Despite a tough 2020, Millennium Hotels and Resorts has worked hard to excite and delight consumers through new experiences. It rolled out a “Yacht-cation Escape” package last October, allowing guests to go on a luxury yacht ride at the Southern Islands of Singapore during their stay. At the same time, it also tied up with Wildlife Reserves Singapore to offer guests at the hotel with personalised experiences, such as "Millennium Wild Experience with the Orangutans" and "Millennium Wild Experience with the Pandas".
These efforts have certainly helped the hotel chain and it bagged gold for Best Loyalty Programme – Travel & Hospitality and bronze for Best Regional Loyalty Campaign at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2020. Saurabh Prakash, group vice president, digital marketing, revenue management, loyalty and distribution, Millennium Hotels and Resorts shares its digital-first strategy and how it plays into its marketing mix.
This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for Loyalty and Engagement Awards 2020. To find out more about the awards, click here.
What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?
Prakash: The hospitality industry has seen tectonic shifts during the pandemic. It is no longer sufficient to just engage customers in the properties, but to go beyond borders and engage them virtually. The brand always strives to be at the forefront of our customers’ recall, and these challenging times have proven that we are able to engage and help them rediscover the joys of travel.
With the explosion of eCommerce, especially during the pandemic, this makes many material things readily accessible to anyone with a credit card and an internet connection. Consumers are looking for money-can't-buy experiences and through digital channels.
In the last 10 months, we saw our digital channels, such as website and online travel agents, contribute over 80% of the staycation bookings. We also saw that 65% of the revenues generated from millenniumhotels.com were done through our My Millennium members. This is why we prioritise the member-first commitment in every facet of the customer journey. We relentlessly curate rewards that are meaningful and best resonate with them.
As we move forward into 2021, Millennium Hotels and Resorts will remain agile and continuously innovate to prepare for evolving demands. We always strive to exceed guests’ expectations and have some exciting plans ahead for 2021.
How has your marketing/your clients marketing plans shifted this year?
Prakash: These times have revealed to us new norms and we have had to change the way we operate. Our response for 2020 year was to focus on three key areas. Firstly, MHR stepped up our precautionary measures globally across all hotels. We remain committed to ensure that our guests’ wellbeing are prioritised, without compromising on their stay experience.
The integration of our “We Clean. We Care. We Welcome.” commitment is to further enhance existing operational standards. This builds on existing protocols and complements exhaustive mandatory preventive measures aligned to government authorities.
Secondly, we shifted our focus to domestic markets and created bespoke experiences in our hotel offerings. For example, in Singapore, we offer staycation packages such as Yacht-cation Escape – a luxurious package with a four-hour yacht experience, inclusive of a luxurious suite stay, private limousine transfers, bespoke cocktail workshops and gourmet experience. Under-utilised areas were also transformed into co-working spaces to provide a growing pool of remote workers with innovative work options in this new normal.
Lastly, we prioritised a digital-first strategy and ensured our digital marketing efforts enhanced further our member experiences. We introduced member early access for key campaigns such as 11.11 and Black Friday. This allowed members to feel recognised and valued as they have something that is truly exclusive to them. This was critical for us to deepen member engagement and loyalty.
What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?
Prakash: It is hard to know exactly when travel restrictions will be lifted around the globe and when travel bubbles will be formed. Therefore, we have leveraged digital marketing data and analytics to closely understand the market trends. Data points such as flight data and CRM consumer behaviour trends provided us better comprehension of real-time current local market situations around the world and helped us identify strategic and actionable plans. Our plans must contain flexibility to be localised for each region moving forward, the localisation of promotions and personalised messaging to each member will be vital in how we plan our marketing campaigns.
Additionally, we will continue to adopt the use of digital-first and contactless technology to provide a seamless booking journey at millenniumhotels.com as well as an effective and contactless touch points for guests when they visit our hotels. This minimises physical contact, eg. digital menus and kiosks, and lends a greater degree of control directly in the hands of our guests as they are now able to navigate at their own convenience.
What do you think makes for great marketing these days?
Prakash: The marketing landscape has drastically evolved as everyone is fighting for mindshare. In order to remain competitive and relevant, it was critical for us to hyper target and ensure communication to our audience is personalised, meaningful and timely. Leveraging on digital data is an essential part of every marketer’s journey, but at Millennium, we relentlessly rely on digital-first strategies, optimising budgets to generate demand and conversion.
Another avenue of generating demand and relevancy for our guests is through the inclusions of member-exclusive value-adds. This allows us to remain competitive in terms of pricing and ensuring that the guest enjoy a valuable experience.
How are you planning for 2021?
Prakash: Aside from upkeeping sanitary measures, we aim to identify opportunities to attract and rebuild confidence in the local market and quickly add the international market when the timing is right keeping in news of the vaccine.
We are developing creative packages for future stays and building a robust communication plan with stories that emotionally connect with our customers. It is important for us to communicate how our hotels are creating a stronger climate of health and safety and at the same time delivering a great experience for our customers. We believe in a digital-first strategy and ensuring MHR has an omni-channel approach and our customers are able to find us no matter which digital avenue they choose.