Trade must get itself connected

A comprehensive online strategy can benefit hospitality businesses, says digital marketing manager Simon Bennison


IT’S quickly becoming clear that no one in the hospitality industry can afford to stay completely offline, as businesses become more connected and the public immerse themselves in the rapidly evolving world of technology.

Websites, social media channels and apps are overshadowing traditional outlets of information for people deciding where to go for a drink, meal or overnight stay.
In fact, we’re increasingly being approached by establishments which feel they are missing out on custom because they’ve neglected the online realm in favour of alternative methods of communication with their potential customers.


Our advice is simple but highly effective: a clear and coherent online strategy, complementing any offline approach, will boost your brand, increase sales and turn customers into loyal fans.
The solution can be as complex as your budget and ambitions but a few easy steps can get your operation on the right track.
Firstly, work out what the end result should be.
Is it attracting more customers, filling rooms or simply creating a website which can be a useful information source for browsing trade? This is also an opportunity to check up on competitors and take note of what they’re up to.
Once established it’s time to look forward and begin the overall process of boosting an online presence.
From the conception of any digital strategy, it’s strongly advised to build in a method of monitoring.
Google Analytics offers this function for free, allowing businesses to track, update and refine objectives to the most intricate of details.
It’s possible to establish how many users visit a website, how long they stay on it and what pages they view; all of this information, if used correctly, can help get your message to the people who are listening.
Next up is social media – a commonly used term, but one which definitely has a role to play in building brands, despite its ubiquity.
People often trust personal recommendations more than advertising, with word of mouth still the most reliable form of attracting customers.
To achieve this via the internet, create a conversation online – more people talking equates to more listeners, soaking up all the noise about your business.
It’s also worth integrating social media channels into your webpage, especially review sites like Trip Advisor, etching public feedback onto a homepage for customers to admire.
For firms with a bigger budget, investing in a well designed website, mobile sites and apps is strongly advised, giving customers the opportunity to view menus, make bookings and take a look at the facilities on offer.
However, you don’t need packed coffers to make a mark in the online realm.
Whatever resources are available, the end result is always to attract business, secure customer loyalty and encourage curious consumers to pay your place a visit in the process.
• Simon Bennison is the digital marketing manager at Alienation Digital, whose hospitality clients include BDL Hotels and Maclay Inns.

Image – Social media sites like Facebook are a key way for trade businesses to communicate with consumers, says Alienation Digital’s Simon Bennison.