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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


March 11, 2016

10 Terrific Items Featuring The Week’s Top Trends: E-commerce Link Digest

March 11, 2016 | By | No Comments

10 Terrific Items Featuring The Week's Top Trends: E-commerce Link DigestWell, Big Thinkers, it’s been a crazy week. Hope you don’t mind if I skip the setup and just get you right to these 10 terrific items featuring the week’s top trends. Enjoy:

  1. The fine folks at M&M Global interviewed Indeed CMO Paul D’Arcy, who says, “Our job as marketers is to shape an experience.” So, so true and really helps underscore why you need to be driving seamless experiences in 2016.
  2. Entrepreneur offers very strong insights on how to overcome the great analytics gap. You might find that our past coverage collected as the website analytics fundamentals series will also provide you some help here.
  3. Marketing Charts rounds-up US consumers’ attitudes towards mobile payment security, by generation, which is very cool. Continuing on the payments front, Mobile Commerce Daily reports that Google is trying to crack formula for invisible payments with its Hands Free app. We’ll see whether they succeed, but it’s yet more evidence for why mobile payments will rule.
  4. Search Engine Journal offers up a pair of fascinating posts. The first collects a set of 5 digital trends to watch out for in 2016, while the second asks “where will SEO go this year?” While we’re on the topic of trends, don’t miss these five fast digital marketing posts featuring February’s top trends from our our weekly E-commerce Link Digest series.
  5. HubSpot put together a really cool infographic that shows how Internet behavior is changing around the world.
  6. Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert blog asks, “What’s Missing From Your Omnichannel Strategy?” Even better, he provides some really solid answers.
  7. Social Times offers data that provides one explanation why people don’t want customer service via social, but through your mobile app. Interesting trend that’s worth watching over time.
  8. in Australia explains how to harness digital-led innovation. Good stuff. One thought to keep in mind is this question about a key trend for 2016: “Is execution the new innovation?”
  9. For those of you wondering about the future shape of your career, Kirsten Newbold-Knipp over at Gartner details the reasons why today’s great CMOs will be the CEOs of 2020. Excellent read.
  10. And, finally, you won’t want to miss these 7 special digital strategy insights: the top posts of February, 2016 to see what else your fellow Big Thinkers found most helpful over the past month.

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”:

Tim Peter


November 10, 2015

The Hidden Factor OTA’s Use to Get Between You and Your Guests (Travel Tuesday)

November 10, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Hidden Factor OTA’s Use to Get Between You and Your Guests

When I talk with hotel industry leaders, it seems we’re continually discussing the same set of topics:

  • How can we compete effectively with new the distribution and lodging players available to guests?
  • How can we ensure marketing messages cut through the clutter and reach the right guests?
  • How can we attribute marketing correctly to allocate budget effectively and efficiently?
  • And, how can we do all this without driving costs increasingly higher every year?

While no single tactic, tip, or trick will answer all these questions, it’s important to recognize what connects each of these critical areas for your hotel. It’s not your marketing strategy. It’s not technology. It’s not even the quality of your service — though, undoubtedly, each of these plays a crucial role. But the one thing that can help you find the right answer to these key questions is how you apply your hotel’s data to your marketing and operations.

As you consider the questions above, consider as well the questions you need to ask about your guests:

  • How are your most profitable guests finding, researching, and booking you?
  • Which marketing and distribution channels contribute to their booking decision?
  • How much revenue and profit do they provide from reservations vs. on-property spend?
  • And what opportunities exist to increase the former, the latter, or both?

Perhaps the most important question you can ask is how much you have invested in answering these questions. It’s no secret that the major players including Priceline, Expedia, Google, TripAdvisor, and AirBnB have invested heavily in understanding guest needs and where their efforts pay off. Priceline’s acquisition spree over the last few years — snapping up buuteeq, HotelNinjas, Pricematch, Rocketmiles, OpenTable, Kayak, and AS Digital, as well as its partnerships with Marriott on providing white-label booking engines for a number of languages — not only increase its bottom-line, but also help it gain an end-to-end view of guest behaviors and a robust database of potential customers to contact via low-cost marketing channels and to convert to future stays. In fact, Priceline’s Darren Huston has openly stated,

“Much more importantly than a source of transactions, mobile is a chance to plumb the end-to-end user experience… Say you are looking for an accommodation on an iPad but then you book on a PC. But, then you show up at the hotel with your iPhone. All of that is plumbed to [a] account… it is increasing our value to the customer [in ways] that would be very difficult for an independent hotel to do.”

Expedia, Google, TripAdvisor and the rest have invested heavily in trying to solve similar problems, using their technological prowess to gather data at every possible step of the guest journey. That’s the hidden factor OTA’s and other intermediaries use. And it’s one you need to use too.

The point here isn’t that hotels need to become technology companies in the hospitality industry; you can buy the right tech from highly capable providers. But if you don’t have the right data —if you’re not working every day to understand your guests’ changing needs, and behaviors — you’re continually putting yourself at the mercy of high-cost marketing and distribution channels who do invest in answering these questions. Worse, you’re giving the keys to your kingdom to the very competitors hotel marketers and distribution executives worry about most.

A 100-room hotel with 1.4 guests per room running between 55% and 60% occupancy gathers data from roughly 30,000 guests every year. Yes, you absolutely need to fill the top of the funnel to increase your potential pool of guests every year. But if you’re not also investing in learning more about how to retain and reconnect with those tens of thousands of guests already walking through your door, you’re likely to find that you end each year with the same questions you started with, plus one more: “Why are we still not getting ahead?”

