March 10, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

Hospitality is gearing up for some big changes in 2020, with hotels increasingly using evolving technology to attract and retain group business. Technology will be used to boost engagement with event attendees, streamline event planning and execution, create immersive and personalized experiences, and craft events with a larger purpose. In order to compete for events and group business, hotels will need to have a strong grasp on the trends impacting the industry in 2020, as well as a strong plan for how to take advantage of those trends.

When it comes to hotel marketing trends, there are huge shifts in how guests and event planners find hotels, book experiences, and interact with the property. Guests and event planners are also shifting their views on a range of issues, leading them to focus on different elements of their stay than they would have in the past. 

Finally, technology has enabled new levels of personalization, guest interaction, and customization of a guest’s experience that previously wouldn't have been possible. To continue competing for events and group bookings, hotels need to shift their marketing strategies in response to these trends.

Explore the top hotel marketing trends of 2020:

1. Artificial Intelligence will improve human marketing efforts.

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been steadily improving over the past decade, it has now reached a level of intuition and ease-of-use that makes machine learning technologies available to non-technical marketing teams. AI is being used for a wide range of marketing tasks, including customer segmentation, data analytics, customer service, and campaign optimization. AI is particularly useful for changes that need to happen quickly or on a large scale, like the thousands of tweaks that an AI-enhanced advertising platform can make to a campaign for optimal performance. There's just no way for a human to match the performance of AI when it's reacting to millions of real-time variables and making changes on the fly. 

AI is also proving invaluable in providing personalized experiences for micro-groups of audience members. Gone are the days when you only had your customer persona to rely on. Now AI can use all of the millions of data points in your CRM system to help you craft ultra-specific messaging for small groups of people, or for certain types of events and group bookings. It can also help you perform tests on that content and see what’s working, often dramatically increasing success rates. 

How to take advantage: Hotelchamp’s Autopilot and Triptease Convert are examples of AI-powered tools for optimizing hotel websites - they can perform hundreds of A/B tests to improve your website. Look out for even more AI-enhanced technologies this year, as more and more solutions are coming to market that will improve all aspects of your marketing.

2. Virtual reality will give event planners and guests a new hotel experience.

Like AI, virtual reality (VR) is not a particularly new technology. But with advances in processing power and computing, virtual reality technology is now cost-effective, accessible, and intuitive for hotels and guests. VR can fundamentally alter an event planner’s perception of reality, which is incredibly powerful as a marketing tool. 

Hotels are beginning to use VR for everything from room tours in advance of a booking to fully immersive destination experiences. Interactive virtual maps in your public spaces, virtual reality hotel tours, and 3D diagramming of event setups all offer outlets for your marketing creativity and show off your competitive advantages to guests.

How to take advantage: VR is perfect for anything guests are having a hard time visualizing, from event setups to new decor, so keep an eye out for confused looks when you explain your vision -- this might just be an opportunity to use VR to explain.

Follow these hotel marketing trends to grow your business!

3. Augmented reality will provide value to guests in new ways.

Augmented reality (AR) is similar to VR technology, but rather than entirely altering a user’s surroundings, it works by overlaying information onto real-world environments – usually through a smartphone or tablet. Today, augmented reality marketing is one of the most significant hotel marketing trends. It's currently being used for interactive wall maps in rooms, to give directions throughout resorts or local areas, and to overlay instructions on in-room technologies. In the future, it will be a powerful tool for showing event mockups directly over the space during site visits, providing real-time personalization of the environment. 

How to take advantage: Have fun with your guests! Consider offering an AR treasure hunt through your property or AR sales and discounts that pop up when guests pass your cafe. 

4. Video marketing will become one of your main tools for sharing content.

If it isn’t already a core part of your content marketing, you need to add video content to your strategic plan. We are a visual species, and we find videos more engaging, more memorable, and more popular than any other type of content out there. Video as a means of storytelling and advertising is no longer a nice option – it’s a necessity. The popularity of video content is soaring. In fact, mobile video consumption rises by approximately 100% every year

Hotels have found countless creative ways to use video in their marketing efforts, from live streams of events to video testimonials, behind-the-scenes content, and beautiful visuals of the property. In 2020 we expect video to take on a greater role in the hotel/customer relationship, with an increasing amount of user-generated and interactive content.

