What role should technology play in your 2018 budget? The evolution and revenue-boosting impact of the hotel tech stack.

 

Below is a look at how hoteliers had planned to allocate their budgets going into this year. Though the categories are uneven—some are high level (revenue strategy), while others are more granular (booking technology)—each is important. What’s really interesting about this roadmap is that not one of these items can be extricated from the others. They are intertwined. And technology plays a role in each and every one.
 

 

As Hospitality Technology notes, in 2017 over 50% of hoteliers reported IT investments would increase, saying “hotels are ready to spend, but investment dollars have shifted to building infrastructures that will support frictionless experiences with attention being paid to data and analytics.” Hotels are recognizing that technology is the foundation for seamless guest-facing and back-of-house operations.

 

Technology focuses for 2018 will include three key areas: human connections, not booked data, and engagement and personalization.

 

Human Connection: With the rise of demand in authentic experiences and the maturation of loyalty programs, travelers want everything personalized and desire an emotional connection when making decisions. Genuine human connections are driving more decisions, so we must put the human back into hospitality technology. At times, the more automation there is, the less effective efforts become. Expect a shift to smart automation, with a better balance between human emotions and connections coupled with set-and-forget technology.

 

Not-Yet Booked Data: Most hotel and vacation rental management companies only have information in their CRM for past guests. But what about the guests who don’t book? Your technology should recognize and treat these as sales leads that you can remarket to. When you nurture these leads, they feel the human connection and result in high conversion rates through both email and phone calls.


Engagement & Personalization: This probably sounds like something you’re already doing. Segmenting your email lists, using email tokens and increasing your reputation management and social media monitoring. However, consider the first two trends here. How are you making the engagement and personalization human? Are you starting a conversation with your guests and leveraging their own behavior and preferences? How are you personalizing and engaging with your not booked leads, too? Have you built a strategy and technology landscape to connect personally on AND off property? Your staff is excellent at delivering warmth and humanity when on property, so how are you bringing that to guests and prospective guests when they’re dreaming about or planning a trip?

 

Because the tech investment to cover these key areas is substantial, hotels must ensure their tech stack is stacking up in 2018, especially when it comes to generating new business and capitalizing on current demand in what is projected to be a good but slower-growth 2018. The hospitality tech space is cluttered and confusing. In addition to seemingly limitless opportunities to engage new technology, figuring out if and how a technology platform plays well with your other systems is a challenge. To help make the process a little bit simpler, here are the categories that should be covered in a 2018 budget plan for technology, based on the location in the sales funnel.

 

 

 

Top of Funnel: Inspiration
 

Who’s at the Top of the Funnel: Prospective Guests

What’s happening for them: Guests are dreaming about what their trip—all the possibilities, such as where they will go and what they will do. They are thinking big picture.

What is your goal: At this stage, it’s all about understanding what each guest is looking for and delivering the right message to keep them inspired and engaged with your property.

 

Inspiration Tools

Technology Need

Examples of Tools

Email Marketing Based on Inquiry Anniversary

Marketing Automation
LifeCycle Email Platforms

Influencer Programs

Ready Pulse

Traackr

Upfluence

Referral Programs

Flip.To

Capture Caller Data & Preferences

Narrowcast

CRM Access for Reservations Agents

SEO

Long-tail Keywords (Market- or Experience-specific Queries)

Social Media

Hootsuite

Google Alerts

Sprout Social

Website

 

PPC

 

Content

User-generated Distribution Platforms such as Issuu

Traditional Ads

Print, TV, Etc.

 

 

 

Middle of Funnel: Research & Planning

 

 

 

Who’s in the Middle of the Funnel: Qualified Leads, Engaged Guest, Not-Booked Leads

What’s happening for them: This frenetic part of the guest path to purchase typically includes much bouncing around online and offline. They are looking for validation that they are making the right decision.         

What is your goal: A hotel wants to focus on instilling confidence. You want to track the guest offline and online so that you can appropriately respond to where they are in the cycle.

 

Research & Planning Tools

Technology Need

Examples of Tools

Email Marketing Based on Not Booked Data

Reach LifeCycle
Marketing Automation That Integrates with Reservations Sales Software

Chat Capabilities & Click-to-Call

Narrowcast

Olark
LiveChat

Outbound Calling

Narrowcast
Jive

Synxis

Reputation Management

ReviewPro

Revinate

Cision

Reservation Sales Software w/ Caller Data

Narrowcast

Price Comparison Tools

TripTease

Controlled Channel Strategy

PMS Data
Siteminder

SEO

Long-Tail Keywords (Market- and Experience-Specific Queries)

Website

(Pay for good photography!)

Content

Video, Blogs, Amenity-focused Content, Advertorials

Traditional Ads

(Research Neuromarketing Concepts!)

 

 

Bottom of Funnel: Transaction & Loyalty

 

 

Who’s at the Bottom of the Funnel: Booked Guest & Retained/Repeat Guest

What’s happening for them: Guests at the bottom of the funnel are excited, and perhaps nervous, about their upcoming trip. All outreach should strive to build confidence and help them plan out the best stay with activities and ancillary services. Post-stay they are delighting in their travel and dreaming. If they have had anything less than a stellar experience, they are definitely sharing it.

What is your goal: To deliver superior guest service, keep the guest engaged and excited, and follow up periodically in a personalized manner to encourage repeat guest visits. Give them opportunities to share their amazing experience with others           and build your reputation, while also following up diligently on any and all problems.

 

Technology Need

Examples of Tools

Email Marketing Based on Stay Data

Reach StayCycle (Pre/During/Post Stay)

Marketing Automation Integrated with Reservations Sales Software

Outbound Calling

Narrowcast
Jive
Synxis

Reputation Management

ReviewPro
Revinate
Cision

Real-Time Social Monitoring

Local Measure
Hootsuite

Reservations Sales Software

Narrowcast

Loyalty Program Tools

Flip.to
Voila
Antavo
Collect

Website

Dynamic Pages & Content (Unbounce)
Mobile
Big & Bright Phone Number

Survey Tools

Reach Insight

TrustYou

Revinate
SurveyMonkey

Content

User-generated, Contesting Platform (Woobox, etc.)

 

Now that we’ve broken out the scope of your technology to cover the entire guest funnel, how do you factor it into your budget? How should the projected expense allocations change going into 2018?

 

Hotels that are thoughtful and strategic about their tech stack even have the ability to shift a portion of budget from marketing to technology to make more of the demand that is generated. It’s worth considering the technology infrastructure that supports the guest online and offline throughout their entire lifecycle may have a higher dollar-for-dollar return than the top-of-funnel digital investment. For instance, consider than agents convert at 20x the rate of websites. Though digital marketing drives a high volume of visits, few of them are converted to bookings on the hotel website. When offline strategies (via technology) are integrated into the sales funnel, conversions from existing demand increase dramatically. So rather than spending “high” on digital marketing specifically, hotels should look toward creating the technology infrastructure that supports the entire funnel in 2018.

 

Learn more about planning for next year’s technology on our webinar, “The Evolution of the Hospitality Marketing Tech Stack in 2018.” 

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