(As seen in the Winter 2015-2016 edition of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Magazine)
Well, it’s official: The world is now (for the most part) accessible at your fingertips. Today’s always-on, digital world has opened the door to immediate access of information, and has enabled a simplified, personalized consumer search process. With a couple of quick Google searches, consumers can access all the tools they need to make an informed decision.
Today’s society not only thrives on digital, it depends on it. A few swipes on a keyboard have replaced the trusted phone call to a travel agent; smartphone applications create our trip planners; and Google Maps navigates the way we travel. No matter if you’re in the lodging, travel or food and beverage business, your consumers’ consumption habits have changed. They’re searching for you online, and it’s your brand’s job to be there.
Consumer decision making and purchase behavior is driven by the fast-paced, tech-centered world we live in. To become a part of this, it is key for your brand to activate and maintain a strong digital footprint. According to Google, 83 percent of consumers use social networking, video or photo sites for travel planning. Using social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram help your customers learn more about you—from who you are as a company to the services you provide. Social platforms also have the ability to establish initial connections with consumers, using imagery and video to tell your brand’s story.
An active web presence is an important element to establish trust and credibility. Fun fact: More than 50 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 factor consumer reviews into dining decisions (National Restaurant Association). User-generated review apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon have become an essential first course in dining decisions. In fact, they often act as a restaurant’s first chance to make an impression. For hoteliers, your consumers are reading reviews on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel advising platform. Each month, TripAdvisor attracts 375 million unique users looking for information on accommodations, restaurants and attractions (TripAdvisor).
Not only do these consumer review sites improve your online searchability, but they also increase your reach and inherent consumer reliability. It’s a best practice to update platform profiles frequently, letting your customers know about upcoming events, menu changes or promotions as they occur. Additionally, questions and comments (both negative and positive) from customers always deserve responses. This increases brand transparency and improves community engagement.
Reinforce with Ads
In addition to consumer review sites, advertisements are now digital. Display and geo-targeted ads, are popping up everywhere—literally. By using consumers’ geolocations, digital marketers can tailor messages to specific audiences from a few hundred feet to a few mile radius. Geo-targeting has even reached a new level of granularity with IP address targeting. Brands are now able to deliver digital ads to specific IP addresses, which means businesses can target specific household or business computers based on the computer’s connection to the Internet.
“Geo-targeting allows businesses to reach consumers directly and powerfully,” said Sparxoo Director of Digital Marketing Joey Baird. “It can have immense impact on driving foot traffic to your business, general brand awareness and opens up remarketing opportunities as well.”
According to Baird, the concepts of general display targeting and retargeting are great ways to market to hotel and restaurant seekers. By using applications such as Chango, businesses can send customized messages to consumers who previously searched keywords pertaining to your business.
The Bottom Line
As time progresses, digital inherently evolves, making it essential for businesses to sign in to the online realm. With a few clicks, consumers are able to access and use the information they need when, where and how they want to make informed decisions, which ultimately affects your brand’s bottom line. Additionally, the Internet and digital marketing have expanded the opportunities available for businesses to reach and market to consumers. Not only does this deliver businesses with targeted, high return on their investments, but is also opens up opportunity to increase new customers.