Digital Marketing

The Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Online Media Agency - By Sara O’Brien

In the fast-paced, always-innovating online media space, hotel marketers have a newfound opportunity to invest in higher converting campaigns with increasingly smarter targeting technologies. Today’s hotel marketer must have a forward-thinking and hospitality-focused online media partner who can guide them in bringing the most ROIs from this growing and complex channel.

HeBS digital In the fast-paced, always-innovating online media space, hotel marketers have a newfound opportunity to invest in higher converting campaigns with increasingly smarter targeting technologies. Today’s hotel marketer must have a forward-thinking and hospitality-focused online media partner who can guide them in bringing the most ROIs from this growing and complex channel.

Influenced by unprecedented advancements in technology, display advertising is growing at a staggering 21 percent and is expected to surpass paid search in 2015. Social Media and Online video advertising are also commixing with the display category, and are growing 29 percent and 23 percent respectively (ZenithOptimedia 2014).

While complex on the backend, the newest technologies available in display advertising are surprisingly cost-effective, quick and easy for hoteliers to implement today. Some examples include:

  • Smarter Targeting: Extremely intelligent targeting innovations such as Similar Audiences, Retargeting, In-Market Travel Intent Targeting, etc. are released regularly and highly focused options are already available to help hotels reach the most qualified guests who are ready to make a booking.
  • Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM): The latest digital technology and marketing innovations allow hoteliers to feature the property’s real-time availability and rates in various marketing initiatives on the top demand aggregator sites and ad networks. This innovation is called Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM) and can dramatically increase campaign effectiveness and boost conversion rates.
The possibilities for hoteliers in the display space are more exciting and accessible than ever before.

So does your online media agency have what it takes to bring your hotel to the next level in this high-growth category and generative significant returns? Here are some questions to help you find out.

1. Do you offer Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM)?

Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM) is a next-generation, direct-response marketing category, which allows real-time hotel inventory availability and pricing to be inserted in various advertising initiatives.

Dynamic Rate Marketing instantaneously turns display advertising from a predominantly branding initiative into a direct-response advertising format. DRM dramatically increases campaign effectiveness, boosts conversion rates, and increases direct online bookings. By combining online advertising and marketing campaigns with real-time hotel inventory availability and pricing, hoteliers can satisfy travelers’ demands for instant and truthful hotel pricing information, as well as respond in real time to changing market conditions and comp set behavior.

Where will you see your property’s Dynamic Rate Marketing display campaigns? Hotel marketers can now promote any property on the top travel ad networks, featuring all the important demand generators such as Google Display Network, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, and more.

Typical conversion from this type of ad is 2-4 times higher than regular banner advertising. For example, through HeBS Digital’s proprietary “DRMcloud” enabling technology, hotels, resorts, and casinos can now seamlessly integrate real time availability and pricing on the top travel ad networks that utilize in-market travel intent targeting and retargeting, and enjoy ROAS as high as 2,500%.

2. Do you implement innovative display advertising targeting such as Similar Audiences, Retargeting, and In-Market Buyers via the Google Display Network?

The Google Display Network is the largest global network, reaching over 87% of Internet users worldwide and 94% of all US Internet users per month. Its collection of over 2 million publishers includes hundreds of comScore’s top 1,000 sites. Hoteliers should not only have a presence in this space, but they should be using the latest digital targeting innovations to bring qualified visitors and potential bookers to their site, such as:

Similar Audiences: This targeting option uses the browsing activities of your website visitors and targets users with similar interests and habits.

Retargeting: Reaches visitors who have been to your site, have shown interest, and have started the conversion process. Retargeting aims to bring those customers back with highly relevant messages that pertain to the interest they have shown while visiting the site (weddings, family travel, business, etc.)

In-Market Buyers: Reaches people whose habits suggest that they are in the final phases of the purchase conversion funnel for a product similar to yours (i.e. a hotel room in your market) and ready to make a booking.

With these options, hoteliers can target the most qualified user, allowing them to spend less and generate significantly higher returns.

Read our case study on increasing direct bookings and traffic with the Google Display Network.

