Contributed by Estella Hale, V.P. of Product, SHR
"To get your guests where they want to go, you need to first know where they're coming from."
In an increasingly competitive market, truly knowing and engaging your guests has never been more important, and that includes understanding their generation. According to a recent Gallup study, fully-engaged guests spent $588 per visit compared with $403 per visit for actively-disengaged guests. But only one in five guests reported being fully engaged; Millennials 20%, Generation X 22%, and Baby Boomers 25%. However, these low engagement numbers translate into a huge opportunity for hoteliers.—Catlyn Origitano, Sojern
In a recent webinar, Sojern’s Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Catlyn Origitano, and myself walked our audience through this opportunity by understanding, reaching, and engaging hotel guests from every generation. By understanding who they are, why they matter, and how to appeal to them, we unlocked some practical keys to converting more of each group more often.
Millennials: "M" is for Mobility
This much-talked-about group, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, are a prized market these days, not just for their current spending patterns, but because they are poised to be the largest-ever consumer generation, currently spending upwards of $200BB in goods and services annually. They’re also 23% more likely to travel abroad than any generation before. With our sharing economy, it may sound surprising that a full 58% prefer full-service hotels in that travel, with only 11% preferring Airbnb type services. They also tend to be research and reward-oriented with loyalty programs, though not necessarily brand loyal.
Growing up in the social networking, smartphone era, Millennials, also known as the Digital Elite, are likely to forgo the help of travel agents, opting to book their own online flights and accommodations, with 85% checking multiple sites. Catlyn noted that this number may point to an interesting tendency. “It’s the Fear of Missing Out also known as FOMO,” she said. “They want to make sure they are getting the best price, location, etc. to assuage their anxieties over not getting the best experience.” Considering that 46% book travel through a smartphone or tablet, and 74% search for travel related info on their mobile phone, it’s also all about using mobility to capture that experience.
How do you convert them? Serve that love of mobility across all devices as Millennial travelers hit the road, so you are still engaging with them whether they’re in their cars or in your hotel parking lot looking at reviews. Make sure your content looks good on all devices, especially smartphones that can tend to become distorted. Get them to convert “in the moment” with persuasive messaging. Make sure to use instant gratification techniques from your booking engine, like strike-thru, so they can see immediate benefits. Since they interact heavily with apps, try to capture that look and feel on your site.
GenXers: The Surprising Middle Child
Generally born between 1965 and 1981, Generation X is a force to be reckoned with at roughly 66 million in the U.S. Often overlooked in the heavy chatter about Millennials and Boomers, in truth, the GenXers have more spending power than any other generation, with 29% of the estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars. GenXers also spend the most dollars each day while traveling as they mix family and corporate travel more than any other age group. Their top priority when planning is the hotel stay. Known to be heavy researchers, they will visit brand sites more often. “As the sort of ‘middle child’ hybrid between Millennials and Baby Boomers, they have habits of both as they are fast adopters of social media and smartphones, but prefer to book on a desktop,” reported Catlyn. A full 85% read reviews of places they want to visit before deciding, relying heavily on these reviews.
To convert them? Nurture them for the long-haul; it’s education over inspiration. Since their research doesn’t stop at the review site, hotels have more opportunities to impress them directly. Reassure GenXers that you’re the best choice for overall value by crafting messaging via your booking engine that caters to them with images of the total experience of the hotel and the area. Maybe you just re-did your pool with a splash pad for kids? Make sure you get those photos up on your site to appeal to GenX family bookers.
Boomers: Catering to Loyalty
America’s 75 million Baby Boomers are generally between the ages of 52 and 70, (born 1946-64), and control about 70% of all disposable income in the U.S. Most Boomers, 99%, will take at least one leisure trip in 2017. On average, Boomers take 5 trips per year, and spend more than $120BB annually on leisure travel, tending to be more loyal to the brand or even the locale itself. Though they are brand loyal, they are still looking for a good deal. Nearly 7 out of 10 Boomers, 69%, say the word that best describes their membership experience in a loyalty program is “economical” as in special rates and perks. And they are all over the web. Once referred to as Silver Surfers, but now known more commonly as Smarties, Boomers have come into their own. “The idea that the Boomers are not tech savvy was always a total myth,” Catlyn commented. “However, Boomers are not avid users of online resources for travel planning, with one in five still using offline channels to make room reservations.”
Because of this, converting them is trickier. You must be creative. We know they use multiple screens, mobile and desktop for instance, so ensure that your ads are going cross-device with an attribution model that can keep up with them. Boomers want to be loyal to your brand, so generate guest-specific rates for loyalty programs. Since Boomers tend to shop for everything online but their hotel, use a shopping-cart metaphor from your booking engine to entice them. Do not underestimate or forget the importance of solid call centers and front desk help. Catlyn suggested having a “push to call” button on your booking site might be just the thing. “For Boomers, you want to give them that shopping experience, but mix it with the kind of connection they prefer,” she said. “Keep that going for them, and you’ll find yourself converting more Boomers more often, and building their loyalty to your hotel at the same time.”