Company: Days for Business Alliance (Days Inn)
Contact: Tina Perry, Regional Director of Marketing for Days Inn
Location: Parsippany, NJ
Industry: Hospitality/Lodging, B2B
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential
Shortly after you check in at your hotel, your mobile device receives a text message from the staff notifying you of the location and start time of the meeting you're there to attend. Subsequent texts throughout the remainder of your stay offer happy-hour reminders, restaurant coupons, and the airport shuttle schedule for your date of departure.
After you check out, one more message of thanks pops up, extending well-wishes for your trip ahead.
This is customer service 2.0 for the hospitality industry. And it's just one of the ways a select group of Days Inn hotels is using text marketing to stay afloat in a troubled marketplace.
"It's been a test for us...and we're very pleased with the results," remarked Tina Perry, Regional Director of Marketing for Days Inn, citing revenue increases for supplemental hotel services such as food and beverage, and immeasurable brand impressions which the chain is hopeful will intensify customer loyalty beyond the near term. "As things turn around financially, we'll be in a great position," she said.
Within the Days Inn franchise business, some 50 Days Inn, Days Inn & Suites, and Days Hotels have teamed up to form the Days for Business Alliance.
Situated nationwide, from Boston to San Diego and from Miami to Anchorage, these select properties are generally full-service facilities geared toward the corporate traveler, offering close proximity to airports and amenities such as meeting rooms and food and beverage on site—conveniences not typically associated with the Days Inn brand.
Funded by dues paid by each participating property, supplemented by the larger Days Inn organization, the Days for Business Alliance carries out its own marketing initiatives to promote these properties and drive awareness for the additional amenities they provide.
Faced with the an industry crisis resulting from the economic downturn, the Alliance aspired in 2008 to launch a more "cutting edge" campaign that would help its properties stand out in the minds of those still traveling, said Tina Perry, Regional Director of Marketing for Days Inn.
Realizing that the majority of corporate travelers today carry some sort of handheld device and often make decisions "on the go," the Days for Business Alliance decided to engage in text marketing and signed on with Englewood Cliffs, NJ-based Ping Mobile.
The campaign began with generating awareness for the new texting program and building the group's opt-in list, through the following measures:
- Front-desk associates at participating properties began asking guests at check-in whether they'd like to participate and receive special promotions.
- A special contest was launched, driving people to text (and opt-) in to win a weekend getaway.
- Elevator notices, keycard holders, and other collateral were redesigned to promote the contest.
- The program was further promoted at numerous travel shows across the country.
The Alliance then began reaching out to opt-ins. The following are among the steps it has established to engage those who have opted in:
- General promotions aimed at increasing occupancy: Approximately once over three weeks, a text is sent out to each user, highlighting programs available at all participating properties: e.g., discounts, complimentary room upgrades, and opportunities to earn additional reward program points in exchange for upgrading room reservations.
- Hotel-specific promotions designed to help Alliance properties generate awareness and increase revenue for the additional amenities they offer: Each property is also able to design its own program targeting key areas of the hotel.
For example, a Days property in Boston has a Chinese restaurant that also serves breakfast, but morning traffic to the restaurant was low. "Guests don't think about a Chinese restaurant serving regular breakfast," Perry explained. So the hotel devised a program that welcomes guests soon after check-in with a text that also offers a $3 off breakfast coupon, sent directly to guests' phones.
- Messaging customized to match the specific needs of individual guests: Front-desk staff members are trained to gently probe into the purpose behind each guest's stay and to identify the types of information those guests might require during their visits, allowing the hotel to anticipate individual guest needs and proactively answer those through text messaging.
For example, a guest planning to attend an on-site workshop or conference might receive information on the event's location and start time; an individual business traveler might receive a reminder about happy hour, hours of operation for the site's business center, or the airport shuttle departure schedule; and a family with children might receive information on pool hours or shuttle service to nearby attractions.
"We're trying to be one step ahead of the guest and to make the stay more enjoyable by providing the pertinent information they need," said Perry.
The Days for Business Alliance reports that it is pleased with the program to date, pinpointing a variety of wins relating to the campaigns detailed above, including...
- A 22%+ increase in room upgrades among participating properties
- A substantial increase in breakfast traffic at the Boston property restaurant (35 text recipients showed up the day following the first announcement)
- Revenue growth and increased use of conference rooms, food and beverage service, etc. across participating sites, despite the economic downturn
Perry also noted the immeasurable brand awareness generated through the various campaigns.
Though she wouldn't provide an exact count of opt-ins, Perry said approximately 150-200 names are added to the text program each week; in addition, promotions tied to reward points have led to a 15-20% increase in reward program signups, she said.
And if the number of opt-outs is any indication, the mobile campaign to add value to hotel guests' interaction with the brands seems to be working. So far, no one has opted out.
In addition to serving its own business needs, the Days for Business Alliance has found a way to provide value-added services for its guests and help differentiate its properties from the competition.
But the Alliance has also recognized the thin line between value and nuisance and has taken measures to ensure that it does not cross that boundary:
- It initiated a double opt-in program, in the hopes of "only attracting those who are truly interested and qualified," said Perry. It also allows users to easily opt out at any time.
- As they sign up, guests are reassured that their phone numbers and other information will not be shared.
- Front-desk staff members have been trained to probe for information without making guests feel as if their privacy is being invaded.
- Time of day is a central consideration when sending out nationwide messages so as to not disturb West Coast users too early or East Coast users too late in the day.
- Message frequency is also managed, depending on a guest's length of stay. In general, the Alliance recommends that participating properties limit their communications with in-house guests to one text per day/evening.
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