How to take advantage: Real-life footage of past events is a great way to showcase your versatility and attract the types of groups and events you’re targeting for the future. A compilation video of previous events that were hosted at your hotel could include weddings, business functions, and family reunions while exhibiting different styles and décor ideas that have worked well in the past. Nothing will promote your venue better than real footage of happy customers who have had positive experiences with you.

5. Travelers will seek culturally-immersive experiences.

Today’s travelers have moved beyond vacations, events, and even business trips as standalone occurrences insulated from the communities around them. Instead, guests are seeking rich cultural experiences and interacting with the larger community, groups, and cultures they're visiting. Increasingly, travelers want to learn about and experience the history and culture of destinations they visit. Travelers will be more inclined to share content that authentically reflects the experiences of “locals” in that culture.

As travelers crave these local experiences, brands are doing away with the idea that all of their properties should look and feel the same. Instead, properties are taking inspiration from their locales in decor, F&B, personality, amenities, and offerings. Many hotels are using social media, video content, and email marketing to generate content about more than just their property -- expanding to cover the area around their hotel and tying their property into a larger narrative that can capture the attention and imagination of worldly travelers.

How to take advantage: Consider partnering with local organizations to offer tours, cooking classes, dance experiences, or other packages that connect your destination with the culture and community around it.

6. Mobile booking will become the norm.

More travellers than ever are booking their hotel stays via mobile, and that number will greatly increase in 2020. One study found that 42% of people around the world have booked a hotel stay on a mobile device, and a whopping 70% of last-minute hotel bookings are made via mobile. With so many guests turning to mobile, you need to make sure you’re ready. At the very least, your website and booking system needs to be mobile-friendly and intuitive. This includes the images and event information that you include for group organizers, as more event planners than ever are doing their initial research on mobile. 

The prevalence of mobile activity should also influence your marketing strategy as a whole. Geo-based ads, proximity marketing, and in-app notifications all take into account the context with which a customer is accessing your content, whether it’s as they walk by the property or even by a competitor property. By crafting your outreach with this in mind you can stay ahead of the curve.

How to take advantage: If you really want to go “all-in” on mobile, consider developing your own app for your brand. This opens up a wide range of mobile marketing possibilities, and sets you up for even more advanced improvements in the future.

7. Hotels and guests will embrace sustainability.

The current world-focus on climate change has led travelers and guests to become more aware of their environmental responsibilities when they travel. Travelers in 2020 will seek properties that are approaching sustainability in significant, systematic ways. In fact, 60% of travelers who are loyal to a hotel brand say that the brand's corporate responsibility is a key factor in their loyalty. Encouraging guests to use their towels a few extra times will no longer cut it. To stand out from your competition, you’ll need to make big commitments and follow through with messaging that shares that story.

You can clearly demonstrate your commitment to the environment in your marketing by highlighting new green initiatives, vegetarian and vegan menu items, sustainable materials in your furnishings, and operations that reduce your environmental impact.

How to take advantage: Introducing compostable or reusable alternatives to plastic is an impactful and visible change. Whatever initiatives you pursue, make sure to share the story in an authentic way so that guests don’t feel you are purely doing it for “brownie points."

8. The demand for personalization will continue.

Travelers and event planners are bombarded with more content and advertising than ever before. And as brands get better at crafting messaging to attract their target audiences, customers are expecting a higher standard of content. Travelers now expect a tailored message that appeals to their values and desires in booking a hotel. In fact, a recent report reveals that nearly 60% of travelers think brands should tailor information based on their personal preferences or past behaviors. With more technologies available to gather and analyze data, automate messaging and change your offering in response to traveler profiles, personalization will become a major focus for brands in 2020.

Personalization allows you to deliver targeted content to individual users based on their demographics, behaviors, interests, and actions, ensuring that the content you share is relevant and valuable. It relies heavily on the collection and analysis of user data from your website, your CRM, and social media analytics. Personalization marketing can take a number of forms, including tailored email marketing campaigns, smart retargeting, intelligent recommendations, and enhanced website offers based on previous searches and booking behaviors.

