Using Online Travel Videos to Boost Bookings
IndustryView | 2014
The amount of information available to travelers who are planning a business trip or a vacation today is astounding. Hospitality organizations must diversify their marketing content to cut through the competition and draw the most attention to their brand.
One method that is growing in popularity is the use of online promotional videos. The statistics are compelling: 51 percent of leisure travelers, 69 percent of business travelers and 55 percent of affluent travelers watch online travel videos, all of which represent increases from the previous year.
Producing travel videos may seem like a daunting task to some, but it can be a relatively inexpensive way for hotels to create content that grabs the attention of potential guests and, ultimately, drives direct bookings. To find out more, we surveyed consumers on their preferences for online videos, including on content and style. Below are the results.
We started by asking travelers, if they were researching accommodations for an upcoming trip, on which website they would prefer to view a hotel’s videos—and exactly half say on the hotel’s website. Another 34 percent would prefer to watch videos on YouTube, while 12 percent prefer Facebook and 5 percent say Instagram.
A recurring (and increasing) challenge for hotels is driving potential customers to their websites for direct bookings. Fortunately, this result shows that consumers would actually prefer to visit a hotel’s website when doing research for a trip.
“Generally, we see viewing videos on [a company’s] website as a win-win for the customer and the brand,” says Tyler Lessard, chief marketing officer at Vidyard (a leading provider of video marketing and analytics technologies for several industries, including hospitality).
For the customer, Lessard says, the advantage is knowing that the content is reputable and recent, versus the slightly more ambiguous nature of YouTube. As for the hotels, when customers view videos directly on their website, those customers are kept within the same branded experience.
“One of the downsides of YouTube is that a potential customer is usually only one click away from a competitor’s video,” Lessard says. “But on your own site, you can preserve that experience, and walk them from the video to a booking more effectively.”
He adds that hotels should publish video content to both YouTube and a branded website to maximize the video’s reach and give consumers options on where they view the content. And YouTube videos should include a call-to-action with a link or an annotation near the end of the video, to drive them to the hotel’s website.
When looking at which websites different age groups prefer, we found that those who prefer Instagram are, interestingly, both the youngest and oldest groups: 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 25 percent of those 65 and older.
Looking at demographic data for Instagram users, our findings match up: As of December 2013, 43 percent of Instagram users were between the ages of 18-29 or 50-64.
Overall, though, the hotel’s website was the most evenly distributed preference across age groups. With a strong video presence on both their websites and on YouTube, hotels should be able to grab the attention of the largest possible swath of travelers.
Now we know which websites viewers prefer to watch videos on, but what should those videos actually show potential guests? According to the data, 68 percent would be most encouraged to book at a hotel after seeing the amenities it had to offer, compared to 32 percent who would be most convinced by information about nearby activities.
Lessard explains that before travelers actually arrive at your website, they’re at a higher level in the decision-making process, in which they’re deciding on a city they want to stay in or on a specific activity they want to do during their trip.
Thus, he says, once they get to your hotel’s website, they typically already have information about the local activities, and are now looking for more details about the hotel itself: specifics about your rooms, your amenities and how you differ from hotels down the road. Hotels can offer this information on their own websites to maintain the brand experience and keep guests from clicking away to another page.
“That’s important for brands to keep in mind—[you should give] people all [the] information they need on your site to bring them right through to that purchase decision,” he says.
We just learned that travelers would be most encouraged to book at a hotel after seeing videos showing the property’s features. Next, we delved deeper to see what specific aspects they’d like to see most.
The majority (57 percent) want to see the rooms, suites and common areas—such as the lobby—in hotel videos. The spa, pool or gym ranked second, with 20 percent. Other options such as natural scenery, on-site restaurants and bars and the hotel’s staff and management ranked further behind, at 9 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
For every guest, different types of content will be of differing importance in their purchasing decision—so it's best to present a variety, Lessard says. Hotels should absolutely have a quality video showcasing their rooms and lobby, but that alone probably isn’t enough to drive many customers to book. Offering a brief look at every aspect of the hotel’s amenities and features gives all potential customers a chance to see the content they most value.
“Allow them to go on their own content journey, if you will, to discover more and more of that information,” he says. “Because if you don’t have a video of your spa experience, the next hotel might—and that might be what converts that person.”
As far as video content about local activities in the hotel’s surrounding area, travelers most wanted information on local dining and bar options, at 28 percent. Not far behind was content on outdoor activities (21 percent) and culture, art and entertainment (20 percent) near the hotel.
The roughly even split of results for this question could be due to the variety of interests each consumer has—so Lessard suggests representing each local activity in its own video.
“With video, the average attention span for a viewer might be 30 to 60 seconds, at most,” he says, “so brands often make the mistake of creating a three-minute video showing everything—only to find out that most people drop off after 20 seconds, and [may not] actually get to the content they want.”
Research has shown that the average attention span for online consumers is shrinking: 60 percent of viewers drop off just two minutes into a video. Thus, your hotel’s videos should be short, sweet and to-the-point—or as Lessard puts it, “snack-sized.”
Promotional videos can have various purposes—to make you laugh, to endear you or to tell a story about a company and its customers. Often, though, videos are purely informative, and for 57 percent of respondents, that’s all they really want: an informational video that provides important details about the hotel, such as on its rooms and location.
Lessard describes the “buyer’s journey” consumers go through. In the beginning of this process, they respond most to broad-level or overview story content; the beginning of your videos, then, should simply convey to the viewer what the brand is all about and what differentiates it from others.
As the consumer is exposed to more detailed information, they move into the “educational” phase of the process, he explains.
“As the consumer, at this point, I’ve bought into the story, and now I want to get details on the room and spa,” he says. “That’s when you see more interest—and conversions.”
Lessard doesn’t discount the power of humor, as it can be effective in keeping people engaged with your content. But he suggests that brands consider carefully the message they want to send to determine if humor sets the appropriate mood.
Finally, we asked travelers who they would most prefer to serve as the “virtual host” or narrator of a hotel’s video. Of the available options, most respondents (37 percent) would prefer an actual hotel guest—but 31 percent would rather a video not have a narrator at all, instead relying on just images and music.
Another 20 percent would like an independent travel guide to host, while only 11 percent would want the hotel’s general manager to serve as narrator.
We’ve known for a while now that consumers prefer reviews by other real consumers, and these results only reinforce that. Simply look at the popularity of TripAdvisor’s guest comments to see how much of a motivator reviews from other guests can be. Using this tactic for hotel videos can be incredibly effective as well, Lessard says.
“There is a trend toward using video content to help humanize your brand and connect with your audience in a more natural way,” he says. “A great way to do that is through having a real-world mix of employees and customers.”
This works in the same way TripAdvisor works: by presenting content from people whom consumers can identify with as trusted peers. For hotels, this would be an actual guest. As for the staff member involved in the video, Lessard says hotels should choose a person that guests are likely to actually interact with—such as the front desk manager or concierge—to build that familiarity before the guest actually arrives.
This data reveals a specific strategy that should drive the most bookings: Create various “snack-sized” videos, giving detailed information about each aspect of the property and narrated by a real hotel guest, and post them to the hotel’s website as well as to YouTube.
With all the challenges hotels face today, hoteliers should remain confident that by using these video marketing tactics, they can showcase their strengths better than anyone else and differentiate themselves from competitors.
To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.