Huge opportunities exist for entrepreneurs to build products and services that fix the common complaints we hear about mobile and social technologies. Complaints such as:
- Overwhelming amount of noise, making it hard to identify what is important
- Difficulty managing everything, setting priorities
- Different amounts of relevance for each of the people we are connected with
- “Check-in” fatigue for location-based services
- No monetary compensation for locational-based check-in
- Difficulty proving value of new media for management
Entrepreneurs made fortunes solving the problems of the first generation of the web – such as secure payment transactions that enable ecommerce. Now it’s time for a new generation of startups to address a new generation of technologies. (And it seems the companies providing the initial game-changing technology aren’t the same ones that solve the problems caused by their technology.)
- What are the biggest challenges that prevent widespread adoption of new technologies?
- What are the most pressing questions for businesses trying to benefit from new media?
(Companies like TopGuest are solving problems and innovating, and I would love to cover more of these stories. If you know of a company well positioned to change the game in this way, let me know…)
Today I caught up with Gowalla director of business development Andy Ellwood, who will be presenting at EyeforTravel’s Social Media Strategies for Travel 2011 in San Francisco next month.
What’s the most common misconception about location-based services (LBS)?
The interesting part for us is understanding all the different ways people use our service. So the most common misconception is probably that every user of Gowalla is the same. We’re starting to see a lot of differentiation in how people are using it – people use it for a lot of different reasons. Moms keeping up with kids, businesses using it as a way to tell their brand story around the locations their customers go to, and content providers creating material around places.
We give the ability to provide up-to-the moment information for where people are standing at the moment.
What are the biggest opportunities you see for hotels and travel in this area?
The way I think about the check-in from the users perspective is: this location is a part of my story.
Gowalla was originally founded around the concept of your mobile phone being a passport – and using it to tell a story about the places that you go. Each time I check into a spot, it’s because I’m viewing that as part of my story.
When I travel, I’m telling an even more interesting story.
So the big play for hotels is to take part in these stories?
Correct. I think an important way more and more businesses are thinking about it is: when someone checks into their location – whether it’s the coffeeshop on the corner or the W Hotel in downtown New York – they’re essentially putting their endorsement on that location. By saying “I am here” I’m broadcasting that out to my network. I feel attracted to the business enough that I’ll spend time and money here. I’m not just walking down the street and connecting with every store I pass.
So it’s building up the entire experience around the places people go, rather than just the narcissistic “I’m here and you should care.”
How can LBS be used to deliver remarkable customer service?
Just being conscious of who is at your location. There’s a pub that near me in New York that prides themselves in knowing who has checked in and on location. Most people have their photo avatar up, and the owner will match that to faces there. The other piece of it is if you’re connected – friends – on Gowalla, you’re able to engage with them on the places they go.
A great example is Red Bull. They gave the Gowalla account to their social media guy, and he would check in to places that were associated with their brand. So extreme sports, live concerts – people should be drinking a Red Bull. So he got a huge following of people wanting to live the “Red Bull lifestyle.”
On the flipside, The Four Seasons Hotels in California last fall created some content-curated trips that are like a playlist of spots. “10 places you need to see in San Francisco.” They worked directly with the concierge, asking them what the top places in the city that people should associate with the Four Seasons Experience. So now anyone who follows Four Seasons on Gowalla has access to concierge-level expertise.
Two questions for all brands considering location-based services
- What is the experience you want to create?
- Where are the locations you want that experience to exist?
When someone checks in on property, you obviously want to be a part of that. But where are the other locations in your region and around the world where you brand should be top of mind?
The following is an exclusive excerpt from Cathy Ann Sauer’s (@cathyannsauer) Orange Lake Resorts case study, which you can download in its entirety, below.
To help initiate your social media program, take a look at how one
hospitality company took the plunge over the past 12 months.
Orange Lake Resorts, home to Holiday Inn Club Vacations, is in the midst of a multi-tiered adoption and roll-out of a social media program for their brand. Their due diligence is a strategic primer in the careful consideration it takes to successfully enter the social media arena. From the early discussions of “Do we?” to the “Yes we do, and this is how,” the company is engaged in a phase by phase program integrating social media into their marketing and
“Making the decision as a company to enter into social media is not an easy one. But when considering the number of conversations that are taking place and the opportunity to be a part of them, then the value of engaging with social media becomes clear. Once a company decides to participate in these conversations, it’s important that the organization as a whole is ready to embrace it, and that the company’s voice will be both genuine and consistent.”
