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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Digital Industry News

Amazon Enters the Calling and Texting Battlefield

On May 10th 2017, Amazon announced that they were rolling out a new feature for their digital personal assistant, Alexa – free calls and texts between users of Amazon Echo devices.

While it is not the first time that Amazon is trying to penetrate a new market, or create one, this is a complicated one to enter. They have tried to join the travel industry, but did not succeed. They have also been pioneers in drone delivery, and I would not be surprised to see it become the norm in a few years. Amazon was also part of the firsts to join the digital personal assistant race with their Alexa product, which they keep improving at a very fast pace.

What is Alexa?

Alexa is the name Amazon gave to its voice-commanded digital personal assistant, which people interact with through the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Tap or Echo view devices.

You may have read my post about Chatbots; Alexa is a very powerful and sophisticated Chatbot. While commands are still a little strict (not yet a fluid conversation), you can have fun: if you tell her “Alexa, see you later, alligator” she WILL reply, “in a while crocodile!”

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot (Image Source: Amazon)

Alexa can do a wide variety of tasks, from setting up a timer, to playing your favorite song, reading the news, telling you a joke, turning on the lights, playing games or even ordering from your Amazon account the latest item you need. All of this by simply talking to the device.

Amazon allows developers to build Alexa capabilities in a similar way to how they would develop apps for iPhone or Android; allowing the world to create capabilities for their devices, providing scale instantly.

And now, they even allow you to call and text through Alexa!

So why does it matter that they offer calling + texting functionalities?

With approximately 65 million Amazon Prime users (paid subscription to get free deliveries, access to music and films plus more) and an overall estimated 300 million users in total, Amazon is a gigantic ecosystem of its own. When rolling out new features, Amazon instantly touchs hundreds of millions of people; similar to Facebook or Google rolling out a new feature.

The battlefield for calling and texting is crowded however, with very large players already heavily in it such as Facebook with both WhatsApp and Messenger, Apple with iMessage, Microsoft with Skype, the Japanese platform Line and many others.

With approximately 4.9 billion mobile users across the world (WeAreSocial + Hootsuite 2017 report) the opportunity to attract and retain users – and then monetize the relationship one way or another – is gigantic.

By offering this new service, Amazon is trying to take a piece of this pot, getting deeper in day-to-day lives, gathering more data and knowledge about their user’s habits which they can then aggregate into insights for the advertisers on their platform allowing for more personalized experiences and recommendations.

The more actions you can do in one ecosystem, the fewer things you have to get into another ecosystem to get done. When Amazon allows you to seamlessly make lists, order items online and listen to the news, that’s a wide array of other third party apps and systems they have now rendered useless.

By allowing users to call and text, they are – to some extent – replacing your need for a smartphone.

How is this applicable to the hotel industry?

Marriott International is a pioneer in the technology actually, always looking into creative ways to integrate technology in their hotel rooms. Currently Marriott is testing multiple variations in a few hotels, enabling guests to request services, manage their room (lights, tv, etc.), and learn about the local area through voice commands, talking with Alexa.

Wynn Hotels also jumped into it, and already offer it across all their rooms in Las Vegas.

Thinking about the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if brands and marketers start leveraging voice-command digital personal assistants more heavily to answer customer needs and enabling faster/more efficient service for all of a guest’s little requests. True luxury will always require a human touch in my mind, but where applicable, technology will take a larger part in the coming years.

As voice-commanded digital assistants become the norm in households, a guest’s expectation will be to experience this in his/her hotel room. Now whether it’s an Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri-enabled iPad or another player yet to come, only time will tell.

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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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