Top 3 Ecommerce Platforms in 2017

With over 3 billion global internet users [1], there’s no doubt that your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue should be selling online in 2017. The best way to get started is with an ecommerce platform, a collection of purpose-built software technologies that allows merchants to build, host and manage online storefronts in order to sell their products.

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Shopping carts are the most important part of any ecommerce platform. It is the part of the software that allows customers to browse items, build lists for purchase and then “checkout” when they are ready to buy. At checkout, the software will generally calculate a total for the order, including shipping, handling and any applicable taxes.

More advanced ecommerce platforms will fit into your current supply chain making things like payment, delivery, accounting, warehousing and event planning integrate easily with your existing systems. Some platforms are even capable of being run in physical stores by offering their own point of sale systems.

This all sounds great, but with so many ecommerce platforms to choose from now, how are you supposed to know which one to go for? There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all here, a brand new events venue trying to sell tickets online has very different ecommerce requirements to a hotel that has been taking room bookings for years.

 

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We’re here to help by telling you about the best ecommerce platforms available right now and how to choose the right one to suit you and your hospitality business. Here are LeadDigital’s top 3 ecommerce platforms in 2017:

1. Magento

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Magento is an enterprise-level, open-source ecommerce platform and was first released to the public in March 2008. The ecommerce platform is being used by around 240,000 websites [2], roughly 13% of all online storestoday [3] and includes many popular brands like Burger King, SEAT and Graze. There are currently three versions of the software available; Magento Community Edition, Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition.

Magento Community Edition is a free version of Magento, built for emerging small businesses and will work well for small stores with few products. The faster code base and page caching that Magento Enterprise Edition brings to the table is a must-have for larger stores, but this speed comes at a price.

Pros

  • Good user experience, the interface is very nice to work with.
  • Being an open-source platform means you have full control over your store and allows you to develop and extend to fit your needs.
  • There are almost 10,000 plugins/extensions available.
  • There are many free extensions available to let you sell on social media platforms.
  • Magento has a huge online community of store owners and plugin developers, always ready to give help and advice when building or extending your store.

Cons

  • Magento needs separate hosting, leaving you responsible for updates and security. The software has been known to run slowly on poorly optimised servers so you may need to spend time and money getting this configured.
  • Any customisation work would need to be done by a developer and if you’re looking to extend your store, this could end up being expensive.
  • Unless you’re comfortable working with code, getting extensions and templates working properly can be troublesome.
  • Can be very expensive for an enterprise license.

Who Should be Using Magento?

Magento is considered by many to be the enterprise-level ecommerce platform of choice, built to work with large stores and large amounts of products. It is highly customisable due to it being open-source, but requires an expert developer to get most things done. Magento is not a simple solution and can only be recommended for advanced users. If you’re a startup or smaller store, then a hosted solution like Shopify would be a better fit.

2. WooCommerce

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WooCommerce was first developed by WordPress developer WooThemes in 2011 and has since been downloaded over 20 million times [4]. Despite a flood of competitors entering the market, WooCommerce has shown amazing resilience and is a major player in the game. Stats from BuiltWith show that 24% of the top million ecommerce sites are built using WooCommerce[5]. WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress in May 2015 [6].

WooCommerce is a plugin, not a subscription-based solution like Shopify or Magento and is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress. The plugin itself is free, 100% open-source and is backed by a huge online communitythat is always ready to offer help and advice.

Pros

  • It’s free! It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Highly extendable and customisable, there are many free and paid extensions and thousands of themes available to install on your store.
  • If you have ever used WordPress then WooCommerce will feel very familiar and anybody with past experience will easily be able to figure it out.
  • WordPress and WooCommerce both have huge community support, which makes getting help and advice on your store a breeze.

Cons

  • Even though the base plugin is free, many of the extensions are not. Total costs will soon go up when you start extending your store.
  • Customisation can be difficult and you may need to hire a expert to install the plugin, custom themes or extensions which could end up being costly.
  • WooCommerce is not a hosted solution so you must buy separate hosting, leaving you responsible for the security and maintenance of your store.

Who Should be Using WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is perfect for people already running their website on the WordPress platform because it’s simple to download and install on an existing WordPress site.

For a lot of small businesses, WooCommerce comes with everything you need; the ability to sell products, calculate shipping, calculate taxes and accept PayPal payments. It even comes with a customer login area to show customers the status of their orders. However, if your store needs anything other than standard ecommerce features, you are going need an expert to work on it and you can expect the costs to rise significantly with each extension you need to install.

3. Shopify

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Founded in 2004, Shopify was originally based on software written by its founders for their online snowboard store, Snowdevil. [7] Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown to over 1,900 employees, working from 6 different offices around the world [8] and after going public in 2015, posted revenues of $205 million. [9]

Shopify is one of the biggest ecommerce platforms in the world, to date they are hosting 377,500 online stores that have sold over $29 billion worth of products. [10]

Prices start from ~£23/month for the basic package and up to ~£234/month for more advanced plans. Shopify also offer an enterprise level plan called Shopify Plus for high-volume merchants and large businesses.

Pros

  • Free 14 day trial, no risk, no credit card required.
  • 100+ professional themes to choose from, made by world-renowned designers like Happy Cog, Clearleft and Pixel Union.
  • 1,500+ apps to extend your store’s functionality.
  • 70+ international payment gateways included. Shopify makes it easy for customers to pay for items.
  • Mobile commerce ready. Your Shopify store and checkout will work on any mobile or tablet device right out of the box.
  • Use the official app to access store analytics, update your store, fulfill orders or contact customers all from your mobile device.
  • 24/7 dedicated support team available via email, live chat or telephone.

Cons

  • Your total monthly cost may end up higher than you originally thought because you will find yourself installing one of the many apps to increase your store’s functionality, but these apps come with their own monthly costs.
  • The checkout page is locked down to Shopify’s design unless you upgrade to Shopify Plus. There are good reasons for this, but if you want to control the design of your store all the way through, you’re going to be disappointed.

