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Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News

How to Maximize Your Hotel Special Offers

Special offers are a key component in driving traffic and direct bookings back to your hotel website. But with so many different brands and hotels offering similar deals and packages, how do you make yours stand out amongst the bunch and ultimately get your customer to convert?

Sell an experience

When searching for hotel deals and offers, customers are usually more focused on their travel experience as opposed to just the room itself. So what exactly are travel shoppers looking for? Besides wanting to save money, online shoppers are looking for an offer they can’t refuse. So give them exactly that and make it only available by booking direct. And with packages that aren’t tied to a percentage offer, try and focus on the human element around the offer experience and how it will enhance the buyer’s time on property, rather than just the savings. Keeping your hotel story in mind when creating a special offer is essential in order to create an authentic connection with your consumer. When it comes to design and copy, don’t forget the basics like great images and photography, catchy but concise headlines, descriptions with important keywords, terms and conditions, and a clear and prominent call-to-action. Does your hotel have a renowned restaurant or amazing spa? Determine your hotel’s unique features and use these as a selling point within your offer. These can really lend themselves to certain guest segments who are looking for particular offer experiences around spa, golf and more.

Marriott Offer Example

(Image Source: Delta Hotels Edmonton South Conference Centre)

Using visual story telling within your merchandising

It’s important to not only ensure that your homepage is visually rich, but that your special offers are, too. Take a page out of retailer’s books; 41% of retailers said site merchandising was a leading priority for their digital business in 2016. In order to do this, try to use descriptive storytelling text to add context to your website and promotions that include details about your rooms, offer amenities and unique features. Additionally, over 90% of consumers say enticing visuals are the most important factor in their purchasing decision. So when possible, try and convey your offer story visually through your property images rather than just generic stock photography. And last but not least, make your special offers easy to find on your hotel website by utilizing homepage messages and other onsite merchandising tactics.

Mobile matters

Ensuring your special offer landing page is easy to navigate and optimized for every device is crucial getting the end user to convert. Here are some quick stats to prove this point:

  • If your landing page isn’t optimized for mobile, it will be abandoned by 40% of mobile visitors who will look for another result
  • 66% of e-commerce time is being spent on smartphones
  • 6% of consumers will delete emails if they don’t look good on mobile
  • 45% of consumers have unsubscribed from promotional emails because the emails or website didn’t work well on their smartphone
  • In 2017, almost 60% of traveling bookings in the US will be done on a mobile device

Having a mobile responsive website, as well as mobile optimized special offers pages, are essential for a seamless experience across all devices.

Email and third party merchandising

Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead. In terms of ROI, email typically outperforms social media and paid search. And because it is generally one of the most cost effective choices compared to other digital marketing tactics, it’s a great tool in pushing out your special offers while driving direct bookings. With email marketing, try and plan your deals content two months out from launch during peak seasons. If you’re participating in a paid business account with third parties such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, Trivago, etc., make sure you are taking advantage of their special offer placements and refreshing them on a regular basis to avoid offer fatigue and to cater different offers around seasonality. Paid social campaigns are also a relatively inexpensive option for promoting special offers. And effective promotions stand out on social media by incorporating a hotel’s story rather than just around a generic discount. Creating a sense of urgency and exclusiveness, beautiful imagery and a strong call to action will set you up for success in this channel as well as across your hotel website.

So there you have it! Keep these best practices and strategies in mind and your special offers will be set up for conversion success. And check out some of these additional resources:

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Posted by on Sep 27, 2016 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News, Social Media

Content Marketing: 20 Mind-Blowing Facts

Creating Content

(Image Source: Death to the Stock Photo)

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Whether it be blog posts, infographics, pieces of micro content, videos or social media content – all forms of content marketing could potentially have a place in your marketing strategy depending on your specific digital goals. Here at Digital Services, we offer a wide array of content marketing tactics.