3. Do you execute highly-specialized targeting via travel ad networks utilizing first party data from airlines to target people who are in market to fly to your property’s destination?

Travel ad networks are increasingly advanced in their capabilities to utilize first party data from airlines and travel planning resources, to target people who are traveling right to your destination. The data insight is collected directly from the primary source: companies such as Delta, United, US Airways, as well as major hotel brands such as Marriott, Wyndham, Preferred Hotels, and more. These travel ad networks have access to loyalty program data, purchase patterns, and more, allowing them to build very specific profiles based on a variety of activities and purchases over time.

For example, a luxury hotel in New York City may target people with a higher household income who have just researched or booked a business class or first class ticket to JFK Airport. In this scenario, the hotel is directly targeting someone who is coming to New York and can afford to stay at a luxury hotel. HeBS Digital’s campaigns on these networks have seen great results, with ROAS of over 2500%.

4. Do you employ a multi-channel marketing campaign approach to address property occupancy and business needs?

Hotel display marketing should be one component of a 360 degree, multi-channel approach to address concrete business needs, increase reach, and boost bookings & revenue for a need period. Your online media agency should be reviewing your brand and property goals and helping you brainstorm multichannel campaigns that utilize the right online channels effectively, and, most importantly, promote one cohesive campaign message across these channels.

These types of campaigns reach higher revenues than standalone initiatives can ever achieve. For example, a multi-property boutique hotel company in New York City launched a Cyber Monday, Limited Time Offer campaign that generated over 3,000% ROAS.

5. Do you offer display advertising to target your key customer segments: meeting planners, SMERFs, wedding planners, leisure travelers, family travelers, corporate transient travelers, etc.

One of the most pervasive challenges hoteliers face is how to effectively speak to and engage with their various customer segments online. Couples, families, business travelers, and event planners all require customized messaging on the site and in advertising campaigns to address their individual needs.

Hotel display marketing should consist of a multi-faced approach that includes targeting specific segments on sites they are known to frequent. For example, an online media plan targeting wedding planners should feature wedding sites such as WeddingWire.com and TheKnot.com; a family-focused plan would feature sites like redtri.com (red tricycle), etc.

In addition to advertising on relevant customer segment sites, hoteliers can use retargeting to engage with website visitors who have previously expressed interest in certain topics by visiting related pages on the hotel website. One of HeBS Digital’s New York luxury hotel clients used retargeting to bring more traffic to the weddings section of their site. Read our case study to find out more about how they used Retargeting to reach their key customer segment.

The plan should not stop at simply targeting the customer segments; a smart online agency would help the hotel feature relevant messaging on the hotel website (promo tile or hero image, landing page, special offer, and more) so that the customer is presented with the most relevant information and next steps once directed to the site.

6. Do you utilize campaign delivery and tracking applications such as DART, Adobe Omniture, etc.?

An effective online media agency should utilize the leading industry analytical application tool, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud (Omniture), as well as DoubleClick's DART for Advertisers (DFA), the industry's standard display advertising solution. Both of these tools are utilized by many of the major hotel brands and leading online intermediaries in rigorous travel Internet marketing efforts.

Banner delivery and tracking tools such as DoubleClick’s DART track post-impressions and post-click activity and conversions provide a deep understanding and knowledge of the campaigns’ returns. Through the combined use of these two market-leading campaign tracking applications, clients gain access to actionable, real-time intelligence about marketing initiatives, allowing hoteliers to optimize campaigns and generate high ROIs.

7. Will you present me with an online media display plan that will fit my budget? Do you have options for small and large budgets?

​​​​​It used to be that online media buys could only be afforded by those hotels with major budgets, but that’s not so anymore. More and more options exist that single properties can afford, and these options are also smarter for those companies that do have those bigger budgets.

Some of HeBS Digital’s single property clients have seen enormous success on travel platforms such as AdRoll (upwards of 2,800% ROAS) and Google Display Network (upwards of 3,000% ROAS). With minimum spends as low as $500 per month (depending on market competition and length of commitment), there is no reason to be missing out on these highly lucrative and smart online media options.

