The 12.2 billion-dollar purchase of Starwood Hotels by Marriott is dominating the business media this week, and rightly so: the acquisition will create the world’s largest hotel conglomerate, comprising 1.1 million rooms in 5,500 hotels spanning 100 countries. Here are the trends that are likely to influence the combined entity’s global marketing strategy.
People want the content they access and receive to be targeted to them. Generic, globally neutral content is no longer influential. People are needed on the ground to create local, customized, demographically relevant content.
People seek, find, and book hotels on mobile phones and tablets. This growth in mobile means that experiences must be optimized for multiple channels. Buyers will turn away if they have bad or annoying experiences on their device of choice.
Millennial buying power
Forbes reminds us in a recent blog that eighty million Millennials in America represent $200 billion in annual buying power. This means that content must be tailored to what worldwide Millennials care about: superior customer engagement, a personalized experience, socially conscious buying, and price sensitivity.
Buyers worldwide are increasingly connecting with companies through social channels. Relevant, personalized content delivered through these channels can be used to lure people in, and inspire likes and followers who eventually become buyers and brand ambassadors. Given the limited promotion of their social media presence on the Marriott website or on the Starwood website, both firms are currently missing the chance to interact with millions of buyers. Yet, some kudos are in order: social media entry points are on the pages for each sub-brand. However, the use of social media by those individual hotel brands is inconsistent, and frequently limited only to English-speaking audiences.
The buyer’s journey
Within the stages of the buying cycle (browsing, booking, pre-trip, etc.), 58% of buying happens during a trip. More marketing and more content must be pushed to travelers during that segment of their trip such as retail, deals for excursions from the hotel, and spa and restaurant specials.
Look to the East
Marriott must focus on expanding content for Asia first. South Asia, led by India, is where the growth is (although the Middle East is not far behind). The fastest growing major countries through to 2025 include India, China, UK, Thailand, Indonesia, Peru and Kenya. Asian languages readily apparent on the Marriott website include only Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Missing are Thai and Indonesian, and any of the many languages spoken in India (Hindi would come first). More languages are on the pages of sub-brands, but it is not consistent.
This highlights the attractiveness of Starwood Hotels. 81 percent of Marriott’s rooms are in the Americas, while Starwood has built a strong Asia presence — something that Marriott is trying to replicate with its current major expansion in Asia. In fact, Marriott has opened a new hotel in mainland China every two weeks over the past several months.
This new company of colossal power and influence will challenge and disrupt trends in the hot global Travel & Hospitality economy, but the same lessons apply to other leaders seeking to capitalize on the projected growth rate of 3.9 percent per year over the next decade. (Other interesting growth statistics are here.)
Given that this growth is largely projected outside the U.S., now’s a great time for Marriott and every other would-be Travel & Hospitality industry titan to align to these make-or-break marketing trends.