Mark Wayper, Marketing and Loyalty Executive at Accor, is an educator turned marketer who is fascinated by the psychology of consumer behavior.
We recently checked in with Mark to get his insights how rental owners can use consumer behavior research and other techniques to better market their rental homes. Here’s what he shared:
Can you tell us about your background and interest in consumer behavior?
My background is in music. I taught piano and music theory, and played in bands/gigs for many years enjoying the creativity and union that it allowed. By chance, I took a course at University about Marketing where I found out the fundamentals about the four P’s, then studied further the concepts in Integrated Marketing and Communications. When the emotional elements started to be involved (in particular the extra couple of P’s in Service Strategy) then I was completely hooked.
Consumer behavior for me is just the entree though, what really interests me is loyalty behavior. Consumer behavior does look at the psychology of why consumers act in the way that they do, but I would argue that the loyalty behavior that people exhibit cuts deeper into why and what exactly they want to “give back” to the brand. Guests display loyalty behavior proudly, as if it were a gift of their production. They were given the chance (enabled) to display the right behavior (loyalty) and they proudly displayed it (reward me). Classical conditioning much?
Tell us about the work you do with Accor. What excites you about working as a marketing professional in the hospitality industry today?
I work at an individual hotel level at the intersection between the physical and the digital. That sounds much fancier than it is, but I am at the “coal-face” of how our guests often interact with our hotel. What I work to preserve, present and craft is the digital face of the hotel and am mostly responsible for what our digital footprint looks like. From the photos of our rooms to the responses to our reviews, I play a part in ensuring that we are doing everything we can to ensure our various channels are suited to delivering the information and motivation to make our prospective guests book our hotel rooms.
What excites me is the nuances of each particular property, not only ours but our competitors. There are so many factors that go into booking a room that there are many variations as to why somebody has booked your hotel. Your job is to either keep up or invent and curate those reasons.
How has the way consumers approach booking travel accommodations evolved since you started your career? What’s made the biggest impact on these changes?
I’m going to argue that the way consumers “approach” booking travel accommodation has not changed significantly in the last decade. It’s all in the question though, the approach has been the same – what is the risk/reward ratio? The unknown is a greater risk, especially in the hedonic services sector. What’s changed, though, is that the unknowns have decreased. A guest can tell you (through TripAdvisor) how good your buffet is without trying it. The statistics are not hard to find, 80 percent+ of people will look at an online review site of any service provider before purchasing.
Things at AccorHotels are great. From the top down, the word is Digital, Mobile and Personalization. Globally, the opportunities are being explored for how to connect “in the moment” with our guests. It’s not a quick transition from the days of physically signing into a hotel, or making a booking by phone call to one-click bookings and mobile phone key access, (to be fair, there are still other legislative and nuanced factors that contribute to this labored pace) but, we’re getting to be on the right side of the fence.
What are the challenges you face marketing your brand to travelers in today’s marketplace? How has the way you reach customers changed?
The challenges facing marketers in the travel sector are not unlike the ones faced in every other sector. In hotel chains, you don’t see as many TVCs, radio and print ads because they’ve lost their “bang for the buck” as they’re paid media. The big payoffs are in the earned part of your advertising. The trouble is that everybody is now switched on to this. As any diversion from the norm carries with it, the fortune favors the brave and innovative, and this is the space that is the challenge to be in.
How can rental property owners learn more about the behavior of their target market? What tools should they be using?
Local Measure. Facebook. Hashtags. These are great starts, but what is actually important is owners realizing that there is a wealth of information on social, and listening, acting and preempting. That’s probably the hardest lesson to learn. Do your own work and create your own content.
Where can rental property owners find relevant consumer behavior information to use to better target their marketing?
Look at the behavior of other owners. Don’t just be a follower, but see where they are, as you can learn from others in your geographical marketplace. There may be somebody already making headways into your market space, so build on what they are doing, because chances are if it’s resonating with their audience, it will resonate with yours. If someone’s cracked the code, learn from their first mover mistakes and reap the second mover rewards.
What are some of your favorite tools or techniques for marketing a particular property? What are the dos and don’ts?
Do whatever you can do to connect emotionally and contextually. If you can, focus on how the property makes the people feel when they are in your place. Don’t focus on the face that your property is “five minutes from the beach.” Instead, highlight that a guest can be the first to smell the spray from a big wave session, or hear the relaxing sound of the shore break.
But it’s not about location only. Everybody who the guest can come into contact with during their stay is part of the experience. We may be digital nomads, but we still value human interaction.
From your background as a professional marketer, what’s one piece of advice you’d share with a vacation rental owner about making sure their properties stand out to potential guests?
Good photos. They are worth it. Respect a professional photographer, they are your meal ticket. The will cost you, but their art is worth your investment.