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Posted by on Jan 17, 2017 in All Matters SEO |

Haute Digital: Luxury Hotels and Digital Strategy of the Future

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With Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels, the company will be adding three luxury and four upper upscale brands to its portfolio. St. Regis, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, Le Meridien, Westin, Tribute Portfolio, Sheraton and Design Hotels will all be joining the Marriott family for a grand total of 30 brands. It’s no surprise that all parties involved with this acquisition have quite a workload ahead of them, and the rest of the industry is eagerly anticipating every move. All eyes will be on the digital aspect of the developments, as it is the most rapidly changing facet of the world today.

Luxury travel gone digital

The luxury segment is a big deal because global luxury travel is the fastest growing of all the tourism and travel sectors. It’s expected to reach $195.27 billion by 2021 as upscale hotels become a key focus in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and other regions. Historically, luxury brands have had a love hate relationship with digital marketing, so this will be a critical piece of the pie as the world’s largest hospitality company works these brands into their overall digital strategy. The thing is, it isn’t easy to recreate the luxury experience online. How can luxury hospitality brands keep up with the changing digital sphere while remaining true to brand values? And what digital trends should these haute brands explore moving forward?

Skift_Average Travel Budget_Luxury Travel

(Image Source: Skift)

Personalize the digital experience

Digital strategy must always reflect a brand’s offering, but how does one recreate the feeling of a concierge who treats you like royalty, or the ambiance of a swanky marble lobby through a few clicks on a screen? Luxury hotels have had personal customer service nailed down forever, and transferring that level of service to the digital user experience is the next step. Many fashion retailers have launched live online chat services for customers as they browse the website. Customers must initiate this service on their own, so it isn’t a nuisance. Luxury hotels could easily impress guests with online chat features similar to this. The booking confirmation is an ideal time to gather more information about the guest to prepare for their stay and ensure every detail is to their liking upon arrival. Adding a few more questions at the end of the booking path is an opportunity to personalize the stay, gathering information in exclusive offerings to foster loyalty later on.

Luxe Content

It seems like content marketing and luxury brands were made for each other. Luxury brands tell a story because they are founded on a rich legacy. Content marketing makes consumers stop, read, think and behave differently. So, when executed well, consumers actually look forward to content marketing. The travel and hospitality industries have it in the bag because so many people today look to travel blogs and magazines for enjoyment and inspiration. Traveler is a great example of an inspirational blog with marketing woven in so naturally that readers actively seek it out. AC Hotels features the “Unpacked Series” on its brand site, where trendy influencers who match the brand’s ethos share their stories and inspirations. Or what about the New York EDITION’s swanky video showcasing the brand’s version of new luxury at the hotel’s grand opening? Within 10 seconds of watching, viewers get a glimpse of the sweet life at The New York EDITION and want in on it. Another benefit of great content is search engine optimization. If your hotel is enrolled in Digital Services, you’ll know we conduct periodic content and keyword refreshes because search engines reward websites that publish quality, consistent content. To sum it up, luxury hotels have interesting stories to tell and they need to pique their target audience’s interest with creative content to stay relevant.

Luxury Travel Content

(Image Source: EDITION Hotels)

Luxe Social

It’s impossible to discuss content marketing without mentioning social media because it is a key component to any content strategy. Luxury hotels have done a tremendous job at embracing social platforms by leveraging their guests to produce personal content. Similarly to most travelers, the affluent traveler likes to feel as though they are part of the conversation, not as if they are being sold to. We’ve seen boutique hotels like Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, designate “selfie spots” for guests to pose with backdrops of beautiful city views. The Mandarin Oriental Paris offers the “Selfies in Paris” package with a Mercedes Classe E and a personal driver. The hotel also hosts competitions for guests to win a free stay by tagging it in selfies. All selfies aside, luxury hotels are using Twitter for concierge services, social geo-locating platforms for guests to unlock free gifts, Facebook for customer service and YouTube to showcase unique selling features- and this is just the beginning. We’ve already started seeing hotels using proximity beacons to communicate with customers as they walk by the property’s coffee shop or restaurant, for example. It will be exciting to see this technology creatively used by luxury brands for exclusive offers.

Designated Selfie Spot

(Image Source: DOTW News)

The Future for Luxe Digital

Now that we’ve covered the digital initiatives cutting edge luxury brands are using and will be utilizing more of in the future, you may be asking “how can I step up our game at my property?” As with traditional marketing, hotel marketers should start with one new initiative at a time. The beauty of digital is that nothing is permanent, so test out some new strategies and see how your guests respond. Consider the cost and manpower involved and determine metrics to understand if it is worth continuing on a larger scale. Ultimately, whatever digital marketing initiatives your hotels choose should be authentic and natural to the brand and property. These are all considerations that Marriott’s brand teams will be making as they adapt the expanded luxury portfolio to the current digital trends and pave the way with the new.