Why Audience Strategy is the Key to Hoteliers Competing with OTAs

Article written by Danielle Gonzalez for Hospitalitynet

This July, Google announced a rollup of its Hotel Ads metasearch product into the broader Google Ads platform (FKA “Adwords”). The update brings immense opportunity to hotels.

Over the past eight years, Hotels Ads has evolved into an increasingly valuable booking channel for suppliers and OTAs alike as the product’s prime positioning, being more deeply embedded in the travel search journey, has led to stronger intent signals equating to higher conversion rates and return-on-investment. Those elevated performance metrics, however, have arguably come with more daunting operations versus traditional paid search placements, given the detail required to manage placements in a platform divorced from Google’s go-to ad tech stack. The absorption into the Google Ads platform has made Hotel Ads much more approachable as marketers can now manage their campaigns in a familiar environment, but more importantly, the change provides hotel marketers with extended capabilities for optimizing their ad campaigns including the benefit of using advanced audience targeting.

This poses the question, how does the launch of Google’s Hotel Ads integration present the opportunity for travel and hospitality brands to gain a competitive edge against online travel agencies (OTAs)? OTAs are early adopters of audience-targeting practices, so suppliers need to move faster to protect their share of the market. While OTAs have a deep arsenal of targeting and tools, the key asset they won’t be able to reach into is clear – a hotel’s first-party data. Effectively leveraging that data to inform campaign structure and most importantly power the guest experience in Hotel Ads is guaranteed to result in even greater improvements in channel performance. Here are some tips that will prime travel and hospitality brands for success.

Know the Hotel Ads Audience Offerings

There are three (3) key applications available for audiences in Hotel Ads: 1) Bid Multipliers, 2) Fenced Rates, and 3) Qualified Rates. Through Bid Multipliers, advertisers can bid up to 2x at the audience level. Fenced Rates provide the ability to customize prices based on audience segment. Qualified Rates enable the promotion of discounts without having to display the price itself.

Take Inventory of Your First-party Data Assets

First-party data doesn’t just come from CRM. There are many shapes, sizes, and flavors – website visitation data, loyalty program data, outbound email prospecting, recent booking data, and mobile app data to name a few. Each of these come with varying levels of freshness, recency, time lags-to-execution, and all which lead to varying applications. For example, known guest profiles can be used to tailor members-only type offers and amenities, while bid multipliers can be maxed out against anonymous site visitors who abandoned the booking process.

Adapt Your First-party Data Use Across the Conversion Funnel

Marketing has always been the perfect harmony of art and science; a space where creative thinking can easily be adapted to data application. First-party data can be easily manipulated to meet all stages of the funnel from awareness, purchase, upselling, to retention using a variety of Google’s built-in audience features – lookalike, customer match, and RLSA depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Using this data to bid discriminately across tactics makes outbidding OTAs possible at the most opportunistic moments.

Find the right partners.

Not everything needs to be built in-house. There are a plethora of technology and marketing partners out there that can enhance travel and hospitality existing teams to provide first-to-market access to Google alphas and betas, automate bid management or cutting-edge customer intelligence technologies that can stitch together disparate datasets.

Considering the OTAs reach, travel and hospitality brands need to constantly innovate and stay on top of trends, such as Google’s Hotel Ads integration. But it takes agility, speed and a dedication to the guest to come out on top.

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