When marketers get in the habit of mindlessly doing things in a certain way, it’s easy to lose sight of the potential negative effect it might have on the consumer. We all know, for instance, how frustrating it is when you get hit with a surprise $20 “convenience fee” upon buying tickets to a concert or sporting event online. From a marketing standpoint, is the emphasis on profit over transparency really worth it if it ultimately leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the consumer?
If we narrow this down to the hospitality industry, hotel marketers have similar blind spots that can affect the success and credibility of their digital strategy. Based on my agency’s experience, here are five “habits” that I encourage you to reconsider from the perspective of a consumer:
1. Sneaky Resort Fees
The hotel equivalent to a convenience fee is undoubtedly the resort fee. From a business perspective, it’s almost entirely profit and certainly not something your hotel’s leadership team will be willing to sacrifice. From a consumer perspective, if it’s not seen as a complete money grab, it’s certainly not far from it.
Even before resort fees became the subject of legal scrutiny, it was crystal clear that hotels have to do a better job of communicating their value. Instead of simply adding a resort fee to the total at the end of a guest’s reservation, I recommend going to great lengths to explain what exactly it includes and how it benefits a guest’s stay (i.e., pool and spa access, special amenities, children’s programs, etc.). Within your booking process, don’t just break out the resort fee to outline its purpose, but use it as an opportunity to include real value-adds that incentivize booking direct (e.g., a complimentary yoga class or welcome drink).
In short, if we change the narrative of the resort fee and make it a transparent part of the booking, it might not stir up so much controversy.
2. Unintuitive Website Design And Content
If you’ve ever scoured a website for a very specific piece of information only to come up empty-handed, you know the frustration of a website that’s built for looks and not practicality. This happens all too often in the flashy world of luxury hospitality.
Beyond simple things like requiring too many clicks to make a reservation or not making the “book” button easy to find (believe me, it happens!), I often see this when it comes to dynamic content like events and happenings at the hotel. If the holiday season is coming up and guests are searching for events happening during their stay, don’t hide this information on a tertiary page that’s five levels deep within your website architecture. Place it front and center — maybe even on your homepage — and give the people what they want.
Another common mistake that I see is the temptation to get too “cute” with website verbiage. All too often I see the word “Sleep” used in place of “Accommodations,” or the word “Play” instead of “Experiences” or “Activities.” Even if it sounds hip and clear to you, it might be just the opposite to someone who is simply trying to make a booking (especially with different cultures). You’re better off playing it safe and prioritizing logical communication above all else.
3. Not Differentiating Between Room Categories
Hoteliers are notorious for upselling guests to higher room categories, which is a great marketing strategy. What’s not so great is the inability to explain the differences between those room categories within the booking engine. If one category is marked as $50 more expensive but shows the exact same room photos and descriptions, what’s the point?
Simple solution: Don’t assume the guest understands the difference between a premium ocean view room and a deluxe ocean view room. Make it as clear as possible through both words and imagery (including three-dimensional floor plans).
4. Setting Unrealistic Expectations
When you’re marketing something as experiential as a hotel stay, nothing is worse than over-promising and under-delivering.
This can happen in many ways, one of which is the use of over-edited photography that doesn’t match what the guest experiences in person. Of course, you should make your photography as appealing as possible, but don’t overdo it to the point where it no longer resembles the actual in-person product.
Secondly, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Not only do phrases like “unforgettable memories” or “the trip of a lifetime” feel cheesy, but they set an unrealistic expectation for your on-property operations team.
Lastly, always make sure your online reviews are congruent with the experience a guest can expect at your hotel. Most importantly, don’t ever inflate your brand with fake reviews. Anything that’s not done organically will reflect poorly on your brand reputation, not to mention result in penalties and sanctions from the review sites themselves.
5. Coming Off As Desperate
If you know the feeling of an overflowing email inbox, don’t inflict that same predicament on your valuable consumers. Flooding them with daily marketing promotions comes off as desperate and will ultimately increase your unsubscribe rate and damage your brand loyalty. Stay classy and keep your email promotions exclusive by only sending them out at reasonable frequency.
Worse yet, how many times have you booked a hotel stay only to keep seeing ads from that same hotel? As marketers, make sure your retargeting campaigns are configured so that guests who have already made the conversion no longer get pestered with unwanted follow-ups. Worst-case scenario, it might jeopardize the booking altogether.
Some of the above suggestions may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how often I encounter them (that is, on a weekly basis). As easy as they are to fix, I hope they cut to the root of the issue: thinking too much like a marketer. If we as agency leaders get into a new habit of thinking more like consumers, we’d not only create happier guests but also make the job easier for every stakeholder involved.