2018 Marketing Trends and What They Mean for Hotel Marketing

As the curtains draw closed on 2017, we often start to think about the year ahead and what it has in store. Here at Rank Defender, we’ve been looking into 2018 – where we’re headed as a company and what we can do to better serve our clients. We’re also reading up on new tech and the upcoming marketing trends that are making waves.

Since the beginning of December, it seems that almost everyone in the digital space starts to share their predictions on what will be the next big thing in marketing and offer advice on where to invest your budget.

So, rather than create just another blog post listing x number of 2018 marketing trends, today I’m going to discuss just three trends that not only feature prominently within all those lists, but are also trends that you can apply to your hotel marketing in 2018.

Let’s get started.

Lights, Camera, Action: The Rise of Video

We’ve known about the rise of video for some time now. As social media platforms begin to favour video, it is clear that the demand for video content is only growing.

While there are enough statistics on video to fill an entire post, here are just a few to demonstrate my point:

It’s pretty clear that video is here to stay.

So, what does this mean for marketing a boutique hotel? As users’ attention spans decrease, and they crave more video content, it’s important to use this medium to help improve social media engagement rates, boost your search engine rankings and increase the time users spend on your site.

How can you use video to market your hotel? Here a just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take your guests on a walk through tour. From individual suites to your hotel lobby or restaurant, create a video that allows viewers to visualize themselves as a guest at your hotel. Showcase your rooms’ unique features or capture the story of a typical guest experience; by using video creatively you can help potential guests see what their stay with you will involve.
  • Share user generated content (UGC). Not everything you publish on your social media channels or hotel website needs to be created by yourself. Just as guest testimonials provide social proof, user generated videos can generate higher engagement rates and boost brand awareness – because audiences view the content as more authentic. You can monitor your social media channels to source guest videos or encourage guests to create videos via the use of competitions or branded hashtags, and then share this content on your own platforms. Keep in mind the legalities around UGC though. Ask users if they’re happy to have you share their content through direct messages or comments (most will gladly give consent) and be sure to tag the creators’ accounts or give the appropriate attribution.
  • Create live videos of events or interesting moments. As major social media platforms turn their attention to live video, you can capitalize on this marketing trend as a great way to connect with your audience. But don’t associate live with unscripted, or unplanned. Viewers consider quality the most important factor when watching a live video. So, while the opening night of your newly refurbished bar or the first snow of the season at your alpine lodge may make for good viewing, be sure you have a plan in place before you press record – no shaky filming as a mobile phone is passed around, please!
Woman creating a video on a mobile phone.
Whether it’s user generated or professionally created, add video to your content and social media marketing in 2018.

Get Smart: The Use of Artificial Intelligence

It certainly sounds like something from the future, but artificial intelligence (AI) is here and you’ve no doubt come into contact with it while spending time on the internet – hello customer service chatbot.

AI allows marketers to use the web-browsing behaviors of users to inform, and automate, their marketing efforts. As information is collected from an ever-growing number of sources, regarding habits, preferences and shopping trends, marketers are able to generate a more accurate, data-supported picture of what users want – and then provide it to them.

Artificial intelligence features on many 2018 marketing trends posts, as experts predict that more businesses will turn to AI.

Now that AI tools have become more affordable and accessible, more businesses will be utilising them to enhance pay-per-click ad campaigns, suggest social media content for better engagement, provide a highly personalised experience to website visitors and enable customer support via chatbots – to name but a few capabilities.

Christa Badenhorst

While there are numerous ways marketers can use AI across the customer journey, as demonstrated in the quote above, I’ve chosen two applications that hotel marketers can employ to test the waters with artificial intelligence in 2018.

  • Smart content curation: By tracking and analyzing the behaviour of internet users, AI can help to display the most relevant content to visitors on your site. Not only does this assist in keeping traffic on your site for longer, but it communicates your willingness to solve the queries of potential guests. Suggested content can also be tuned to target wherever customers are within their buyer journey; a searcher who has come to your site for the first time may be presented with blog posts on general information about your destination, while a site visitor who’s returning for the third or fourth time could be shown content specifically about your hotel and its features – since it is more likely they are ready to book.
  • Specific ad targeting: Through the use of collected historical data, AI can interpret which ads perform best for specific users at different stages of the buying journey. Armed with this data, marketers can determine the most effective copy, imagery and placement of ads to show to different audiences to yield greater results.

Feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of using artificial intelligence? You’re not alone.

Over one third of digital marketing leaders report feeling unprepared for AI. So, if you can muster up the courage (and time) to understand its applications – or work with a third-party to reap the rewards – you’ll have the one up on those who aren’t willing to take advantage of this 2018 marketing trend.

Marketing executives feel most unprepared to handle artificial intelligence.
Conductor revealed over a third of marketers feel unprepared to handle AI.


Made possible with the power of AI, personalization is another 2018 marketing trend featuring prominently on many lists, and it’s not hard to see why.

As consumers are bombarded with 10,000 brand messages daily, marketers are looking for ways to cut through the noise with innovative and creative boutique hotel marketing campaigns.

Personalization provides that ability to stand out from the crowd, yet it now goes well beyond adding Dear <first name> to your email campaigns. Just as with their physical hotel experience, guests are coming to expect more. Personalization needs to provide contextual and relevant information, the details guests need for their upcoming stay.

When done right, personalization can deliver greater returns on investment and boost performance. As a Revinate infographic revealed;

More than 48% of senior marketers said personalized media programs led to improved response rates, increased sales, and stronger brand perceptions.

One way to apply personalization is to create dynamic website content that presents the most relevant information and images to website users. Through the use of artificial intelligence, this tailored content benefits both users and hoteliers by:

  • Building trust,
  • Improving online engagement, and
  • Increasing conversions.

Other ways you can use personalization in your hotel marketing are:

  • Retargetting potential guests, who have abandoned the online booking process, by sending a personalized email that allows them to pick up where they left off
  • Creating personalized ads to cater to the specific needs and wants of certain user groups (segmented by a number of data points)
Twila Grissom explained the importance of personalization in this Forbes article.

For more information on personalization, check out our post; Data-Driven Personalization for Boutique Hotels.

Applying Marketing Trends to Your Hotel Marketing

Whether or not you intend to employ these, or any of the many other, marketing trends set to make waves in 2018, it is important to remember to be both authentic in your marketing and true to your hotel’s branding. Just as you wouldn’t wear the latest fashion if it didn’t complement your body type, or buy the latest gadget if it didn’t suit your tech needs, don’t apply the latest marketing tactics simply because ‘everyone else’ is.

While you want to create a boutique hotel marketing strategy that helps to set you apart from the competition, you also want to use marketing platforms that best reflect the unique values and individual voice of your property.