Analytics is an amazing and powerful tool. Voltaire/FDR/Stan Lee (depends who you ask) has said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is particularly relevant to Analytics users in the hotel industry who are making marketing decisions. Unfortunately, a lot of people misuse the power of hotel analytics, and end up hurting their hotel asset by limiting its online revenue or wasting precious time and marketing dollars.
Here are some changes you should make in your online marketing strategy to avoid common, yet costly, mistakes.
Note: Google Analytics is one of my favorite Google products of all time. I have been evangelizing and speaking on how to get the most out of it for several years. However, the opinions expressed below apply equally to any other analytics program your hotel may be using.
Getting Caught in Traffic
Analytics is a brilliant product because it is revolves around the basic human desire to be popular and have numbers to prove it. You know, Holy Grail stuff. However, chasing ongoing pure traffic growth can turn into a full-time waste of time for your marketing team. High traffic numbers can be a false growth indicator.
Instead, how about we start with the basics: Why do you have a hotel website? What do you want people to do when they get to your website? These are the questions that will help you reposition and reshape your website to bring in more revenue. Website conversion and engagement metrics are much more important than traffic numbers, and they need your constant attention. Focusing too much on month-over-month traffic growth distracts you from this important work.
No Goals = No Funnels = No Need for Analytics
I meet a lot of marketing “experts” who are heading a hotel’s marketing team, yet do not understand the basics of tracking goals and evaluating the conversion funnel. Some do not even know the difference between clicks and impressions! If you haven’t defined what goals you have for your website, there is no meaning to be found in staring at web statistics. It’s like staring into the abyss and waiting for some (any) meaning to pop out. So, make sure you understand the basics of goal setting and funnel evaluation before you get into analytics. Then, you’ll have to integrate Google Analytics into your hotel booking engine – not just your website – in order to start reviewing and monitoring your ecommerce conversion funnel.
Data Accuracy Is Dead
Google killed it. The way people are browsing the internet today is making accurate tracking very hard. In my experience, those obsessing over data accuracy are usually the ones who have the least amount to contribute, and the least understanding about analytics. The focus needs to be on gaining insights from the analytics you have, and not on a fictional super-accurate data set that will make all your dreams come true. An additional challenge for hotels is the need to get accurate numbers from two different domains: your hotel domain and your booking engine domain. Even seasoned professionals find this challenging; Google Analytics and the many booking engines on the market were not necessarily made to work together seamlessly. My advice on this: keep a cool head, and call in advanced technical help when needed. Most of all, know what you’re looking at and don’t lose focus on the big picture.
The ROI Monster
The way the ‘interwebs’ and specifically Google are shaping up, it is going to be almost impossible to know the exact ROI (return on investment) of your online marketing campaign. Cross-browser, platform and device tracking are getting trickier. Along with privacy concerns (affecting everyone but the NSA), these technical challenges are making it harder to track everything.
In spite of these issues, a lot of hotel ecommerce managers have been turned into reporting monkeys. Which begs the question: why pay a full-time hotel ecommerce manager just to chase your online marketing vendor for stats, stats, and more stats? In the mad rush to track ROI on every penny you have spent, everything else that is super important (insights, branding, growth, strategy) takes second place.
It’s time to move on to better things. Don’t drag down your hotel’s online marketing efforts because you are not seeing a hockey stick growth chart or a 10,000:1 ROI Excel report (and yes, to my dismay, I have seen both of these).
Instead, you can choose not to participate in the reporting/ROI mayhem that has taken over online hotel marketing. Focus on insights instead of numbers. Move away from checklist-style online marketing. Understand how the analytics data relates to your particular hotel, its location, and its online goals. Analyze!
Here is what you can instead of beating hard on the ROI drum:
- Don’t ask a question that is impossible to answer accurately. Instead, focus on what you have in your control: website conversions, abandonment, branding, and story.
- Educate yourself and others about what the reports really have to offer. Accept that Google has done away with data accuracy; the proof is in the (not set) (not provided) statistics that are all over your analytics reports.
- Stop the madness. Toxic reporting and hyped-up sales pitches are the biggest byproduct of ROI-driven marketing. It’s a hostage situation when you refuse to spend money online until you see 100% accurate and super-high ROI. This attitude is forcing agencies and vendors to produce reports for the purpose of showing ROI instead of pursuing productive, revenue-driving goals.
At your next marketing meeting, try this instead: Give analytics access to everyone. Go ahead, let them look around. Let them dig in, and then bring their own insights and questions to the meeting. This beats the pants off listening to one guy reading numbers off a report. Questioning and thinking leads to discussion = insights= action!
Analytics is a powerful tool, but it is only valuable if you know how to use it, and wish to use it to bring about positive change. Analytics data should be used to make your website better every day. Using it to justify marketing investment 24/7 is a real energy drain that will hurt your business. In the end, if you do not understand the value of online marketing in 2013 and need non-stop assurances about ROI… why not go back to print media ? I am pretty certain they would be very happy to hear from you.