct Business” blew up on social channels this past week. Well worth your time.
  3. You like checklists? Cool. Then be sure to check out Tnooz’z Four point check-list to take hotels into the hyper-connected world. Very useful information.
  4. Another fantastic Skift post looks at the numbers behind TripAdvisor’s evolution into the next booking giant. I’ve cautioned hotels to remain aware of TripAdvisor’s increasing shift towards working as an OTA. Skift adds some brilliant context and insight to help you do just that.
  5. Finally, how about we wrap up this list with the top five hotel marketing posts of July from here on Thinks? All good stuff to prep you for the week ahead.

If you’re interested in more insights and information about travel marketing and distribution, be sure to check out these “6 Super Hotel Distribution Strategy Posts,” these “5 Amazing Mobile Hotel Marketing Stories,” a great set of “8 Exceptional Hospitality Marketing Posts from the Past Week: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest,” a terrific round-up of “7 Remarkable Posts about Mobile Marketing in Travel” and these “7 Brilliant Insights into Mobile Travel E-commerce” from our hospitality marketing link digests (part of the ongoing E-commerce Link Digest series).

And if you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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August 14, 2015

7 Mobile E-Commerce Must-Reads from the Past Week: E-commerce Link Digest

August 14, 2015 | By | No Comments

7 Mobile E-Commerce Must-Reads from the Past WeekHey,Big Thinkers, I’m just about to head out and enjoy a wonderful August weekend. Hope you are too. So, let’s skip the big setup and get straight to this list of 7 mobile e-commerce must-reads from the past week. Enjoy:

  1. Mobile Commerce Daily reports that 73% of retailers do not offer mobile access to loyalty. For today’s customer, that’s just silly.
  2. In other silly moves brought to you by Mobile Commerce Daily, the news-gathering site notes 62% of retailers expect zero ROI from holiday mobile alerts. Um… what?!? Why do them, then? Either they produce results (which I suspect they do) and you should use them, or they don’t and you should walk away. What’s the benefit of interrupting your customers if they’re not interested and it won’t pay off? Something screwy going on with this one. For instance, BuzzFeed reports that Target is rolling out a new pilot program to track customers in stores and, one would assume, offer them mobile alerts when it’s appropriate. Does anyone here think Target expects “zero ROI”? Anyone? Yeah, neither do I. Stay tuned for more.
  3. Business Insider reports that Amazon shut down its product ads to prevent Google from data access. They’re also preventing you from accessing that information, so, that sucks.
  4. Biznology offers a great look at how to include video content in your buyers’ journey.
  5. The Wall Street Journal discusses Apple swapping its online ‘store’ for ‘buy’ buttons in a move that’s long overdue. I suspect you’ll see a number of e-commerce experiences move in this direction in the coming months/years.
  6. Mobile Commerce Daily says American Express swipes in Apple Pay for corporate card holders, a huge transition for the credit card giant — and a huge boost for mobile wallets overall. One of the main reasons this is such a big deal is, as eMarketer shows, mobile wallet users are more into the web than you are. These help underscore the reasons I believe mobile payments will soon rule e-commerce (and commerce overall). Quite simply, it’s a game-changer leading to increasing e-commerce growth.
  7. Finally, Smart Insights offers a look at “The Digital Marketing Landscape 2015,” which itself makes a nice complement to the top 15 digital marketing and e-commerce posts of 2015. Check ’em both out when you get a chance.

If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to check out these “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” these “9 Marvelous Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Columns: The Top Posts of May” and other entries from our E-commerce Link Digest series, including these “8 Amazing E-Commerce Posts Winning this Week”, these “10 Damn-Good Digital Marketing Posts,” another “10 Spectacular Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Essays”, and this set of “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” too.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure and register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 10, 2015

Why Mobile Payments Will Rule

August 10, 2015 | By | No Comments

Mobile payments will rule

I remain convinced that, before too long, mobile payments will rule mobile commerce (and e-commerce generally). New data from eMarketer and AudienceSCAN helps explain why. Some recent studies show that somewhere between 13% and 14% of US smartphone owners have used digital wallets over the last 6 months. As eMarketer notes,

“…unsurprisingly, this also-small slice of the population is more tech-savvy than average. AudienceSCAN found that US mobile wallet users were more likely than internet users as a whole to report using every social media site the company asked about—in some cases, more than twice as likely.”

eMarketer also rounds-up these mobile/social-friendly customers’ favorite sites,

“Notably for retailers, mobile wallet users were especially likely to overindex on usage of Instagram and Pinterest, both of which are making plays to appeal more to retail advertisers. Yelp was also especially popular among mobile wallet users, and likely helping to send them to local brick-and-mortar businesses like fast-casual restaurants.”

