Connect with guests using email during COVID-19

By Hannah Hambleton

While no one knows what the future holds; hoteliers must remain positive and dynamic during these difficult times due to coronavirus. There are steps hotels can take now to remain proactive and effectively prepare for the recovery – including reviewing and continuing their loyalty-creating strategies.

Every hotel needs loyal guests

Loyal guests spend more, book repeatedly and directly, and also act as powerful hotel brand ambassadors across their social networks. Loyal guests will also be the groups most likely to return after challenges or closures. Hotels need these valuable groups to bolster their business for the future – especially important during the current Covid19 crisis and future response.

Hotels work hard to give guests experiences that drive loyalty; but truly loyal guests are only created with active strategies that create engagement, appreciation and value for customers. Guests who are nurtured with specific loyalty-creating techniques feel special – and that’s the key to driving loyalty. Traditionally, hotels have used points-based loyalty programs to reward guests and foster guest commitment, but there are many other streams for hotels to create engaged and brand-devoted guests.

Three ways hotels can create genuine guest loyalty

While traditional loyalty points schemes rely on physical visits and bookings to reward guests, hotels can and should adopt other streams and strategies to drive loyalty too. This is especially important during coronavirus shutdowns when physical visits aren’t possible. The key is to keep serving guests, sensitively engaging and laying the foundations for the bounce-back. So what’s the answer? Email.

Here are 3 ways hotels can use email to increase guest loyalty. It comes down to three important areas: personalization, automation and providing exclusivity.

1. Understand guests with relevant, personalized email contact

Creating valuable and subscriber-only content is a powerful way to reward customers and drive loyalty, ensuring hotels build credibility while also delivering real value for guests. Highlighting these rewards are for valued subscribers only will ensure guests feel appreciated, as well as create some important FOMO (fear of missing out) to help persuade others to sign up. 

Loyalty programs are most successful when they recognize that different guests want different rewards – and email makes segmenting these offers easy.  Using email information and data collected from guest Wifi, enquiries, bookings or check-in; hotels can tailor, personalize and automate email campaigns that are relevant for every single guest. 

During shutdowns using email sensitively is still a valuable way to keep guests engaged and brand-aware. Hotels can send relevant hotel updates, how they’re responding to the crisis and information about bookings needing to be moved or cancelled. Of course, once reopening is possible, sending segmented booking offers to guests is the ideal way to reward them.

2. Automatically maximize every email touchpoint to drive loyalty 

The automation potential of email makes it a powerful way to automatically nudge guests through loyalty-maximizing funnels once they have subscribed to a hotel’s mailing list or database. This includes:

  • Sending an engaging, instant ‘welcome’ email to new subscribers. This should highlight subscriber benefits, as well as driving conversion to direct bookings. It’s essential that this is correctly personalized to maximize guest interest and value.
  • After check-out, hotels can automate a Tripadvisor review request. Not only is this an essential hotel marketing and SEO tool, it’s also a powerful way for guests to relive their great experience and feel appreciated by sharing their positive experiences with others.
  • Hotels can send automated emails that encourage guests to follow hotel social media accounts before check-in. After check out, emailing automated requests for user-generated content to be tagged on Instagram or Facebook will create community while also reinforcing how much guest experience is valued. It’s this continued two-way interaction that is essential to drive loyalty to a hotel brand.

3. Reward loyal guests with interesting, exclusive content via email

Offering email subscribers VIP access and offers will make guests feel special, and non-monetary rewards will especially drive exclusivity. This can include free destination guide downloads or priority booking access and upgrades, or instant rewards such as free coffee during their stay. It’s all about giving loyal hotel guests access to things other guests don’t have – driving that vital exclusivity and appreciation.

Even during COVID-19 shutdowns, hotels can use customer insight to actively communicate with their most loyal guests via email, offering exclusive virtual experiences around their values and interests; keeping marketing momentum going. Including: 

  • Cooking classes and shared recipes from a hotel chef. 
  • Hotel bartenders can develop an exclusive cocktail recipe to make at home, including a step by step video.
  • Workouts put together from in house gym trainers for at home workouts.

This content works to keep brand awareness high, as well as allowing hotels to offer valuable rewards to their guests to boost loyalty. It also promotes the message of ‘we’re all in this together, we value your loyalty and we’ll be ready to welcome you back when we can.’

To wrap up

Email is a great way to create valued, loyal guests – creating powerful personalized segments, automating the nurturing process and delivering exclusive subscriber benefits. Making guests feel special is paramount – and email makes this simple. Hotels can use email to engage with guests during COVID-19 shutdowns and future operational impacts; continuing the essential relevant interactions to nurture a loyal base ready for recovery. 

Hannah Hambleton is the Content Manager for Beambox. Beambox is a social WiFi provider, combining quality, fast guest WiFi with a marketing platform that gives hotels, restaurants and retailers the tools to drive growth with lasting customer insight.