Digital marketing consultant Michael Shaw shared best practices for incorporating personalization into hotel websites to drive loyalty with guests.
NEW YORK CITY—Personalized website content and experiences for hotel website visitors isn’t just a nice-to-have tool in the digital marketing toolbox; it’s necessary for creating loyalty, said consultant Michael Shaw, client success manager for Hedgehog Development.
“Personalization is the process of creating a customized experience for visitors to a website,” Shaw explained in the session he led at last week’s HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference. “It’s not new—it’s marketing with more advanced technology.”
And it’s linked tightly with loyalty, he said, because “customer loyalty is determined by every experience.”
“Loyalty matters,” he said. “Why do I go to my local bar? Because they know me, and they’re personalizing the experience to me. As soon as the bartender leaves, I’m gone.”
Shaw pointed to the retail industry, particularly Amazon, as leaders when it comes to personalizing website experiences.
“Data from Accenture shows that 75% of people are likely to buy if you personalize by name, recommend options based on past purchases and you know their purchase history,” he said. “Retail does a good job of that.”
He laid out several steps for hotel digital marketers to take to create a personalization strategy for their site:
1. Create the right team
“The first thing you want to do is establish a team,” he said. “It’ll have an executive sponsor, digital strategist, content marketer, digital analyst and others.”
He said people are critical, even as the industry ventures toward machine learning and artificial intelligence in marketing.
“As your organization prepares for machine learning, do you have the right tagged data to give to a machine?” he asked. “A personalization organization needs organized and tagged data or none of this works. That’s the organization that is ahead of the curve once machine learning is implemented.”
2. Choose your tech stack
“Your tech stack should be extensible. Second, it should be integrable, taggable and organizable,” he said. “Humans like organization.”
3. Identify KPIs
When identifying and quantifying the key performance indicators the team sets, he advised starting small.
“A lot of people like to go big with personalization, but if you start huge, you fail,” he said. “Start small. Know what’s causing impact and what’s causing failures. Starting small shows incremental values. Celebrate your failures: When you work incrementally, you know when things fail and you can turn them off.”
4. Be tactical in your approach
When it comes to actually implementing these strategies, Shaw said marketers should ask four questions on every page load of a website:
“First, ask what do I know about the visitor now? I should know more every time they load a page, and how are they engaging,” he said.
“Second, what can I give the visitor to make them happy and loyal? Are they looking for information? Instead of throwing offers in their face, am I giving them itineraries?
“Third, ask what do I want the visitor to do next? Eventually, if I don’t have anything else for them to do, it’s time to convert,” he continued.
“Fourth, what can I show the visitor to drive them to the next stage of the user journey?
Overall, Shaw advised marketers to have goals in mind, even if they’re starting small and working incrementally.
“Start with success in mind,” he said. “Don’t just say, ‘Oh, we’ll try some stuff.’ Try to be tactical and find a goal you can do something with.”