8. Tell me your plan for incorporating social media and online video into my display advertising campaigns?

Online Media now encompasses so much more than banner advertising, spanning across multiple devices and channels, and targeting within these channels are increasingly complex as well.

Social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube recently released ad-targeting options that use the brand’s own data to reach highly qualified users with relevant messages and offers. Facebook’s lookalike feature allows marketers to target people with similar characteristics as their website visitors, mobile app users, and Facebook fans. Twitter’s “tailored audiences” reaches users on Twitter who have shown interest by visiting the brand’s website. YouTube provides ad targeting to reach viewers based on their past interactions with the brand’s videos or YouTube channel. In addition, travel networks such as AdRoll retarget site visitors with ads across Facebook and Twitter, as well as mobile and the web.

New options of highly specific targeting on social media channels are rolling out on a regular basis. Your online media partner should be able to clearly articulate their plan for incorporating these channels and targeting features into your online media plan as they become available.

9. How will you incorporate mobile and tablet into my online media strategy?

The shift from desktop to mobile and tablet use is irreversible. In the first half of 2014, over 41% of web visitors and 16% of bookings were generated from non-desktop devices (mobile and tablet), compared to just two years ago, the first half of 2012, when non-desktop devices generated less than 17% of web visitors and 7% of bookings (HeBS Digital Research).

Ads on smartphones help travelers remember marketers and take action, with 68 percent of travelers recalling ads viewed on smartphones compared to only 59 percent on desktop. Seventy-one percent of travelers who saw ads on a smartphone took action compared to just 63 percent on desktop (Google). For hoteliers, a direct response, ROI focused approach with mobile banners work, and the results prove it. HeBS Digital has seen an average of 1275% ROAS from mobile banners on networks such as the Google Display Network, and others.

10. How have you evolved with the ever-changing online media landscape and continue to meet the unique needs of the hospitality industry with its own best practices?

Navigating the fast-pace online display space and complex online travel consumer behavior can feel like a monumental undertaking. Additionally, most hoteliers are already shuffling many different priorities each day and are not able to devote the time needed to keeping up with industry trends, advancements in technology, and best practices.

An online media agency focused in hospitality will know the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the hotelier, and will help you launch display campaigns that have proven results in generating bookings and leads directly from the hotel website. They should be implementing the latest technologies and targeting options available, such as Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM), In-Market Buyers Targeting, Similar Audiences Targeting, and more. They will keep you up to date with best practices, and proactively bring forth ideas to solve hotel-specific business needs.

Lastly, look for an agency that is a Google Certified Partner; they can take advantage of game-changing display initiatives in beta before anyone else in the industry is given access.

Conclusion

Hotel marketers have entered into an exciting time in the display space, with new technologies and targeting capabilities emerging at a rapid pace. When choosing an online media partner, find one that has the digital technology and marketing capabilities to allow your property to maximize returns and boost direct bookings from all the intelligent targeting innovations such as Dynamic rate Marketing (DRM), Similar Audiences, Retargeting, In-Market Travel Intent Targeting, etc. Choose a partner that can skillfully bring your hotel into the expanding world of digital marketing and technology with direct-response advertising campaigns that bring qualified visitors and bookers to your site, and generate the highest ROIs.

About the Author and HeBS Digital

Sara O’Brien is Senior Marketing Manager at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry’s leading digital technology+website design, full-service digital marketing and website revenue optimization consulting firm, based in New York City (www.HeBSdigital.com).

HeBS Digital has pioneered many of the best practices in hotel Internet marketing, social and mobile marketing, and direct online channel distribution. The firm has won over 250 prestigious industry awards for its digital marketing and website design services, including numerous Adrian Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, WebAwards, Magellan Awards, Summit International Awards, Interactive Media Awards, IAC Awards, etc.

A diverse client portfolio of top-tier major hotel brands, luxury and boutique hotel brands, resorts and casinos, hotel management companies, franchisees and independents, and CVBs are benefiting from HeBS Digital’s direct online channel strategy and digital marketing expertise. Contact HeBS Digital’s consultants at (212) 752-8186 or success@hebsdigital.com.



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