Q&A: Omni Hotels’ CMO views mobile content as catalyst for bookings
April 18, 2014
Tom Santora is chief marketing officer of Omni Hotels, Dallas
Omni Hotels & Resorts is unveiling new mobile and Web sites this summer that will take a decidedly different approach than other hotel brands by packing in lifestyle-driven content to squeeze out conversions.
Omni Hotels is in the process of building up its mobile initiatives for its consumer and business-facing efforts, most recently with the launch of an application that lets business professionals better control on-property meetings. The brand is also launching new mobile and Web properties in the coming months with features meant to keep consumers on pieces of content for longer periods of time.
“In both PC and mobile, the Web site we’re building out is so content-rich that it has information not only about the Dallas hotel, but really information about Dallas,” said Tom Santora, chief marketing officer at Omni Hotels, Dallas. “It’s more about building that experience.”
“Another important part of our brand and one of the differentiators that we have in both group and business and leisure travel is culinary,” he said. “We have really taken a proactive approach, whether it’s mobile or PC, to talk about culinary from chefs to recipes. So you’re coming to us as a resource, not just to [find a place] to sleep.”
“We think that it will not only drive people to the Web site, but keep them on there longer, and hopefully lead to a purchase.”
Below, Mr. Santora discusses what Omni Hotels has in the works with mobile and how the brand divvies up priorities for both consumer and business initiatives.
How does mobile fit into Omni Hotels’ marketing mix?
We’re finding that just through Google, which is the No. 1 search engine coming into Omni, we’re watching our mobile search grow double digits almost each and every month.
In Google you can’t have a separate mobile search anymore, so we’ve increased our search budgets substantially just to account for mobile.
If you download Omni’s mobile app, you get a nice experience, [and] you can do everything you’d want from reservations to reading about a hotel, but it’s almost like a full version of our Web site versus [looking at] how are people really using mobile. There’s three or four things that they might be doing, so we’re working on that.
We’re relaunching our brand dot-com — Omnihotels.com — this summer. Part of that will be the ability to create favorites. You can now favorite things throughout the Web site, whether it’s a special offer, a recipe, a photo, a package. Then when you come back to your desktop — because that’s where most people are purchasing today — you can go to your favorites and all of the research you just did is right there.
It’s really taking into account how are people using mobile and desktop in concert.
Omni's current mobile site
What sparked the idea for the new meeting planning app?
Omni’s mantra as it relates to group business is ‘Omni understands.’ I think we have a reputation of a brand that’s easy to do business with.
When we think about ‘Omni understands,’ we look for the pain points that a customer might have. That might be how do you handle cancellation clauses, audio or visual, and another pain point for many players is, ‘how do we be effective in our meetings?’
This is where we launched in conjunction with Encore Technology, which is our audio/visual brand, an app that allows meeting planners to basically go paperless of the meeting. With nearly 60 hotels, I would say 97 percent of those hotels are on Encore Technology, which is a competitive advantage because at all of our hotels, we have state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment.
A lot of the stuff you see with mobile apps is for large conventions, and they might pay anywhere from $10,000 - $25,000 to have an app created for their convention. This will work for those large conventions, but it’s also nice for that 30-40 person meeting.
We used it at our customer advisory board meeting about two weeks ago, and then we used at an internal sales recognition trip. When an attendee came in to register, we had a poster where you could download it using a QR code or you could type in the URL, you put in your meeting code and that’s how you got the app. We did it through registration, and that’s how I think most people will do it.
At Omni, nearly 50 percent of our business is group-related, so it was important that we created something that helps to position Omni as a thought leader and someone who is thinking about the customer and how to make their job easier.
Omni Hotel's mobile app
Why play up apps for the business-to-business travelers and the mobile Web for consumers?An app you have to get people to download — that’s a little bit more difficult when you’re potentially a smaller brand. We have an app, but people are using [Apple’s] Siri to say, ‘Give me Omni Hotels,’ and it will go to the Web site.
That Web site needs to be designed from a mobile perspective. It will all be done with responsive design, but if you’re on a mobile device, then you want a mobile experience. We think that it should be different than the Web site experience.
You could click on ‘View full Web site,’ and that will give you a responsive design to our new Web site, so you kind of get the best of both world. We think that people are using different devices for different things.
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
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