Using Mobile Platforms for Marketing Hotels in Sri Lanka

Mobile marketing in sri lanka


As the number of smartphone users is constantly on the increase, mobile marketing becomes a more effective tool in driving the sales of your business. With over one billion mobile web users worldwide, and mobile shopping revenues continually on the rise, almost every type of business gains an advantage in going mobile, and the hospitality industry is no exception. Two-thirds of travelers say they are likely to explore and purchase travel activities via their mobile devices, although the mobile platform is typically used for research, leading to bookings made via desktop. This shows that there is a need for hotels to develop stronger mobile marketing strategies to take advantage of the growing mobile traveler base. So what makes an effective mobile marketing plan?

  • Optimize for mobile

When it comes to viewing your site on a mobile phone, you can use a specially designed mobile site, or a responsive website. A responsive website is one that adjusts to match the viewer’s screen resolution. This saves you more resources compared to having a separate mobile site, and also helps keep the design consistent. Whichever method chosen, it is imperative to provide mobile users with unhindered access to your site, as optimized websites are 75% more likely to convert visitors into customers. With HTML5 providing developers with a host of benefits, well designed mobile sites are now a basic requirement to any successful internet marketing campaign.

  • Get listed

Travel listing sites are extremely important to a mobile marketing campaign; 70% of consumers reported travel reviews as having the largest influence on their decision. Popular travel review listing sites like TripAdvisor and Kayak also have mobile versions of their site for travelers. Getting listed on such platforms is a cheap and effective way to tap into the mobile audience. Keep in mind that once you are listed on such sites, you will need to handle online reputation management to ensure a positive online presence.

  • Go Social

Mobile phones are used as a more personal form of communication, and you can take advantage of this to interact socially with your guests. Your social media marketing should cover networks like Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to access both mobile and desktop users with engaging posts, but you can also use other mobile-specific applications to interact with users. FourSquare is one such application, allowing users to check-in to a particular location and leave comments that can be seen by others in the vicinity, and so is Instagram, which allows users to upload photos from their mobile phones. Through such applications, you can promote a high level of guest interaction and have a positive effect on their experience.

  • Promote via mobile

Conduct special promotions through the mobile platform; use location-based services to provide new visitors with information about your facilities, or even notify your guests of special offers at the restaurant. Some hotels even allow guests to order room service and schedule activities like spa treatments via their mobile applications. If you are unable to use such resources, though, such notifications can be delivered by SMS. However, when following through with your mobile marketing techniques, always remember to keep your customers engaged with meaningful interactions, as this also a part of your guest experience. Once your messages are viewed as spam, it will be difficult to change this impression later on and will adversely affect your credibility.


How Self Marketing your hotel can be more effective than relying on Travel Agent Marketing


Hotels currently place a lot of their marketing responsibilities in the hands of travel agents, but this approach is rapidly becoming outdated as the internet gives them a direct platform to deal with customers. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and booking channels have gained popularity as more people research online before making a trip, and such sites offer listings of hotels along with reviews from past guests. This is a convenient way for a hotel to reach the masses without incurring expenses for the creation and maintenance of a standalone hotel website. However, the increasing numbers of hotels that have chosen to handle their own hotel online marketing have proven that driving direct sales through the web portal is an extremely successful tactic.

By 2010, at least 50% of all bookings made were done online, with the cost incurred for direct online bookings being less than that for phone bookings, and much less than bookings from travel agents. This means that listings on OTAs and other travel communities have to be managed as part of a hotel’s online marketing along with its own web portal in order for the marketing to be effective.

The main issue with travel agents is that they invariably give customers a price-centric approach to their search for accommodation. With its own internet marketing campaign, the hotel’s own web portal can be focused around other criteria, such as the auxiliary services they offer, or their strategic location. Managing its own site and marketing also allows a hotel more flexibility when marketing services to guests (e.g. car rentals, excursions to various places, arranging business trips etc.), giving them the opportunity to add value to their product without much difficulty.