Who Should be Using Shopify?

Shopify is a fantastic ecommerce platform for beginners with a very simple setup process and a great dashboard area for quickly adding products and managing your store. Combine this with a huge library of beautiful themes and you can have a good looking store up and running in just few hours.

Shopify is, in our opinion, the best ecommerce platform available today for Hospitality businesses. The level of customisation offered across all areas of your ecommerce store make it extremely powerful. With all the technical aspects of running an online store taken care of, you can focus on the important bit, increasing ticket sales.

As an official Shopify partner, LeadDigital can design and build custom themes for your store. We can sit down, discuss your business goals and work with you to build a Shopify store from the ground up in order to increase your event sales.

 

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References

[1] ICT Facts and Figures 2016. International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jun 2017.
[2] Magento Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[3] Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[4] WooCommerce – The Best eCommerce Platform for WordPress. WooCommerce. Apr 2017.
[5] Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
[6] WordPress Parent Automattic Buys WooCommerce. Recode. 19 May 2015.
[7] Shopify, a Start-Up, Starts Its Own Business Competition. The New York Times. 2 Feb 2010.
[8] 2016 Year in Review. Shopify.
[9] Shopify Expects Revenue to Surge in 2016. Fortune. 17 Feb 2016.
[10] Shopify Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full Year 2016 Financial Results. Shopify. 15 Feb 2017.

10 Examples Of Awesome Venue Websites

Venue websites must be beautifully designed and engaging to entice visitors into choosing their location over the various alternatives available. It’s not simply enough to have an online presence in 2017, venues must also think about a website’s goals and functionality. Keep in mind your website may be the first interaction a new customer has with your business, so it will speak volumes about your brand and quality expectations.

With this in mind, here are 10 UK venues that have awesome websites live today!

Tower Bridge

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“The most famous bridge in the world houses three stunning venue areas, each one a unique and memorable setting for celebrations of every kind.” – This is both a practical and structurally well designed website for event planners, making it simple to learn more about Tower Bridge and make an enquiry. The use of virtual tours aids in providing insight into the venue before a real world visit.

Twitter: @TowerBridge
Instagram: @towerbridgeevents
Website: www.towerbridgeevents.co.uk

One Events

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“Whether you’ve popped the question and you’re looking for somewhere intimate to tie the knot, you’re looking for somewhere to impress clients and colleagues, or you’ve got something to celebrate, you’re sure to find the perfect event venue with us.” – One MaryleboneOne BelgraviaOne Embankment and the recently added One Adelphi make up four of the most prestigious venues in London, all under the One Events brand. This sense of quality and exclusivity is mirrored on their website, with the use of gold, luxury fonts and detailed information on each venue (including 3D tours).

Twitter: @oneeventslondon
Instagram: @oneeventslondon
Website: one-events.co.uk

Burley Manor

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“Tasty food and bespoke services, offer you the chance to create your individual event in this beautiful rural location that is sure to impress your guests.” – A modern yet warming website, Burley Manor have clearly put a great deal of thought into the design, creating an impression of rustic luxury. From a visual perspective, we particuarly like the use of animated text on each page, which grabs the attention of visitors.

Twitter: @Burley_Manor
Instagram: @burleymanor
Website: www.burleymanor.com

Woods’ Silver Fleet

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“Create a stunning top deck canapé reception followed by an intimate dinner in the River Room, or invite a larger guest list to enjoy the entire vessel and the drama of your own private yacht, luxurious in space and service.” – Woods’ Silver Fleet create some of the most exclusive events in London, held on the iconic River Thames. A clean design and simple layout make this site easy to navigate, whilst contemporary fonts and images are on-brand and resonate the luxury status of the venue.

Twitter: @WoodsThames
Instagram: @woods_silver_fleet
Website: www.silverfleet.co.uk

Urban Guild

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“Big grins, flip flops, happy staff and happy customers, inspired, energetic environments.” – Urban Guild own a number of bars, restaurants & hotels on the UK’s south coast. For events, their ‘Urban Reef‘ restaurant offers a unique and beautiful beachfront location, perfect for private and corporate occasions. Their website mirrors the brand’s bright and exciting style, with an informal, yet high quality finish maintained throughout.

Twitter: @theurbanguild
Instagram: @theurbanguild
Website: urbanguild.co.uk

Natural History Museum

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“It’s magnificent architecture and collections create the perfect backdrop for any event.” – Already an icon of London, The Natural History Museum offers event planners an incredible opportunity to deliver any type of occasion within this spectacularly stunning setting. Their website is very practical and has been created to handle the wide range of activites going on at the museum. The venue hire area provides quick access to the different events the building accomodates, and makes it easy to get in contact.

Twitter: @NHM_London
Instagram: @natural_history_museum
Website: www.nhm.ac.uk

8 Northumberland Avenue

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“8 Northumberland Avenue is one of the finest and grandest venues in London. Our team are dedicated to making every event a success. For the best venue hire London has, look no further.” – This is a venue website that’s all about the photography! This is not just a case of using high definition, beautifully shot art, but also how it has been intelligently placed across the site to create the biggest impact. Colour management is another core strength of this site, and the venue look to highlight the reactive 16 million colour lighting system they have available.

Twitter: @8Northumberland
Instagram: @8northumberland
Website: www.8northumberland.co.uk

Aynhoe Park

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“A country house of stories and surprises – a place where the extraordinary happens every day.” – Aynhoe Park consider themselves a venue for unique and creative celebrations, promising a countryside escape like no other. From corporate retreats, to filming, weddings and even children’s parties, this venue has the flexibility to make any occasion magical. The website is very modern and sharp, with the bold use of charcoals on a crisp white background, alongside inspiring, artistic photography.