In a separate report, eMarketer said,

“As people grow accustomed to using devices to pay at the point of sale, the mobile wallet will become an important hub that will enable marketers to provide customers with more context as well as greater convenience…”

I completely agree.

In fact, I’ve mentioned the importance of digital wallets to connecting with mobile and social-savvy customers a number of times, along with how much future e-commerce growth we can expect to see thanks to the rise of mobile payments. First off, we now know that mobile drives purchases and that the frequency and value of those purchases continues to climb, representing a true game-changer for mobile commmerce. See if this playbook feels familiar to any of you:

  1. New technology appears.
  2. New technology gains traction among early adopters (i.e., the “cool kids”).
  3. Some backlash occurs because this new technology doesn’t gain as fast as originally predicted.
  4. The cool kids keep using the new technology, ignoring the backlash.
  5. A short while later, everyone’s using the new technology.

Feel familiar? It should. In my career alone, we’ve seen it with the Web, generally; e-commerce, specifically; social media; mobile, generally; and, pretty soon, mobile commerce. When the early adopters stick, the rest of the world follows. Every. Single. Time. And early adopters don’t seem to be running away from mobile payments. Quite the opposite, in fact. So, tf the pattern holds, mobile payments will rule. Just wait a short bit.

And if you’re interested in more insights about mobile payments, you might enjoy my past coverage, including:

Interested in learning even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing? Be sure and register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 10, 2015

5 Fantastic Posts Driving Hotel Distribution: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest

August 10, 2015 | By | No Comments

Driving hotel distributionIt’s very late on Sunday night, Big Thinkers, so what do you say we skip the setup and simply move on to these 5 fantastic posts driving hotel distribution this week. Enjoy:

  1. By far, the biggest news of the past week is a Tnooz article that claims the “Billboard Effect” is dead from a study of hotels listed on OTAs. So, a couple things here. First, I’ve never been a huge proponent of the “Billboard effect.” For many properties, its benefits have likely been overstated. But I do think it exists—to a degree—for some properties, even today. Secondly, I’ve not had a chance to read the new study, but I’m eagerly looking forward to it. I know one of the authors very well and suspect the new study likely shines deeper insights into the initial research. Finally, I think it’s very probably that some hotels may still benefit from the “Billboard effect,” while others likely will see no gain at all. The real key for you is to look at whether your hotel actually sees real results—both direct and indirect—or not, and act accordingly.
  2. Speaking of direct business, Hotel News Now offers up a cheat sheet to drive direct business, written by none other than yours truly. Check it out when you get a chance.
  3. In somewhat related distribution news, Skift reports that Amazon Travel has doubled its hotel coverage and appointed a former Expedia exec as GM. Probably not the last we’re going to hear about Amazon in this space.
  4. Another Skift column asks, “Will Tripadvisor Be the Next Airbnb? It Seems to Be Trying,” while Quartz says that Uber got to a $50 billion valuation a year faster than Facebook. Both are impressive. They also represent a really strong indicator of exactly how big such new entrants may turn out to be.
  5. Finally, one last piece of advice: don’t miss these: the top five hotel marketing posts of July.
  6. Good stuff to get you through the week ahead.

If you’re interested in more insights and information about travel marketing and distribution, be sure to check out these “6 Super Hotel Distribution Strategy Posts,” these “5 Amazing Mobile Hotel Marketing Stories,” a great set of “8 Exceptional Hospitality Marketing Posts from the Past Week: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest,” a terrific round-up of “7 Remarkable Posts about Mobile Marketing in Travel” and these “7 Brilliant Insights into Mobile Travel E-commerce” from our hospitality marketing link digests (part of the ongoing E-commerce Link Digest series).

And if you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 4, 2015

Don’t Miss These: The Top Five Hotel Marketing Posts of July

August 4, 2015 | By | No Comments

Don't Miss This: Top Posts of JulyWe’ve reached that time once again when we round up the top posts from the past month to see what you liked, linked, and loved for the past 30 days. And now that I’ve seen the list, it’s critical you don’t miss these: the top five hotel marketing posts of July. Enjoy:

