- Despite it being a means to gain significant competitive advantage, most luxury hotels are barely scraping the surface of possibility with digital.
- The luxury hotel market in London is competitive and in the next few years will be considerably more so. We explore how to leap ahead of your competitors
- We share our industry expertise to help you work smarter to drive greater performance and generate considerable additional revenue
In 2003, London attracted around 15 million visitors. By 2018, that number rose to 31.2 million. And as the number of tourists increased, so did the demand for high-end accommodation.
To support this, high-end, luxury hotels changed gear. We witnessed high investment in both renovation (Claridge’s alone is reported to have invested around £800m) and redevelopment, with a number of new kids on the block entering the market. The Rosewood, The Set Collection, and Jumeirah to name a few.
But while the owners of these entities, both private investors and private equity, spent large sums of money on the purchase and/or renovations of the bricks and mortar, they’ve given much less credence to their digital estate.
So, as a luxury hotelier, what should you do to help bring your digital estate in line with your physical presence, and how can you ensure you’re sweating these assets as hard as the rooms within your hotels?
Today, many luxury hotels still treat their website as a shop window; a static view of ‘what’s on’ and what you can do within the hotel.
While this might have been valid 15 years ago, the digital landscape – and for that matter, HNW consumers – are now much more complex.
Consequently, the opportunities to drive broader digital estate have exploded, as have the expectations of the wealth consumer.
Overall, there’s a strong need for a digital transformation within the sector to help luxury hotels not only reduce costs but drive much higher revenues.
In a market place which is only set to become more competitive, how can your brand start to adjust and gain competitive advantage?
Elevating your brand’s Online Presence
Luxury hotels spend a huge amount of time and effort with their physical estates as well as their customer service.
From the scent in the lobby through to the butler for your suite – nothing is left to chance. But this is not mimicked digitally, even though this is often a customer’s first impression of the brand.
Historically, your website has been the cornerstone of what your brand represents. But today, there’s a myriad of tools and platforms at your disposal, through which you can communicate with your HNW audience in a manner they find both appealing and convenient.
From social media to publishers, to email programmes and paid media, all have a role you can leverage to drive your entire digital estate harder.
So how do we look to win favour with this discerning demographic?
Using digital to propel your luxury hotel beyond the ordinary
- Shake up your video and imagery
So many brands believe the hotel speaks for itself, showing big imposing images of the lobby or flagship suite.While there is still the need for bigger creative shoots for the flagship moments – Christmas, renovations, weddings etc. you also need to keep your community engaged with short snackable content, built in a timely manner, offering more than the traditional sales message.HNWs are looking for content that speaks their language: lifestyle content built around key themes of the hotel (more later) and short video formats that work well in social media as well as across paid advertising.
Alongside this, adding in timely content, for example, news of the new french menu in the restaurant, can be shared across social channels to help drive awareness to the right audience.
And reactive content can help luxury hotels to appear authentic and accessible, while still retaining creative control over their visual style and Tone of Voice.
The Small Luxury Hotels group, for example, exemplifies this using TikTok to showcase their collection of boutique properties. They’ll often reference influencer trends, such as the ‘floating breakfast’ – a luxury option offered by some hotel brands, where guests can enjoy breakfast while taking a morning dip.
The popularity of shortform content can’t be ignored. On TikTok, for example, videos containing the #luxuryhotels hashtag have attracted 205.7 million views to date.
By building out a bank of content to use with publishers and partners alike, you’ll elevate the interactions with HNWs. This regular drum beat of content will help to keep you front of mind, affirm a long-term two-way dialog with your community, and ahead of your competitors.
- Tell a storyAll luxury hotels have wonderful stories, heartlands and pedigree.From sourcing products and partners through to the details within the hotels, both seen and unseen. This is rich pickings for creating a regular run rate of content to keep your community engaged.
Brands often overlook these moments, choosing to push budget towards non-brand search instead (please see our white paper on this). However, this is expensive and difficult to convert, and brands often miss the bigger picture.
HNWIs aren’t interested in being sold to each time they interact with a brand. Actually this is at the bottom of their list of needs from high-end hotels.
HNWIs want to live the dream. They love the brand and want to indulge in its new services, facilities, or stories. From celebs that used the hotel in the 1960s and the debauched shenanigans they got up to, through to how the newly renovated bar chose its flagship whiskey supplier.
