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Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 in Digital Industry News

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It has been a busy couple of months over here at Digital Services! But no matter how jam-packed our schedules might be, we always make time to bring you the latest in digital and marketing industry news. There have been a lot of industry updates circling around the internet over the past month. Here are a few of the articles we’ve been reading. Did we miss any of your favorites?

man-coffee-cup-pen(Image Source: Pexels)

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Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Digital Industry News

Augmented Reality in Hospitality – A Whole New World

As advertising in the hospitality industry becomes more competitive, catching your target audience’s eye and maintaining customer engagement can pose a challenge. In this tech-driven, millennial-centric era, it is imperative to set yourself apart and convince your on-site visitors that you are the travel company central to all their travel needs. In 2015, Marriott’s pledge to innovation brought forward virtual reality (VR) as the next development in the field of experiential marketing. Known for consistently pushing technological boundaries, Marriott introduced and tested VR set-ups in New York and London to change the way people make travel plans.

Marriott Virtual Reality(Image Source: Framestore VR)

In collaboration with Oculus and Samsung Electronics, the concept of teleporting was made possible by being whisked away to a whole new world (yes, cue Disney’s Aladdin soundtrack), incorporating real sensory experiences. What’s the big deal? Well, Marriott successfully led the industry by combining two key elements: storytelling and technology, allowing guests to follow real travelers on different journeys, to “travel brilliantly.” Super cool, isn’t it? Now, the question is, what did we learn from that experience, and why should we consider incorporating VR again?

Marriott VR(Image Source: World Economic Forum)

3 Reasons VR Is Needed in the Hospitality and Travel Industry

  1. It’s Real. Instead of showcasing a destination via pre-filmed videos, you can transport your customers to our far-off resorts without having them leave the room. With VR technology, this 4-D experience is as good as the real deal and holds the potential of enhancing the client experience. It has the power to completely transform the “look before you book” idea to a real-life simulation. Driving an emotional capability like no other media platform, guests are given the opportunity to temporarily sample precious moments and unforgettable adventures. Real life over reel life any day, right?
  1. It’s competitive. Think about it – VR can be a very powerful marketing and communications tool. A unique tool to aid travel decision-making processes, we can truly leverage our brands and the experiences we offer on a global scale. Furthermore, by placing our guests in the center of our destinations virtually, we have the ability to change the way they interact with us in the hospitality and travel industry. Whilst other industries step forward and welcome VR with open arms, perhaps it’s time we bring it back as well to differentiate our merchandising practices from those employed by our competitors.
  1. It’s cost effective. Now you’re thinking: Wow, this is whack – there is no way we’re investing in this super-expensive technology. But what if we think of it from a long-term investment point of view? Yes, an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive ranges from $599-$799, excluding the cost of developing 4-D content (and you’re probably scoffing at the thought of wasting money), but the return on investment is projected to be higher. For some, this may not be convincing enough, but, sometimes, the lasting impression can be of a greater value – one we hold close to our hearts.

Virtual Reality Marriott(Image Source: Framestore VR)

Here’s to the Future

VR just provides another outlet for creative marketing and implementing groundbreaking trends into this industry – the results that can be achieved through this are limitless. To start off, one could utilize this tool specifically for event planning, such as destination weddings, honeymoon travels and other special occasions, providing a true taste of what the location has to offer. You wonder, would someone really want to check out their venue virtually over being there in person? Perhaps not, but VR could be the first in line to entice our guests with all that we can offer. VR provides an affordable means to decision-making for some couples and families, rather than an in-person trip to sign a contract for the desired event destination. Although this may not be a guaranteed reservation, it is definitely a means of consideration in travel decision-making. By adding informative material in the content that decision makers will appreciate, we can stay ahead of guest expectations and obtain a marketing advantage.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am all in for teleporting!

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 in Digital Industry News, Travel Industry News

The World of Metasearch – Quick News Hits from the Metasearch Giants

Since 2014, metasearch traffic has tripled. More recently, it has been suggested that metasearch advertising is one of the most important channels for hotels, allowing properties to amplify their book-direct strategies. If you aren’t familiar with metasearch channels, in a nutshell, they aggregate rates from a variety of sources and allow a user to compare a supplier’s room rates against those of many other channels. Koddi, a metasearch bid-automation platform, recently shared an excellent infographic to help answer the question “What is metasearch?

