Google just gave hotel marketers a reprieve and another chance to get it right

Google, the world’s largest advertising company, which earns about US$200 billion a year in ad revenue, just announced that it was delaying its phaseout of third-party cookies on Chrome from 2023 until “the second half of 2024.” Chrome commands almost 67% of global browser market share.

Google rivals such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already blocked the third-party cookies for more than three years now. Hotel advertisers use cookies to target customers, although many governments and privacy advocates alike claim this type of targeting to be too intrusive and to use too much personal information.

Last year, Apple introduced a new Mail Privacy Protection with its iOS 15, iPad OS 15 and macOS Monterey updates, which eliminated many of the email tracking and data gathering capabilities from email marketers.

Google is also planning to kill tracking across apps on Android smartphones over the next two years, which means phasing out of its device identifier for Android known as Android Advertising ID (AAID) or Google Advertising ID (GAID), which are the only tools for advertisers to precisely target and track users within apps on billions of Android devices.

What does it all mean to hotel marketers?

These latest privacy moves by Google, Firefox and Apple, as well as government privacy regulations like the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA underscore the importance of first-party and zero-party data, incl. first-party cookies, which allows marketers to establish direct relationships with their potential, past, present and future customers.

First-party data is the customer data (past customers & guests, website users, opt-in email subscribers, lists of corporate travel managers, meeting planners, wedding and event planners, SMERF group leaders the property has been doing business with or at least in communications with, etc.) that comes from the PMS, CRS, WBE, CRM program, from the property’s website, opt-in email sign-ups, even customer lists sitting on laptops of sales and marketing personnel. Zero-party data is all the customer data, provided voluntarily by customers via sign-up forms, reward and loyalty program membership preferences, etc.

What does the elimination of third-party cookies mean for hotel marketers? It will disallow many hotel marketers from measuring the success and ROIs of their digital marketing campaigns. Example, next time when you have a banner advertising on the local CVB website or on the digital version of the travel section of the local newspaper you wouldn’t know whether people booked your hotel after they saw your banner.

Who will lose the most from the elimination of third-party cookies?

Will the elimination of third-party cookies affect the major hotel chains like Marriott with its Everest-sized first party data derived from its 164 million loyalty membership? Or the OTAs with their hundreds of millions of users and reward members? Hardly. So, who will be the biggest losers from the elimination of the third-party cookies? Independent hotels, midsize and smaller hotel brands and chains that do not have well-structured, well-centralized first-party and zero-party data and the technology to manage and utilize it across the organization, including in marketing, customer service, operations, and revenue management.

What should independents do?

Consider implementing a CRM technology and program (Ex. Cendyn CRM, Revinate CRM, etc.) that can not only create 360-degree guest profiles, but more importantly categorize past guests based on their RFM value (Recency, Frequency, Monetary), augment guest profiles with preferences, social media ambassadorship, customer engagement data, etc. and conduct marketing automation and drip marketing campaigns in the pre-, during- and post-stay.

Midsize and smaller hotel brands should consider implementing a Customer Data Platform (CDP). The CDP provides “a single source of truth” for the guest data and not only creates 360-degree guest profiles, but more importantly augments guest profiles with preferences, social media ambassadorship, customer engagement data, etc. which enables operations to personalize customer experience, allows for one-to-one marketing and can significantly increase customer engagements via similar audiences marketing. Cendyn’s Starling CDP is a great example of a CDP hotel.

How do you increase the size of your first-party date? In addition to implementing CDP and CRM technologies and having a guest appreciation program or reward program in place, Content Marketing is the best way to increase your first party data.

Review and optimize your property’s Content Marketing initiatives, whose role has been highly elevated by the current crisis and curtailed marketing budgets. These initiatives include: unique, relevant and enticing website content, brand positioning announcements (ex. Green Hotel Certification), SEO, website content, social media posts, B2B marketing initiatives via LinkedIn aiming to engage corporate travel and group planners, PR, blog articles and posts, white papers, webinars, case studies, influencer marketing, expert knowledge marketing, award announcements, new services and amenities announcements, etc.

Create gated content for your expert knowledge marketing initiatives, including valuable spa and wellness-related advice, chef recipes, cocktail recipes, wedding and social event how-to guides, etc.

Max Starkov
NYU

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