When considering how to spend your hotel’s budget, consider the following 20 content facts:

Visual

  1. 65% of all people are considered to be “visual learners” – make sure you’re capturing their attention
  2. By 2019, content marketing as an industry is expected to generate $300 billion
  3. A study conducted by 3M found that the human brain processes images 60,000 times quicker than text
  4. On social media sites, infographics are both Liked and shared three times more than any other type of content
  5. About 10% of information that is spoken and heard by a listener will be remembered. However, if the same information is accompanied by a stunning visual or image, remembrance rate increases to 65%
  6. According to this research, the average consumer only looks at a resource for 122 seconds (2 minutes, 2 seconds) and only takes in 53% of the information provided. However, the average human attention span is only 8 seconds

Strategy

  1. A recent 2015 study from IBM Digital Experience Survey found that 56% of marketers believe higher engagement rates are tied to personalized content
  2. How does your strategy match up? On average, marketers are using about 13 different types of content marketing tactics throughout the year including infographics (67%), videos (79%), blogs (81%) and social media content (93%)
  3. As long as the content isn’t perceived as “too salesy” or “too pushy,” 74% of viewers are reported to trust educational content
  4. Is your content mobile friendly? 60% of consumers report starting a travel search on their smart phone or mobile device

Video

  1. 90% of viewers say that watching a video is helpful during the decision making and buying process
  2. YouTube boasts that mobile video consumption increases by 100% yearly
  3. Including a video in an email campaign can boost click-through rate by anywhere from 200-300%
  4. Watching videos accounts for 1/3 of all activity that happens online
  5. After about 1 minute, only 5% of viewers will either stop watching or navigate away from a video. After about 2 minutes, that number increases to 60%

Social

  1. Social media content importance continues to grow. There are more than 3 billion active social media users around the globe and more than 65 billion active social media accounts worldwide
  2. The popular photo sharing site, Instagram, has about 400 million users. 60% of those users report having learned about a product through Instagram
  3. On average, businesses that maintain an active, regular and engaging blog generate 67% more leads
  4. After seeing positive reviews, comments and posts on social media, 57% of consumers report being swayed or influenced to think more optimistically about a business
  5. Are you measuring the right metrics for your goals? For 2016, 80% of marketers have identified social media engagement (aka Likes, shares, comments, etc.) as the most important success gauge, followed by 61% citing audience size and 56% citing site traffic

Given the multitude of facts and research conducted, it’s no wonder that so many individuals have chosen to engage in some form of content marketing for their businesses. Discuss your hotel’s particular goals with your Client Services Manager; we can help you navigate the content marketing waters and select the right tactics for you. Be it an infographic or micro content creation, video or photography guidance or social media strategy and outreach, Digital Services has you covered.

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Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Digital Industry News, Travel Industry News

Trending @ MDS: What Digital Services is Reading Now

To continue our Trending @ MDS series, this week I polled the Digital Services team to see what they are currently reading.

Marriott Digital Services Blog

From international marketing blogs to books about human behavior, our team recommended a wide variety of suggestions to add to your reading list.

Brandon Harper Marriott Digital Services

Brandon Harper
Senior Manager Digital Demand Generation Strategy

Skift

“I find that Skift frequently features compelling travel industry news. I like exploring the big-picture trends and market forces that drive the industry and the reactions of the various competitors to them. Skift’s content is geared towards these interests and the site features useful resources such as newsletters and podcasts.”

 Ashley Wade Marriott Digital Services

Ashley Wade
Program Specialist

TechCrunch
“I love to keep up-to-date in the world of technology with TechCrunch. TechCrunch covers all things digital including new gadgets, social media platforms, and industry news. TechCrunch also has the best updates for Europe and Asia technology news!”