If you are already well-versed in the metasearch landscape, you know that the space is becoming increasingly competitive. Today, many of the major players are prioritizing innovation and ramping up marketing spend to ensure they can solidify their spot in the future of the hotel-rate-comparison business. Take a look at what some of the biggest competitors are up to these days:

Google Hotel Ads Tests, Including Vacation Rentals

This summer, Google began testing, including vacation rentals in their Hotel Ads interface – a first and major milestone for the company. Traditionally, users could search for dates and see a variety of hotels, but never alternative lodging options. According to Skift, the test appears to include 7,000 property listings and is focused on European cities, including Barcelona, Paris and Rome. and (owned by Expedia) both have listings appearing in the test; notably, Airbnb and HomeAway are not present. Koddi President/Co-founder Nicholas Ward noted a few clear shortcomings of the current user experience, including the lack of filtering options, content and reviews for the vacation rentals. Even still, the test marks the monumental entrance of Google into the vacation-rental business, and the company certainly has the resources for further testing and development if there is demand.

Google Hotel Ads(Image Source: Jacqueline Sharp, screen capture of Google Hotel Ads)

“Alexa, ask Kayak to book me a hotel room”

Conversational search queries are on the rise and, in May 2016, Google stated that 20% of mobile queries were voice searches. For the hotel industry, though, voice bookings were an untapped playing field until Kayak introduced the opportunity to book hotel rooms through Amazon’s Alexa, the persona of the Echo device, in June 2017. The new functionality can be used in two ways:

  1. You can share your destination and travel dates with Alexa, and she will recite the available hotels and their rates. When you hear one you like, you can request to book it.
  2. You already know where you’d like to stay and when, then you can ask Alexa for the rates and to complete the reservation.

Of course, for users who are interested in scouring many different sites to find the best rate, reading reviews and looking at photos, the Alexa experience will not be well-suited. Even still, the capability is the first for the industry, and will only get better and more advanced with time.

TripAdvisor Reacts to a Decrease in Advertising Spend

In July 2017, TripAdvisor experienced softer cost-per-click pricing on their hotel metasearch rate ads – a result of suppliers and OTAs spending less than in the past. Expedia and Priceline had traditionally been the company’s largest advertisers, contributing up to 46% of the annual revenue. But with the recent decrease in advertising spend, which is not particular to one region but rather experienced globally, TripAdvisor has taken action.

While it may be too early to tell if major OTAs pulling their money from TripAdvisor and directing it elsewhere will become a trend, the company has launched a series of television commercials to combat the lost revenue. Between July and September, TripAdvisor will spend over $35 million on the television spots, and will run the campaigns in the United States, Canada, France, Spain, the UK and Australia.

Trivago Urges Independent Hotels to Advertise Online

Trivago’s CEO Rolf Schrömgens recently shared that “Trivago now has access to 1.8 million properties sourced from more than 180 booking sites, more than 230 hotel chains and some 11,000 individual hotels.” While these numbers are impressive at first, it’s estimated that there are between 140,000 and 600,000 independent hotels globally, leaving a tremendous amount of properties outside of the Trivago landscape. Today, the majority of hotels on the platform are the major chains, while many independent hotels rely on OTAs to drive their businesses instead.

Trivago hopes that by continuing extensive television advertising, they will further achieve brand recognition, and as Schrömgens shares, “It’s hard to reach them [the independent hotels]. But this effort will help.” In addition to increased advertising, Trivago introduced Rate Insights in June 2017, a solution designed to help independent hoteliers access rate data and understand traveler search volume and fluctuations.


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Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in Digital Industry News

Generation Z. Who Are They, and Why Do They Have So Much Money?

Mary Grace Cooney was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During her time with us, we challenged her to write a blog post about content that she learned while working with our team.

Look alive – Generation Z is here. Spanning ages 7-20, these technology masterminds are revolutionizing the way businesses need to advertise, which constantly keeps the travel industry on its toes. Gen Zers are generally seen as globally conscious individuals who have a major impact on what money is spent on, and how it is done. The mindset of the Gen Zer is everchanging, making it challenging for the travel industry to stay ahead of the game and create lifelong loyalty members from a young age. Let’s take a look at how the industry can keep up with the superpower known as Generation Z.

Who exactly is Generation Z and what is the group’s purchasing power? Let’s break it down. According to Uniquely Generation Z, a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, a Gen Zer is, “someone who was born in the mid-1990s or beyond, and estimated to be between 2 billion and 2.52 billion strong. Self-reliant digital natives, they socialize, learn, and have fun living in a fluid digital world – one in which the boundaries between their online and offline lives are nearly indistinguishable.”¹ To put it simply, purchasing power is the ability to buy goods and services with money. Purchasing power can also be seen in the form of influencing purchases, which Gen Zers do a great deal of.

