GHN Thought Leader

Colleen (Donovan) Coulter

Head of Industry for Travel

Facebook

GHN Q/A with Colleen Coulter 

Global Hotel Network.com: How are successful hotel marketers connecting with customers?

Colleen Coulter: The most successful hotel marketers are connecting with their customers across ALL touch points along the travel journey - from discovery and booking, to in-destination and post-trip. I know this sounds like a daunting task; however, this is where automation and optimization technologies come into play. The most successful hotel marketers are using machine learning to make it easier to be where travelers are and align with their ever-increasing expectations surrounding discovery, convenience, and connection.

Discovery: Successful hotel marketers are visible early on - well before a customer has initiated their booking decision - to ensure they are in travelers' initial consideration sets. Combined with the consumer shift to mobile, this means that advertisers must now be present and active across mobile placements as well. Machine learning helps hotel marketers like Kalahari Resorts leverage multiple placements across platforms while optimizing toward those with the best performance. By removing restrictions on a campaign, media teams can test more opportunities simultaneously including creative iterations, placements, audiences and more. This also frees up the media teams' time to work on more strategic problem-solving.

Convenience: Once travelers decide where they want to go, they want personalized, frictionless experiences. Across over 600 businesses studied in the US, it still takes 22 clicks on average for people to complete checkout both online and on mobile(1). If a company doesn't meet a customer's expectations, people are quick to find alternatives — 70% of customers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere(2). Optimization tools help hotel marketers meet travelers' personalization expectations. For example, advertisers can automatically serve personalized content based on travel intent or based on what's resonating with similar audiences. Many hotel marketers - from global hoteliers to boutique hotels - are using Facebook's travel ads to reach people in more personalized ways that drive performance.

Connection: Travel is all about connection - connecting to new cultures, new places, new experiences, new people - and travelers also want to feel connected to the businesses serving them. Messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp can identify potential loyal customers or those who might need additional service and allow advertisers to proactively connect with those travelers. Hotels are using messaging apps to automatically surface pre-trip check-ins, local recommendations, and post-trip follow ups. For example, Marina Bay Sands used a Messenger bot to improve its customer service and connect with travelers through experiences exploration, achieving a 38X increase in number of views for Shop & Dine website content.

All in all, the most successful hotel marketers are connecting with their customers throughout the travel journey and doing so in an efficient and personalized way with the help of automation and optimization tools powered by machine learning.

Sources:
1Checkout Conversion Index Snapshot for Q2 2018,” PYMNTS.com, Nov 2018.


2Consumer Experience in the Retail Renaissance,” Salesforce and Deloitte Digital, Apr 2018.

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As the head of Travel at Facebook, Colleen Coulter partners with some of the world's largest travel brands, helping them connect to consumers in a mobile-first world. She helps them drive business results throughout the travel journey using Facebook's family of apps, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Colleen has been at Facebook since 2013, and joined the travel vertical after four years. Since then, she has led the travel initiative, representing the needs of the industry to Facebook's product and measurement teams to continually advance their solutions. She has developed important partnerships with major brands and agencies, supporting them to achieve their goals through industry-leading marketing solutions and growth strategies.  

Prior to Facebook, Colleen worked as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, working across industries on consumer-focused growth strategies and profitability and process improvement. Colleen earned her master's in business administration from Stanford's Graduate School of Business and a bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is based in Brooklyn with her husband, and enjoys running, exploring new restaurants, and of course, traveling.