Reviews, loyalty programs influence hotel stays: Epsilon

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Recommendations and reviews, as well as loyalty programs, have a significant influence on consumers' decisions on what hotels they stay at, according to a study from Epsilon, a marketing services provider.

E-mail also remains consumers' communications channel of choice, while respondents said hotel amenities, sweepstakes and contests rank high on what they're interested in hearing about electronically from hotel marketers.

The survey, which queried 400 consumers who recently booked a hotel, was part of a larger study across multiple product categories on the state of customer experience marketing.

One-third (33%) said they knew exactly what hotel they would select, with other consumers “pretty sure” or “unsure” – leaving an opportunity for hotel marketers.

Consumers' top priority is price, followed by hotel location, according to the survey.

“Fortunately, there is a significant percentage of travelers who do not make a decision based solely on price,” says Michael Penney, EVP of Epsilon's Strategic & Analytic Consulting Group. “It's important to reach those who may be influenced with the right messaging.”

Good reviews from friends, family members and product and brand websites also play a large role in decisions, according to the survey.

“The most important aspect marketers need to know from this study is that positive testimonials are a controllable way to improve marketing effectiveness and that the messaging can be from a controlled channel, like e-mail, or a brand or property web site, as well as from an uncontrolled location,” says Penney.

Also of great importance are loyalty programs. More than eight in 10 loyalty program members said membership makes them more likely to stay at a hotel chain.

“Testimonials matter, and who better to trust for a testimonial than a member of a loyalty program?” Penney said. “Marketers can offer incentives to get members to post testimonials about certain properties or services and can also provide information to give the consumer comfort that the testimonial is credible, while maintaining privacy.”

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