Twitter: @aynhoepark
Instagram: @aynhoepark
Website: aynhoepark.co.uk

The View From The Shard

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“The only place to take in over 1,000 years of the capital’s history all at once.” – “Pretty damn spectacular” is how TimeOut described The View From The Shard, and honestly there’s no better way to explain this exclusive venue. Up to 400 guests in the summer can marvel at the London panoramic, with premium breakfast and evening events and a dedicated support team available throughout. The website makes it quick to book an event, and celebrates the venue’s niche on every page.

Twitter: @shardview
Instagram: @shardview
Website: www.theviewfromtheshard.com

Château Rhianfa Hotel

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“A host of elegant rooms and outside spaces to choose from, opt for a private dinner starting with drinks in the Wine Caves. Or go all out and take over the whole Château with an exclusive ‘house’ party like no other.” – Château Rhianfa is a fairytale venue in the heart of North Wales, that offers a variety of exclusive party hire options that are unique to the location. On their website they tell the hotel’s story, with romanticised content and the promotion of previous guest experiences.

Twitter: @ChateauRhianfa
Instagram: @chateaurhianfa
Website: chateaurhianfa.com

Subscribe to the LeadDigital Blog above to receive more information on hospitality digital marketing. Find us on Twitter.

Unique British Hotels to Follow on Twitter

Unique and unusual British hotels spark our imagination – offering fabulous luxury in locations that are simply astounding! However these hotels also need to fill rooms, grab attention and gain repeat custom, so are now turning to digital marketing & social media to increase sales.

Below are five of our favourite surprising, eccentric and quintessentially British hotels, that you need to be following on Twitter;

Burgh Island Hotel
1,460 Tweets | 1,985 Followers

@BURGH_ISLAND

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“The beauty and intrigue of an island visit has always drawn guests who are looking for something different” – With its celebration of Art Deco and iconic location, Burgh Island Hotel offers a true luxury escape on the Devonshire coast. Their Twitter account sings of seaside romance, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery.

Glazebrook House
2,286 Tweets | 1,692 Followers

@GLAZEBROOKHOUSE

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“A luxurious boutique hotel and restaurant with nine unique rooms and a surprise around every corner” – Staying at Glazebrook House is truly an experience in itself! From its sophisticated twist on an Alice In Wonderland theme, to the hidden away location and creative seasonal menus, this is a hotel that will blow you away. On Twitter they mainly promote upcoming events, the beautiful food available and booking special offers.

Amberley Castle
1,756 Tweets | 2,856 Followers

@AMBERLEYCASTLE

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“This magnificent 900-year-old castle is enclosed by a 60 foot high curtain wall and portcullis that remains open, behind which you will discover an enchanting hotel offering the highest standards of food and service” – Located in the picturesque village of Amberley, this luxurious castle hotel is steeped in history, perfect for those looking to escape the 9-to-5 and feel like royalty. Part of the Andrew Brownsword Hotels Collection, this uniquely British property mainly tweets about ‘real life’ goings-on around the castle using romanticised photography.

Penny Lane Hotel
191 Tweets | 1,850 Followers

@HOTELPENNYLANE

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“The Penny lane Hotel gives guests a front row view of some of the most historic landmarks relating to the band” – It doesn’t get much more British than The Beatles and Liverpool’s Penny Lane Hotel is a Beatles fan’s dream come true! Each room is designed around the band with original memorabilia, and the hotel even offers Beatles themed weekends. This hotel often retweets reviews from happy guests or uses Twitter to promote exclusive special rates.

Solent Forts
2,450 Tweets | 2,516 Followers

@SOLENT_FORTS

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“Drop anchor in the Solent and experience our genuinely unique award winning venues” – Solent Forts own three luxury island hotels off the coast of Portsmouth; Spitbank FortNo Man’s Fort and Horse Sand Fort. Each of these incredibly exclusive locations offers a remarkable getaway for guests, with a vast range of leisure facilities aboard these historic fortresses. Twitter for Solent Forts has a nautical approach, speaking about the forts, history and facilites provided.

For more insights into UK Hotels & Hospitality Digital Marketing Subscribe to the LeadDigital Blog (form at the top), or find us on Twitter @DELUXEVENUES

 

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Top 5 Email Marketing Services in 2017

We are often asked about the various email software platforms available today and with so many options out there, how should you decide which is best for your hotel or venue? In this blog I’m going to give an overview of LeadDigital’s Top 5 recommended services for Email Marketing.

It’s easy to be tempted by all singing, all dancing services like Infusionsoft (discussed below), but these are often overcomplicated, and require a significant investment. We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t try to run before you can walk”. In this case it’s better to start simple and select software based on your needs today. It’s easy to upgrade as your requirements become more sophisticated, but it’s very difficult to go backwards!

So without further ado, lets get started:

AWeber

“All The Tools You Need To Send Emails The Right Way.”

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Established back in ’98, AWeber is one of the original email marketing platforms and is considered a great starter option for people new to email. It’s very simple, offering most of the core features a small to medium hospitality business would need, without overloading you with too many tools.

Pros: All the basics are covered, simple reporting and functionality and it offers a useful WordPress plugin for quick website sign-up forms.

Cons: The subscriber importing capabilities are quite limited, no ability to build landing pages, overall it can be quite limiting for more established businesses.

Cost: Today you can get a 30-day free trial followed by $19 (£15) per month for up-to 500 subscribers. Standard pricing then peaks $149 (£120) per month for 10,000-25,000.


MailChimp

“Send Better Email. Sell More Stuff”

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If you want to design awesome looking emails without needing a web designer on-hand, MailChimp is the tool for you!

A fan favourite for many, MailChimp is a popular option for most email marketers given its powerful functionality and user friendly interface. Whether you’re adding new subscribers, creating new email campaigns or looking for advanced automated email options, MailChimp is a solid all rounder.