- Don Harrill, President & CEO, Orange Lake Resorts
Since the social media program extends beyond the corporate communications nucleus, it was important to establish a social media policy for the company. The policy details specific guidelines for employees defining what social media is to the company, the official use of social media, employee use of social media, and a company liability statement. This is a must-have document for any company engaging in social media.
The cornerstone of the policy is what the company calls its “Five Guiding
Being real and sincere in our actions and intentions. The company does not condone the creation of “fake” destinations and posts designed to mislead followers and control a conversation.
Respect the expressed views and opinions of others and demonstrate respect for the dignity of the company, its owners, its customers, its vendors and its employees. This also applies to the respect of copyrights, trademarks, rights of publicity, intellectual property and proprietary information.
This is what drives the trustworthiness, believability and integrity of our Company and its messages. All social media solicitations, postings, replies and third-party endorsements are to be accurately cited, and any Company affiliations are to be fully disclosed.
Helps others feel connected to the Company and is essential in expressing our culture of openness and accountability. We aim to remain visible to all of our audiences to ensure that these Online Social Media Principles remain current and reflect the most up-to-date and appropriate standards of behavior.
To protect our consumers’ privacy as well as our Company, its brands and
business practices. We also have a responsibility to conduct ourselves
appropriately, listen to the online community and engage according to best
“When you adopt social media, you adopt transparency. You say ‘I am willing to be responsible.’”
- Brooke Doucha, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
Listen and Learn
The initial roll-out phases of the Holiday Inn Vacation Club’s social media plan came down to these three themes:
Phase One – Listen, learn, educate
Phase Two – Engage, involve, incentivize
Phase Three – Introduce, influence, like
“One of the most important aspects of social media is being able to listen. That’s what we do. Listen to our business units, listen to our customers.”
- Keith Strickland, Social Media Specialist
What they recommend for hoteliers still sitting on the fence:
Sutherland: The process right sizes itself. One negative comment is balanced by a positive comment, so it is not just a platform for complaint, it is about discovery and sharing.
Strickland: With the real time nature of social media we are improving our response times. Some guests use our WiFi while here to comment. We are seeing upticks on Trip Advisor. We have responded to every comment and have learned a lot. People are full of surprises!
DeJesus: Define a baseline for your metrics. Have all the proper tools in place, your ‘toolbox.’ Having these in place and learning from them not only makes you more social savvy they provide the detail about your ROI.
Doucha: Be strategic. Get informed about these platforms. Set goals and objectives. We are more about strategic and methodical. We got HR, rental, and other business units involved early so they understand it. To grow it, I suggest growing it in-house, in the organization.
Sutherland: We have the complete support of our business units and our executives. When we send issues to them that arise in the social media channels, they react immediately. The business managers bring their ideas to us on how social media might help with their challenges. It’s not just about the four of us, it’s what we can all do with it.
Thank you, Cathy!
Trend #1: Integration increasingly important
Integration and compatibility is the most important trend I see as we move into 2011. In many ways, it’s what ties together the rest of the items in this story.
Gowalla is a great example of this. For a long time, I didn’t really get involved in the whole social “check-in” scene. Too many networks, and my friends were scattered across each. But version 3.0 of their application introduced check-in capability with arch-rival Foursquare, and I started using it much more often.
Integration is what pushes many people to try a new technology. It’s hard to convince someone to invest a lot of time to switch and try yet another network, but if you can integrate with existing platforms, it’s easier to gain adoption.
Trend #2: Photos as lifestreaming
Possibly my favorite app of 2010, Instagram exploded in popularity because it allows users to share vintage-looking photos easily with their friends. The service captured over 100,000 users in less than a week, and passed one million registered users a few days ago (12/21/2010).
I know a number of people who have very negative opinions of Instagram, but all great products are usually polarizing. I think the community aspect is what made this app succeed so quickly. I paid for a very similar app – Hipstamatic – but ended up discarding it after the first day. The cross-publishing capabilities were not powerful enough.