  1. By far the biggest post of last month asks, “How Safe Are Independent Hotels from Airbnb?” Airbnb may not represent an existential threat to independents, but most hotel marketers will definitely want to keep their eye on the hospitality startup.
  2. I don’t typically include Roundup posts in these roundups. However this collection of “15 Key Travel Marketing Posts of 2015 (So Far)” proved far too popular for me to ignore. And it would be a shame if you missed it.
  3. HITEC represents one of the highlights of each summer’s conference schedule and this year was no exception. I was truly fortunate to be part of an outstanding panel that talked about revenue strategy for hotel marketers and the slides from my presentation on the panel, “Key Revenue Levers Driving Profitability,” gained lots of attention from your fellow Big Thinkers. Be sure to check them out when you get a chance.
  4. Just like a whole heaping chunk of relationships on Facebook, most hotel marketers would represent their view of OTA’s as “complicated.” While most accept OTA’s as part of a balanced distribution diet, most are also more than happy to get business from sources other than OTA’s, both to contain costs and to connect more deeply with guests. So these “6 Key Hotel E-commerce Tips: A Cheat Sheet to Drive Direct Business” should help you do just that.
  5. Finally, it’s no secret that many readers of this blog continue to enjoy entries from our Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series. Two recent entries, “9 Killer Blog Posts for Travel Marketers This Week” and “5 Fast, Fantastic Hotel Marketing Posts” were among the most visited and shared posts of the past month. Pretty killer indeed, eh?

And there you have it folks, the top five hotel marketing posts of July. If you like this list don’t miss other collections including “6 Spectacular Mobile Hotel Marketing and Distribution Posts, “ this group of “8 Deep Hotel Distribution Dispatches,” and these “6 Super Hotel Distribution Strategy Posts” all from our hospitality marketing link digests (part of the ongoing E-commerce Link Digest series) and these 5 Fantastic Hospitality Marketing and Distribution Dispatches: The Top Travel Posts for May (Travel Tuesday).

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 3, 2015

7 Key Digital Marketing Trends this Summer: The Top Posts of July

August 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

Key digital marketing trends for summer

Every month, we flip through your favorite posts from the past 30 days to see what we showed that you shared, liked, linked, and loved. We cheated a little bit this time ’round by including posts from both June and July due to our round-up of the top 15 posts of 2015 (so far) at the end of last month (and that you’ll find at the #2 spot below). What we noticed while putting together the list, though, is that this month’s collection focuses heavily on key digital marketing trends that you can put to work for your business right now. So, without further ado, let’s get to the list. Enjoy:

  1. Leading off, we’ve got these “9 Killer Posts Featuring This Year’s Key Digital Marketing Trends”, part of our regular E-commerce Link Digest series, which highlights key trends around the visual web, mobile and mobile search, and using reviews to improve your search marketing. Be sure to check out the whole list though for the complete set.
  2. You also want to check out this amazing list containing killer digital marketing ideas, a round-up of the “Top 15 Digital Marketing and E-commerce Posts of 2015 (So Far).” Hugely popular. Hugely helpful.
  3. You can gain a ton of great ideas from this recent episode of Thinks Out Loud, our weekly e-commerce and digital marketing podcast, “Breaking Down the Mary Meeker 2015 Internet Trends Report.” Just like it says in the title, we broke down the key trends and offered insights into how you can apply them to your business this year—and beyond.
  4. Yet another article from the E-commerce Link Digest series, “11 Excellent E-Commerce Entries from the Past Week,” focuses mostly on e-commerce, including ideas around visual search, using social to help customers, and how your customers are likely to use mobile wallets, among others.
  5. Our next entry uncovers “Facebook’s Big Beacon Secret” and how that will impact your marketing going forward.
  6. Of course, if your marketing works, you should expect to see more traffic to your website, in which case you’ll want to check out these “5 Warning Signs That Your Website Sucks.” Because traffic that doesn’t convert is rarely helpful traffic.
  7. Finally, we’re seeing a huge shift towards visuals on the web generally (as noted in the first item in this month’s list), and video specifically. To make the most of this, give a listen to Thinks Out Loud Episode 127, “2015’s Top Digital Trend: Online Video Arrives,” for some great advice on how to make that work for you.

Well, Big Thinkers, I hope you’ve enjoyed these 7 killer digital marketing trends for summer and come away with a few that will work for your business. If you’re interested in learning still more, make sure to check out these “9 Marvelous Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Columns: The Top Posts of May” and other entries from our E-commerce Link Digest series, including these “8 Amazing E-Commerce Posts Winning this Week”, these “10 Damn-Good Digital Marketing Posts,” another “10 Spectacular Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Essays”, and this set of “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” too.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure and register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

July 28, 2015

6 Key Hotel E-commerce Tips: A Cheat Sheet to Drive Direct Business

July 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

Direct booking cheat sheet

We’re halfway through 2015—one of the best years on record in many ways—and still many hotel owners, operators, and marketers ask me: “How can I reduce my dependency on OTA’s and drive more direct bookings?” While it takes a little bit of effort, the process is actually well understood. In fact, you can take a page the most OTA’s playbook and apply those lessons to your own direct presence. I’ve rounded-up this cheat sheet of 6 hotel e-commerce tips that can help you shift share away from OTA’s and drive more direct business for your hotel:

1. Create compelling content.

Your guests really only have two questions when deciding where to stay:

  • “Is your hotel the right choice for this stay?” and,
  • “Why should I book through you?”