Deli Almonte Marriott Digital Services

Delianny Almonte
Program Specialist

The Tipping Point

“The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell writes a fascinating account of how patterns in human behavior, even the smallest ones, can trigger an epidemic of change. I love this book because it focuses on how things can spread like wildfire. A single person or a single action can create an entire fashion trend, increase the popularity of a new product, or drop the crime rate in a city. And while this book was written in 2002, it applies so much to our ever changing digital world in 2016! Fourteen years later, it’s amazing to see how an app can blow up after a group of high school friends start sharing it, or how trends (Pokémon Go!) can expand so rapidly worldwide! It really tests what brands think it takes to make their content go “viral.”

 

Erin Layshock Marriott Digital Services

Erin Layshock
Program Specialist

The Verge

One of my go-to websites to get news and perspective on the tech and digital industry is The Verge. It keeps you on top of the ever-evolving tech industry, but presents information in an easily digestible and entertaining way. The nerd in me loves the science news included on the site that never fails to blow my mind, if you care for a teaser: the last one I read involved engineering translucent rodents.”

 

Frederic Schaub Marriott Digital Services

Frederic Schaub
Senior Manager Global Strategy

eMarketer
“eMarketer is a fantastic resource to get statistics about almost anything digital, social, mobile, you name it. They are recognized as a trustworthy source of information; their consistent and constant updates allow one to use their information to inform research, decks, and more.”

 

Josh Vogel Marriott Digital Services

Joshua Vogel
Digital Analyst

Hotel News Now
I thoroughly enjoy visiting Hotel News Now. The website provides all of the news that you need to know about the hotel industry in a clear and concise manner. I love how you can subscribe to HNN’s Daily Update and receive regular email updates with the day’s top lodging headlines.”

 

Mary Cline Marriott Digital Services

Mary Cline
Account Manager

#GIRLBOSS
I’m currently reading #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a candid, hilarious account of an unlikely entrepreneur’s bumpy road to success. As the founder and executive chairman of a $250-million-plus fashion retailer with more than four hundred employees, Sophia shares lessons on hard work, the value of customer service and how far passion can take one in life. Her descriptions of how she learned to use search terms, branding, and digital marketing are will have you laughing out loud and thinking about how you can apply the same ideas to your own career. Disclaimer: while I’m a fan of the ideas in this book, #BOSS would be a more appropriate and inclusive title!”

 

Sonal Shah Marriott Digital Services

Sonal Shah
Account Manager

eHotelier
“What I love about eHotelier is that it combines my three favorite subjects: digital + hospitality + global. Working with hotels and resorts from all around the world, this site gives me the insight I need to stay up-to-date with the latest region-specific industry trends. Additionally, this site goes beyond just covering the latest marketing strategies; it covers exciting topics ranging from large international business acquisitions and emerging international hotel brands, to hotel design and in-room digital trends.”

Tyler Gagnon Marriott Digital Services

Tyler Gagnon
Account Manager

The Daily Shot – Garden & Gun Magazine
“Although I was born and raised as a New Englander, the time I spent living in the South has rubbed off on me. I love this blog from the publishers of Garden & Gun Magazine. It’s a great way to get a daily fix of all the great food/drink/music/art/culture that is happening every day within the region and beyond. Check it out if you want to learn how to kick back and enjoy the good things in life.”

 

To learn more about the Marriott Digital Services team, check out previous Trending @ MDS archive posts. And be sure to share your favorite reading recommendations with the team in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Announcements, Digital Industry News, Travel Industry News

Trending at MDS: Favorite Blogs & Websites

The Digital Services team is a chatty and friendly bunch, constantly dishing out book recommendations, favorite podcasts, and links to blog articles, etc. To share this wealth of knowledge last summer I posted A Few of our Favorite Things: Books & Podcasts, highlighting popular book and podcast recommendations from my colleagues.

Marriott Digital Services Blog

To continue our popular Trending at MDS series, today I’m sharing the Digital Services team’s favorite websites and blogs. I asked team members to share what marketing, travel and personal development websites they love to browse during their downtime.

TRAVEL

Charles Pollard Marriott Digital Services

Charles Pollard
Digital Reporting Strategy Manager

“I really like TNOOZ. It provides a lot of stories on new technology in travel and tourism. Additionally TNOOZ provides great perspective on distribution strategy by OTAs and other hotel companies.”