Personally, I find Instagram most useful when integrated with another service – like Tumblr – as part of a richer lifestream.
Trend #3: The evolution of blogging
Tumblr saw rapid growth in 2010 because it gives the time-starved blogger an opportunity to share a little more than what fits into a 140-character tweet. An elegant mobile application lets their users quickly and conveniently update on the go.
This focus on rapid publishing, combined with a wide selection of free design themes, make it an attractive option for many.
Trend #4: The Social Graph on your website
Example: Facebook & TripAdvisor
Again, integration is the key. I’m seeing more websites experimenting with bringing your social graph – your network of contacts – onto the websites that you use. Doing this helps provide a more personalized experience and should lead to you discovering more relevant information.
TripAdvisor has been gradually increasing its integration with Facebook over the past year. This instantly personalizes the site for each visitor – displaying trusted reviews from friends, sharing most popular destinations among friends, and showing an interactive social map.
Trend #5: Geo-location for city exploration
Social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla have offered the opportunity to “check in” to physical spaces for a while now.
This year, we’ve seen these tools move from just a way to tell friends where you are to becoming a way for people to explore a city. Gowalla introduced a “trips” feature in January 2010, allowing any user to create a list of places for people to visit. “Foursquare 2.0″ announced September 2010 enabled users to create to-do lists.
Businesses are starting to use this functionality to create branded trips, which leads to the next trend….
Trend #6: Check-ins as part of a larger business strategy
As mentioned above, geolocation services allowing users to check in to local business have been around for a few years with tools like Foursquare and Gowalla. Facebook joined the game in August with Facebook Places. What we’re seeing now is business owners put a little more thought into how to use this to drive revenue and loyalty.
Topguest is now offering one opportunity for this - providing real hotel loyalty points for people checking in via Foursquare and Facebook places. I predict we’ll see this continue to evolve as owners start taking this more seriously.
Trend #7: Bridging the online/offline gap with mobile
More and more business owners are using QR codes and other mobile technologies to bridge the online/offline gap.
Google Places began giving out QR code stickers last December – though many establishments didn’t begin posting these until earlier this year. According to Google, the benefits include allowing shoppers to:
- Read reviews to see what other users think about the business
- Find an offer that the business has posted to their Place Page
- Star the business to remember to check it out later, or to remember to visit again
- Leave a review right after they leave the business.
But this is not limited to Google places. QR codes can be used to send traffic to any location, as I’ve covered before with Tailor Made Hotels promoting their Facebook page to people walking by:
Trend #8: Closed social networks
Perhaps in reaction to more open platforms like Facebook and the (perceived or real) privacy problems that go along with that, tools like Path enable small, closed networks you can share your life with.
I like Mike Isaac’s explanation of the service for Forbes.
“Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself.”
Trend #9: Group discount buying and Private sales sites
Example: Groupon & Jetsetter
When I opened my inbox earlier this month to find an ad for The Economist – one of the most traditional, conservative publications I respect, I knew Groupon had gone mainstream.
2010 was a great year for Groupon. Since its launch, Groupon has grown to an estimated $350 million in estimated revenue for this year. On November 30, 2010 Google offered a reported $5.3 billion to acquire Groupon, but was rejected. After this, Groupon was identified for an initial public offering in 2013.
“More and more, we hear of people using it for planning vacations. If I live in D.C., I will check out the Chicago daily deal for a few weeks in advance of my trip. I might see hotels, restaurants or a Segway tour. Then you can plan a lot of your vacation around things to do with your Groupon. I look at Groupon as a really interesting city guide that points out one really cool thing to do in a city every day,” he said. The discount serves as a nudge to get people to try it.”
But the success of Groupon doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it at your hotel. I’ve heard first-hand reports of Groupon buyers only coming for the discount prices and showing very little loyalty after the initial stay.
Private sales sites like Jetsetter offer a more exclusive twist on the limited-time-sale model.
I’ve heard passionate arguments on both sides for both of these sales models. Some complain of brand damage, others enjoy the market exposure it brings. Regardless of your opinion, group buying and private sales are two trends that you cannot ignore.
Additional trend #1: Sophisticated review management
Customer review analysis software has existed for years – ever since online reviews started gaining popularity – but now I’m seeing a lot more sophistication in this area.
