Stop spending money on digital… or at least humour me and start to think about it.
Start listening to yourself, an experienced hotelier, someone who has been involved in the industry for quite some time and is keen to continue to develop themselves and their organisation – after all, you wouldn’t be on this site, reading this article if you didn’t.
For a while stop listening to almost everyone else – you know OTA’s, digital agencies (disclosure – I work for one), content marketers, digital marketers, technical specialists, campaign managers, digital experts (who do not exist by the way) – that all sit within the vast and confused menagerie of the digital and ‘online’ world.
Become an intelligent client
Become an intelligent digital client on your terms and build your own knowledge – take some responsibility and don’t leave it up to others – including your competition.
Why am I suggesting this? Well because it is sometimes easy to forget how new this understanding of digital and online is, isn’t it? I believe that ALL businesses (inside and outside of the digital market – as we are all affected by it) that simply continue to be led by the ‘you must do this NOW’ approach to digital change and ‘innovation’ are simply embroiled in a quick race to the bottom.
Take a step back, look at the market for what it is – a huge sprawling mass of noise from which you may occasionally hear words like – “Social”, “Channels”, “Conversions” (which I discuss here) and one of my own favourites which I use too often “Engagement”. What do they all mean? You cannot possibly understand all of them and how they would fit into your business plans, strategies and day to day life without having some time to reflect and step back.
The digital industry has grown very, very quickly – and like anything that has undergone a growth spurt – it’s getting confused, its maturity doesn’t always match its size, and because its immature it does things that aren’t always that socially acceptable… For example, you may or not be aware that the digital industry has nineteen year old students with the word ‘experience’ in their job title – they are everywhere – as if experience is gained in a book rather than through well… experience.
You can see this immaturity in the language we use and ‘push’ onto you – campaigns, mail shots, attribution, segmentation, targets – it sounds as if we are going to war – not trying to work with you and your clients.
So, “this is all very good” I hear you say and if I’ve written the article clearly enough so far you’ll have recognised some behaviours. But you must listen to someone surely?
Listen to your customers and your own experience
Start to understand where you are in a user’s journey – then and only then start thinking about investing in your digital offering. Use online tools to listen to customers but don’t ONLY look at online tools, don’t JUST look at Google Analytics, trends, reports from the digital market. Speak to people (customers are people after all aren’t they?), speak to those that have stayed with you, speak to those that haven’t (here you can look at TripAdvisor reviews etc.).
Understanding where you are in a user’s journey helps you understand where your online offering is best placed and where you can provide your customer with best value and therefore ultimately have control and an understanding of your future plans. Let me use an example to explain the form that this may take;
Start from reminding yourself that your customers are individuals.
A customer may say to you that they simply use an OTA or TripAdvisor as a filter to decide where they want to go, that they then check social and peer reviews to shortlist accommodation and experiences and then (and only then) they will get in contact with their preferred accommodation (be this via a website, email, telephone etc.).
If that’s what you hear – a plan may be to focus on making your website a simple booking based tool – easy steps to enable the customer to book (after all, they’ve done all their research – they trust their friends and peer reviews more than anything you will say) so why not just make their life easy at the end of a long decision making process (which in the US for example can be up to 48 hours in total elapsed time searching for accommodation). Then, when they stay with you – convert them into a loyal customer – that’s your core knowledge and experience coming to the fore and its an intelligent thing to do.
Now you are saying “Speak to all my customers!? Are you kidding – I haven’t the time”. Well, believe it or not – you will find commonalities and what you will naturally see occur is within a base of potentially as few as ten customers (old or potential) you will identify trends – a general rule of thumb is that if five or six people identify the same need or issue then around 80-85% of your customer base will agree – it’s a good start.
Don’t be afraid to take a step back
Look at digital and the hospitality digital market for what it is;
Almost everything in digital and specifically within the online hospitality market is a tool or a product – they really are. For example, an OTA is not a travel agent right? A travel agent looks you in the eye, sees your age, your physical capabilities, the way you bridle at one suggestion and the way your eyes light up and you move forward in your seat at another. They see you as an individual.
An OTA looks at where you have clicked (maybe in a rush), where you’ve looked before (maybe when you are distracted) and then will present information to you – which you may or may not take in (because you are on a bus or a train).
You (and travel agents) understand subtleties in human behaviour, however hard they try online travel agents and online tools cannot. The digital world works in 0’s and 1’s – the entire technological world is based on the off and on state of electrical charges….humans are analogue creatures they have individual personalities and behaviours.
Taking a step back from spending money on your digital space to understand this, reframe your plans and become an intelligent client is something that you simply have to do.