Black Friday through Cyber Monday represents an intensely competitive sales period for virtually every hotel. In fact, over the years the four-day period has expanded to more than a month from the first week of November though the entire week after Thanksgiving and after.
Many hoteliers feel the need to participate with something, anything to hopefully attract a future guest. Some do it well and others not so well.
Obviously analyzing all the Black Friday offers and programs hotels have run is an impossible task. Therefore, the following is an analysis of hotels that have done it well based on significant media coverage in major consumer media outlets and countless hotel emails that MPA Digital monitors.
While not calling out any specific hotels, this analysis focuses more on various tactics that follow best marketing and direct marketing disciplines. Hopefully it can serve as a good guide for the next time your hotel participates in a major promotional event.
Start Early – Imagine how many emails top travel writers receive from hotels about Black Friday deals? One journalist recently commented the week before Thanksgiving she was averaging twenty-five per hour. What are the chances a writer would read, much less select your promotion to insert into a round-up article that was ready for publication? Unless you want to keep your promotion a secret, have it finalized for market by mid-October.
Don’t Be Cheap – This year few hotels offering less than 35% off received media coverage while the average offer was 40% off. Like hotels, journalists have customers they must serve, and, in this case, it is their readers. Their job is to provide readers with the best — or most unusual — offers.
K.I.S.S. – It is a basic tenet of direct marketing that the more cumbersome your offer, the less people are likely to act. Given too many choices a consumer gets confused. Instead of investing the time to understand a difficult offer they just discard it and move to the next. Many of the offers we analyzed were confusing with too many blackout dates, restricted categories, different discounts for different times, etc. So, if you want to turn readers on – Keep It Simple Stupid.
Have a Clear Call-to-Action – The K.I.S.S. way of thinking needs to be incorporated throughout every part of your program, but especially when it comes to your Call-to-Action. What do you want the customer to take away? Book Now buttons are what you want them to do and are omnipresent. But what if someone isn’t ready to Book Now? Where can they find more information? How easy is it to find different contact points? This was overlooked in far too many of the emails we analyzed.
Landing Pages – Hospitality has one of the highest rates of online booking abandonment of any industry. To increase conversion rates keep it simple and help visitors through the booking process. A significant number of hotels created Black Friday specific landing pages providing more detail about their special, benefits of booking their property, add-ons and key information they would need to book. Others still guided them to their Special’s page or worse, to their Home page.
Emphasize Your Branding – Establishing, maintaining and growing your hotel’s brand image and positioning is more important than ever today. Just because Black Friday sales are short duration promotions doesn’t mean you can chuck your branding in favor of a soon-to-be forgotten clever headline. One notable example was a family-oriented beach resort positioned as the perfect place to create memories offering a discount and free professional family portrait with every booking of five nights or more.
Have a Follow-Up Promotion on Your Website – Several hotels that offered big discounts for Black Friday had slightly smaller discounted promotions on their website after Cyber Monday. This is a good tactic to capture late bookers. If someone missed the “big” sale there was still something there for them and still feel good about booking. They won’t necessarily abandon the booking engine and look for alternative hotels.
The Wall Street Journal reported a 5% decline in retail and website traffic for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. One explanation is that consumers are realizing that “deals” are starting earlier and lasting longer than before.
With this in mind hoteliers would benefit by preparing earlier, creating eye-catching offers and making it as easy as possible to understand the benefits and help travelers book. It is a good recipe to get more than your fair share of revenue.