As mobile technology has become seamlessly integrated into our digital lives, switching between devices to access information on the move has become commonplace. In fact, 90% of people who own multiple devices use an average of three different combinations each day, and more time is now spent on mobile devices than on laptops. For hotels, this means that investing in mobile marketing strategies is no longer optional.
Understanding mobile’s role in the guest journey
In the travel industry, Google has carried out specific research into how mobile is changing the customer journey. In an experiment designed to look at these moments in more detail, Google monitored the digital journey of a traveler named Amy. Over two months, Amy had 419 digital interactions in which she engaged in researching and booking a trip. Of those moments, 87% happened on mobile.
Google identified four distinct types of “moments” that travelers engage in: dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing. It’s vital that hotels connect with consumers throughout these various stages, strategically engaging with them in the right place at the right time to influence their final booking decision.
Put simply, it’s not enough to build a responsive hotel website (although it’s a crucial part of the process) and consider yourself mobile ready. Today, hotels need to account for the countless other mobile moments that lead up to this final decision. With that in mind, here are a number of key mobile marketing strategies that hotels can use to reach and engage travelers much earlier in the process.
1. Tailor your social media strategy to mobile
Social media channels provide the perfect place to capture people’s attention in the dreaming phase of their travel journey. As friends and family share photos of a great trip on social media, it can provide that spark of wanderlust that gets a person dreaming about a trip of their own. More importantly, most of these conversations are taking place on mobile: 2.3 billion people around the world use social networks with 1.9 billion of those doing so via mobile.
That’s why it’s hugely important for hotels to be present in these channels. Whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter, hotels need to be there engaging audiences at a time when they’re open to ideas and ready to be inspired.
One way of doing this is by providing guests with memorable moments and encouraging them to share experiences through their own social networks. This approach was embraced by Marriott last year when they handed out GoPro cameras to guests and encouraged them to share their videos and photos using relevant hashtags.
Beyond this promotional approach, social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also provide a space where hotels can demonstrate exceptional service by answering guest questions, building a brand image that instills a feeling of trust.
2. Produce great mobile-friendly travel content
As travelers begin moving towards the planning phase of their journey, you can capture their attention by producing great travel content that puts your hotel and destination front of mind. This is where having a regular blog can be helpful to attract potential guests to your site with inspiring posts that help them plan their trip. But if you don’t have time or resources to maintain a robust blog, producing one stellar piece of long-form content that has great audience potential can still be very effective.
Just remember that for content marketing to be successful, it needs to offer the audience something genuinely valuable, relevant and informative. Unique destination content can be especially effective. Own a resort in the Maldives? Produce a comprehensive photo guide to the best diving spots in the area. Operate a Napa Valley wine country inn? Publish an interactive wine guide and tour map of the local wineries.
The key is quality, quality, quality. Don’t just try to produce content for the sake of producing content. Try to produce the best possible piece on that topic—something that people will reference time and again. If possible, partner with experts, specialists, and influencers that can help enrich your content.
Lastly, simply publishing content isn’t enough. You’ll need people to find it, read it, and share it. Consider investing in an advertising campaign to promote your content in the places people are carrying out research. This could involve some PPC ads for key search terms related to your content, or running social media ads targeted at your hotel’s demographic.
3. Strengthen local SEO so your hotel shows on mobile search
After a person works out where they want to vacation, they’ll likely carry out a Google search to start firming up their plans. And they’ll most likely do it on a mobile device—it’s estimated that more than half of all searches now take place through mobile, and that hotel mobile search queries are up 49% year over year.
So at this crucial planning stage of the travel journey, it’s essential your hotel has strong local SEO to make sure it shows up in these mobile results. In Google parlance, local search refers specifically to search queries that have to do with specific places—virtually every hotel search is a local search. Google treats these searches very differently to regular search queries.
For hotel searches on mobile, for example, the first two listings are typically ads, followed by Google’s hotel search map. This is a popular tool for travelers to use to narrow down hotels, so if your hotel isn’t included in Google’s map, there’s a high likelihood a traveler won’t find it organically at all.
When it comes to local SEO, there are a number of relatively simple strategies. Having a Google Business Listing is an important first step, but perhaps one of the easiest strategies is to maintain something called NAP consistency.
NAP consistency involves making sure your hotel’s name, address, and phone number are consistently listed across the internet, from your own hotel website to directory and review sites like Yelp, Yahoo, and Foursquare. Google ranking is influenced by how accurately information about your hotel across the web matches up with information on your own website, which is why it’s crucial to ensure the name, address and phone number of your hotel are correct throughout your website—and ideally listed on every page.
4. Invest in local mobile search ads to capture the last-minute customer
With a smartphone in hand, consumers are free to make last-minute booking decisions while they’re sitting at the airport or driving to their destination. In fact, almost 25% of availability searches on hotel mobile sites take place for either same-day or next-day check-in. This represents a huge opportunity for hotels to target a significant number of customers when they’re on the move.
Red Roof Inn famously used mobile advertising to target customers across the U.S. whose flights had been canceled. Using canceled flight data and targeting hotel search queries in those areas at those times, the hotel was able to increase their non-brand mobile bookings by 266%.
Another way to target late bookers is through Google’s new local search ads. Just recently, Google announced that they’re redesigning AdWords to accommodate a “mobile-first world.” One of the changes they are experimenting with is something called “promoted pins.” When a person is driving to their destination and navigating via Google Maps, they’ll see branded pins that display local businesses, including their logo and location.
After entering a search term like “hotels near me” into the Google Maps app search bar, advertisers may soon start appearing at the top of the results list with their location prominently displayed. New business pages will also allow advertisers to promote special deals, further helping to drive bookings via mobile.
The mobile journey is the main journey
Mobile technology has fundamentally changed the way people browse and book their travel plans. Given the instantaneous and convenient way smartphones are able to provide travelers with inspiration and information, it’s no surprise that they are increasingly relying on our mobile devices for every stage of the travel journey.
Travel brands, particularly online travel agencies, are beginning to better understand this behavior and adapt their marketing strategies accordingly. Hotels will need to do the same if they want to compete in the digital marketplace successfully.
Interested in learning more about mobile trends and strategies for hotels? Join our free webinar on July 14, 2016 hosted by Travel Tripper, Checkmate, and StayNTouch.