Pros: Integrates with hundreds of web services including e-commerce platforms, huge collection of templates to design from, quick to get started.

Cons: MailChimp use a unique language for features & processes, they only allow for one opt-in form per list, reporting whilst informative can be less comprehensive than competitors unless managed by a MailChimp expert.

Cost: Up-to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month you can sign up for free, however this only gives access to the most basic features. To access all functions including autoresponders, pricing starts from £8 per month for <500 subscribers, then £65/mo+ for over 10,000 subscribers.


Drip

“Quick And Easy Email Marketing Automation Software”

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Marketing automation is the ultimate dream of most email marketers. The ability to take insights you have on customers and turn them into personalised & automated outreach campaigns, makes for the perfect recipe to succeed in email marketing.

Drip take that one step further by building their entire platform around the premise of drip marketing. Intelligent workflows allow users to automate the entire customer journey, with sophisticated rules based on interactions helping you get the most engagement from each subscriber.

Pros: Specialists in drip marketing, advanced visual workflows & event triggers, automate everything, access to marketing automation normally reserved for only high end expensive email software.

Cons: Still quite a new software platform so constantly seeing changes, integrations are less available and can be complicated.

Cost: Free for 100 subscribers, or get 2 months free when buying an annual package. £39.50/mo for up-to 2,500 subscribers, £120/mo+ for 10,000 subscribers.


ConvertKit

“Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers”

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Like MailChimp, ConvertKit offer many of the essentials needed for hotels, venues, restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Its advantage over competitors however, is that it uses ‘tags’ rather than ‘lists’. List based systems store subscribers (email addresses) on a per list basis, such as ticket buyers or competition A entries. If one subscriber is in both lists (tickets & competition), you could get charged twice!

Alternatively a ‘tag’ based system like ConvertKit looks at all subscribers together as one. Using customisable event tags, segments are then created and personalised emails can be sent to a select audience only, without the risk of double charging!

Pros: Tag based software, easy to use, simple to create sign up forms, offers a basic landing page builder.

Cons: Reported information and email testing functions can be quite limited and the email composer is somewhat basic.

Cost: 0-1,000 subscribers is £23 per month, £64/mo for up-to 5,000 then custom price for above 5k subscribers.


Infusionsoft

“Build Better Connections With Leads And Customers”

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If your subscriber numbers are above 50,000, you’ve got everything you can out of platforms like MailChimp and need to step it up a notch, it’s probably time to look at Infusionsoft.

This is a marketing automation, CRM and sales platform all rolled into one, and is big, powerful and perfect for complete email marketing dominance! It has every feature you could imagine and more, but does also demand a significant investment in time and money so can’t be taken lightly. Its abilities extend way beyond just email marketing, so you’d likely see this service become part of every aspect of your hospitality company.

Pros: Ultimate tool for much more than just email.

Cons: Too expensive for most business owners, very complex.

Costs: £160/mo for 2,500 subscribers plus you have to buy a kickstart package from £804 up. Thats not including the cost of training and additional staffing this system would require.

In Summary

There is a huge range of email marketing services to choose from in 2017, and this list only scratches the surface, with other services like ‘ActiveCampaign’, ‘GetResponse’, ‘Constant Contact’, ‘Ontraport’ etc… equally deserving of mention.

So how do you choose? Stop. Down tools and just ask yourself one question – what do I actually want to achieve with email marketing? Be specific.

The right software is vital, but even more so is the right email marketing strategy. This is the point when you should talk to LeadDigital. We have over 20 years experience in email marketing and only serve businesses within the hospitality sector – with our team creating bespoke email strategies designed to increase bookings and sell more events!

 

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Best Luxury UK Hotels On Instagram 2017

With over 600 million people now using Instagram [1], it’s clear why hoteliers are flocking to the social platform. Its photo sharing focus allows hotels to ‘paint a picture’ of their brand, exposing unique aspects of their hotel with stunning, never before seen photography.

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Here is @Deluxevenues collection of the best Luxury UK Hotels taking advantage of Instagram in 2017!

Rosewood London
302 Posts | 34,500+ Followers

@ROSEWOODLONDON

“An ultra-luxury High Holborn hotel that combines English heritage & contemporary sophistication in a central location, near Covent Garden & the City” – We were impressed by the quality of photos being presented, as they simply scream luxurious!

The Dorchester
1,248 Posts | 41,900+ Followers

@THEDORCHESTER

“One of London’s most iconic hotels, overlooking Hyde Park in Mayfair” – The Dorchester cleverly balance art with real life, celebrating goings-on around them as much as the hotel, creating a sense of place.

The Savoy
813 Posts | 37,400+ Followers

@THESAVOYLONDON

“Perfectly placed on the north bank of the River Thames, The Savoy is the most celebrated and glamorous 5* luxury hotel in Central London” – Glamour is certainly the right word for The Savoy’s Instagram account, with a clear focus on promoting the finer things in life. Perfect branding for this renowned hotel.

The Pig
844 Posts | 41,200+ Followers

@THEPIG_HOTEL

“A restaurant with rooms; the focus is very much on the food, uncomplicated and simple British garden food” – The epitome of countryside luxury. The Pig’s niche of freshly grown produce is evident throughout their Instagram, whilst photo’s of the hotel show why Londoner’s often escape to the country!

Claridge’s
1,843 Posts | 122,000+ Followers

@CLARIDGESHOTEL

“Daily adventures from the art deco hotel in the heart of Mayfair, London” – Claridge’s approach is much more ‘behind the scenes’, granting Instagram followers a peek into this exclusive hotel with smart use of targeted hashtags for maximum exposure. No wonder they have over 100k followers!

The Ritz London
399 Posts | 31,500+ Followers

@THERITZLONDON

“Five star luxury hotel in the heart of London. Share your Ritz memories with us using #ritzreveals and we will choose our favourites” – Here we see a hotel thinking ahead, creating a custom hashtag for their brand. A fantastic method to gain insights on guests and their experiences.

