6 Things You Need to Know About Best Western’s Approach to Marketing
Travel Marketing is one of the categories that are changing at the most rapid pace. As Dorothy Dowling, SVP of Marketing and Sales for Best Western International, puts it" you have to be able to pivot very quickly. "Dowling is going to be one of brand marketing starts speaking at #PortadaLat in Miami on June 8-9. The 30-year hotel industry veteran directs all Best Western's marketing and sales strategies, including the brand’s loyalty program, consumer and field marketing, advertising, public relations and e-commerce. We interviewed Dowling to ask her about the latest (digital) marketing trends and about Best Western's forays into the U.S. Hispanic market. 6 things you need to know.
With 88% of Best Western's hotel bookings done online, it goes without saying that digital marketing is a make or break area for Best Western. The Phoenix, AZ, headquartered hotel chain operates more than 4,000 hotels worldwide of which more than half are in the U.S. As Dowling (photo) says "hotel rooms are perishable goods, “you have to be able to pivot quickly. You need to understand the numbers based on the KPI's of the organization. For instance, what amount is going to what channel."
As an example of how quickly things are changing Dowling says that "channel distribution is having a lot of changes. Mobile surpassed desktop in search last year, although conversion is still bigger in desktop." Things are shifting very fast, she adds. Other reflections of the fast paced industry are algorithm changes in Google as well as in the travel search engine Kayak. In addition, Best Western uses social media to monitor customers and understand customer issues.
1. Online Leads Customer Acquisition, though Voice is coming back.
According to Dowling, "88% of Best Western business comes through electronic distribution. Voice used to be the dominant channel. Only 10 years ago voice had a share of approximately 30%, this ratio is coming back up because of voice activation through mobile. The main properties Best Western uses for customer acquisition are Tripadvisor, Google and the Online Travel Agencies (OTA's). Asked whether she fears what is commonly known as the OTA duopoly (Priceline and Expedia group of companies), Dowling notes that she is not too concerned about market concentration: “There are disruptors coming in all the time."
Only 10 years ago voice had a share of approximately 30%, this ratio is coming back up because of voice activation through mobile.
2. The Demise of Last Click Attribution...
Dowling says that one metrics that is being disrupted is that of last click attribution. Last click attribution was easy and simple: Whatever ad was clicked most recently must have driven the purchase. But it’s not just the last click that drives the sale because consumers are interacting with multiple ads on multiple devices to complete a purchase. Dowling emphasizes that only "econometric models get you to that kind of understanding. The interest to purchase might have started on TV or on social". As an example of how different media impact the consumer much before the last click, she cites Google stats according to which 75% of consumers watching TV are also online. In fact, she notes that online search queries for Best Western increase substantially around the times the company advertises on broadcast TV.
Online search queries for Best Western increase substantially around the times the company advertises on broadcast TV
In terms of the path to purchase of hotel rooms, Downling notes that social media is more effective on upstream -influencing - than for downstream -converting-. The demise of the last click attribution metrics also impacts, the cost metrics Best Western looks at: "The cost per acquisition is now mostly measured through CPA (Cost per acquisition) and not anymore through CPC (Cost per click)," Dowling says.
3. Search and Display are bought Programmatically
Best Western buys programmatically most of its digital display and search advertising, Real Time Bidding plays an important role as the number of empty hotel rooms changes all the time. "The science is that you need to know how many (empty) rooms you have in the hotel." The bulk of Best Western's off-line and online media buy is done during the spring for the Summer Season (families), as well as from early February to mid-May and during autumn for the business traveler.
4. The Hispanic Market Bet...
Best Western is also jumping on the Hispanic market opportunity buoyed by the fact that the average spend of U.S. Hispanics per trip is higher than that of the average U.S. traveler. According to a recent Think Now survey from 2014, on average, Hispanics spend about US $2,400 on a vacation traveling within the U.S., rising to over US $3,600 among affluent Hispanics. Hispanics spend more than non-Hispanics across all income brackets, in part because they are more likely to fly and have larger families on average.
Hispanics spend more than non-Hispanics across all income brackets, in part because they are more likely to fly and have larger families on average.
Best Western's clientele has two segments: The leisure and the business traveler (mid-market and upper mid-market). Business travelers mostly make decisions around location. "For business it’s where they want to be. Location is the trump card still. Leisure is more place oriented," Dowling notes that, in addition, a another effort, mostly through trade show participation, is directed to Hispanic hotel operators who may want to become members of the Best Western International network.
5. ...and How it is Activated.
Dowling explains that the Hispanic market activation is mostly focused on mainstream media buys in properties that have a large Hispanic following. The initiative has focused on national and regional markets where there is a higher propensity of U.S. Hispanics. These buys include general market TV, as its substantial reach also drives search, digital as well some sports TV properties and radio. There is also a Social Media and Blogger outreach, including bloggers Manny Ruiz and Cesar Milan. Those Best Western partner agencies are Ideas Collide for creative, Allison and Partners for PR and Initiative for media planning and buying.
6. Content Marketing
Content marketing also plays an integral role for Best Western's marketing strategy. "Content scores in terms of placement. We can optimize performance through channel mix," says Dowling.
Best Western's content marketing platform is YouMustBeTrippin.com, which includes Mi Gente Hispanic targeted section. Influencers Cesar Milan and Manny Ruiz are contribute in video and text to those sites. Video is an area of investment for Best Western. It recently established the BW Content Studio. The company is also advertising and promoting videos on YouTube.
Content scores in terms of placement. We can optimize performance through channel mix.