Generation Z(Image Source: IBM)

As shown above, Gen Zers spend a lot of time online, but they also spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends and family, actually stepping away from their screens for a bit. Socializing is at the forefront of their daily thoughts, so it is important for companies to design products that give Gen Zers something to talk about. According to the CMO of Home and Lifestyle, “They [Generation Z] are ‘always on’ and expect everything to be available ‘on-demand’ because they are used to having everything at their fingertips 24/7.”¹

What Generation Z Cares About(Image Source: IBM)

It is crucial for companies to conceptualize the chart above. Yes, Gen Zers have this purchasing power, but will they spend it on your goods and services? As shown, almost half of the surveyed individuals care about what their peers think, as well as trying to stay as eco-friendly as possible when purchasing. Take Amazon, for example, who does a fantastic job of appealing to Generation Z. Their business model is one of the best at capitalizing on efficiency. It is rare for Amazon to sell out of an item or delay shipping, even on their ever-popular Prime Day. In fact, they are so efficient, they now can get items to your doorstep within one or two hours. If that doesn’t scream the instant gratification that Gen Zers long for, then what does? Hotels can capitalize on this speed and use it to their advantage when assisting Gen Zers. Marriott is beginning to incorporate “speedy technology” that greatly appeals to Gen Zers, such as mobile check-in and digital room keys. This is a great start, and will only improve from here on out.

Although some Gen Zers have limited monetary spending power, they usually have an enormous influence over purchases made by their families. In 2015, Gen Zers spent a mountainous $829.5 billion USD.2 A lot of this can be contributed to the age difference seen in households. Gen Zers grew up in the digital age, unlike their parents and grandparents. According to a press release put out by MarketWired, “Gen Z, tweens/teens carry significant influence on household purchases than previous generations. Ninety-three percent say their children have at least some influence on their family’s spending and household purchases.”3 The teens and tweens of this generation influence the buying of everything from food and beverage, to bigger-ticket items such as travel, and everything in between. According to VisionCritical, 86% of Gen Z’ers prefer to stay in hotels. Staying relevant in the eyes of a Gen Zer by appealing to their likes and interests is a great way to make sure you become their go-to hotel. These individuals have a vital influence on their families’ decision to travel, and have ever-changing preferences. It has been said that Gen Zers growing up in the digital age want a good story and are won over by video. It is crucial to “sell” Gen Zers the experience that your hotel can offer them, assuring them that you are worth their time. The chart below illustrates what Gen Zers spend their money on and how they influence the spending of money by their families.

Generation Z Influencers(Image Source: IBM)

According to IBM’s study, over 75% of Gen Zers spend at least half, if not more, of their monthly income on clothes, food and technology, among other things. Where does this money come from? Although a lot of it stems from allowances and gifts, a quarter of Gen Zers seek out jobs and ways to make money online. They are a forward-thinking generation and use this to their benefit. Being able to use and create innovative technologies propel these teens into entrepreneurial masterminds with endless possibilities at their fingertips. The hotel digital experience must be nothing short of consistent eye-opening interactions to ultimately hook Gen Zers and reel them in. Some examples of this can be seen in recent efforts done in Marriott’s Innovation Lab Hotel.

As Generation Z matures, so will their lifestyle and behavioral decisions. Marriage, entering the workforce and purchasing a home are only a few of the factors that are bound to increase the purchasing power that Generation Z holds. As far as businesses are concerned, Gen Z is a spending force to be reckoned that has no plans of stopping anytime soon. Generation Z loves to feel appreciated and special, and it’s up to hotels to make them feel that way. They have nothing but options to exercise, and the ability to make decisions that not only affect them, but those around them.




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Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Digital Industry News

George Corbin Shares How to Get Ahead – In Life and Business

George Corbin, former Senior Vice President, Marriott Digital, recently shared some inspiring advice about life and career development with Marriott’s digital team. Watch the video to learn what is the most important question to ask and which word limits companies and careers.

“Your true lasting impact is what you did for other people. How you made them feel. What you enabled them to do. Those are the ripples that change lives. Those are the ones that last.” Statements like this not only reveal George’s leadership style but also reflect Marriott’s corporate culture well.

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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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