Rather than being limited to one department or one person, savvy organizations are using info from the social web throughout their organization:
- Identifying opportunities for improvement in operations
- Knowing which parts of the hotel experience is most appreciated by guests with semantic analysis (useful for marketing and management)
- Cross-comparing pricing data with reputation to maximize rates (helpful for revenue management)
Using a tool like ReviewPro helps hotels manage all this from one web-based platform. And I think as an industry we’re just beginning to understand the power of the social web for increasing profitability. I expect to see a lot more innovation in this area in the coming year.
(Disclaimer: I’m currently doing some industry research and market analysis work for ReviewPro)
Additional trend #2: Social CRM
Social CRM continues to evolve, but I saw it brought up in more and more management discussions over the past year. Organizations are wanting to supplement their traditional CRM systems with the vast amount of customer information available on the social web.
Alright, that was one long post. Tell me in the comments section below:
What are your top travel tech trends for 2011?
How are business travelers using WiFi at hotels? To answer this question, I talked with John Gallagher today about some new research iPass conducted on this topic. “Each quarter we survey hundreds of our customers – all of them business travelers. We’re also looking at nearly 30,000,000 customer user sessions in our analysis.”
The iPass Hospitality Survey findings are based on nearly 1,200 business travelers from around the globe. 48% of respondents were surveyed in Europe and Asia while 47% of respondents were from North America. To access the report visit http://bit.ly/hotelwifi
Research on internet usage at hotels
- 95 percent of business travelers care if there is Wi-Fi or a wired connection in a hotel
- 63 percent of business travelers confirm, prior to booking, whether a hotel has Internet, 24 percent assume a hotel has guest Internet connections
- A poor hotel Wi-Fi experience influences 36 percent of business travelers on whether they re-book that specific hotel in the future
- Business travelers aged 35-44 are more likely to post complaints on travel websites, followed by 45-54 year olds.
- 79 percent of business travelers return to the same locations on business trips – 22 percent do this frequently
- 17 percent of business travel hotel guests don’t inform the hotel when they have a poor Wi-Fi experience
- 22-34 year-old business travelers are more forgiving with a poor hotel Wi-Fi service with only 25 percent stating it influences whether they book that specific hotel in the future
Reliable WiFi an essential hotel amenity
J.D Power & Associates indicated that Wi-Fi was a “top five ‘must-have’” amenity for hotel guests in a report earlier this year. “With hotels constantly reviewing their repeat hotel occupancy, it is increasingly important to ensure that internet connectivity for hotel guests works consistently,” said Marcio Avillez, vice president of supply management at iPass. “The business traveler needs high-quality internet connectivity at hotels, whether it’s an additional service fee, or free. Hotels cannot afford to overlook Wi-Fi quality as nearly 80 percent of business travelers return to the same destination. A bad Wi-Fi experience impacts half of the business traveler’s decision to re-book at the same hotel or hotel chain.”
Action steps for hotels to take
I asked John what hotels can do practically to offer better service in this area. A couple good quotes:
- “Make sure Internet service is of equal quality to the service you provide elsewhere in your hotel.”
- “Regardless whether your connection access free or paid, you need to offer a high quality connection.”
- “People just want to be connected, they don’t want hassles. Our customers literally open their laptop and see how easy it is to connect to a network.”
Think of WiFi as part of your overall service offering. Business travelers a lucrative market for hotels, it’s important hotels are providing good service in this area for their customers.
From time to time, I like to profile technology companies that might help improve your profitability. This week, I looked at Norwegian software company d2o (deadline2online), and talked with CEO/founder Young Nguyen and North America Managing Director Scott Bunce about what their product does.
“With the technology today, we don’t need reporting deadlines. We need information faster than before.”
You need real-time access to information, rather than just at the Monday morning meeting with your managers. The product is designed to enable your organization to make the planning, forecasting and budgeting process more accurate, efficient and fun.
Current decision making processes in hotels are often not logical. To order a $50 item, three signatures are often needed on the purchase order. So you have a lot of managers putting expenses on their credit cards.
Additionally, there is confusion on the part of managers in where they stand in relation to their goals and targets for the year. Matching resources to targets is important.
