Digital Trends to Improve the Guest Experience and Drive More Business

By Michael Goldrich, CHDM, CRME, Chief Experience Officer, The Hotels Network

Whether it’s trip stacking, virtual reality, “benchmarketing,” or other hotel marketing trends, hoteliers have overwhelmingly been part of the late majority to take advantage of technology and use it to provide better service both onsite and pre-arrival. Yet that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to incorporate these trends and growing marketing developments into our strategies for the future.

These are the trends that HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board members are navigating in this ever-evolving digital landscape.


  • “When it comes to benchmarking data, instead of us looking at straight ROI as a KPI, we’re evolving more into looking at KPIs against the comp. For so many years, it’s been more focused on how much money did our website book, and did that grow year over year, which is a very siloed approach. It’s more about really understanding if your website is getting its fair share. The other benchmarking data you can look at is your cost of sales against other types of similar hotels or brands. For example, if you’re looking at airport hotels, how are you performing against other airport hotels versus just using your star data? Expand your benchmarking to understand other KPIs.”

Dealing with Constrained Resourcing

  • “Over 70% of my team has turned in the last year. They’ve all left the hospitality business, and I think as an industry, we have to look at how are we going to retain talent and show them pathways of growth — both laterally as well as hierarchically — because they’re making 30-40% more in different industries. I’ve had to get creative, working with freelancers and some other agencies just to plug holes. This is on the corporate side as well as on property.”
  • “We’re building, essentially, a hybrid workforce, where it’s 80% agency partners and freelancers and 20% FTE. And there’s still, at least in 2022, a level of uncertainty from the revenue stream perspective, so we need the flexibility. I’ve got some positions that are open, listed as contractors, and I’ve got some very talented people who want to join my team, but they don’t want to leave the comfort of an FTE position for a contractor role. Hopefully, time will cure this, but it’s definitely something that’s top of mind.”
  • “As challenging as it is to have limited resources, it also provides some opportunities to look at staffing in a different way. It gives us an opportunity, especially at the property level, to take a hard look at all the different things we need to accomplish and the skill sets we need on board to get those things done. Then we can approach it in a variety of ways, where it’s not just one solution fits all.”

Zero Clicks

  • “Rand Fishkin published a study that said 65% of searches on Google didn’t lead to a click. As marketers, what do we do to not only make sure we’re answering questions appropriately, but also to get those consumers on our website? Our stats are showing about 44% of search results are things like FAQs. Exploring this, SEO, personalization, and things like that have some real value.”
  • “We talk about zero clicks in our hotel digital marketing essentials class, and I just updated it to add the ‘subzero click.’ In Google, you’ll start to get an answer to your question as you’re typing it into the search box. So, if you’re typing about the weather, for example, the weather in your location shows up before you even finish. Subzero clicks are here now as well.”

Removing ‘Invisible Friction’

  • “We’re typically focused on driving top-line revenue and helping improve the guest experience, and removing invisible friction, such as difficult payment methods and slow page load speed, kind of helps do both right. One area we’re looking at that we find is a friction point is the different communication methods between digital and offline. You search for a hotel online, you can call the hotel, or you can direct message to the hotel. It’s difficult to have a consistent experience for that guest across all those different communication points. The person picking up the phone and having a great experience with our front desk should have a similar experience with the online live chat.”

Virtual reality

  • “There are a lot of things hotels can take advantage of now to help set themselves up for the future of VR. There are a lot of ways this is natural for the travel space. For example, could you show actual views and allow people to choose their hotel room? Could you showcase the property or the destination in a way that makes people feel like they’re there, so they want to choose your destination or your hotel or your experience? Is there a way to drive exclusive experiences for your loyalty members? VR is still in its early stages, but there’s a lot you can do now, such as setting up AR filters.”

Trip Stacking

  • “I think about trip stacking as tentative planning. As a consumer, I’ll book a whole vacation, knowing there’s a good chance I’ll cancel it because it’s fully refundable, or I can reuse those dollars on the airlines at a future time. There’s nothing that locks me in, so I’m more apt to book it and maybe cancel it. How do we, as marketers, deal with that? And how do we lock travelers in? Is this a short-term or long-term problem?”

Categories: Marketing, Digital
Insight Type: Articles