An online marketing campaign will also encourage guest interaction with your brand, allowing for a much greater level of control over brand positioning. Whether it is a small establishment or a high class hotel, the site can be designed to match. Hotels can also offer easy access to their services via a standalone site, allowing guests to make reservations and order room service through a website or mobile application. Such methods may seem insignificant, but they contribute greatly to the guest experience, and therefore have a notable impact on return visits.

So here are some of the ways an internet marketing strategy can benefit a hotel:

–          Increased exposure – A hotel that is not represented well online is only denying itself of a large portion of potential guests. Not only has the number of internet users increased significantly, but the prevalence of social media has also made it extremely easy for a hotel to market itself to a targeted group of consumers. For example, if a hotel hosts a corporate event for a company and shares photos from the event on its social media page, it will gain exposure as a host of such events, and other companies looking for a venue to hold their functions will be likely to inquire about this. The hotel will also benefit from such events with reputed brands, as some of the credibility of the brand will also be attributed to them.

–          Effective branding – A website created as part of the hotel marketing strategy, if done right, can give visitors an impression of the hotel without ever setting foot near the place. A hotel can reflect its unique architecture in its website design, giving guests an idea of what they can expect during their stay, while a small inn could give guests a sample of their hospitality through extensive online support, which would be very positive for guest satisfaction. Through interactions with guests online, the hotel can position its brand appropriately in the minds of consumers.

–          Flexible promotions – Hotels can use their online portal to flexibly market extra services to guests in a personalized manner. For instance, a hotel can offer a special deal where direct booking of a room would also provide tickets to a local music show or cultural festival. This can result in customer delight because the hotel is going beyond its role of providing accommodation and shaping the vacation experience for the guest. Ultimately this will help in increasing the occupancy rate of such hotel.

–          Monitor feedback – With the wealth of information posted online, it is very easy to gather feedback from guests. This could vary from a compliment about a hotel’s room service to a complaint that draws attention to a critical problem. Either way, this feedback is very important in the hospitality industry as it will help the hotel to perfect its service.

What is noteworthy here is that many of these benefits revolve around giving guests a more comprehensive service to enhance their experience and create a memorable visit. The time has come where an online marketing strategy for hotel is a necessity to gain exposure and build customer loyalty. The global audience is now more accessible than ever, and brands that have not implemented their own online marketing campaigns are going into the game with a serious disadvantage.

As a Hotelier, all what you need to do is, not spending millions, but spending some valuable minutes to initiate and implement some useful hotel marketing ideas that we have shared. Even you can contact us on +94713032422 for developing a comprehensive hotel marketing plan to boost your bookings and branding.

We also can assist you by doing a free online audit for your hotel to assess its level of online presence.


Loyalty Marketing – Does it matter in Sri Lanka?

women customers

Customarily, loyalty programmes were the brain child of airlines and others have taken their cue from frequent flyer programs – which was a mode of thanking fliers for their purchase and offered points to make the purchase feel less like a commodity. The points accumulated were made available for redemption through more services from the awarding airline. The entire airline industry adopted similar tactics, with credit card companies like American Express close behind. Now, other retailers – especially big chains – offer reward programs based on purchases made. The future of loyalty programs will be more than points or rewards for business. They will create interaction via gamification, making it fun to do business with the company. Home Shopping Network has already done this on their website. When it shifts into the loyalty program, it will add another level of interaction with the company.

In an unfavourable note towards loyalty programmes, despite great popularity, it is unclear whether many LPs have delivered cost-effective value:

  • ANZ implemented Credit Card loyalty programme led to card fees increase to cover the program’s cost
  • ASDA  tested loyalty programme at the cost of £8MM, never rolled out
  • Safeway, loyalty programme terminated with limited or no impact on company performance
  • IHG Priority Club Rewards: 56 million members, $6.5 billion in room revenue

