Big data can be a powerful tool for hotel marketers as they create messages for Facebook, Twitter and email campaigns, panelists said during a HSMAI webinar.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Big data can be a big deal for hotel marketers, panelists said during a recent Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International webinar titled “Leveraging the Digital Tool Box to Optimize Your Transient and Leisure Business.”
“Everyone has a tremendous amount of data, and he who uses the data he has will win,” said Loren Gray, director of ecommerce for Ocean Properties Limited, a Florida-based operator of more than 130 hotels. “There is data everywhere: from your (customer relationship management system), property folios and, if you choose, via off-the-shelf software.”
Gray used Facebook as an example of how hotel operators can use the power of big data to create marketing campaigns that drive incremental revenues to their properties. In particular, he focused on Facebook Power Editor as a platform for creating and distributing ads on the site.
“Think of all the information we’ve all surrendered to Facebook and all the ways Facebook has learned to interpret that data: what our friends like, what we say about our travels, where our friends travel,” Gray said. “Using Facebook Ads, you can identify interests and demographics but you can’t identify what platforms you would like the advertising to appear on. Power Editor gives you the ability to determine on what platforms these ads will show up on: desktops, mobile, Apple, Android.”
One useful tactic is what Don Hay, president and CEO of Digital Alchemy, called “geofencing.”
“You can set up a geofence so when someone enters a particular (location), say a mile from your property, you can send them a Facebook message advertising a drink special or some other promotion,” Hay said. “They may be staying across the street at another hotel but you can target them on Facebook and maybe get them to visit your property so they stay with you when they come back to the area.”
Ocean Properties employed geofencing in a Facebook-based social media campaign to drive weekend business at a new food-and-beverage outlet in one of its hotels. On a Friday evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., the hotel pushed an ad to Facebook that appeared on the pages of people in their late 20s who indicated they weren’t in a relationship and were located within three miles of the restaurant. The ad offered free valet parking to those people who showed the ad.
“The lot holds 150 cars and it filled up almost immediately,” Gray said. “I’ve often said you can advertise online to a Hindu man in Amish country looking for Tex-Mex. I can now add to that: you can also say I want him to be 43 years old, have two daughters, own a house in New York that’s worth $750,000 and drive a BMW he bought last year. The filtration of the data is amazing.”
Another strategy, Gray said, is to “build a knowledge base about your guests that enables you to create several different ads, each one with a variable in them, to see what the response rate is associated to each one of them.”
“It’s not so much about advertising or marketing; it’s about getting to the people who want our product the most and letting them know about our product and giving them the choice of whether to purchase it or not,” he said. “I don’t want to market to everybody. I want to market to you.”
Hay said hotels have for many years collected massive amounts of data but legacy computer systems haven’t been able handle it because the amount of data is so large and difficult to process.
It’s now possible because “we can now store much more data and the cost of storage is getting cheaper: from $1.30 per gigabyte of data 10 years ago to … now about 2.3 cents per gigabyte.”
Even a review of readily available usage data from Facebook and Twitter can help marketers craft their messages, Hay said. For example, Twitter engagement rates for branded companies in all businesses are 17% higher on Saturdays and Sundays, yet only 19% of tweets from brand companies happen on weekends.
“That clearly shows you should be using Twitter more on the weekends, but you wouldn’t know that fact without analyzing big data,” he said. Other insights from Twitter:
- Tweets with image links have engagement rates two times higher than tweets without image links.
- Tweets that contain links receive 86% higher retweet rates than those without links.
- Tweets with less than 100 characters produce 17% higher engagement than longer tweets.
- Tweets with hashtags produce two times more engagement than those without, and tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those with three or more hashtags, yet only 24% of tweets contain hashtags.
He shared other data points from Facebook postings that hotel marketers can use:
- Photo posts receive interaction rates 39% higher than average.
- Long URLs produce 16% higher interaction than do shorter ones because users know where the link is going, unlike short addresses, which users don’t trust.
- Posts that have a question at the end receive two times as many comments as those without a question.