Mr. Morse

Sales & Marketing

Analytics: Travel Marketing's New Road Map

By Steve Morse, General Manager, Travel & Hospitality, ClickSquared

Today's travel and hospitality marketing environment is driven by a dynamic flow of information that grows more diverse and complex by the day. With interactive and Web-based tools delivering more power to guests in the reservation process than ever before, expectations around responsiveness and personalized service continue to increase. As a result, marketers face numerous operational challenges as they try to manage an unprecedented number of guest touch points and interactions. Complicating matters, most of these marketers have large numbers of guests and every guest presents different and dynamic needs.

For example, a customer in the travel industry expects the marketer to provide a customized set of options for a resort visit, secure the booking via any channel, provide an immediate summary of the itinerary, make personalized recommendations for resort activities such as dinner reservations, spa treatments or a day on the golf course, arrange, confirm and notify the guest of these activities via any channel, recognize the customer upon arrival, serve the customer according to pre-determined preferences, and communicate with the customer upon their return home...with complete awareness of the recent trip.

Simultaneously, marketing professionals encounter mounting pressure from management to demonstrate the financial accountability and return on investment of their marketing spend and programs. Moreover, they must balance financial controls while still achieving their objectives in customer acquisition, loyalty, and retention as well as cross-selling additional amenities and up-sell travel packages. They need to provide senior management with an explanation of where investments are going, provide the rationale for those choices, and clearly identify the source and size of the returns. Which customers comprise the brand's best marketing opportunities? How many customers should be invested in? Which ones? What marketing programs, channels, and tactics are most appropriate and why?

Travel and hospitality marketers struggle with answering these questions because their data sits in multiple places or is incomplete. This common challenge impacts a marketer's ability to measure marketing effectiveness (ROI) at the customer level.

Many believe a customer's current, potential, and/or expected value are the most important considerations in making investment decisions. The rub: the value a customer represents to the brand can be just as dynamic - and therefore just as difficult to measure and respond to - as the customer's needs.

Travel and hospitality marketers are coping with the operational challenge of supporting a myriad of dynamic communications that must be acted upon accurately based on a buyer's needs, profiles, purchase histories, and more. Furthermore, they're struggling with how to accomplish this - and manage this - in a way that demonstrates measurable results and optimizes returns - while keeping costs down and budgets in check.

Tools and Capabilities Aren't Enough

In order to keep up with these demands, sophisticated marketing tools and technology have continued to evolve. It's not unusual for marketers to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on large databases they can fill with a tremendous amount of guest data (including demographics, preferences, past purchase history, etc.), expanded technology infrastructures, sophisticated data mining tools and CRM systems that provide data access in real-time which, in theory, can enable marketers to meet guest expectations of timely and responsive communication. While these new tools and capabilities are contributing to improvements in marketing effectiveness and efficiency, a solid game plan - which includes a proven marketing approach - is perhaps the most essential asset of all.

What to consider...An effective marketing approach should help clients to:

  • Overcome operational challenges

  • Overcome financial challenges

  • Understand how each interaction between the brand and the customer produces value

  • Provide insight regarding making marketing and investment decisions

  • Help manage marketing investments and customer interactions

  • Align the right marketing response (and channel) with each customer- or event-driven stimulus in real time

  • Facilitate execution on a large scale which ultimately should lead to an automated process

An approach like this needs to leverage a sophisticated engagement model that helps travel and hospitality marketers understand how each interaction between the brand and the customer can produce real value. The model should have the ability to monitor a customer's level of engagement by tracking each contact and resulting behavior over time. As a result, it should then inform marketers when best to take marketing action and how (or through what channel).

A smart approach typically breaks up into stages, with each leveraging different analysis tools and techniques. Where the first stage would be focused on identifying opportunities and determining priorities within the customer lifecycle, the second would focus on determining the strategy and building the actual marketing plans. Measuring, monitoring and maximizing customer engagement (and marketing success) is the next stage, and includes flagging customer issues. Next, the goal would be to monetize customers, segments and brands. Finally, the focus should be to diagnose issues and prescribe the best-suited actions. This will help guide marketing decisions to ensure investment-appropriate marketing treatments reach the right customers....through the right the right time.

Analytics on the Move

Marketing approaches like the one described are not only available, they are currently in place and helping a leading travel and hospitality organization. This global market leader in online vacation rental properties consolidated a history of customer interactions and transactions into a database. Working with a marketing services provider, they built a sophisticated engagement model to understand how a history of marketing interactions and customer touch points influenced engagement and marketing success - in this case probability of renewal - at the customer level. The resulting learning is changing the way they deliver services and manage marketing treatments during the customer lifecycle. For example, they learned that marketing interactions near the end of the subscription period are far more influential (than early-period interactions) on a customer's renewal probability. Moreover, they learned which specific marketing treatments matter most. Today, marketing changes are being tested and executed in order to enhance their customer's experience with the brand while simultaneously maximizing service renewal rates.

