New tools allow digital hotel marketers to track campaign effectiveness, measure conversion rates and set up benchmarks for website traffic.
NEW YORK—For hotel digital marketers, the ability to use real-time data for benchmarking purposes is critical. New trends in benchmarking are emerging today and new tools are available to track many different parts of the job.
For example, marketers can benchmark the effectiveness of a campaign to help prove return on investment, track conversion rates and set up benchmarks for site traffic. Common site traffic benchmarks are the number of visits, referral sites and the different devices by which potential guests accessed the site.
Most importantly, tools today such as Google Analytics and the Adobe Marketing Cloud, among others, allow hotels to compare data to hotels in the competitive set.
Melissa Moody, travel industry development manager for Google, said website managers have been tracking some type of data since the early days of embeddable counters. “Counters—we say we’re way past them, but we’re not,” she said. “We still put this data all over our promotional material.”
Moody used a few Google stats to illustrate the importance of tracking traffic on a hotel website. She said the average consumer visits 17.2 travel websites and clicks on 4.3 search results before making a hotel reservation.
“Bookings are important to measure,” she said, “but the research stage can also be very important to track, particularly for mobile. Email signups also are important to benchmark.”
Adobe recently has made large investments into its website data-tracking software suite, called the Adobe Marketing Cloud. The software allows marketers to bring all the tracking data into one place, automate it and deliver it onto a work stream that’s easy to digest.
It solves the problem that many marketers have: “data all over the place, and we don’t know how to access it or how accurate it is,” said Tamara Gaffney, senior marketing manager for Adobe Digital Index at Adobe Systems.
To illustrate, Gaffney ran sample website tracking data on a set of 31 hotel websites. Here are some of the results:
• The average hotel website got 300,000 page views per day.
• The high end of page views was approximately 800,000.
• The average hotel website got 60,000 unique visits.
• The average hotel website bounce rate is 43% (number of people who visit, land on one page and then leave the site).
• The highest bounce rate for a single site was 91%.
Gaffney said a 91% bounce rate is “stunning.”
“Some of your hotels experience really, really large bounce rates,” she said. “Are the users getting grabbed right away? Or do they have an expectation that you haven’t met on your welcome mat?”
Gaffney suggested personalizing the experience so that when a potential customer lands on a hotel’s homepage, they see something relevant to them. “There’s a better chance at bringing that person in and closing the deal,” she said.
Gaffney also pulled data on traffic from the different devices to the 31 sample hotel sites. As travel and hotel websites have a much higher propensity for mobile and tablet traffic, capitalizing on that is increasingly challenging, she said.
• Conversion rates on a PC should average 4.8%, she said; for the sample 31 hotels it was 2.8%.
• Tablets had the lowest bounce rate, which Gaffney said was “really good.” “That means people are coming on purpose to see your site,” she said.
• Hotel sites are getting 42% from search, she said. Most industries typically get an average of 38%.
Gaffney said automating the collection of all the different data points into one workflow is imperative. The days of pulling different data key points into an Excel spreadsheet are over.
The fact that benchmarking allows marketers to compare similar properties is critical, said Robbin Steif, CEO of LunaMetrics, a Google Analytics Certified Partner and website marketing consultant.
Steif said referral sites are important benchmarks for hotel website trackers. However, rather than simply evaluating last-click attribution, it’s important for hotels to research all the sites that may have led a traveler to a decision.
“It’s really important to understand not just what your closers are but what your openers are as well,” she said.
It’s also important to track what she calls “micro-conversions,” such as travelers who sign up for email marketing lists. That information can be used to create refined promotions and target marketing materials.
Create those smaller goals so they can be compared across different hotel properties, Steif suggested. “It’s really important to create close to identical goals for all properties,” she said.
To do that, Steif suggested using one set of code across all hotel websites. For hoteliers who are tracking more than 100 properties, rely on different Google Analytics account numbers, she said, because each account has only 200 profiles “and you’ll run out of those quickly.”
When benchmarking conversion rates, Kam Desai, co-founder of newBrandAnalytics, said there are three important sets of data with the greatest impact: improving operational feedback, increasing engagement and increasing loyalty.
Benchmarks are interrelated, he said. For instance, guest satisfaction surveys, star ratings, conversion rates and performance metrics such as occupancy, rate and revenue per available room should all be intertwined and cross-studied.
“They all play together and, to get the best results in all these places, all these silos have to work together,” Desai said.
For instance, Desai said marketers don’t have much control over the exact second a traveler chooses to book. However, the next logical step is to determine what drove the booking. Often, it’s online reviews, he said.
“It’s not enough just to understand loyalty programs and how many people are staying with you,” Desai said. “You need to read more into the reviews. It’s important to see that authentic information and to track that. Then you can begin to benchmark those across properties and compare the effect on conversion rates.”