 

Chelsea Moore Marriott Digital Services

Chelsea Moore
Account Manager

“My favorite Instagram account to follow is @FoodInTheAir. This account was created by my fellow College of Charleston alumni (Go Cougars!) and combines two of my favorite things: traveling and food! The account encourages followers to literally put their food in the air in front of scenic backdrops. Not only are the backdrops tourist gems or exotic landscapes, but the food they highlight is truly mouthwatering. It also gives an opportunity to put local restaurants in the spotlight in large tourist towns. I’ve checked out a couple of spots while I was traveling because I had to get my hands across that delectable bagel sandwich! Check them out, and you’ll be drooling over the food and gorgeous travel spots in no time!”

 

Joanne Chung Marriott Digital Services

Joanne Chung
Account Manager

“I LOVE the Migrationology travel blog by Mark Weins because he has good, quality content in a beautifully designed page. His entries are well-organized and he writes not just about the amazing food he eats, but about how to travel smart. His YouTube channel will also have you drooling! If you’re passionate about traveling, Mark Weins’ blog will only fuel that!”

 

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Megan Munoz Marriott Digital Services

Megan Munoz
SEO Analyst

“One of my favorite sites to visit is The Daily Muse on TheMuse.com. It is a great resource for learning about how to create a great work environment, whatever your career may be. It’s also really fun and motivating! Blog posts are written to target millennials, so the tone of the posts are always relatable with what our generation may be experiencing in their workplace. One blog may be about how to get to know your co-workers better, while other more technical posts can focus on what skills you need to be successful, like Job Skills You’ll Need in 2020!  I love getting expert career guidance for my career goals and how to create a good work/life balance. You can also sign up to get their advice and motivational posts to your e-mail, like I do!”

 

Ryan Sanecki Marriott Digital Services

Ryan Sanecki
Social Media Analyst

Levo does a great job of introducing professionals and potential mentors in a myriad of industries across the digital landscape. I can attribute a large part of my success to my mentors and their guidance on how to approach digital integration.  From ventures to undergraduate libraries, most industries are represented by skilled innovators on Levo.com.”

 

Samantha Bitzelberger Marriott Digital Services

Samantha Bitzelberger
Content Analyst

Lynda.com is my current addiction for all thing tech and digital. They have hundreds of well-made, educational videos on numerous topics like software programs, the creative design process, even business skills. I even have the phone app so I can learn on the go! :)”

 

 

DIGITAL MARKETING

 

Jessica Fisher Marriott Digital Services

Jessica Fisher
Content Strategy Manager

“My favorite is the Content Marketing Institute’s Blog – it’s my go-to for content marketing inspiration, case studies and news. It’s super engaging and easily digestible. A number of the posts are also very actionable, I can read a post quickly and see many use cases for our own hotels. This blog covers everything from content inception and strategy to distribution and outreach (as well as everything in-between!)”

 

Michael Jozaitis Marriott Digital Services

Michael Jozaitis
Senior Manager, Search Strategy

Search Engine Land is THE go to new source for all thing organic and paid search. The most authoritative, informed, timely and well written search blog out there.  If you’re an SEO and you don’t read Search Engine Land, that’s like President Obama not reading the daily presidential brief.”

 

Ricarda Dhossou Marriott Digital Services

Ricarda Dhossou
Account Supervisor

“Whether you are interested in social, search, analytics, email or anything else digital, ClickZ is a great resource to take your digital knowledge to the next level. The spectrum of posts is very broad, keeping it interesting for new and seasoned digital marketers alike.”

 

Thank you to my Digital Service colleagues, who provided so many new and wonderful website recommendations!

Consider adding these new websites and blogs to your Feedly or RSS reader to follow along.  If you have any website suggestions for us to visit, please leave a comment below. Stay tuned for future Trending at MDS posts.

