Hilton’s Direct-To-Consumer Pitch Wins Over Travelers

Hilton wants its guests to book directly, because many of the online travel agencies used by so many customers don’t share guest data until the date of arrival.

By then, it’s too late to streamline and personalize the check-in process, said Kasey O’Leary, VP of global marketing for the Hilton portfolio and Hilton Honors.

But consumers hesitated to book directly with Hilton because they weren’t sure if they would get the best price and they didn’t know that booking directly with Hilton has benefits: Guests can pick their room, unlock it digitally and use free Wi-Fi.

Hilton responded with an ad campaign to make these benefits crystal clear.

The first year of the campaign, which launched October 2018, delivered huge results. The Hilton Honors loyalty program grew 20% to 94 million. Hilton saw a 10% increase in intent among people who normally book through online travel agencies. And consumers aged 18 to 34 showed a 24% increase in consideration to use the chain for their next vacation.

In the second year of the campaign, which went live in September, Hilton is stepping up the humor with actress Anna Kendrick.

Kendrick’s adds are appearing on linear TV and in online spaces where younger consumers thinking about travel, such as Pinterest, Instagram Stories and Snapchat.

Hilton tailors its ad creative to each platform so it feels native. Hilton’s Pinterest ads are two image tiles that interact with each other. Facebook and Snapchat are shot vertically. And on Snapchat, Kendrick sports a puppy filter as she video chats with her puppies.

“Customers are spending more time [on social media] than anywhere, and we want to be smart about the message we are putting there,” O’Leary said.

Hilton’s media buys are usually designed for reach and frequency. But it also targets people of a particular mindset online, like travel enthusiasts or those who want a standout experience without a standout price. Facebook also makes it easy to reach people who are fans of Kendrick.

Hilton will continue monitoring how many customers come to Hilton.com and its app in year two. Hilton looks at the makeup of visitors to its site as well as overall volume, how many people are booking direct, and analyzes app use and downloads. Hilton already saw an increase in new visitors to the site, showing that the campaign reached new potential customers.

Hilton is also enhancing communications with guests both before and after their stay. Its goal, O’Leary said, is to ensure it consistently removes the hassle from the travel experience.

This strategy comes from extensive research, when Hilton learned that exasperating experiences keep the travel industry from living up to consumer expectations. Unlike new competitors like Airbnb, the hotel industry can offer better service consistently.

“There are more options today to travel than ever before,” O’Leary said. “Customers want a more streamlined way to travel, and hotels have an amazing ability to facilitate it.”

 

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