April 28, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

Personalized hotel marketing is a huge topic in the hospitality industry, and the data shows that guests are ready for more. Back in 2015, American Express Travel reported that 83% of millennials would allow brands to track their habits in exchange for a more customized experience. But mentioning personalization in your strategy isn’t enough  you’ll need to find practical ways to execute.

According to a Forrester study, 40% of marketers said that personalizing offers and experiences based on behavior is a top challenge for them. So how can you strategically apply personalization to your marketing and create experiences that hotel guests will rave about? 

We’re bringing you six examples from the hotels that are leading the way. With everything from food and beverage selections to AI-powered concierge systems to data-driven personalization of ads, these hotels are shining a light on all the ways you can create group experiences that are truly one-of-a-kind. And while we know that some of these tactics may not be able to be applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that they can set you up for success in the future. Because, as Cvent CEO & Founder Reggie Aggarwal said, "the only way through is together. We prepare now for the better times ahead."

Discover the best ways to create personalized hotel marketing:

Before an event planner or group organizer decides to book with your property, personalization can show that you understand their needs and group requirements, and that you’re ready to make their event great. This involves crafting messaging that feels personal to the planner and their event type, as well as their industry. This goes beyond typical qualifiers like “business conference” and instead treats each planner like a VIP with their own interest, desires, and requirements for the event. 

From a technical standpoint, personalized hotel marketing requires detailed knowledge about your guests and their behaviors. By pulling together all of your CRM data with publicly available information from social profiles, email, and interactions on your website (all with permission of course), you can create a detailed picture of your audience. By including all available sources, you will have a fuller view of your guest and more contextually relevant information.

Here’s what personalization looks like for some of hospitality’s most forward-thinking brands:

1. Best Western removes friction for increased mobile app downloads.

Best Western wanted to increase downloads for its mobile app so that it could better engage with both new and former customers. They personalized the user journey by identifying the device that a user used to open their emails. Then they simply directed users to the correct app store for their device. This removed friction in the user journey and encouraged users to download without having to locate the correct link themselves.

Best Western also used geo-targeting to send specific and relevant offers based on the guest’s location. For example, offers would be sent for different recommended destinations based on whether someone opened the email in San Francisco, Chicago, or Miami. 

How to apply this to your group business: Even if you don’t have a dedicated app for your event planners or for your property, you can learn from Best Western’s approach to reducing friction. Think through parts of your marketing that are cumbersome for planners, and do everything you can to simplify the process. For instance, customize links in your marketing emails based on the planner’s location, event type, or booking month  you’re taking out one step for the planner and making it much easier for them to book with you.

Learn more about personalized hotel marketing

2. Library’s short form empowers marketers and hotel staff.

Library Hotels, a small chain with four properties across North America and Europe, uses a short form to tailor the experience for their guests. After a guest has booked, they receive a confirmation email from Library with a short form asking about the reason for their trip. Depending on the answer, the hotel will send the guest opportunities to buy experiences specifically related to why they're traveling. They’ll also throw in free champagne for an anniversary or honeymoon. The approach is simple, but it gives your team the information they need to create differentiated experiences for guests.

How to apply this to your group business: Ask planners a couple of questions about their event in your first marketing emails to them, before they're even in the sales funnel. This allows you to personalize your approach, segment them appropriately, and send relevant marketing emails for their event type and industry long before they’re ready to book.

3. Virgin Hotels customizes the guest experience with their app.

Virgin Hotels Chicago used customer data to their advantage for a customized guest experience. According to their research, 40% of travellers remained connected via their smartphones while on vacation, with 29% using their device to stay in touch with loved ones and 24% using it to find out information about the local area. Based on that information, the brand created Lucy, a free mobile app that helps guests check in to the hotel, make dining reservations, change the temperature in their rooms, order room service, and more.

Instead of a typical rewards program, Virgin Hotels also launched The Know – a preference program designed to create exceptional experiences. The program encourages direct bookings by offering their lowest rates, room upgrades when available, and unbeatable personalization. Guests can tell the brand their preferences for what to stock in the mini bar, what treats their pet would like, if they have any food allergies, and more. The hotel will then offer small surprises and treats with each stay according to what the guests like. 