We empower people to make decisions before it’s too late. Rather than making a business intelligence database, we designed a “real-time planning cockpit” for each decision maker.
The first thing they focus is the top line revenue, the occupancy – and then the resources linked to that. So we track three elements in Performance Management Intelligence suite (PMI): revenue/occupancy, food costs, labor costs.
What our customers do in the morning is login to PMI and see how the cost forecasts match up with performance.
You can listen in to the call here:
This blog exists to help hoteliers use new technology to better serve their guests. If you have a product that meets that criteria, get in touch with us here.
Even though I know it’s productivity poison, I often find myself multitasking by default. 16 pages open as tabs in my Firefox browser, a stack of research papers on my desk, live chat support open, taking phone calls and answering text messages. Your work environment might look similar at times.
Those of us in the hospitality business are always responding to requests. The downside to this is that multitasking lowers our performance. A University of London study for Hewlett Packard found this drop comparable to losing a nights’ sleep or more than twice as bad as smoking marijuana.
If you really wanted to get my attention – or the attention of anyone else – you would have to design an immersive experience. An environment where I had to focus on one thing only, with no opportunities for distraction.
With an abundance of information, attention is the most valuable commodity.
I’d like us as digital communicators to think about how to design communication that minimizes the risk of distraction.
It’s the logical next step after you’ve embraced content as the foundation of marketing.
I love the Kindle as an e-reader because it’s a near-perfect example of delivering digital information without distraction. Yes, Kindle books are available on the iPad and smartphones, but on these devices, the temptation to click away is constant. Thinking about the other things I could be doing consumes mental energy.
When I’m reading an ebook on the Kindle, I’m fully immersed in the writing. It’s an experience I enjoy so much that I try to replicate it with web articles using Instapaper.
It’s clear the design and presentation of the information plays a big role in how I absorb it. Perhaps as web designers we could think how this affects our page layout.
Sometimes, the best time to communicate with someone is when they’re least connected. For us, this means making your digital communication available offline.
Self-contained mobile applications are a good opportunity for this. (Especially if they’re intended for use where wireless data isn’t accessible, such as a guidebook for international travelers.) The experience is neatly packaged within your parameters.
Mobile messaging also fits this to a slightly lesser extent. You’re sending content to someone offline that is (hopefully) helpful and timely.
However, this decision is ultimately made by the recipient. All you can do is think like a “content DJ” and provide the material in various formats for their convenience.
If I’m watching a good video – on YouTube or elsewhere -I’ll be watching in fullscreen mode and the creator has my undivided attention.
If I’m listening to a podcast while running or commuting, the same is true. (Well, almost. Sometimes I have to pay attention to where I’m going….)
The thing with media like this is you must have material worthy of undivided attention. The vast majority of videos are left by viewers after a few seconds. To fight this, you need to capture attention early and make sure you keep it by staying interesting.
Of course you have. We all have.
The marketing genius behind Wikipedia is not the crowdsourced production, but their use of internal links. You go for information on one thing, and end up following your curiosity and click through to other pages.
How are you putting this principle to work for your website? Are you interlinking pages enough?
Quality of content
This applies to all of us, regardless of how much control you have over the viewing of your content. Your editorial decisions ultimately determine how engaging the material will be.
And remarkable content makes focusing attention much, much easier.
How do you plan to create and use immersive experiences to share your stories?
Charles: Basically, behavioral advertising looks at web users and determines their behavior relative to where they’re going on the internet, and sends them relevant communication to make their web experience better.
In the case of hotels, we might look at somebody who’s going to airline sites as an example, and put them in a bucket with someone that’s potentially looking for travel options. With the new technology that we have today, with some of the ad serving platforms, we can put that individual into a bucket and start doing things like advertising to that person through messaging, or we can actually change the messaging to make that more relevant to the user.
Josiah: From the perspective of the hotels — the people doing the advertising — this gives us a much higher level of targeting. Are you seeing conversion rates go up as a result of this?
Charles: Yes, absolutely. One of the metrics that we use in the industry is “return on ad-spend”, and we’ve seen it go up significantly. Not just on display, but across all integrated campaigns. For example, someone’s doing a display campaign and a paid search campaign on Google; the combination of those are greater than the sum of the parts. We see a lift on both the paid search and on the return on ad-spend on the display campaign.
