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A Marketer’s Case for Hotel Metasearch

Hotel metasearch channels, like Google Hotel Ads, are great for distribution.  Like other third-party channels, they expand a hotel’s reach to new audiences.  That’s the predominant argument for metasearch in the industry.

And it’s wrong.  

Or, at a minimum, incomplete. Yes, metasearch channels can improve a hotel’s reach to new audiences.  However, they bear little resemblance to OTA’s or other third-party distribution channels.  In fact, when properly understood and managed, they become a marketer’s dream.

Direct reservations through metasearch

Always remember that hotel metasearch marketing drives direct reservations through the property website.  Equally important, the absence of that marketing all but guarantees that travelers looking to stay in your destination will book through OTAs or, worse yet, at one of your competitors.  

Marketers exist to win the battle for share in a competitive market, and Google Hotel Ads and other metasearch channels are ground zero for that combat.  The channels capture customers once they have passed the inspiration portion of their trip planning and are getting down to the selection of their preferred property and actual booking.  To be absent at that critical moment is to forfeit direct revenue.  We often hear from hoteliers who are resigned to letting OTA’s take a booking because it’s easier and still results in net bookings.  Metasearch marketing can be equally streamlined, more profitable, and result in an owned customer.  

Audience targeting techniques

Metasearch management provides marketers with audience tools that will be more familiar to them than to revenue managers.  Geographic, demographic, and behavioral targeting are all available through the platforms.  They allow properties to be selective with their media deployment and maximize their return on investment.  

These characteristics are far more aligned with a marketing perspective than distribution.   

First-Party vs Third-Party data

GCommerce was the first lonely voice in the hospitality industry proclaiming the coming extinction of third-party data.  Most properties didn’t fully grasp the implications of the shift at the time.  Today, marketers across the industry are reckoning with the impact.  As cookies go the way of MySpace and AOL, the tools we all have come to rely on to find and attract new customers are vanishing.  You can read here about the impact, but suffice it to say that the results have been catastrophic to unprepared properties.  

In the absence of third-party data, first-party data becomes the lifeblood of marketing.  Every competent marketer is developing strategies around building first-party audiences and how to use those audiences to drive revenue.  

Hospitality metasearch belongs at the heart of those strategies

Customers who select a property through metasearch go on to book at incrementally higher rates - that’s first-party booking data.  More so, many enter the booking funnel before abandoning their reservation, also first-party data.  As you may expect, remarketing to that reservation abandonment audience is amongst the most productive campaigns a marketer can run.  

Some savvy marketers are using metasearch as a brilliant tool to increase participation in loyalty programs, one of the ultimate forms of first-party data.  Instead of promoting a property’s best available rate, these properties are leading with Member Rates through hotel metasearch channels.  Travelers see the lower price and often choose to join the program so as to qualify for the promotional rate.  Win/win.  The property receives the reservation and enrollment in the loyalty program, all because of effective marketing through hotel metasearch.

Lifecycle marketing

Marketers know that the depreciation of third-party audiences compels us to harvest the most value out of every interaction available to us.  In the past, our models were focused only on attracting new customers because, frankly, that acquisition was so inexpensive.  Now, we must focus on a full lifecycle approach as we shift our measurement from a single reservation to the lifetime value of a customer.  We know that when a customer is earned for the first time, we must develop strategies to keep them coming back, to upsell them to new room types and experiences, and to turn them into brand advocates.    

Still, we have to feed new audiences into our lifecycle marketing funnel.  As discussed in our article titled “Hacking your marketing budget”, hotel metasearch is the most effective way to target and acquire new audiences.  With Metadesk’s innovative pricing model, a property can run robust acquisition campaigns through metasearch without spending a nickel from the marketing budget.  

Hospitality marketers are starting to understand that metasearch is not a distribution channel but instead a powerful tool in their marketing arsenal.  With the tools and techniques available exclusively through Metadeskmetasearch can become the secret weapon to market dominance.