Next Generation T&H Marketing

The ultimate goal is a model-driven, automated marketing engine that optimizes marketing performance in real-time. Companies can get there by transforming marketing communication scenarios and treatments into business rules that can be integrated into database marketing engines. The business rules can then be integrated into a marketing engine for automation, helping marketers to achieve an unprecedented level of efficiency and effectiveness by allowing them to manage one-to-one marketing initiatives and make investment decisions with greater confidence.

So the next time a travel and hospitality organization is grappling with the best way to serve a guest or traveler who wants a customized set of options for a resort visit, the ability to secure the booking via any channel, the option to obtain an immediate summary of the itinerary, the chance to take advantage of personalized recommendations for resort activities, the ability to arrange these activities via any channel, recognition upon arrival, service according to personal preferences, and outreach upon their return home with complete awareness of the recent trip...start with a well-thought out approach.

And when it comes to taking a myriad of data from a variety of disparate data sources to boil it down into something that drives value, success is dependent on the particular goals of an organization. There is an option out there that fits the bill.

Steve Morse is the General Manager of the Travel and Hospitality vertical at ClickSquared. With more than twelve years of experience in entrepreneurial environments, Steve has a proven track record of helping companies position and grow their solutions increasing retention while decreasing overall costs. In this role, Morse counsels clients on the strategic direction, design and implementation of marketing and communication programs to build long-term relationships with customers. He works closely with ClickSquared’s travel and hospitality clients throughout North America and Europe. Mr. Morse can be contacted at 781-487-7569 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

MAY: Eco-Friendly Practices: The Value of Sustainability

Eric Ricaurte

In 2011, we visited the 10 hotels contracted in the room block for the Greenbuild conference in Toronto. As part of their award-winning sustainable event program, the conference organizers embedded green practices into the contract language for these hotels, who either had to comply with the requirements, explain their reason why they couldn’t implement them, or pay a $1,000 fine. Part of our consulting work was to gather the data and confirm some of the practices on-site. READ MORE

Susan Tinnish

Hotels brands have actively engaged in large-scale efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Individual hotels have made great strides on property. Many significant large-scale eco-initiatives s are most easily built initially into the infrastructure and design of the building and surrounding areas. Given that the adaptation of these large-scale changes into the existing asset base is expensive and disruptive, hotels seek different ways to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. One way to do so is to shift the focus from large-scale change to “small wins.” Small wins can help a hotel create a culture of sustainability. READ MORE

Shannon Sentman

Utility costs are the second largest operating expense for most hotels. Successfully reducing these expenses can be a huge value-add strategy for executives. Doing this effectively requires more than just a one-time investment in efficiency upgrades. It requires ongoing visibility into a building’s performance and effectively leveraging this visibility to take action. Too often, efficiency strategies center on a one-time effort to identify opportunities with little consideration for establishing ongoing practices to better manage a building’s performance ongoing. READ MORE

Joshua Zinder, AIA

Discussions of sustainability in the hospitality industry have focused mainly on strategies at the level of energy-efficient and eco-friendly adjustments to operations and maintenance. These "tweaks" can include programs to reduce water usage, updating lighting to LEDs, campaigns to increase guest participation in recycling, and similar innovative industry initiatives. Often overlooked—not only by industry experts but even by hotel operators and designers—are possibilities for hotel design and construction that can make a property truly sustainable from the get-go. READ MORE

Coming Up In The June Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Sales & Marketing: Who Owns the Guest?
Hotels and OTAs are, by necessity, joined at the hip and locked in a symbiotic relationship that is uneasy at best. Hotels require the marketing presence that OTAs offer and of course, OTAs guest’s email when it sends guest information to a hotel, effectively allowing OTAs to maintain “ownership” of the guest. Without ready access to guest need hotel product to offer their online customers. But recently, several OTAs have decided to no longer share a data, hotels are severely constrained from marketing directly to a guest which allows them to capture repeat business – the lowest cost and highest value travelers. Hotels also require this data to effectively market to previous guests, so ownership of this data will be a significant factor as hotels and OTAs move forward. Another issue is the increasing shift to mobile travel bookings. Mobile will account for more than half of all online travel bookings next year, and 78.6% of them will use their smartphone to make those reservations. As a result, hotels must have a robust mobile marketing plan in place, which means responsive design, one-click booking, and location technology. Another important mobile marketing element is a “Click-to-Call” feature. According to a recent Google survey, 68% of hotel guests report that it is extremely/very important to be able to call a hotel during the purchase phase, and 58% are very likely to call a hotel if the capability is available in a smartphone search. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.