It’s a great win/win for the hotel and to the web user who gets more relevant content and a better web experience.
Josiah: Can you give us some of the top things that hotel operators need to know about behavioral retargeting? For someone brand new to this, what do they need to know?
Charles: What you need to know is how the process works, so that you can make the messaging very relevant to the end user. Then, you need to have what’s being advertised correlate to the targets that you’re going after.
For example, if I’m looking at potentially geotargeting and time-based targeting — the location of the individual and time that they’re looking at information — that would dictate the type of offer or messaging that I want to put on the display ads. You need to understand not only how the process works but also the different attributes that would make sure that the messaging is very relevant to that particular campaign.
Josiah: Are big brands interested in this or is this something you can only do on a small scale?
Charles: No, big brands are investing a lot of money into this technology now. They’re doing it more at the brand level. In many cases, when you look at some of the big chains, you’re not seeing a lot of retail-oriented ads, you’re seeing a lot more brand-oriented ads where, “Come stay at any one of our hotels; click here to learn more about our special offers”, and that’ll bring them to a webpage with multiple properties listed as an example.
With individual properties, we’ve seen great success with targeted retail ads, so what you see is a combination of both. You see the big chains investing in brand oriented campaigns, and we’re seeing a lot of investment from retail properties. For example, with big casinos or big resort destinations, they’ll do very retail specific advertising.
Josiah: Is Google Advertising where most of the behavioral targeting is used or are there other options?
Charles: There are a lot of different networks out there. A lot of them can access the same websites, and a lot of the ad serving platforms all have retargeting capabilities built into them. What’s happening in the online advertising space is that we’re seeing less focus around the networks and more emphasis, now, on the data.
When we talk about data in the online advertising space, we’re talking about the anonymous cookies that are used to really track those behaviors that people move around the internet. We’re seeing opportunities where you can build a proprietary cookie pool.
For example, we’ve built a proprietary cookie pool of people that we know are frequent travelers. We have the ability to track those anonymous cookies across the internet so we can send them very relevant advertising that should make their web experience better.
Josiah: You had an article published in Hotel Online in June 2010 where you said you had 200 million of these frequent traveler profiles. How detailed is the information you have on these people?
Charles: These are anonymous cookie profiles –we don’t have any information about who they are, but we do know in most cases the sites that they’ve visited. And then in other cases we’ll have other attributes that are more useful for more complex targeting.
For example, if there’s registration data associated with those cookie profiles, we might know gender, we might know income levels, different things that the user has filled out as part of a registration process on a website that is then linked on a cookie profile. But, anytime that occurs, we take it as a prompt to send out an email, where somebody understands that the information is used to provide them more relevant product information that would be useful to them.
Josiah: Is this something you’re building proprietary to Cendyn?
Charles: It is proprietary to Cendyn, relative to what we’re doing with the cookie pool, but it’s not to say that other companies aren’t doing something similar. What’s proprietary around Cendyn, is we’ve got a 360 degree marketing platform, and I think the big difference with us — aside from the cookie pool — is that we look at how we don’t only send the right message to the right user at the right time, but also through the right channel.
I think the most important thing is not only having the right data and using it for the purpose of targeting, but also understanding that an integrated campaign always works better.
Josiah: What’s the best way to targeting groups or audiences together? What are some of the different attributes that you try for effectiveness?
Charles: What we do, is we have a first ring — this large pool of people that we know — for the purpose of discussion, very travel oriented, and based on the campaign, we look at the behavior of how those cookies interact with our ads so that we can take them out of the big pool and put them “in market”, so they’re “in market” for that campaign. That’s how we create those subsets.
Josiah: From that article, you also mentioned a “game over” mechanism and making sure that if people want to stop the ads from following them around there needs to be a place to stop. How does that look practically?
Charles: The way that it works is, of course, someone can turn off their cookies, and the process doesn’t work. A lot of the networks now are also building in capabilities for people to opt out of some of the retargeting and behavioral advertising process.
For example, Google just announced recently that they’re doing behavioral advertising and are making available a preference page that somebody can go in and adjust the settings relative to their web experience.
Josiah: Can you tell me a little bit of what you’re working on to take advantage of this platform?