The Connaught
1,352 Posts | 38,400+ Followers

@THECONNAUGHT

“The Connaught, is a luxury five star hotel on Mount Street in the heart of fashionable Mayfair” – A very British affair. Instagram for The Connaught tells the story of an exclusive hotel, proud of it’s London location.

Chewton Glen
799 Posts | 10,100+ Followers

@CHEWTONGLEN

“An English Original… A five star luxury country house hotel and spa on the edge of the New Forest” – Another hotel proud of it’s location is Chewton Glen, based in the New Forest. Like The Pig this is a luxury country hotel, but their approach to Instagram also presents real customers and their experiences.

The Goring
705 Posts | 31,000+ Followers

@THEGORING

“London’s impeccably English luxury hotel has entered a new era” – In this case The Goring twins beautiful photography with artistic illustrations, a brand also keen to present its classic British aesthetic.

Belmond Le Manoir
347 Posts | 10,600+ Followers

@BELMONDLEMANOIR

“Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is renowned as one of Britain’s finest gastronomic and hotel experiences” – For this hotel food is king. Their fine dining posts are mouth-wateringly delicious, matched by it’s subtle European inspiration.

For more insights into UK Hospitality and Digital Marketing Subscribe to the DeluxeVenues Blog above!

References

[1] 600 Million and Counting. Instagram. Dec 2016.

3 Email Tactics For Customer Retention

In hospitality, success depends heavily on repeat custom. Many marketers forget this and put their focus into gaining new ticket sales or bookings; however when 25-40% [1] of most business revenue comes from repeat custom, this channel cannot be ignored. Studies by Bain & Company state a 5% [2] increase in retention can lead to profit increases of 25-95%!

A sell-out event full of new customers is an amazing quick win, but what is your venue doing to ensure they visit again?

It’s likely that your hotel, restaurant, bar or events venue will have a basic database of information on past customers. This means you have the capability to reach people on a personal level; which can be used to increase loyalty and repeat custom through strategic email marketing.

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At LeadDigital, it’s our opinion that email marketing is far from dead. In fact with the number of worldwide email users now topping 3.7 billion [3], plus the growth of email on mobile, it’s actually flourishing. How can email increase repeat business? Read our top 3 tips here below.

 

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1. The Personalised Approach

How well do you know your customers? Say for example, a person attends an event at your venue. Sure you have their name and contact details from the event booking, but what else?

For one you can probably assume their sex, potentially their age, and it’s likely you’ll have some insight into their interests based on the type of event they attended.

When it comes to email marketing, savvy marketers take this information and use it to personalise every interaction. You may even have experienced this yourself if you’ve attended an event and later received a ‘thank you for visiting’ style of email, addressed to you directly.

Sending a masculine-styled email to ‘Tim’ referencing the rock gig he attended 6 months ago & inviting him personally to a similar event, is much more likely to result in repeat business than a generic promotional message.

Personalised email communication enables more than just contact with existing clients. It also grants the ability to strategically target what you send, when it’s sent, and to who; maximising the return on each email. More importantly, regular personalised emails help maintain relationships with a group of people you know have bought services from you already!

2. Let Software Do The Hard Work

Automate Everything! Okay maybe not everything, but modern email marketing software does give businesses the ability to automate emails sent to existing customers. By utilising these features correctly, Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and other event venues can develop drip marketing strategies that increase repeat business.

What do I mean by drip marketing? Imagine a scenario where ‘Lana’ books a birthday party at your bar.

  1. First, you send Lana a personalised email confirming her booking.
  2. Next you remind Lana of her booking a week in advance and wish her a happy birthday.
  3. Two days after the event Lana receives another email, thanking her for choosing your bar and asking for feedback on her party. You learn she had a great time and particularly enjoyed the cocktails available.
  4. A few months later Lana receives an email, inviting her to an exclusive cocktails masterclass at your bar.

In this example, as she knows your brand, remembers her great party and loves cocktails, Lana books the masterclass event – job done, another repeat booking!

All of the above emails can be automatically sent, having been designed and scheduled well in advance – making email marketing scalable as your business grows. Working with an email marketing expert the right strategy can also save hospitality business time & money, that otherwise could be wasted on less effective marketing initiatives.

3. Make Existing Customers Feel Special

Leading on from the personalised approach above, email gives you the ability to make customers feel special, like they’re getting exclusive ‘backstage’ access to your Events Venue, Restaurant, Bar or Hotel.

People are becoming increasingly selective on who they give their email addresses to. When a customer gives you permission to contact them, they’re also telling you they have an active interest in your business. By picking up on core booking information and interactions, you can develop relationships that result in repeat business.

Wedding venues for example, know it’s unlikely they’ll get a repeat wedding booking from a recent bride. However that bride will have spent months comparing your venue with alternatives before booking, so clearly LOVES your location.

Email marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to make her feel special and remembered. People who feel valued, are both likely to book on another occasion and recommend your business! For example, how about emailing the bride just before her wedding anniversary, inviting her to an exclusive dining experience to relive their special day?

Exclusivity is a big deal in hospitality email marketing. At LeadDigital one of our clients is the luxury London private yacht company, Woods’ Silver Fleet. Their brand is associated with hosting luxurious functions & celebrations on the Thames, and LeadDigital are responsible for their email marketing strategy. Our greatest email successes for Silver Fleet have come from targeted, personalised invites which make previous clients feel remembered and important.

Conclusion

Email marketing for repeat custom can generate impressive revenue returns for your hospitality brand. Making your past customers feel special and taking a personal approach to communication builds trust & loyalty, resulting in more ticket sales, bookings and event enquiries!