Tim Peter


April 29, 2015

How to Connect Customer Data and Customer Experience – Thinks Out Loud Episode 121

April 29, 2015 | By | No Comments

Connect customer data and customer experience

How to Connect Customer Data and Customer Experience – 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:

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: 14m 08s

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


March 11, 2015

Why Data Always Wins – Thinks Out Loud Episode 114

March 11, 2015 | By | No Comments

Why data always wins

Why Data Always Wins – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also enjoy the slides from my recent webinar, Digital Marketing Directions: Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year,:

Contact information for the podcast:

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: 14m 11s

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


October 28, 2014

How To Use Your Hotel Data to Drive Growth (Travel Tuesday)

October 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

Use your hotel data to drive growthAs you put together your hotel marketing and business plans for 2015, here are a couple of questions to keep in mind: What’s a guest really worth to you? And how much do search, metasearch, mobile, social, OTA’s, TripAdvisor, and all the other digital and traditional travel marketing tactics contribute to that total? What’s really driving your guests to find and book your hotels?

As you think about that, here’s one more question: Do you really think the OTA’s can’t answer these questions?

OTA’s don’t just outspend hotels on marketing because they have more to spend — though that’s unquestionably true. They also spend smarter. Most major online travel agencies have invested heavily in recent years building strong “data sciences” teams, statisticians and database wizards well-equipped to unravel the tangled web of modern marketing. Those investments have paid off, helping OTA’s achieve a dominant role in travel marketing, and resulting in higher distribution costs for hotels.

While Big Data has been, to this point, more hype and hope than help for most hotel marketers, the fact remains that your ability to compete effectively with OTA’s — and with the other hotels in your market — depends on gaining a deeper understanding of your guests. And gaining that deeper understanding depends on having and using the right data to drive your marketing decisions.

Even though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to compete head-to-head with the OTA’s from a technology and data sciences perspective, you can use the data you do have to improve your guests’ experiences before, during, and after their stays. And improving guest experience remains the one key area where hotel operators can always outperform the competition, whether from online travel agents, fellow hoteliers, or new entrants like Airbnb. Few things reinforce your brand value proposition as much as your guest’s overall experience when dealing with your hotel. The data you have available to you provides you a strategic differentiator – your competitors simply don’t know everything you do about the guests who research, book, and stay with you. Why not use that to your advantage?

Start small

For all the promises of “big data,” sometimes just knowing more than you do today represents a huge step in the right direction. How many times has your office curmudgeon (not that your company has one of those), stated “There’s no possible way we could know that” when assessing the impact of your marketing or promotions on “intangibles” such as voice reservations, walk-ins, or guest loyalty? When the alternative is “no possible way to know,” any information is literally infinitely better than where you’re starting from. Which would you rather have: No insight at all into your guests’ wants, needs, and desires? Or even a little bit of insight? Each improvement, no matter how incremental, positions you more effectively against your competition, and positions you for greater success down the road.

One best practice that’s emerged from digital marketing is the use of a “test and learn” approach, where savvy marketers analyze the data from each new initiative to figure out what’s working, then continue to “fish where the fishing’s good,” building on successes, and learning from less successful efforts. Apply a similar approach to building your measurements and increase investments on those efforts demonstrating positive results.

Focus your team and your talents

In most businesses, culture trumps strategy. “The way we’ve always done things” creates a powerful barrier to change, no matter how necessary. If you’ve long relied on anecdotes and opinions to shape your marketing strategy, it’s time to supplement your (usually quite valuable) implicit knowledge with some cold, hard facts. Don’t just look at “ROI” for your marketing initiatives; evaluate the number of profitable guests each produces, and the lifetime value of customers gained from each of your channels.

Assign someone within your marketing, distribution, or e-commerce group to coordinate your team’s efforts and align data collection, analysis, and reporting best practices and lessons learned across your organization. And make sure they have support among your executive team, too. Focus on long-term opportunities, while helping your team find short-term wins to apply better business intelligence in marketing, revenue management, and operations. Use technology to streamline and automate your analytics process; but, even more importantly, train your team members in how to apply the learnings new metrics and measures reveal. A big stack of reports piling up in your marketing team’s inboxes because no one knows how to interpret and act on the results represents wasted effort, and wasted opportunity.

Protect the “crown jewels”

It’s almost cliche to say that “content is king” when it comes to digital. It’s also true. And in a world where mobile plays a huge role defining your guests’ experience, the context in which your guests enjoy that content is “queen.” If content is king and context is queen, data represents the “crown jewels” of your kingdom. And just like any valuable treasure, that data demands protection. Assign someone from your technology team to ensure you’re following appropriate best practices for data protection. As we’ve seen recently with retailers such as Home Depot and Target, privacy matters. Ultimately, any data about your guests belongs to the guest, not to you. Protect their private information as though your business depends on it. Because it does.

I’ve said before that OTA’s aren’t evil; they’re just doing their jobs. When used properly, they remain a key component of your overall distribution strategy. That doesn’t mean you should just outsource your entire hotel to them. You have the information you need to find, attract, and convert the guests you want available to you, as long as you invest the time and effort to make that information work for you. It’s time you get that information to do its job, too.

Tim Peter helps companies put the Web to work to grow their business. Since 1995, he has developed innovative e-commerce and digital marketing programs across multiple industries. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results.

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.