It looks like direct sales are back with a vengeance in hotels’ marketing strategies and the search for a connection with the customer is turning into one of the pillars of that strategy, not just because of the opinion leader effect that they may have anonymously but also because of the ability they have to directly attract new customers whenever they mention the hotel in their closest sphere of influence.
We agree with Jonah Berger when he says that a new kind of money is being minted, “social currency,” and that although the reasons for sharing are almost as old as man himself, it’s true that internet has popularized and magnified the phenomenon. We all love to tell stories and news that make us look better in the eyes of others and a travel experience has all the ingredients for sharing: it’s a story, it’s something exceptional, and it belongs in the context of personal relationships.
A hotel has the chance to participate in these conversations since it is in the travel context where a lot of sharing takes place. It can leverage on that as much as it can by offering itself as a vehicle for publishing those experiences.
One of the findings of the study we performed recently among hotel marketing executives and e-commerce and community managers was that in the long tail of customer opinion value something is stirring beyond the giant intermediaries who list hotels by an array of variables, among them “the quality index.” In response to the question,
Where do you feel your customer’s opinion is most valuable?
it is interesting to note that more than 50% of those surveyed stated that “word-of-mouth” had a “very high” value in the business’ future referencing, higher than social media and even higher than some comparison sites. And what percentage of all word-of-mouth communication happens online? We have the tendency to overestimate “word of mouth” online because it’s easier to see but those conversations are actually probably more frequent offline and potentially more impactful than those held on the internet – hotel executives seem to be aware of that.
Another of the findings is the weight that the recommendation has in the direct sale. More than 50% of those surveyed affirmed that more than 20% of direct bookings derive from their customers’ recommendations.
What percentage of your direct sales are from customer recommendations?
The reasons that push customers to publish opinions on comparison sites are obvious: visibility in the heavy traffic of accommodations searches. Posting on comparison sites might push customers to share their opinion on social media or in a more personal context, which might be surprising, since you might think if you do one you don’t do the other with the consequent opportunity cost.
The decision is whether to take advantage of the opinion to gain business visibility in the volume of accommodations searches that major players concentrate in one place or push for opinions to be shared among groups of friends (the persuasive effect is more powerful and it connects with direct sales). Or alternate both tactics…you can do that too. Either way, as one of the hotel managers said, “It doesn’t matter if I say it, it matters if the customer says it.”
Use our Feedback engine module to automatically suggest to customers that they share their opinions on comparison sites like TripAdvisor, Trivago, etc, and at the same time capitalize on the Messaging centre module that allows you to schedule hotel offering communications, based on when the trip was, to the customers’ friends and family, directly linking to direct reservations to the hotel’s booking engine, by phone or your instant messaging channel.