But, it must be pointed out that Sri Lanka as a nation is still behind on the popularity of loyalty programmes and there’s a long way to go, at the same time the loyalty programme strategy has matured overseas and they are experimenting new ways in which they could retain the engagement of their customers. Loyalty programmes are nothing new to Sri Lanka either, we as Sri Lankans know that airlines have awarded miles for years, Dialog has its Star Points, Arpico has its own Privilege Card, Keells Super has had its own Nexus card, Cargills introduced their own loyalty card in the latter 90s which is nowhere to be seen for the last 10 years, No Limit too has introduced their loyalty programme which goes by the name Arapima, Aitken Spence Hotels have had their own loyalty programme which only a few privileged people know about, and even small time players like ‘The Sizzle’ (restaurant) have introduced a loyalty programme. Knowingly or unknowingly we as credit card users are part of the loyalty programmes of the banks, earning points for every transaction, but, the knowledge as to how it should be used is still lacking and the organizations too have not been proactive in promoting or using the information in a customer focused way.

However, unlike the developed countries Sri Lankan players have not made use of the data they capture through the loyalty programmes. And the Sri Lankan market hasn’t had the maturity to do some serious analytics of the tons of data that are captured through their systems. More than these reasons the average Sri Lankan is not educated enough on the advantages of a loyalty programme, or for that matter the employees are not educated as to what the loyalty system will help them achieve. The concept of customer lifetime value is long gone; it is the age of customer engagement value. To address this concept, it becomes imperative that the organization has every single data point that addresses a single customer and make use of them. For this to happen a loyalty programme becomes critical – if not, how can Arpico or Keells Super be able to identify who bought what, when, where, how, and plan their promotions.


loyalty marketing sri lanka


How will it be possible to validate the expenses on a campaign when the real values of the currently existing data on customers aren’t fully utilized? This paves way to the carelessness of losing customers as fast as they are acquiring them, and not identifying that phenomenon at all. Sri Lankan firms are exactly doing it. The customer relationship opportunities go for a begging when you cannot recognize a repeat customer, this becomes very critical when you have multiple branches and want to grow your business.

The time where data has lived outside of marketing has gone. Today they are greatly influenced and driven by media, campaigns and agencies and a database driven outlook is increasingly becoming the need of the hour to create an impact and reach with the programmes being run. This in turn highlights the need of customer data integration and master data management—enabling multiple touch points and easier access to CRM data (data from loyalty programmes)—listening to the voice of the customer.

Therefore, to grow the business in today’s economically constrained environment Sri Lankans have to be very smart, existing customers need to be retained and monetized by spending money on customer engagement, customer loyalty, customer affinity and customer word of mouth and it has nothing to do on spending money on media.

Most customer information is stored in various data marts, where they are used by different departments and channels. Knowledge of the customer, buying pattern, business behaviour, socio-economic, lifestyle and/or demographic information can be transformed through information analysis into actionable insight through carefully planned data analytics. This insight provides the management with necessary supportive materials for key decision-making to augment profitability and gain competitive business advantage. One way to get ideas about how to use big data is to look at what some of the pioneers are doing.

  • Tesco processes information from two-thirds of the transactions at its till to learn more about its customers – buying pattern at different stores and at different times of the day. This was the result of the introduction of Tesco’s Clubcard (a reward card for customers), which gave them a higher level of information on its customers. This resulted in Tesco growing from being the third biggest retailer in the UK to the third biggest in the world.
  • Citi bank’s UK arm divided its database of prospective customers into 52 clusters with the help of a market research firm by the name Acxiom. These 52 clusters were defined based on their characteristics, which went into greater details such as what kind of TV, radio, newspapers and magazines each cluster was most likely to spend time on. The marketing messages were drafted and sent via each media channel and this helped identify the media which was working the best. Surprisingly Citi Bank found out that local radio ads, which until then was considered to be a poor investment, was actually showing good results.

These are scenarios that are yet to come alive in Sri Lanka, and as the saying goes “Sri Lanka needs one of everything”, and correctly so Sri Lankan organizations have to soon perfect their loyalty programmes and marketing in order to make it more focused, concise and effective.