Hilton CMO, Geraldine Calpin, on what will keep the marketing industry and hotels on their toes

The chief marketing officer at Hilton, Geraldine Calpin, tells GMR how the global hospitality chain has innovated its email marketing approach.

Every hotel has its own unique story to tell. How has Hilton developed a content marketing strategy to tell its hotels’ story to its customers?

It’s all about personalisation. To ensure we deliver maximum impact for our guests, we map out customer touchpoints and identify personalised communication channels to reach them at each stage of their journey with us.

We’ve recently innovated our email marketing approach. It’s now a dynamic system that updates constantly, even after emails are distributed and opened. This means customers are shown dynamically changing and up-to-the-minute accuracy of special offers, weather, room choices and much more.

Our brand websites, as well as the re-launched Hilton Explore and stayinspired.com sites, are regularly updated with fresh, engaging content, such as destination guides, to serve as inspiration for wherever our guests might be travelling to.

What hotels in the region should look at, and what not in 2017 when it comes to content marketing?

In 2017 and beyond, we expect a number of trends to emerge that will keep the marketing industry and hotels on its toes:

The ‘always on’ culture: In the digital world we live in, most travellers use one or several smart devices to navigate, find the best places to eat, explore and so on. For this reason, we need to continue to be hyper-connected and available to guests around the clock. At all stages of the customer journey, from pre-booking to after their stay, we deliver engaging and relevant content via our owned channels.

New innovations: Given the move to more automated travel and the desire to simplify the customer journey, we’re constantly researching new ways to improve the Hilton Honors app. At the moment, we’re trialling enabling customers to talk directly to a hotel via the app, as well as exploring new technology to allow guests to control the temperature of their room.

Personalisation of content and experiences: Personalisation will continue to be a trend as the digital space becomes even more crowded. The Hilton Honors app allows guests to ask for personalised extras, such as the type of pillow or welcome beverage they prefer. We’re also looking to personalise the pre-booking stage in the near future.

We know it can be a long process to research destinations, so we want to provide guests with a tailored service whereby if, for example, they want to travel no more than three hours, to a family-friendly destination with a spa in the hotel, we can provide recommendations suited to them.

What are the key digital strategies you have adopted that differentiate Hilton from other hotel brands?

We’re proud to have nearly 60 million members registered to our Hilton Honors loyalty programme globally. One huge draw is the access guests get to innovative user features, such as digital check-in and the integration with Google Maps within our award-winning app, allowing guests to pick the floor, location and even room view they wish to stay in.

We’re on a journey to personalise our customers’ experiences and give them as much control over their entire travel journey as possible; we recently added a feature whereby guests can ‘favourite’ a hotel room on the app, so that, when they next stay with us, we know which room they’d prefer.

We have also recently rolled out Digital Key, the ability to use your mobile device as your door key, across more 750 hotels in the US, Canada and Singapore. This means guests won’t even need to get out of bed to answer the door to room service; they can simply unlock it using the remote control in their app.

We’re always researching new ways to set ourselves apart from the competition. Hilton London Metropole, for example, is currently trialling a partnership with AirPortr, allowing guests’ luggage to be transferred directly from the hotel to the airline check-in desk available at multiple London airports. The service, for British Airways travellers, takes the hassle out of carrying luggage, as the next time guests see their bags is on the carousel at their destination.

Tell us about your ‘Stop Clicking Around’ campaign. Is this marketing strategy to encourage travellers to book direct on Hilton channels doing better than your earlier campaigns?

The ‘Stop Clicking Around’ campaign was launched in early 2016 and is the largest marketing initiative in Hilton’s history. The aim was to encourage travellers to book directly with Hilton. This way, consumers save time and money, and receive instant benefits, including exclusive rates on rooms, every day.

As well as guaranteed discounts that can’t be found elsewhere, Hilton Honors members have access to free Wi-Fi and can earn Honors Points to redeem for future stays. Booking through Hilton.com also gives members access to a range of exclusive events, from Live Nation concerts to intimate private dining experiences through Hilton’s Honors Auction website.

Since the launch of Stop Clicking Around, Hilton Honors enrolment is up by more than 100 per cent and the app is being downloaded every eight seconds, reaching more than 3.6 million downloads in 2016. We saw more than nine million new members join in 2016 and awareness of the programme has increased by seven points this year and conviction has increased by five points, suggesting travellers are more willing to go out of their way to stay at our hotels.

So are you seeing the role of online travel agents (OTAs) getting redundant in the days to come if more and more hotels start getting the direct booking from their guests?

OTAs continue to be an important part of our business and the industry as a whole. We recognise that OTAs complement our business model in places and broaden our customer base. Having said that, we actively encourage our guests to book direct through Hilton channels to receive the best rewards, strengthening our direct relationship with them.

Who are your target guests going to be in 2017?

Travellers from Europe, the GCC and emerging African and Asian countries continue to be key market travellers. Our range of luxury, upscale and mid-market hotels are well placed to appeal to a wide segment of guest types, offering exceptional experiences across each touchpoint.

Hilton has recently introduced additional benefits to its loyalty programme Hilton Honors. Can you tell us more about these benefits?

At Hilton, we want to offer our guests exceptional experiences wherever they are, so we are committed to continually innovating in order to offer industry-first benefits to our 60 million Hilton Honors members.

Hilton Honors is now the first and only loyalty programme that offers members the opportunity to combine their points and money for a hotel stay or to use their points at Amazon.com to purchase products. We have also introduced points pooling, which allows family and friends to combine their Points for free for bigger savings, perfect for family reunions, bachelorette parties or any other event where a group is coming together. We understand that such flexibility is really important to our guests so we have also introduced the ability to extend Diamond status for a year when life puts travel on pause.

Hilton has introduced a new corporate identity and logo for Hilton and Hilton Honors. Can you discuss this in more detail?

Yes, that’s right. We have recently introduced a new corporate identity and logo for Hilton and Hilton Honors. Our Hilton Honors members will notice an update to the programme’s name and logo, shifting from HHonors (with two H’s) to Honors. We also embarked on a rebranding journey for the hotel chain as a whole, and as part of this, we now no longer use “Worldwide” in the name and are now known simply as “Hilton”.

This article appeared in the March 2017 issue of Gulf Marketing Review. To subscribe please call: +971 4 369 7573

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