Charles: One of the things we’re doing is continuing to make our 360 degree platform more robust and creating the ability to provide this behavioral targeting across any channel – whether that’s social media, mobile advertising or display advertising, it doesn’t matter. We should have the ability to send the right message via the right channel.
The other thing that we run is a product called Insight which is like a customer analytics and campaign management tool that we market to hotels. We have all the guest history data out of our property management system, and then we’ve got a lot of information about somebody, and we’re actually interfacing that as part of our 360 degree marketing platform so we can plan a sort of “best customer” profile and use that to go out and find additional customers that fit the “best customer” profile for a particular property.
Josiah: Is there any push-back from guests or people seeing the ads?
Charles: My personal opinion — but of course, I am a marketer — is that it makes the web experience better. People want relevant information. We learned this many years ago through the email campaign process. All of us in the email marketing world strived very diligently to make sure that we’re sending the most relevant content we can to a recipient, and the same philosophy applies to the advertising space. If we’re doing our job of sending relevant content, we will make the web user’s experience better.
Josiah: Can you give me a specific example of a hotel that’s taking advantage of this technology in a good way?
Charles: We did a case study not too long ago, because we really wanted to get some firm metrics on what the overall value of this type of technology would be. To make sure that our case study was very empirical, we not only tracked online revenue, but we put the voice tracking in place so that we could record the phone calls associated with the campaign, and had somebody listen to the calls and key in the revenue values associated with that.
We also tracked, not only hotel online bookings, but also RFPs — requests for proposals — for meetings, that type of thing. What we found was that we had a significant return on ad spend - 17 to 1, where every dollar spent on an ad was returned 17 times. It’s very significant, and I think that’s representative of what you can expect when you’re running these types of campaigns on an integrated basis.
Josiah: Thank you very much, Charles, for explaining this for us.
Charles: It was a pleasure, and I look forward to talking to you in the future!
I do most of my technology previews on Friday, but since that was Digital Down Day for us, we’re doing it today….
Bryan Bruce is a hospitality technology marketing professional from Orlando, and today we talk about the future of mobile apps for meetings – and how your hotel can benefit.
- The benefits of mobile apps for users
- More efficient enjoyable attendee experience
- Reduce printing costs (green initiative)
- Increase sponsorship via banners (sponsor to attendee)
- Why mobile meeting apps helps users
- Agenda info on smartphone or ipad
- Easily connect with everyone at the conference
- Have easy access to post event content
- Carry less folders, papers, etc.
- How it can benefit a hotel
- Could be a value add offering to earn business
- Could help promote outlets (restaurants, spa, etc)
- Could drive revenue (local area partners pay for exposure inside app)
- Ability to move last minute group space to accommodate another incremental banquet)
- What’s in the development pipeline for the future
- Incorporating a Spotme type navigation right into the app (find people in large space)
- Use GPS analytics while users are inside app to track movements on a tradeshow floor
- How much does it costs to mobilize a meeting?
- In the end we believe the apps should be free. The cost to develop a simple functionality app available on the iphone, droid or blackberry can range from 10k to 100k. However depending on the size of the conference and the amount of app functionality, we should be able to offset development costs with sponsorship dollar generation. Earning much more than the app development costs is normal.
Here’s the conversation:
I’ve been playing around with my iPad the past few weeks, and here’s my top 10 apps for hotel people (roughly in order of how frequently I use each):
Reading updates on my favorite blogs in Google Reader via Reeder is my #1 activity on the iPad. I love the elegant, practical UI of Reeder – especially the one-click delicious bookmarking.
My #2 activity on the iPad after reading RSS updates is browsing Flickr photos. I actually prefer using this app to browsing on Flickr.com – the visual layout is very intuitive.
I like the layout of Echofon on the iPad.
I much prefer the creative interface of this app to Facebook’s own app. (Notice a trend here? It’s all about the user interface)
I’ve become addicted to Yammer over the past few days – loving the microblogging approach to staff communication. This app is made for the iPhone – not the iPad – but it works.
iPad is a very good presentation tool with Keynote.
Helpful for reading PDF files – like our Savvy Hotelier’s Guides – and other documents.
Almost more useful than the (paid) software version!
Keep your life in order!
What are your favorite iPad apps?