Your web content exists to help guests answer their questions and to drive them towards a booking decision. It ought to be your best salesperson. Update your website content regularly to address common—or not so common—guest questions.

Talk to your front-desk staff and your concierges to see what questions they hear from guests, then update your website and your social media presence to include that information. And always ensure that your content contains a call-to-action that encourages guests to learn more, dive deeper, or, best of all, book their stay.

2. Update your images

Now, not all content is created equal. Images not only answer your guests’ questions, but also help them envision exactly how much they’ll enjoy their stay. There’s a dead-simple reason sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Google are investing so much energy and effort in creating and curating images these days: They drive bookings. As RockCheetah founder Robert Cole noted in a recent Leonardo ebook, “A product manager for a prominent OTA told me… the one universal truth is ‘pretty pictures sell hotels.’ [Emphasis mine]”

Hotels I work with frequently see fantastic results when they update their websites to include larger, bolder, more engaging imagery. The rise of sites like Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the so-called “Retina-quality” displays on laptops, tablets, and mobile phones highlights how much emphasis your guests place on visual information—and underscores the critical role images play in helping your guests choose to book with you.

3. Don’t wait: Use urgency in your copy

Check out your hotel’s listing on most major OTA’s and you’ll find your screen flooded with messages like: “2 left at this price,” “Most popular! 10 people booked in the last 48 hours!”, “We’ll probably sell out of rooms at this hotel on our site in the next 2 days” plus display tactics like strikethrough pricing. These represent valuable tools for encouraging guests to get off the fence and actually book their stay. Now.

A luxury resort might choose a softer approach, such as “Only 2 rooms remaining for these dates,” while a city center destination with distressed inventory might put more focus on the discount for a given day, but the principle remains the same. There’s a reason you see this tactic everywhere: It works.

4. Put your database to work

Many hotel owners and operators have seen rising costs of guest acquisition over the last several years. But few more effective ways exist to combat those rising costs than reaching—and recapturing—your own past guests. As I’ve mentioned before, data provides you excellent insights into guest behavior and offers you a strong firewall against the big OTA’s—after all, stay data helps you understand your guests’ needs more fully than just booking information might.

Email also remains an effective and inexpensive way to attract and retain guests. Consider promoting value-adds to in your pre-arrival emails to increase revenue or sending special offers to your best guests during distressed periods to improve occupancy.

5. Improve your support for mobile browsing and booking

Mobile’s kind of a big deal now. Maybe you’ve heard. But, for most guests, booking on mobile remains a royal pain in the… well, let’s just say it remains challenging. OTA’s have invested heavily in usability testing and native apps to improve the situation for many guests. You may not have that same option—and you certainly don’t have the same budget. But that doesn’t matter. Instead, work with your website and booking engine partners to improve your guests’ mobile experience. Review your content on mobile phones and tablets to ensure readability and ease of use. And be sure your phone number appears prominently on each page for guests who’d rather call you than wade through a difficult user experience. Focus on making it easy for guests to research and book your hotel on mobile and then don’t be surprised when they do just that.

6. Test and learn. And test and learn. And test and learn…

One of the main reasons OTA’s have so successfully captured the hearts and minds of travel bookers is their deep commitment to testing. The major travel intermediaries don’t just make changes and pray for the best. They measure each change to see whether it outperforms current efforts, then repeat the process again and again to continually improve on positive results.

Multiple tools exist that allow you to conduct A/B tests easily and inexpensively. Even simple changes, such as alternate headlines, offers, images, or calls-to-action can produce outstanding results. I’ve seen cases where marketers using a coordinated testing process made modest changes every month or two that delivered huge improvement in their hotel’s top and bottom lines. The tools and the process are already out there. You just need to put them to work.

Conclusion

Driving direct bookings isn’t a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process. You must continually work to improve your copy and images, create a sense of urgency among guests, use your data to provide targeted messages to guest segments, ensure those guests can browse and book your hotel regardless of screen, test your assumptions and build on the results of those tests. Yes, it may seem like a lot. But the alternative is to continue paying more than you should for guests whose loyalty lies with a particular booking channel—or worse, a guest who books solely on price and displays no loyalty at all.

You can compete in this world. Implementing each of these six actions requires only modest investments in time, effort, and a willingness to learn, at least to get started. But getting started is the key. If you’re still struggling to gain more direct business, waiting is your worst enemy. OTA’s and competitive hotel marketers alike are putting these plans into place—and they’re enjoying the benefits, right now. You’ve still got time to make 2015 a great year, a year of direct booking growth. And once you do, you’ll set yourself up to achieve direct booking growth year after year, ensuring that 2015 won’t be your last “best year ever.”


If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a quarterly column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.