October 19, 2010
Email and other types of permission-based messaging remain consumers' preferred channels for engagement with luxury hotels, according to a study released by Epsilon.
Sixty-five percent of consumers preferred to be contacted via email about information regarding hotels and travel. Likewise, almost 90 percent of travel-related emails from brands consumers knew influenced their decision to make a purchase.
“[Some of the key findings are that we] have a better understanding of consumer preferences for travel locations [and] feature offers based on those preferences and deliver those via desired channels,” said Michael Penney, executive vice president of Epsilon’s Strategic & Analytic Consulting Group, Irving, TX.
“For luxury brands, those are likely to continue to be permission-based channels, rather than widely diffused communications like social media sites and networks,” he said.
Epsilon is the nation’s largest email marketing and interactive services firm.
More than 400 consumers who recently booked a hotel were surveyed on their experience throughout the selection process. The study surveyed 1,500 individuals to explore consumer experience marketing.
Recommendations and property reviews play a major role in the hotel decision making process for travelers, even if they have stayed in the hotel previously.
The survey found that 33 percent of consumers are certain of which hotel they would select and that two out of three consumers are “pretty sure” or "unsure" of their decision.
Among all consumers surveyed, the primary factor driving their decision was price with the second most popular reason being location.
For all consumers who are unsure of where to book a hotel, positive reviews factored significantly into their decisions.
There remains a lot of value in testimonials, whether from family, friends or perfect strangers. Many want testimonials to sway them in the decision making process, but the amount of information available online overwhelms consumers.
Consumers’ value controlled messaging, like in a brand or property Web site or permission-based email and testimonials on third-party Web sites.
For many luxury hotels, testimonials are not available. Many travelers know of a variety of brands and are left questioning which property to book with.
The Ritz-Carlton has a rewards/membership program, the Waldorf-Astoria features its singular experience across a broad portfolio and Shangri-La highlights experiences. In general, though, it is hard to find testimonials in the luxury hotel sector.
“[Some pitfalls for luxury hotels to avoid include] not investing in relationships with travelers that allow for relevant communications, [the] right offers via the right channels,” Mr. Penney said.
“For example, just because a business traveler stayed in the Shangri La in Ho Chi Minh City once for a business trip doesn’t necessarily mean they want to travel to Vietnam for their next vacation,” he said.
Kaitlyn Bonneville, editorial assistant, Luxury Daily