This type of personalization is powerful for groups seeking differentiated experiences, and helps the hotel stand out from other event venues the group may be considering. 

How to apply this to your group business: Groups are often looking for more information about the local area during down time, and when a problem arises they want a fast way to get in touch. Consider creating an app that your groups can use during their stay. You can even partner with area organizations and the planner to include destination information, event schedules and maps, partner offers, and contact information for on-site help. 

4. Hilton Suggests engages with guests one-on-one on Twitter.

@HiltonSuggests takes personalized hotel marketing to the next level. The team monitors Twitter for users asking about recommendations for a handful of US cities, including Seattle, Miami, and Chicago. Team members with personal experience then make their recommendations, signing each tweet so you know who it comes from. Recommendations range from activities and restaurants to hotel properties. They’ll even recommend competitor hotels if they don’t have a property suiting the user’s needs. The account currently has 120,000 followers and lots of engagement, and boosts the reputation of Hilton as a brand you can count on for the full travel experience. 

How to apply this to your group business: Planners have a lot of questions related to the venue and location before making a booking. Consider creating a dedicated Twitter account to answer event-related questions across all of your properties. You’ll set yourself up as a helpful resource for planners everywhere, and increase awareness of what your properties have to offer for groups.

5. Mercure uses a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help guests discover destinations.

According to recent surveys, 40% of American Internet users say they would rather use digital customer services than speak to a human on the phone. Hotels have heard this loud and clear, with many turning to chatbots on Facebook Messenger, their websites, text messaging services, Slack, and more to reach customers and help with bookings.

AI-powered hotel chatbots give relevant and hyper-personalized recommendations and service to guests and planners and create a truly customized experience. 

AccorHotels‘ Mercure brand prides itself on creating properties that are firmly rooted in their local destinations. The brand in 2017 launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot named Mercure Bot to help guests discover their properties all over the world. Mercure Bot provides digital concierge services and has conversations with guests to help them discover local gems. The bot can keep track of location details and stories from all over the world in a way humans can't. And since the recommendations require geolocation in order to work, the hotel gains valuable customer data in the process of helping guests.

How to apply this to your group business: Building a bot specifically for your group bookings and events is an investment that will pay off in increased bookings, a shorter sales cycle, and increased loyalty. Consider adding the bot on your group landing pages and areas of your website dedicated to event information. Many of the questions planners ask ahead of time regarding space capacity, food and beverage, availability, and technical specifications are perfect for a bot to answer, and give planners the personalized information they need instantly.

6. Best Western teams up with IBM’s Watson to create interactive ads.

The brand in 2018 partnered with IBM’s Watson to create a series of interactive ads powered by AI. The ads leverage customer answers to a few simple questions to trigger travel tips and recommendations right in the ad. Potential guests can start a conversation with the ad by providing information on upcoming or desired travel, which starts a series of dialogue prompts that guide the consumer through a conversation relating to travel needs. From there, the consumer can choose to book a room at a Best Western, take a virtual tour of a Best Western hotel or learn more about the amenities available at Best Western locations.

How to apply this to your group business: Your ads for group planners and event organizers should be informational and benefit driven, and an interactive one could be a great fit. Focus on asking a few simple questions related to the event type and industry before sending planners to an appropriate landing page with additional information. You’ll make them feel cared for and understood, as well as get the information you need to appropriately segment and help your audience. Use powerful direct channels like the Cvent Supplier Network to target planners and get your personalized ad in front of the right audience.

Apply these personalized hotel marketing practices!

As with all new technologies, hotels will need to think strategically in order to balance high-tech offerings with high-touch customer service. The hotels that will win at the personalized marketing game will find a way to effectively do both while building strong relationships with their customers. To that end, planner engagement and communications should be personalized and convenient, upgrades and upsells should be targeted and insight-driven, and technology should be used to empower a seamless and customized event experience. 

Hopefully these examples provide the inspiration you need to launch a personalized hotel marketing campaign that will create a truly differentiated experience for your group business.

UP NEXT: Add to your personalized hotel marketing by discovering some top tips for your hotel videos

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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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