Of 200 brands ranked by brand intimacy in MBLM’s study last month, travel companies came out worst.
Comfortably the lowest of nine industries assessed, travel is increasingly perceived to be confusing and impersonal. Why?
We decided to look at the concept of brand intimacy, its importance and how hotels can redress the current imbalance.
What’s brand intimacy?
Brand intimacy centres on the emotional attachment of the consumer to the brand. MBLM’s overall score reflects ‘the degree of overall positive feelings a customer has toward a brand and the extent to which a person associates the brand with key attributes’. So great brand intimacy means being liked, trusted and generally held in high regard. The research highlights the long standing correlation between brand intimacy and growth in revenue and profitability, not to mention the ability to charge premium prices.
The top three travel brands are all airlines, while hotels are the worst scorers. Even major hotel chains such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Marriott scarcely reach a third of the brand intimacy enjoyed by the likes of Apple and BMW at the top of the leaderboard. So why are hoteliers struggling to connect with consumers?
Getting lost in the crowd
While travel is at a disadvantage, being far more occasional than the use of cars or smartphones, Tnooz rightly concludes that this trend reflects the dual forms of disintermediation between travel brands and their customers, namely in dialogue and purchase. The high prevalence of travel agencies and metasearch tools means that customers miss out on the trust-building process of booking direct from brand.com. In the face of this, it's more important than ever to manage distribution channels so that direct isn't lost among them.
Travel also generates more conversation perhaps than any other industry, with 77% people checking review sites such as TripAdvisor before booking their stay. This means that these customers often do not engage directly with hotel brands, which weakens the rapport between hotels and consumers.
Look through your guest’s eyes: It’s taken a long search and many websites. Guided by extensive marketing, you make a third party booking. All goes smoothly. Who will your first port of call be next time round?
What does this mean for hotels?
With tighter data protection surrounding third party bookings, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for hotels to know their guests, let alone to show them what they need to see. While we’re tackling this head on with our dynamic segmentation here at Triptease, we also believe in exploiting the opportunities available to improve your website.
If you can’t beat them, be them (but better)
Credit where it’s due: TripAdvisor is here to stay as an invaluable platform for sharing experiences and creating transparency. Embrace the fact that almost half of guests check reviews before booking a holiday: it can be a chance to see the real you. We like these five tips for handling negative reviews, but it’s also good to remember that 64% users ignore extreme comments. If you can trust your guests’ judgement, you’ll find they can trust you.
Embedding the TripAdvisor widget is an instant endorsement of your brand, leaving guests reassured and more willing to book direct. Couple this with a slick, user-friendly website, beautiful pictures and a little reassurance about the benefits of booking direct and you’ll be offering all the services guests might have found elsewhere in one place: your website. Transparent, simple, effective.
Put a lid on disintermediation and take the first step towards building intimacy between your hotel brand and your guests through a real, personal connection. Find out how to know your guests and respond to them here.