ZMOT and Hotel Marketing

I recently read the book Winning the Zero Moment of Truth by Jim Lecinski of Google. It’s a free e-book downloadable from the site. While I wouldn’t say the concept is a revolution for marketers, what is great with this book however is that it clarifies lots of concepts that we as marketers had in our minds and ways of working.

Hoteliers, with the likes of Tripadvisor and so forth have been using a similar concept for a while. However the ZMOT, FMOT, SMOT concept (Zero, First and Second Moment Of Truth) form a clear purchase cycle that helps us navigate in the world of marketing.

I’m working on a series of articles covering each of the steps of the purchase cycle as it applies for hotel marketers. In essence the steps are these:

For an individual hotel this means the time when the future guest first hears about the hotel and decides that the hotel could be an option for him . Here we are talking about individual hotels and not a category of hotels. While it could be during a search for “hotels in paris” or similar it normally isn’t; since at that stage the future guest is still searching.

From the data we’ve gathered at WIHP this happens most commonly when hearing about it from friends, when searching for hotels on an OTA or by looking through Tripadvisor through reviews.

Remember that we’re talking about individual hotels here and not a chain or big brand. But it even applies to individual hotels from a chain. Another point to take into account is that per our studies a guest visits 10 different hotel websites on average, so don’t think you’re alone at the stimulus, you’re in heavy competition. However I’m getting ahead of myself here as that’s part of ZMOT and FMOT.

Once the future guest has gotten hold of a name the research starts and now you’ve got competition. Here the future guest is going to compare all the 10 hotels he has found to ensure the rates are good, he’s going to scrutinize the location to weigh the rates against the location and pictures. The guest is going to check the reviews to see what other people have said and all this information will be compared to determine which one is best. This step is where the future guest is going to make about 90% of the decision.

For a hotel this is the moment when the future guest opens the website’s home page. That home page has to say everything and it’s got to do it fast. It needs to answer three personal questions that the future guest is asking himself: Will it same me money? Will is save me time? and Will it make my life better? For a hotel that translates as follows:

  • Will it save me money?  becomes What is the price/value?
  • Will it save me time? becomes Where is it located?
  • Will it make my life better? becomes What is the comfort/service/decoration?

Those three questions need to be answered within 3 to 7 seconds of the person arriving on your site. And once that is done and you have managed to grab that future guest’s attention he is going to spend a total of 24 minutes between arriving on the site, deciding to buy and going through the complete booking process. 13 of those minutes will be on the website and 11 of them will be on the booking engine.

To make it on FMOT you need (and I can’t repeat this enough) a good website and a great booking engine. The design and user experience for your website needs to be so smooth that the next question the guest will be asking himself are “magically” being answered in front of him and same with the booking engine. In sequence what the average user does is go to the website, then check the rooms, then check the rates and finally look at the location. These items need to be present on the menu from the get-go and they must be easy to find. At every moment of this he must be able to get to the booking engine and complete the reservation.

The booking engine design has a lot to do with conversions. We’ve tested many and with the same site, same amount of traffic and same rates we’ve increased booking conversions by putting a much better booking engine than was there before. I’ve covered the details of how to chose a booking engine in a separate article.

This is the moment the guest comes arrives in the hotel. Well this is where a GM or hotelier knows all about it (or not). He’s going to take great care of the guest and give them a unique and unforgettable experience and that’s going to flow back. At Stimulus because this guest will talk about it to other friends and family and those people will come to your hotel, at ZMOT because people searching for information about the hotel will see their comments and reviews and chose the hotel because of it. Here’s the proof of the pudding. To get a great experience as SMOT requires that the hotelier and marketer not over-sell the property on the website and in other areas around the web.

I heard a story once of a hotel that discovered Tripadvisor, that hotelier went hell-bent to move to the top of the ranking on Tripadvisor and solicited every guest to write rave reviews. True the hotel did have a great service and was very nice however it didn’t deserve to be on top position as there were plenty of better hotels around. What happened was the guests arrived and their experience wasn’t as good as they expected. The hotel rapidly saw it’s reviews worsen and bookings took a dive.

All that just to say, that second moment of truth works for you if you deliver what you promise.

In summary the moments of truth illustrate the cycle of a purchase or a booking. They’re the main steps a buyer will follow and as marketers and hoteliers we can increase our results by understanding them clearly and being at the right places with the right message.

I’ve written several articles on that illustrate the various steps in more detail which you can find searching for Moments of Truth in Hotel Marketing.

Martin Soler