Technology, Storytelling and Millennial Travelers: What Hotel Marketers Need to Know
Digital natives, 20th century kids or millennials if you prefer, are the first generation to not know life before technology. Naturally, technology is heavily integrated into their everyday lives and is changing the expectations of traveling millennials. The travel industry as a whole needs to accommodate this demographic in order to capture their attention.
Robert Habeeb from Hotel News Now explains that “the story of how the hotel industry has come to appreciate and better understand the millennial generation provides an interesting look at the ways in which hotel owners and operators have changed.”
It’s important to pay attention to their changing preferences as they grow in numbers and increase their travel frequency. While millennials made up approximately 20% of the adult population in 2012 (New York Times), these numbers will continue to grow as this generation ages.
You might recall my blog, Marketing Your Hotel to Millennial Business Travelers, where I discussed the characteristics of young business travelers and how to reach and engage them with your hotel’s story. Now I want to elaborate on how their behaviors are affecting the travel industry and how hotels can respond to this. How exactly are millennials influencing the hotel industry? Let’s go a little deeper.
Trend Setting Generation
Habeeb makes the point that as active travelers, “millennials have been exerting their demographic influence on an industry that not too long ago was spending far more time and energy catering to baby boomers.”
Millennials appreciate hotel environments that are “lean on luxury and high on style” and “also respond positively to individualized service” says Habeeb. Hotels are starting to listen to their demands and change their structures and services to accommodate them, but that’s not enough. A millennials experience with your hotel first starts well before they physically step onto your property. It begins online. The first exposure online needs to be like walking into your lobby – so a visual story that is lean on luxury and high on style is the most inviting to them. Highlight your stylish hotel and your ability to cater to millennials’ needs or how you can customize their stay and make them feel special.
Since content has taken its place as king, using rich visuals and videos to communicate with this generation has become an important approach “to demonstrate the experience and narrate the story”(Tnooz). Especially for hotels, “it will be more essential than ever to build up a strong online marketing strategy to (re)position the brand on the web” (Tnooz).
More importantly, go ahead and ask your visitors to take a photograph or create a video highlighting their favorite part of their stay and uploaded it to your Facebook or share it on their social networks because “consumer generated context will be so much more powerful and convincing”(Tnooz). This simple act is made easier thanks to the camera and video capabilities of today’s Smartphones and tablets and tools such as Vine.
Touched by Technology
“Millennials love the latest and greatest gadgets,” and are seriously integrating technology into their travel routines. Darren Osleger, a busy business traveler interviewed by the New York Times, describes his iPhone as being “his best and most indispensable traveling partner.” Without a doubt, his mobile device is attached to his hip and is there with him every step of his travel journeys.
According to Habeeb, ideally you want to acknowledge this strong bond between millennials and technology by “facilitating the integration of technology into the hotel experience.” Let’s get one thing out of the way, free Wi-Fi is no longer an option, it’s a necessity or they won’t consider staying with you. Integrating technology into the guests’ hotel stay is important, but don’t forget that the experience with your property starts before the traveler even sets foot into your hotel. So firstly, in your online marketing, show travel shoppers that you offer free Wi-Fi then move on to more important things. If you provide some “small-but-important conveniences for gadget owners—such as in-room power consoles and accessible power strips in public areas to make for easy device charging,” make it well known. Take pictures of these amenities and make it well know across your many digital channels that your hotel caters to the needs of digital natives.
As mentioned earlier, millennials are heavy users of mobile. Not surprisingly, they use their devices throughout their shopping journey, during their stay and after they’ve left. Since the traveler’s experience beings with the shopping journey, make sure that their mobile experience goes off without a hitch. A mobile optimized website is essential to ensuring that you make a great impression on this demographic.
What’s more important is that trendsetting millennials have a tremendous influence over other travelers. Mr. Osleger went on to say that his peers, who are primarily baby boomers, have also embraced using their mobile devices to simplify their travel journeys. This makes having an easy to use mobile website even more important.
Millennials are on the road regularly and are social creatures that thrive on meaningful engagement. Whether their experience with your hotel is negative or positive, they will be quick on the trigger to share their story on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Four Square, and so on. They might curate their own content or share yours, so make sure that you’re active on these sites and your content is interesting and share-worthy. “Stories about travel brands, products and services that are posting and sharing by travelers in social media create a central concern for tourism providers who try to manage their online reputation” (Tnooz), but if it is managed well your property will see great results.
Millennials are a force to be reckoned with. Now that you know where they are, what tools they’re using and how to reach them, you’re unstoppable. Don’t underestimate their influence on other travelers and consider the ripple effect that they have on the other generations.
Want to learn more about how to reach travelers on mobile? Download our guide: Six Critical Mobile Optimization Tactics Every Hotelier Should Know