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Hotels want to learn all about their guests—who you are, what you’re interested in, where you shop, what you like and hate. It’s not because they’re nosy, but because by collecting this first-party data (i.e., data they collect themselves, based on consumer interactions, instead of relying on third-party cookies, which are problematic and limited, for a variety of reasons), they believe they can sell visitors, travelers, and consumers more stuff while also making them want to buy even more.

The travel marketing platform Sojern recently released some interesting survey results along these lines, noting that 81 percent of hoteliers say they have seen an increase in revenue due to implementing their first-party data strategies. In an apparent win–win scenario, 57 percent of hotel executives who run what Sojern calls the largest global brands indicated that guests also appeared more satisfied with their services and properties too, after those companies had implemented their first-person data strategy. That is, first-party data collection seems to be good for business, while also providing a tool for making customers happier.

Beyond that immediate dyadic interaction, first-party data can serve additional purposes. Namely, hotels potentially can take the first-party data they collect and sell it to third parties, which then use it to market to consumers. But the sustainability of such options may be limited. In today’s technology contexts, expanding privacy laws make it far easier for consumers to avoid sellers’ uses of cookies. If a lot of consumers start to opt out of being tracked by most websites, then first-party data constitute the primary or even only source of information that marketers can use. 

At Marriott, an innovative and novel media network offers an interesting case for how to apply first-party data systems in practice. On the Marriott Media Network, which launched in May 2022, outside companies may advertise directly to hotels’ customers, through an “omnichannel cross-platform advertising solution for brand advertisers, enabling curated content experiences and offerings to guests throughout their travel journey,” according to a press release.

Created in collaboration with Yahoo, the network displays advertisements on the hotel chain’s websites, through its app, and, eventually, on in-room televisions. The promoted offerings include products, entertainment, travel-affiliated services like ground transportation, and other goods and services that could be of use to a weary, or energetic, traveler. According to a Marriott International executive, the goal is “really about connecting advertisers that will be able to fill some of those needs in our ecosystem and bring it together in one spot.”

But Marriott’s first-mover advantage might not last long, if the Sojern survey is accurate, because nearly every hotelier now wants to create its own, proprietary, first-party data strategy. Such moves suggest the possibility of a vast, industry-wide disruption, with diverse implications for both providers and consumers in the hospitality industry.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can hoteliers do with first-party data to improve their business?
  2. Are other hotel chains likely to develop news networks similar to Marriott’s?

Sources: Megan Graham, “Marriott Rolls out Media Network that Lets Brands Reach Travelers on Its Apps and TV Screens,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2022; “Marriott International Introduces Travel Media Network, Powered by Yahoo,” PR Newswire, May 16, 2022; Aaron Baar, “Hotel Brands Boost Revenue after Harnessing First-Party Data, Report Finds,” Marketing Dive, December 5, 2022; “81 Percent of Hoteliers See a Lift in Revenue Once a First-Party Data Strategy Is Implemented,” sojern.com, November 30, 2022