Just before the turn of the millennium, I started travelling, having the time of my life. My memories are mostly recorded in photo albums and scribbles in travel journals. I generally dislike telephones and steered clear of the mobile phone trend at the time. I’d bet a few quid that Bessie’s B&B in Galway was glad of that when friends and I visited back then. We could only complain about our bad experience after returning home a week later, we made no progress, and Bessie got away with hospitality murder.
Life before mobile
We’d gone to the Tourist Info Center in Dublin for a list of accommodation in the beautiful city of Galway, chose Bessie’s B&B based on a 3-star grading. We wanted a triple room and the price was right. One phone call later, it was booked and that was the extent of our research. That’d never happen today.
We couldn’t find any pictures, brochures or printed flyers of the B&B. Alarm bells should’ve gone off. Yet, we continued with our plans, undeterred. Never happen today either.
31% of consumers will research their next trip from a mobile device.
Travel technology back then was not what it is today. Bessie’s B&B would never have seen me. We lugged our luggage around for an hour after disembarking the train. Bad directions, you see. The B&B was located 10 minutes from the station, just as Bessie had said. Tired and hungry, we decided to run out for a bite first. Returned to our room, desperate for a shower. There was no hot water. It was just after 9 on a Friday night. Apparently the geyser got switched off daily from 7pm to 7am to conserve energy. Important information, wouldn’t you say? One quick cold douche later, we hit the sack, flipped for the cot (the supposed third ‘single bed’) and settled down. My friend in the cot complained all night about the dip in her mattress. A poor choice based on poor information.
Mobile enters the travel fray
Now I own a mobile phone tablet capable of a zillion functions I don’t know how to use. But it’s attached to me like an appendage. I tweet, Facebook and Instagram on it, Whatsapp friends in far away places easily and regularly. While I’ve been a slow convert to the world of mobile (and frequently teased for it), I am a rare exception.
The way we communicate with our devices is evolving as the Internet empowers us with access to the world at our fingertip.
1,700% growth in mobile travel between 2011 & 2015
That’s huge. What it means for the likes of Bessie’s B&B is that a significant proportion of our travellers are connected to the world, plugged into their mobile devices as they travel. They research travel on their mobile phones; then they celebrate on Social Media (SM) when they’re impressed and castigate when they’re unimpressed. You need a mobile strategy to make your content accessible on any mobile device and you need a SM strategy to represent your interests where your clients, existing or prospective, live.
The Need for a Mobile strategy
The power of compelling images and words conveyed on a digital device cannot be exaggerated. It’s a convenient and portable format with recurring impact. It also empowers consumers to interact with content, provide live, immediate feedback and potentially impact directly upon a product. Good quality content in real time across a healthy mix of online marketing channels must be optimised for mobile, for convenience.
Software as a Service is a growing requirement for the hospitality industry as a cost-effective option with generally no initial hardware costs involved nor need for full time IT staff to maintain the system. Cloud-based software promises to solve the challenges of content and turn them into opportunities.
Imagine how useful it would be to track the analytics behind a Facebook app with all your content attached. You have so much room to manoeuvre and data to collect.
Unlike Bessie’s B&B all those years ago.
Millennials are an important group to look out for as the dominant hotel consumers of 2017. They crave personalised services provided by mobile devices and applications. It’s been found by several studies that apps like check-in and e-menu are big motivators when deciding where to stay.
With 75% of search & 51% of revenues expected to come from mobile devices in 2016 hotels targeting business travellers, millennials & connected travellers ought to have a proper mobile strategy in place.
What’s your share of that research time? If you’re throwing your lot in with OTA’s, do it with the understanding that you’re sacrificing some control in the process. You could be managing and controlling your reservations, pricing, inventory and business intelligence independently. Less revenue is lost in commissions. But that’s up to you. Either way, to compete with the online booking machine monster, you must have a strong online presence.
Guide your relationships with your clients so that they become good brand ambassadors.
Harnessing the power of Social Media
An estimated 50% of consumers worldwide make travel purchases based on online recommendations, with SM driving that purchasing power. Leverage its power to provide travellers with multiple options to engage with and share your content. The first step is to identify the formats and platforms of engagement favoured by your target market.
Develop an understanding of your audience, tune into their SM behaviour and target them accordingly or persuade them to take the time to view your content.
And of course, elicit some positive commentary about you.
63% of respondents considered SM channels & recommendations by friends & family the number 1 factor to inspire travel.
Or not, as the case may be. I would’ve made sure nobody I knew landed up at Bessie’s, bless her heart. The most commonly-used SM platforms among travellers include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram in order of popularity, followed by YouTube, Vimeo. According to Stackla, 97% of millennials post photos while travelling! The dippy cot mattress would’ve found instant selfie notoriety on SM today.
Where was Social Media when we needed to raise a stink about inhospitable hospitality?
After a restless night, we finally had a hot shower and looked forward to our included full English breakfast. My friend, who also worked in hospitality and knew her Continental from her English, was adamant that the breakfast set before her was no ‘full English’.. Oh dear! Bessie assumed we wouldn’t know, mumbled something about fried green tomatoes, and offered us extra muffins instead. That certainly wouldn’t happen today, not without public consequences.
Socialising with mobile
You can get very creative on SM and carried away! It can become a full-time job. You’ll learn that what earns you more followers and ‘likes’ varies from one platform to the next.
Animated graphics are most shared on SM, followed by infographics, hand-drawn images, then photos. On Twitter, quotes get the most shares while images with short captions, location tags and #hashtags on Instagram get your content found.
It’s a popularity contest out there – prepare to get your hands dirty.
Seek out that #love: tag existing clients, influential personalities or industry peers; get them to spread your love and take your brand further.
Engage with bloggers, quote and tag them, and get them quoting and talking about you.
Client reviews of your products on SM are first prize because nothing influences other travellers like easy-to-find reviews posted by satisfied clients.
All travellers become amateur photographers, enabled by staple travel accessories like GoPro and selfie sticks. There’s tremendous marketing value in User Generated Content (UGC) including selfies and real-time videos, aka your clients doing your marketing for you, using their mobile devices. Capitalise on that great, positive content as soon as it’s posted. If you’re lucky, a special moment can go ‘viral’ worldwide and earn SM superstar status.
Sophistication in travellers needn’t complicate our lives – a simple appreciation of the tech at our disposal brings us closer to them. The personal touch has moved past the pillow mint and into the realm of the digital device. If I had a time travel app, I’d go back to Bessie’s B&B to show how enticing an iBrochure looks on my tablet. And give her the recipe for a full English breakfast.