Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts provides third-party hotel management to hotels, resorts and conference centres throughout the UK, Europe and Russia/CIS, working with brands such as Hilton, Holiday Inn and Ibis.
The company is expanding rapidly in Europe. Earlier this year it opened four new hotels as part of a 12-hotel management deal with Dutch hotel company Borealis Hotel Group, as well as opening a regional office in Amsterdam.
We caught up with Kelly Cronin, Group Director of Revenue Management, Interstate Europe Hotels and Resorts, to talk about how the company is personalising its marketing efforts through the use of social media and email marketing, emerging technology such as voice search and A.I., and creating ‘snackable’ content that is easy to digest on the go.
Kelly Cronin with will be at this year’s Revenue Strategy Forum as a panelist on the ‘Boosting Direct Bookings Through Personalisation’ session. Register now and join us for RSF on 5 November 2018.
How have your direct marketing activities changed in recent years?
Cronin: Quality data is key. We need to understand what the customer actually wants to hear about and act on it to ensure engagement and continued interest. Customers are expecting more in return for giving us their information and are quick to switch off if we don’t engage in an interesting way. We continue to invest in email marketing, social media management and education of our teams. There has been a reduction in direct to door and print – with the exception of Christmas parties and weddings.
What tactics are driving the most direct bookings?
Cronin: Great in-house guest experiences through brand loyalty schemes is the USP that all brands have and where hotels can really drive return intent.
Also, we can’t forget the simplicity of great representation – getting the basics right and using strong imagery to present your offer online. Do you have interest-based offers that target your customers, giving reasons to stay and offering great experiences? We focus on creating snackable content – such as key points of interest and easy to digest video content.
We are also considering emerging trends - voice search is expanding rapidly – if you aren’t there you won’t be heard.
How important is it for hotels to talk to guests on the platform of their choice?
Cronin: Guests use social media as an easy platform to engage with hotels. It is a huge part of our daily interactions and guest engagement touchpoints. It is a great place to get instant feedback and some of our best ideas come from our guests! Broadcast messaging is important – specific hotel activity within brands can be limited so each hotel needs to create their own local story.
Email remains a very successful channel – we work with our hotels to create data enrichment campaigns to make communications more relevant and interesting for recipients. Follow-on emails are also a great way of reiterating messaging with a familiar tone and driving greater engagement.
And what are the caveats with this? How much control can you hope to have over the type of social engagement your guests have with your brand?
Cronin: A quick response is key. And deal with the detail of any complaint in private messaging with a positive response where possible. It is basic good customer service management: apologise publicly when things haven’t gone right. A simple “We are sorry that you had a disappointing stay and would really like to talk to you about this” goes a long way. The key here is solid training and guidance for hotel teams to ensure they understand the importance of this as a communication channel.
Where do you see the new opportunities for personalised marketing and targeted pricing?
Cronin: A.I. can be implemented at many points to answer quick frequent questions.
Use social listening to see what is trending and use it to shape offers and tactics. Use this information to enhance marketing to your key customer types.
Hotel loyalty programmes are working towards the next stage of personalisation – how do we build complete customer profiles recognising that people are more than one customer type? For example, they use mid-scale hotels mid-week for business but luxury for leisure stays?
Moving to automated data gathering rather than relying on the customer to create their guest profile will also be instrumental. We are seeing some great examples of using existing technology – for example guests in-house can use WhatsApp in some hotels using a single number for guests to communicate with the hotel quickly.
In addition, there are various products in the market – analysing total demand coming through the booking mask rather than just actualised data, we can then create target promotions by customer type to target specific customers.
Other suppliers are looking at overlays on webpages with specific information to convert customers or collating click data from booking engines and OTAs, as they also have competitive set information … this can create benchmarking data.