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Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in All Matters SEO, Digital Industry News

What is Programmatic Advertising? – 5 questions answered

Programmatic Advertising has been reverberating around the digital media industry for over two years now; if you’re working in digital within any capacity you may have heard or read articles labeling this the future of online advertising. They may be correct, they may not, either way the reality is that this relatively new digital marketing channel still remains fairly complex for some to understand.

Programmatic Advertising

(Source: Chris Dlugosz | Flickr)

Today, we attempt to provide clarity around questions reverberating around the industry, including what programmatic advertising actually is, how exactly it works, and most importantly the advantages it brings.

1. What is programmatic advertising?

There are a number of definitions of programmatic advertising being circulated around the web, many referencing acronyms such as DSP and RTB (to be explained later in the post,) but for now we’ll get to the point.

 Programmatic Advertising is using software to automatically purchase digital ad space across display, video, mobile and social channels. 

Traditionally, media purchases across display, video, mobile, and social channels would involve a number of manual processes including negotiating price for a number of continuously served impressions. Programmatic advertising removes these manual processes meaning advertisers don’t have to purchase ad space for a set amount across a certain period. Instead advertisers may use software to purchase singular impressions more closely matching a company’s target audience.

2. How does programmatic advertising actually work?

Imagine a music enthusiast named Chris is visiting a webpage or watches a video on his computer. The webpage or video he accesses contains advertising space which is available to purchase. As the webpage or video loads, so will an advertisement in the available advertising space. This is known as one impression. To determine the advertisement shown on Chris’s visit, an ad exchange will receive data noting available ad space for purchase. The ad exchange will then make the impression on the ad space available to a number of interested advertisers. These advertisers have an auction to bid for the impression and the highest bidder will serve an advertisement to Chris. This entire process will occur in a series of milliseconds.

The next thing to explain is that impressions can be purchased in one of two ways:

  1.  Reserve buy:  an advertiser agrees to purchase a certain number of impressions on the website
  2.  Real-time bidding:  a reserve buy has already been served or does not exist and every impression is available to purchase

 Real-time bidding  is essentially specifying how much you are willing to pay for an impression while the webpage is loading. The top-bidding advertiser wins the impression and their advertisement is shown. It would be impossible to manually bid on these impressions since real-time bidding happens in milliseconds on billions of daily impressions. To facilitate this, bids are programmatically placed using software known as a  demand-side platform (DSP) . Within a DSP, rules are set up to provide instructions upon how much an advertiser is willing to bid based upon the website being visited and the user visiting the webpage. In our example, a music retailer may be very interested in winning the bid to show an advertisement to Chris who is a music enthusiast.

As mentioned, a  demand side platform (DSP)  is the software used to automatically bid on impressions from an ad exchange. The majority of DSPs have a data store where information on users is housed. The ad exchange sends data through to the DSP (typically including the user’s ID), the ID is then reviewed to establish whether details about the user match the advertisers targeting criteria before a bid price is sent to the exchange for that particular impression. If the DSP wins the auction for the impression, then an advert creative including a tracking pixel is served. The user viewing the creative may then make a purchase on the advertiser’s site. Through this pixel details are sent back to the DSP allowing a return on the campaign to be captured.

A key point to note is that as an advertiser’s campaign runs over time the DSP utilizes algorithms to develop an understanding of which ad impressions best help achieve an advertisers objectives. This will also help determine which impressions to highly bid upon and attempt to buy.

Demand-side platform There are a number of companies that are considered DSPs based on their utilizing of automated software to bid upon relevant impressions, the companies include:

  • Adform
  • AppNexus
  • DoubleClick
  • MediaMath
  • RocketFuel

3. What are the advantages of programmatic advertising?

Below are 5 key advantages of this programmatic advertising compared to traditional ad buying:

  • Ability to increase qualified traffic to your website

Through the use of programmatic, advertisers can continually gather insights into the audiences that provide the desired actions for the objectives of campaigns. By utilizing this data, advertising campaigns can be automatically optimized to improve performance by bidding more aggressively on traffic that closely resembles the converting audience thus providing advertisers with more qualified traffic.

