You read it here first, folks: fashion stores have something that hotels are yet to fully embrace — successful social online interaction. So any hoteliers that want to attract millenials and get ahead of the curve should cast a casual glance at what's happening in the world of fashion and consider joining the Instagram evolution — there are six very good reasons why.
Typically airlines and restaurants attract far more interest from hoteliers than fashion houses. It's no wonder — any business oscillating within the travel industry is likely to have to overcome similar obstacles and deal with a similar type of client. However, while fashion and hotels may initially seem to have little in common, when you scratch the surface the two share many parallels. For one, they're both increasingly marketing to millenials, they're also facing a rapidly-changing mobile and online world, dealing with fierce competition from large rivals and attempting to establish a clear brand in a heavily saturated marketplace.
Where fashion stores may have somewhat of an edge, however, is in their approach to social media, particularly Instagram (in the US it has a 96 per cent adoption rate). While the travel industry has been squarely focused on website design, newsletters, online distribution channels, direct mail-outs, traditional advertising and SEO, the fashion industry has extended its reach into the online social realm.
Shaped by its enthusiasm and popularity, sites like Facebook and Instagram were, in turn, fast to introduce tools to help facilitate better and more purposeful interaction between retailers and their clients. Facebook introduced pages several years ago, while Instagram launched its "shop now" feature in June last year.
Six reasons to Instagram
What does any of this have to do with hotels? Well, as demonstrated by fashion stores, Instagram is shaping up to benefit hotels in several ways:
- Visual promotion
At its core, Instagram is a visual platform. As such, it allows hotels to shamelessly and creatively show off their product at very little cost. While some investment into staff training and perhaps a photo editing tool or two won't go astray, once set up, it's easy to show off and promote rooms, facilities, food and beverage options, special events, conference spaces, the local surroundings and season specials without much time or effort.
- Audience engagement
As a social media platform, Instagram facilitates conversation and interaction. In a recent study, Forrester dubbed Instagram, "the king of social engagement" after it found that top brands are seeing a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 per cent on the platform.
Since a key factor in establishing meaningful repeat — and direct, at that — business is forming a relationship with guests, this is not a bad start. Conversations on Instagram are brief and have the potential of reaching and attracting new audiences. In addition, with the use of dedicated hashtags, hotels can encourage guests to promote the hotel for them.
- OTA-limited space
Platforms like Instagram also put OTAs in an awkward spot. Since OTAs are not physically present at any one hotel, it's hard for them to generate images. OTAs are also typically not in the game of playing hotel favorites, which means that while they do tout and promote some hotels or airlines, this promotion has a scattered nature. Additionally, since they're promoting several destinations at once, the appeal to someone searching for local options is minimized. Which leads to…
- Direct business
While the concept is still in its infancy, there is a great potential for Instagram to create direct hotel business. The landing page as well as photos can lead potential guests to book directly with the hotel, completely bypassing search engines, OTAs and any other third-party distribution channels. If the new "shop now" feature is properly utilized, it could also mean almost instantaneous direct bookings.
A byproduct of being a social tool that's used as a way of expression and also an individualized collection of interests, means that Instagram users are likely to search for experiences within their reach. From fashion looks to hip cafes, bars with trendy cocktails to desirable boutique hotels to stay in, they are on the lookout for what's hot, current and in their immediate locale, it's certainly something that hotels can exploit.
Google has not been blind to the developments in the social realm and the latest rendition of its algorithm is believed to take social interaction into account. Interactive content that leads to website referrals, mentions made by active followers and general activity on Instagram will all contribute to a higher ranking, which is not a bad perk at all.
Of course what's currently missing is a culture of Instagram hotel bookings, but with enough traction, this is not as abstract a concept as it might seem.
"With a laptop and a cup of coffee as constant companions, Agnes Stockburger lives out her life as freelance journalist, editor and published author. She once used her wordsmithery to enrich lifestyle and B2B finance publications in Sydney, Australia, but has since made her home in Munich. These days she spends her time analyzing OTAs, writing articles on a range of topics and trying to teach her toddler not to eat rocks."
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