LeadDigital are officially recognised email marketing experts, with over 20 years email marketing experience, specialising in strategies that increase revenue and grow customer loyalty. Need to improve your email marketing profit, then speak to us – we can audit current processes, develop a bespoke strategy and help you get the most from email!

 

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References

[1] The Importance Of Repeat Customers. SumAll. 5 April 2013
[2] Customer Retention Is King. Forbes. 21 January 2015
[3] Email Statistics Report 2017-2021. The Radicati Group. February

An Introduction to Google Analytics

What is Google Analytics? Why do I need it and how will it help my hospitality business?

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Imagine this scenario. You have just started selling tickets for an upcoming event at your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue. You’ve published social media posts and done some marketing, that’s great! You want to sell more tickets, but what’s next?

Before you start spending more on marketing, ask yourself these questions;

  • Is the process of buying tickets too complicated?
  • Are potential guests making it to the website?
  • Can customers even find what they’re looking for?!

In reference to the last question, watch this video, by the Google Analytics team.

Google Analytics collects data on the visitors to your website. Most importantly, It can deliver business critical insights to help you answer all of the above questions and more!

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool. Once correctly configured, you can analyse your hospitality websites sales funnel to find out if your website is working effectively and even how efficient your checkout experience is!

So why should I use Google Analytics?

In the age of data, it is becoming essential to understand where your customers are coming from. Using Google Analytics you will be able to gain insights into your potential guests, their preferences and behaviour. Being able to interpret this data will allow you to make informed business decisions, which can help you sell more tickets at your bar, restaurant, hotel or venue.

It also seamlessly integrates with many other online software services, such as Google Adwords, Mailchimp (for email marketing), EventBrite (events promotion) and Shopify (for eCommerce). For example, if you were to using Google Adwords to promote your hospitality business, then you can use Analytics to track sales from that channel.

However, there is so much data available in Google Analytics, that getting to the end result isn’t always easy. LeadDigital can help here. We are certified Google Analytics experts, our speciality is using Analytics to provide hospitality brands with a better understanding of potential guests and how to convert them into loyal customers.

 

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What can Google Analytics show me?

Google Analytics collects data on every visitor to your website. Here is a list of some information that Google Analytics makes available:

  • Where visitors are coming from (website, social, email etc).
  • Real time visitors on your site.
  • Which countries, even city, visitors are from.
  • What type of devices visitors are using (mobile, tablet, desktop).
  • What page visitors are arriving and leaving on.
  • How long visitors are spending on your website.
  • Ecommerce sales down to product level.

You can set up detailed Multi-Channel Funnels, run data experiments and setup shopping cart and checkout funnels, it opens up a lot of opportunities for data-driven marketing.

What is data-driven marketing?

You are marketing a New Year’s Eve event at your hotel, venue, restaurant or bar using a variety of methods, including Content Marketing and Social Publishing. But how can you tell which one is more effective?

Using Google Analytics, you can see which method is producing more ticket sales and bookings through your hotel, venue, restaurant or bar’s website – allowing you to then focus marketing on that best performing channel. This will save you money by highlighting marketing channels that do not produce results.

This is data-driven marketing.

How will this help my hospitality business?

Google Analytics will allow you to have more visibility of where your online sales are coming from. This will enable you to dedicate your resources in the correct areas, which in the long run, will save you money. Using data-driven marketing, you will be able to sell more tickets at your bar, restaurant, hotel or venue.

Using data from Google Analytics, you can find out where your most engaged visitors are coming from, such as a great blog post or maybe a fantastic review? Data is key, and knowing how to interpret it will unlock new digital opportunities.

As a certified Google partner, LeadDigital have configured, managed and imported Google Analytics for many successful hospitality businesses. We use data-driven marketing to help companies sell more event tickets and increase room bookings.

 

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Why You Need An Email Marketing Strategy

Strategy is the foundation upon which a business is built. Without a clear strategic framework in place, it is impossible to effectively manage or develop a hospitality company. How can you reach your business goals and ambitions without an actionable plan for fulfilment?

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“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric.

When looking at email marketing for your hospitality business, the same rules apply.

Whether you’re a hotelier, own an events venue or are a restaurateur – successful email marketing starts with a carefully crafted email marketing strategy.

Why Is A Structured Email Marketing Plan So Important?

Email is one of the most effective channels for hospitality businesses that are looking to make profit through marketing and engage with their customers. Email marketing can reach a large audience of people already interested in your brand, whilst allowing you to target and personalise your messages on an individual level – vastly improving the customer experience.

However, in a world where [1] 269 billion global emails are being sent daily, it’s easy for your emails to get ignored if not setup correctly and sent as part of a thought out, actionable strategy.

So Why Is This So Relevant To Hospitality Businesses?

Email marketing is a direct revenue opportunity for hospitality businesses, interacting with past, present and future customers. Whether used for branding, personalised communication or for promotional purposes, few other marketing options allow for such a targeted approach. Keep in mind, in most cases all email subscribers will be customers, or at least interested and aware of your brand.

For an example of hospitality email strategy, see online hotel booking site Expedia; or more specifically, how they used a carefully crafted and personalised strategy in their automated email marketing [2].

Expedia’s goal was to increase bookings from logged in website users who started the booking process, selected dates, but didn’t complete the process.

  • In step one of their fulfilment plan, an automated email pulls in the name of the specific city that person was booking, with email content focused on booking a package deal.
  • Step two, the city name from step one stays in the subject line, but now it’s also used in the emails title, body copy and in the

This strategy successfully aligns what the customer was thinking about completing, with a relevant email and subject line that would get their attention and likely lead to a booking. Focus, Goal, Tactic, Action.

Or as another example, imagine how impressed you would be as a customer if:

  • You booked a restaurant table, and immediately received a personalised booking confirmation email.
  • You then get a reminder two days before, including details on the restaurant’s location and best places to park.
  • One week after the meal you receive an email thanking you for visiting – then one month later you get offered a return diner promotion.