  • Efficiency in ad buying

The use of programmatic advertising makes purchasing impressions an all-round easier, and more efficient process. There is no longer a requirement for negotiating prices or sending creative manually to all the different publishers you wish to advertise with. The entire process of ad buying through programmatic is streamlined, and will save an advertiser a lot of time and money on previous manually led processes.

  • Heightened control of the ad buying process

Programmatic advertising provides advertisers with increased controls when running campaigns with the ability to easily adjust budgets or bids, through self-serve platforms. There is even the ability to stop and start campaigns when required, which can be very useful if the desired action is to sell a particular product which may be out of stock.

  • Access to inventory at a lower price point

Through programmatic an advertiser will be bidding on remnant (left over) inventory rather than premium inventory. In purchasing premium inventory the price point is far higher, allowing programmatic advertisers to potentially have access to inventory at lower CPMs rather than purchasing premium, depending on competition. However, a key factor to also remember is programmatic campaigns should really focus on bidding on the user to ensure they closely align to your target audience; so I would not get too hung up on buying at lower CPMs.

  • Enhanced tracking capabilities

The tracking capabilities available through programmatic advertising are becoming more sophisticated and provide advertisers with information around where an advert has been shown, viewability of the served impressions and characteristics of users most who completed the desired action. All of this data allows improved optimizations of campaigns and reinvesting budgets in the correct areas.

4. What KPIs should I focus on to analyze the success of programmatic advertising campaigns?

A key decision before running programmatic advertising campaigns involves how you will evaluate success. I recommend setting KPIs for your campaign. I have outlined some KPIs I would suggest tracking below, these should be tailored dependent on your objectives:

  • Viewability
  • Click-Through Rates
  • CPC
  • Conversions
  • Cost per conversion
  • Return on Investment
  • Click-through attribution
  • View-through attribution
  • Brand search uplift
  • Audience awareness
  • Uplift on social engagement
  • Ad frequency
  • Reach

5. What are all the acronyms and what does this jargon really mean?

It can seem really daunting trying to navigate your way through the maze of terms associated with programmatic advertising; believe me, those who know them may try to bamboozle and intimidate you. I have provided some clarity on the jargon you will hear with some of the key acronyms defined below so you don’t need to be intimidated.

 Ad Exchange 

A digital marketplace that enables publishers to sell advertising space and advertisers to buy ad space. This advertising space is most commonly bought or sold across display, video or mobile media.

 Real-time bidding (RTB)  

An instantaneous bid which is placed on an advertising impression as soon as it becomes available to purchase. These bids happen in milliseconds before a webpage has even loaded. The highest bidder will win the impression much in the same way that an auction is run on eBay.

 Demand-side platform (DSP) 

A piece of software providing buyers and advertisers with a graphical user interface from which they can place bids for advertising space through different ad exchanges. Along with being able to purchase advertising space, the software enables advertisers to select targeting criteria, and set rules that automate how much they are prepared to bid for different impressions that are available to buy from the ad exchanges.

 Supply-side platform (SSP)  

A piece of software providing publishers with a graphical user interface from which they can sell advertising space they have available across display, mobile or video. Through the use of a supply side platform publishers can make their impressions available to ad exchanges, from here the impressions are bid upon typically through demand side platforms (DSPs). As publishers make impressions available to ad exchanges this increases the number of advertisers likely to bid upon them through the DSPs meaning publishers can maximise revenues.

 Agency trading desk (ATD)  

Agencies that purchase and resell media to advertisers on a large scale, helping to manage the buying of campaigns to a particular audience and also the optimization of campaigns using Demand Side Platforms. A trading desk will sell the media on at a premium making money for the service provided to help advertisers reach their target markets.

If you have additional questions about programmatic advertising, leave them in the comments below.

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