Most of us know that WhatsApp is a free to download messenger app for smartphones used around the world – and uses the internet to send messages, images, audio or video.
Let us start by looking at why you should consider WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) as a tool to market your hotel. To begin with, it is used by over 1 billion people and with the exception of China, the number one communication app worldwide.
WhatsApp offers marketers a unique opportunity to tap into a highly engaged audience. Although there are limitations, it can help build a list of consumers who really want to engage with your business.
It enables easy closed group communication to quickly share text, photos, videos, audio messages and calls.
Equally importantly WhatsApp can double up as a marketing and customer service channel for your hotel.
So, where should your hotel get started?
Does your hotel already work with mobile messaging? Are you ready to take the next step? Or do you need to build a plan first?
The following questions will help identify where you are and areas you may need to start on.
- Do you currently use mobile phone numbers for communicating with guests? If not, do you feel that it is important?
- Is mobile the primary contact method?
- Do you send marketing messages to guest mobile phones or would you like to?
- Do you have an in-house electronic communication channel for your guests? Or have you felt a need for it?
- Do you benchmark opening ratios of e-mail, SMS and other marketing campaigns? If not, would you like to?
- Is Whatsapp a preferred method of communication for a large section of your customers?
The answers from these questions above should help guide you through the actions you can take to promote your hotel through WhatsApp.
If you have answered yes to many of the questions in the previous section, then it is clear that you have some opportunities to act on and maximise the impact of Whatsapp.
If you decide that WhatsApp is an important medium for your hotel to expand your marketing and/or customer service proposition, then the following actions will get you going.
- Add your hotel’s mobile number and the WhatsApp logo on a visible place on your website. This will ensure that guests and bookers know that they can get in touch via WhatsApp
- Include your WhatsApp information on your Facebook page as well as any other social media profiles
- Ensure that there is a WhatsApp sharing button on your mobile site
- Start collecting guest phone numbers who have given opt-in permission
- WhatsApp limits the number of contacts you can communicate with. So consider carefully how you would like to handle this
- With the Broadcast List feature, you can send a message to several of your guests or event attendees at once.
- You can also create a group of up to 256 people. Although the number of people in a group is capped, you can have many groups.
- As with any marketing campaign, segment your lists carefully. For example, for repeat customers, create a special group which includes only those guests who return to your hotel every year, and give them special incentives, designed exclusively for them.
- Build separate lists based on interests – as an example, if they came from enquiries for weekend getaways, then start a weekend promotions group.
- Use WhatsApp to send your hotel weekend promotion, plus a link to book directly on your website. Make sure that the frequency is managed carefully as it is a more personal channel than e-mail.
Extend the use of WhatsApp further – consider these possibilities:
- Use it for events and conferences. If your hotel organizes events, a WhatsApp Group is a great way to keep all people involved up to date about the event.
- It could also be used to maximise event-related sales
- Bookers on your hotel website may need many questions to be answered but may not be keen to call. Offering WhatsApp as a way of getting in touch and getting answers for booking queries can have a big impact on conversion.
- There are also many cross-selling opportunities when a guest is at the hotel. Use WhatsApp to offer guests additional services to improve their stay like guided tours, outdoor activities, restaurant offers, etc.
- Design an attractive promotion to get users to share their number with you. Once you add them on WhatsApp, send them the offer to redeem and stay connected. For example, some hotels invite guests to participate in photography contests through multiple media including WhatsApp
- Use WhatsApp to reach out to a relevant audience with last minute offers.
WhatsApp does not work with third-party applications. In fact, it actively discourages third-party apps integrating with it. Hence the support tools are limited. However, here are some ways in which you can enhance and secure your use of WhatsApp
- Use WhatsApp on your web browser. The web client is simply an extension of your phone. This may make it easier for a front desk team member to use instead of peering into a mobile screen continuously.
- Protect your chats with a passcode. WhatsApp doesn’t let you protect chats, but third-party apps on Android will usually allow you to enable a password or PIN. Use Smart AppLock or similar if you are an Android user.
As with any marketing tool and campaign, measurement is key to understand how your hotel is faring. Consider these checks to understand progress.
- Track if and when your sent message was read. One grey checkmark indicates to you that the message was successfully sent to the recipient /Two grey checkmarks indicates when the message was successfully delivered/ Two blue checkmarks alerts you when the recipient has read your message.
- For more detail, tap and hold on the message, and then tap the “Info” option in order to get message details like the precise time it was delivered and read.
- Measure the number of users signing up for WhatsApp communication
- Measure shares using WhatsApp sharing button on mobile site
- Measure conversion on promotional offers