The customer journey has never been more important in the hospitality industry, and engaging with customers at every point of interaction ensures you’re always on their mind.

What Makes A Great Strategy?

A great email marketing strategy for hotels, venues & restaurants can be summarised with four core steps;

  • Set Goals
  • Decide Tactics.
  • Action.
  • Learn, Optimise & Repeat.

Each step is equally important, however step four brings the process full circle and gives you the vital information on subscribers, required to tailor future goals. Being able to learn from results (data) and adjust tactics accordingly, is the difference between a basic marketer and expert-level email marketing strategist.

How Can My Hospitality Business See What Works?

Email marketing service providers offer hospitality brands the tools to create, personalise and analyse their email campaigns. At LeadDigital we recommend using the online software platform MailChimp, due to its wide range of features, extensive history and affordability.

For more on why to choose MailChimp, Click Here.

LeadDigital are also officially recognised MailChimp Experts, and have the knowledge and experience from over 20 years of email marketing to craft bespoke email strategies for your hospitality business. We start by auditing all aspects of your email processes, and lead on to setting goals and suitable tactics, removing any guesswork and maximising your return on email investment!

 

To Speak With An Email Strategy Specialist

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References

[1] Is Email Marketing Dead? LeadDigital. 20 Mar 2017.
[2] 7 Lessons from top Performing Drip Email Campaigns. Shopify.

Inbound or Outbound – Which Marketing Strategy is Best?

The way we market hospitality brands, services and products has changed considerably in the last decade. This has been driven by a change in consumer behaviour, due to the development of internet technologies and how people use them. According to a report on the European Commission website, 87% of internet users in Britain made an online purchase in 2016 and these figures are growing year on year.

With the ever developing digital consumer, we look at whether hospitality companies should be transitioning from an Outbound to an Inbound Marketing strategy.

Inbound-or-Outbound-Marketing-for-Hospitality

Outbound Marketing

Commonly referred to as interruptive marketing, the outbound methodology is focused on actively seeking potential customers. The practice involves pushing a message out far and wide to broad audiences, grabbing the attention of anyone willing or forced to look.

Traditional advertising methods such as billboards, cold-calling, TV and radio ads are identified as Outbound. However, these are becoming less effective and less affordable, with mainly just large corporations paying for the diminishing results as part of a larger ‘top-of-mind’ brand awareness campaign. More affordable, modern, versions of outbound marketing exist, such as internet banner ads, pop-ups and cold-emailing. But, as with traditional advertising, these methods come at a price and they are also becoming less effective.

Technology is not only enabling these marketing methods, but it is also empowering the consumer to block and avoid these interruptive practices. Just as consumers are able to fast-forward adverts on recorded/on-demand TV, they are also using ‘ad blockers’ while browsing the internet. Consumers don’t want to be told what to buy or when to buy it. Instead, they want to research themselves (at a time that suits them) and make informed buying decisions. In-steps Inbound Marketing.

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Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing challenges traditional Outbound marketing techniques, by not fighting for the customers attention. Inbound is defined, by its originators Hubspot, as “an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful”. The focus is on being found by your potential customer, not seeking them out to sell them a dinner for two at your restaurant or tickets to your event.

Inbound traditionally uses social publishing and SEO techniques to promote content, making it visible to the consumer when they are looking for it. This requires skills and resources to create, but unlike outbound, this is the end of your costs. Once you have created, optimised and published your content it continues working for you.

A contentious form of promotion in the world of inbound, is Pay-Per-Click advertising. At LeadDigital, we believe using AdWords to promote your content to the right people, at the right time, forms part of the inbound strategy. Promoting your content at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages enhances the visibility of the content and ensures you are seen above your competitors.

With Inbound, the onus is put on the content to engage your potential customer and answer any questions they may have when making their buying decision. This shouldn’t be a problem, because who knows your potential customers better than you do? You can create Buyer Personas to help you focus content around your potential customer. These personas describe your ideal customer and detail their typical challenges and interests, which you can use to engage the reader.

What content should you be looking to create? Here are some content examples that are applicable to hospitality businesses;

Blog Posts

Market your brand in new and interesting ways. Share the latest developments and provide a relatable character to your business.

FAQs

Answer questions that potential customers may have and point them in the direction of further relevant information and how to purchase your product.

Reviews

Develop trust and turn your existing customers into promoters.

Menus

Potential customers will want to see the options before booking a table at your restaurant or bar.

Checklists

For all they need to make the most of their visit.

Guides

To the surrounding area of your venue or of the different room options at your resort.

Images and Videos

Visual representations showing your products and services.

Infographics

Show the history of your business through an infographic.

Conclusion

In years gone by, print, TV and attention-grabbing online advertising were the cutting-edge and most effective way businesses could influence potential customers. But, with the development of technology, consumer behaviour has changed and the Outbound method of actively searching for potential buyers is becoming ineffective and inefficient. Why try to buy your way in front of consumers, when they aren’t paying attention?

Today, a large proportion of consumers are purchasing through internet connected technologies. They are also using the internet to make informed buying decisions, researching articles online and seeking reviews from their peers before making purchases. Inbound Marketing is the answer to the evolving consumer behaviours and your answer to attracting new bookings and sales for your hospitality business. Better still, it’s cheaper than outbound marketing and is based on tapping into knowledge resources that likely already exists within your company.

 

Like what you’ve read? Get in touch to discuss your inbound marketing strategy.

