L2’s newest report, Digital IQ Index: Hotels, benchmarks the digital competence of 52 prestige hotel brands. The study, developed by NYU Stern Professor Scott Galloway and a team of experts from L2, in partnership with Buddy Media, assessed more than 350 data points across four dimensions: Site, Digital Marketing, Social Media and Mobile.
“In this year’s report, an overwhelming 38 percent of brands registered an Average ranking, versus just 10 percent in 2011,” says Galloway. “The standard deviation across the Index tightened from 38 in 2011 to 21 in 2012, suggesting differentiation in digital has become increasingly difficult. This is a significant departure from a year ago, when more than a third of hotel brands scored in the Feeble ranks. Strong sites, presence across major social media platforms, and optimization for mobile are becoming table stakes as competition intensifies.”
Feeble brands are characterized by non-participation across one or more dimensions. This phenomenon is typically not a product of effort, but of resource allocation to digital. Common weaknesses include outdated placeholder sites, little presence on digital marketing channels (e.g., email marketing and online advertisements), and anemic social media properties.
Mobile presence is the most significant point of differentiation for Challenged brands. Many have mobile sites with booking capability as well as strong mobile applications on the brand and property level. Social media properties of several challenged brands also extend to the property level, although Challenged brands struggled with consistency on this dimension.
Average brands, for the most part, are allocating resources to each of the Index’s four dimensions. In aggregate, however, these efforts do not necessarily create a digital presence that is stronger than the sum of its parts. Programs are often siloed, the most prominent example being a pronounced disconnect between brands’ booking pages and their digital marketing (i.e., search, display advertising, blog & other user-generated content, and email marketing).
Gifted brands demonstrate considerable differentiation, with extremely robust programming across each of the four dimensions. Gifted brands are characterized by both strong social media pages as well as strong mobile apps on the property and brands levels.
Hilton and Marriott are successfully using scale to their advantage, especially regarding booking functionality. Marriott, which used to be known for its conservatism, is now taking greater risks such as its recent LGBT promotions.
FourSeasons, like the category leaders in many L2 studies, benefits from acting as a fast follower rather than a bleeding-edge trendsetter. One of only nine brands in the Index providing links to TripAdvisor, Four Seasons takes integration one step further by incorporating curated reviews on property pages. The brand’s social media presence is absolutely consistent across its 80 properties’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, with a strong commitment to customer service and local character on each. Four Seasons has also done a fantastic job at utilizing emerging platforms with Pinterest and Instagram pages that set industry standards.