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HotelTonight books social media for flash sales

HotelTonight is changing the way hospitality marketers target consumers by delivering news of $99 room deals to subscribers of its email list as well as users on Twitter and Instagram, proving that social media continues to be a valuable communication channel for travel brands to leverage for last-minute promotions or flash sales.

HotelTonight is ramping up to drive sales of more hotel rooms ahead of the popular Memorial Day travel weekend, and is offering limited-time rooms in select locations for $99 through May 21. The marketer is encouraging travel enthusiasts to follow along with the promotion via the #HTroulette hashtag, under which it will post information related to the flash sales and entice consumers to make quick booking decisions.

“[The success of the campaign] depends entirely on the context,” said James McNally, director of business development at Fuzz Productions, Brooklyn, NY. “For most brands or products, this can be a great way to get in front of new users and position the brand or product as more embedded in the users’ social context (i.e. within a circle of trust).

“An ancillary benefit of course is driving users to social channels, where they can be served future marketing messaging,” he said. “Needless to say, it’s not as simple as posting the deal on Facebook and watching the conversions roll in; promoting on social is tricky for brands, and needs to be done tactfully.

“Call-to-action and sense of urgency are also key – no one is ever going back to that Facebook post or Tweet that was posted earlier today – these posts or Tweets will have an incredibly short shelf life, and will need to create immediate action.”

Driving calls-to-action
One benefit of promoting flash sales on social media is the sense of urgency that it instills in consumers. As HotelTonight is being clear about the limited-time offers, customers have a small window of time to grab the low-fee hotel room offerings, and may be spurred into making impulse purchases.

The brand has been taking to Twitter and Instagram to alert users of which deals are currently live. On May 11, HotelTonight Tweeted that $99 rooms in New York City, Chicago, Miami, The Hamptons, Mexico City, Atlanta, San Diego, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Hawaii were available through May 13.

HotelTonight is also occasionally retweeting ecstatic consumers’ posts about snagging one of the exclusive deals to raise even more excitement.

The marketer is leveraging its HotelTonight Roulette campaign to function as a call-to-action to fuel customers to make purchases in the limited time periods. Each booking that is made through May 21 will provide the buyer with an entry into the #HTroulette sweepstakes, which includes a trip for two to a luxury HotelTonight property, complete with spending cash and all-expenses-paid flights.

The twist is that consumers will not know the destination until the day of the trip.

Every booking made through the allotted date will count for the sweepstakes, regardless of whether it is a flash sale purchase or a regular booking.

Mobile bookings
The sheer number of both branded and third-party booking applications has made it imperative for any hospitality marketer to target consumers in new and unique ways. While flash sales have been offered by nearly all major hotel brands, HotelTonight’s #HTroulette campaign is an additive enticing feature and one that draws up a layer of mystery for the sweepstakes.

As the number of last-minute booking applications grows, travel marketers will also need to adopt newer technologies such as Apple Pay and Touch ID to offer streamlined in-app payment options and remain competitive (see story).

Consumers have a small window of opportunity to grab a low-priced room

The email component of HotelTonight’s flash sale campaign does have the potential to reach even more consumers, although experts argue that an SMS-based system may be more fruitful.

“SMS has faster and more frequent open rates than email, but no brand should assume that consumers are going to dig back into their texts to find that promo offer after the fact,” Mr. McNally said. “Same with social – if a follower doesn’t act on the Tweet or post immediately, they probably never will.

“An email offer probably has a slightly longer shelf life than a text message, but ultimately has the same challenge – if it doesn’t create immediate action, it’s going to get pushed down the inbox into oblivion.  Overall, announcing these deals exclusively on social is a great tactic, and if done well, could be a great addition to the HotelTonight’s overall strategy.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York