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Using Shopify to Increase your Event Sales

Want to increase your event sales? Are you thinking of selling tickets online, but don’t know where to start? Whether you are running events at a hotel, bar, restaurant or venue, the internet is a great place to sell tickets and you should take advantage by making sure yours are as accessible as possible. Here are six reasons why we think Shopify is the best place to run a successful online ticket store.

shopify

First, A Little Bit of History…

Founded in 2004, Shopify was originally based on software written by its founders for their online snowboard store, Snowdevil. [1] Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown to over 1,900 employees, working from 6 different offices around the world [2] and after going public in 2015, posted revenues of $205 million. [3]

Shopify is the biggest ecommerce platform in the world, to date they are hosting 377,500 online stores that have sold over $29 billion worth of products. [4]

1. Beautiful Online Storefronts

In the right hands, Shopify will allow you to create beautiful, custom online ticket stores. You have complete control over the look and feel of your store, from its branding to its colours, layout and content. The customer experience with your brand is very important and Shopify provides everything you need to design and build this experience.

When selling tickets online, the event itself is everything. The powerful customisation features of Shopify provides the level of control needed to showcase your events in the best possible way. The product catalog system will let you categorise your events to help your customers find exactly what they’re looking for without getting frustrated.

Shopify is mobile-friendly and has built-in mobile commerce features so that your customers can browse and buy from your store using their mobile device. Shopify will detect when a customer goes to your store using a mobile device and show a different version of the checkout process, designed and built to work on smaller screens.

As an official Shopify Partner, LeadDigital can design and build custom themes for your online ticket store. We can sit down, discuss your business goals and work with you to build a Shopify store from the ground up in order to increase your event sales.

 

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2. Advanced Store Management

Once your storefront has been designed and built, you can add your events using the flexible inventory management system. Shopify can keep track of tickets sold and automatically stop selling your events when they have sold out.

You can add multiple variants of your tickets and these variants will allow you to customise how you sell your events. Want to offer multiple dates on your London party event? No problem. Do you have a fixed number of window seats available on your river boat cruise? That’s fine too. Each variant you create can have its own price and ticket allocation.

3. Mobile App

Shopify have built a mobile app that makes it easy to get an overview of your store when you’re on the go. All of your data is automatically synced between the app and your online store, making it available to you at anytime.

You can check your sales statistics, view and update ticket inventory, orders and customer data all from your iOS or Android device. Seeing all of your sales and visitor traffic at a glance will give you valuable insight into your business and keeps you in the loop when you’re away from your desk.

4. Marketing & SEO

An important part of increasing your event sales is letting people know your events exist in the first place! Shopify helps get the most out of your event by supporting SEO best practices and even generates special sitemap files for your products, pages and blog posts to make it easier for search engines like Google to find your content.

Google takes into account site speed when ranking pages in their search engine [5] and even provides tools like PageSpeed Insights to help you make it faster. It is no coincidence that the hosting included in your Shopify plan is lightning-fast.

If you would like to offer a special discount on your event for early-birds, or maybe offer a coupon to new members, Shopify has you covered and has a great discount codes and coupons system built-in. Combine your special offers with a solid email marketing campaign and you have a powerful selling tool on your hands.

Shopify integrates seamlessly with MailChimp, allowing you to automatically send your new customers and their purchase data to your MailChimp account. Being a Shopify Partner and a MailChimp Expert, LeadDigital fully recommend MailChimp for your hospitality business and believe that purchase data from Shopify can play an important role in an automated marketing strategy. Knowing what events your customers have been to in the past lets you know what events they might want to attend in the future.

 

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5. Web Hosting & Security

All Shopify plans come with hosting included, you get unlimited bandwidth and will never be charged based on the number of visitors or traffic coming to your store. All updates made to the core Shopify system are done automatically, meaning you will always be on the latest version and have access to the newest features.

Every bit of data that goes into your Shopify store is protected by daily backups. You can rest assured that all of your store data including business information, products, customer data, orders and inventory is safe and recoverable.

When it comes to security, Shopify is certified Level-1 PCI compliant [6], meaning all pages, content, credit card and transaction information on Shopify is protected by the same level of security that banks have to use.

6. Shopping Cart & Checkout

As soon as you launch your online ticket store, you can accept major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express. Shopify supports over 70 payment gateways from around the world including PayPal, Amazon Pay and even bitcoin, giving your customers multiple ways to pay for your events. You can also accept payments via Apple Pay, a cutting-edge technology that will give your customers an even faster checkout experience and allow them to purchase tickets in a single step.

Order confirmation emails and invoices can be sent to the customer as soon as they purchase tickets from you, providing them with a seamless experience and the instant confirmation they will be used to in today’s world. You can take this one step further by making use of a custom Shopify App that could create and send your event tickets automatically to the customer on your behalf, removing administration and increasing the efficiency of your business.

Shopify gives you the ability to recover abandoned shopping carts by providing a list of customers that dropped out of the checkout page before making a purchase. Sending a simple email to those potential customers can help you recover an otherwise lost ticket sale.

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Why Shopify?

Shopify is, in our opinion, the best ecommerce platform available today. The level of customisation offered across all areas of your ecommerce store make it extremely powerful. With all the technical aspects of running an online store taken care of, you can focus on the important bit, increasing ticket sales.

Shopify provides all the tools to offer your customers a great online shopping experience and in turn, boost your event sales, all you need to do is harness these tools and use them to your advantage.

As an official Shopify Partner, LeadDigital offer the perfect partnership to help you and your hospitality business get the most out of your online ticket store. We have built and managed many successful online stores for hospitality businesses, to help them sell more event tickets and get more room bookings. We can design, build, manage and integrate your Shopify store to suit you and your hospitality business needs.

 

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References

[1] Shopify, a Start-Up, Starts Its Own Business Competition. The New York Times. 2 Feb 2010.
[2] 2016 Year in Review. Shopify.
[3] Shopify Expects Revenue to Surge in 2016. Fortune. 17 Feb 2016.
[4] Shopify Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full Year 2016 Financial Results. Shopify. 15 Feb 2017.
[5] Using site speed in web search ranking. Google. 9 Apr 2010.
[6] PCI compliant shopping cart and hosting. Shopify.