With powerful new entrants looming and a rapid increase in travelers adopting mobile devices for research and booking, Luxury Hotel brands must harness all the right digital tools and strategies to distinguish themselves or run the risk of becoming commoditized. This year’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury Hotels reflects methodology modifications that account for the rise of mobile, the increasingly global nature of travel and changes in Google’s hotel price ad strategy. Laggard brands lacked incremental investments in the brand site, including localization of sites in key international markets, and in building out mobile offerings. Read on to see what distinguished the most digitally savvy brands on L2’s list.
1. Marriott (tie)
Digital IQ: 143
Marriott Hotels ascended to the top spot this year, spurred by Marriott International’s investments in content marketing and Index-leading visibility in category and city search. Thanks to a big video push by Marriott Content Studio, a unit that launched in fall 2014, the category’s YouTube Top 10 includes several Marriott brand videos. Marriott has also forayed into blogging platform Medium, launching travel and lifestyle vertical Gone, and was the first hotel brand on Snapchat.
With Index brands sending only 0.6 emails per week, Marriott also stands out as the only brand that consistently sends more than one email a week. Its site boasts a sophisticated booking box functionality that lets users search by major attractions and choose flexible dates. And parent Marriott International is a leader in mobile, recently recording the one millionth mobile check-in. Marriott is also testing a beacon program, LocalPerks: Guests opt in via the Marriott Guest Services app to receive location-specific push notifications.
1. Hilton Hotels & Resorts (tie)
Digital IQ: 143
Hilton moved up nine spots in the rankings since 2014, driven by incremental investments in site localization and personalization on mobile apps. Hilton offers 21 language options, compared with the Index average of only six. The loyalty HHonors app raises the bar, letting members select a room via a digital floor plan — a first for the industry. The app also offers check-in/check-out and the ability to purchase an upgrade or request delivery of various amenities to the room before arrival. Hilton has committed to equipping a majority of its rooms with keyless entry by the end of 2016. On Facebook, Hilton’s active use of sponsored posts to offer promotions has driven strong engagement.
Digital IQ: 140
While the rest of Starwood’s portfolio slipped in the rankings, Westin maintains its Genius status. Westin leverages the Starwood platform to offer sophisticated filter options in its guest reviews section and leads in customer service, boasting the fastest average tweet reply time. The Westin Finds microsite is a destination guide that recommends itineraries based on a guest’s interests or traveler type (e.g., couples or families).
4. Le Méridien
Digital IQ: 134
A best-in-class loyalty program offers a wealth of customization options and sophisticated customer service features such as live chat and a “call me” option. In terms of brand search, Le Méridien diverges significantly from the Index average (42 percent), controlling 70 percent of first-page results thanks to expanded descriptions of internal page links as well as high visibility of unique property sites. Like other Starwood brands, Le Méridien leverages the power of user generated content across platforms.
5. InterContinental Hotels and Resorts (tie)
Digital IQ: 133
The InterContinental brand improved its Digital IQ by four points from last year, driven by incremental investments in sophisticated search filter functionality on its brand site and best-in-class mobile site features, including an app download overlay, geolocation request, reviews and maps on property pages. A range of filters during booking allow guests to narrow their search by desired amenities, number of stars, room preferences, etc. A proprietary review system lets users filter by star rating, value, room cleanliness, traveler type and age, among other options. The mobile site’s property pages feature reviews, a map and a clear “Book Now” call to action.
5. Mandarin Oriental (tie)
Digital IQ: 133
Mandarin Oriental boasts fast site load times, shareable videos at both the brand and property page level, and an extensive set of in-destination service options on site. “Fans of MO” is a proprietary social platform that leverages UGC and celebrity ambassadors to populate a tiled design feed that mixes images, reviews, memories and recommendations. Users can share their own images and reviews on the gallery, as well as via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. “Fans” can also search for experiences based on interests or by property location. Most important, clicking on “Reserve this experience” takes a user to the relevant property page, closing the loop between social discovery and booking.
7. Renaissance Hotels (tie)
Digital IQ: 132
The brand site has a unique tiled layout that seamlessly integrates properties, restaurants, news, and UGC on the home page. Renaissance also offers an Index-leading tablet site experience.
7. Sheraton Hotels and Resorts (tie)
Digital IQ: 132
In common with other Starwood brands, Sheraton shares a best-in-class loyalty program, customer service features and mobile app platform. The brand provides one of the fastest response times on Twitter, and with Marriott, secures the highest visibility among Index brands in terms of destination search.
9. The Ritz-Carlton
Digital IQ: 131
Ritz-Carlton is a leader in terms of Facebook engagement and YouTube video views, and does well in mobile search optimization through the use of deep links. The brand integrates user generated content in a gallery on its main site that serves as a hub for sharing memories and experiences at Ritz-Carlton properties. Users are invited to tag #RCMemories on Instagram, Twitter or Sina Weibo or to upload images directly from cloud storage.
10. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Digital IQ: 126
Fairmont is a standout in mobile. It has a best-in-class English-language mobile site and is one of four brands to offer French-, Chinese- and German-specific mobile-optimized sites. Both the mobile site and brand app offer room booking and the ability to book activities.