This approach offers much richer value. It provides informative, fun, uplifting content that can be used across social and your CRM to help boost engagement and keep you front-of-mind,
Building a long-term approach to this will pay dividends. Consumers will want to see and hear more from your luxury hotel and feel part of its story while salivating for their next stay.
This has a much deeper connection than just being sold to.
- Keep it exclusiveAnother important point to make is exclusivity. HNWIs want to be at the forefront of new trends, therefore prizing brand interactions which promise exclusivity.A report published by PWC found that affluent consumers spend up to three hours of their personal time online every day; 90 mins of which is spent on social media.
And according to GWI, when looking at their purchase journey, HNWIs are 1.3 times more likely than the average consumer to be motivated by exclusive content or services.
This means that brands have to compete even more for attention from this audience – the promise of exclusivity therefore, rather than pushy sales messages, is likely to achieve greater cut-through.
- Consider performanceMost luxury hotels tick the basic boxes of driving room bookings and F&B through digital, but what else can be done ‘behind the scenes’ to really boost performance?Google Hotel Ads. Google Hotel Ads allow you to drive down direct and call centre costs by removing your brand from companies specialising in Meta Search as well as OTAs. You can control these ads directly within Google Ads giving you greater control over your brand and visibility while still reaping the rewards from aggregators such as Booking.com. A win all around.
So while this might sound simple, the only barrier is allowing feeds to be plugged in from your back office systems; search engines will need live price and room availability in order for this to work.
Feeds. Most hotels are behind the curve with this, as upgrading your back office systems can be complex,
However, current hotel systems offer feeds by default, which allow you to take availability and pricing information directly to the search engine.
Not only this, but if your site is eCommerce, this information can also be pushed directly into Google Shopping and other shopping platforms such as social, helping you to drive revenue across a wider mix.
ECommerce. We’re seeing a rise in luxury hotel brands making the most of their customer loyalty by launching branding accessories, such as luxury hampers, bed linen and crockery. There are also opportunities to go much further and help develop a longer-term commercial arrangement over the standard offering.
We’ve seen examples from high street brands such as Zara broadening its connection with its audience through its homeware stores – Zara Home.
We’re also seeing restaurants offer a complete food delivery service that allows you to order the ‘cooking experience’, providing everything from the chef’s recipes, notes and ingredients through to the cooking knives used.
Customers want to buy into the brand, so give them the opportunity to do so.
Social. Use social not just as a means to keep in touch with your community, but also to drive your commercial objectives,
Again, feeds can be automated so the eCommerce offering can bring your range of products and partnerships to life in a much more authentic way.
- Review your dataWhile people might find this area a little boring, to really drive the objectives above, you need a clean and reliable data set.As the opportunities above build commercially, the finance directors and CFOs will take a greater interest in how this is performing. Getting the bedrock of your campaigns structured correctly is key, as is making sure all digital marketing stakeholders are brought into the different KPIs from branding objectives through to hard performance goals.
Tools – what platform are you using? If Google, have you moved to GA4? This is mandatory and anyone on the older analytics will find their data stops in a few months. But GA4 is the next step and will enrich the insights we can gain, so it’s important that this is setup correctly or audited to ensure historical bugs are ironed out – revenue and impression discrepancies, for example.
KPIs – Do you have a clear KPI framework? How are you evaluating the activity you’re running? Brand and performance have different goals and measurements. While this might be understood in the digital team, does the rest of the business buy into this and do you have the right budget split in place to support the different objectives? Is everyone clear on what success looks like?
Reporting – Lots of brands spend too much time on reporting (or getting their agency to do it). Reporting is vital, but we’ve seen projects where 40% of the project’s time is consumed in building complex management reports and insights. So let’s automate. The grind of the daily/weekly reports can be supercharged straight to the relevant teams’ inbox, opening more time for monthly discussions on how we take these insights and develop the programme of work.
In summary, it’s an exciting time for luxury hotels as the bar for digital development is still relatively low. Where this type of strategy has been developed in the past we have seen high double digit growth of revenues while also increasing occupancy rates across flagship hotels as well as the group. So stealing a march on your competitors will be relatively easy to do with the right investment and approach.
However, this window won’t stay open for long; as the London hotel market gets more crowded, so will the digital expertise. If you’re keen to look at your digital estate and want to talk to luxury hotel experts then please get in touch.