How to take advantage: Try combining personalization with some of the other techniques on this list for a real wow factor. For instance, create personalized videos with recommendations for certain types of travelers, like a culinary tour of your city for foodies!

9. Chatbots will provide personalized service while freeing up personnel.

One way to increase the personalization in your response to customers while also freeing up your team is to begin using chatbots on your website. Chatbots have been rising in popularity over the last few years, and are becoming more popular as they become more sophisticated and conversational. By interacting with guests during the buying process, chatbots can answer questions in a tailored and personalized way without the customer needing to call. This means they can receive great service at any time of the day or night without your team needing to be available. This eliminates slow response times and helps customers smoothly progress through the buyer’s journey. 

How to take advantage: Chatbots can help deliver specific marketing messaging or sell specific products or packages. Consider including up-selling and cross-selling messaging in your system so you can increase revenue per guest in an automated way.

10. Travelers will interact with destinations and hotels through user-generated content.

Social media channels like Facebook and Instagram are filled with content related to travel -- delicious food, eye-catching architecture, cultural experiences, and stunning landscapes all compete for the attention of world travelers. All of this content has become a huge source of inspiration for travelers across the globe. Research by Global Web Index shows that user-generated content on social media significantly influences holiday-planning activities. And the network effect of shared content means that those images spread far and wide. In fact, two-thirds of users say they post about their holiday on social media, with 4 in 10 posting while traveling.

User-generated content is a huge potential source of referrals and repeat business as guests share and remember their positive experiences. Hotel brands are shifting their focus away from paid advertising and leveraging organic user-generated content to highlight their unique story and spread the word. By encouraging the use of hotel and brand hashtags, setting up visually-pleasing displays, and sharing user content on your own channels, you can encourage all of your guests to play a key role in your marketing strategy.

How to take advantage: Focus on providing experiences that guests will want to talk about and share. Live events, pop-up shops, photo-booth style displays, and themed contests all get lots of engagement and generate the buzz you need to see your message spread.

11. Niche influencers will provide access to new target audiences.

When you hear about influencer marketing, you may picture mega celebrities showing off sponsored products to millions of fans. But influencer marketing can also be a smaller, more targeted strategy that's both accessible and effective for hotels and brands of various sizes. The key to influencer marketing is teaming up with someone who embodies the spirit of your brand and culture, and connects with an audience you'd like to reach. As long as the audience is engaged, even micro and nano influencers can be effective in helping you reach a target group.

As influencer marketing continues to rise in popularity within hospitality, hotels will partner with influencers to create video content, social media posts, written content, and other forms of online marketing. Sponsored contests, live events, video takeovers, and meet-and-greet events are an even more creative use of an influencer’s reach. 

How to take advantage: The best collaborations are those where the brand and the influencer work together to create something the target audience will feel is valuable. So take the time to get to know the influencer and ask about their audience -- they will likely have some great ideas about the content you should create.

12. Voice search will arrive in many hotels.

In recent years, voice search has grown from a frontier marketing strategy to one embraced by mainstream hotels everywhere. Many hotels are now using smart devices for everything from booking to concierge services, with some even including connected devices in all guestrooms. In 2020 this trend will truly take off, with more travelers than ever booking hotels entirely through voice commands.

Hotels can be on the forefront of voice search marketing by crafting their content with voice search in mind. When customers use voice search capabilities they usually speak in a very conversational and casual tone. By mirroring this tone in your website language you will be far more likely to show up in voice search results. For example, make sure you have some sections dedicated to guests who say they need “a 3 or 4 star hotel in Nashville near some great music,” rather than only catering to typical keywords and search terms. This conversational style not only makes you more visible for voice search, but showcases the human touch that travelers are looking for in a hotel.

How to take advantage: Consider creating offers specifically for voice search technologies like Amazon’s Alexa and promoting those offers via traditional channels. This will let everyone know that you’re ready for the voice search trend and help you stand out from competitors who have not yet gotten on board.

Take advantage of these hotel marketing trends!

By doing so, you can stay ahead of the curve and effectively market your property. How you react to these trends and innovate will be entirely up to you! 

Curious about other 2020 trends? Check out our insights on catering, event design, and group business.

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Laura Fredericks author headshot

Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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