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TEACHING CASE STUDY

DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY OF ACCOR HOTELS:
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF HOSPITALITY

Vesna Damnjanović

Dina Lončarić

Jasmina Dlačić

Abstract
Purpose – The main aim of this case study is to explain the digital marketing strategy for different

target segments of Accor Hotels, the most diversified hotel player.

Design – We present a business case study about Accor Hotels, together with teaching notes that

teachers will be able to use in the classroom.

Methodology – The business case study methodological approach, using secondary data from a

variety of valuable sources, was applied to present the success story of the digital marketing

strategy of Accor Hotels. The case study consists of the Opening paragraph, Introduction,

Hospitality industry players, About Accor Hotels, Customer journey in the hospitality industry,

Digital marketing strategy for Accor Hotels, Conclusion and Teaching notes.

Approach – Authors are focusing on a case study example to present best practices from the

hospitality indstry in the era of digitalization.

Findings – The major input for developing the right digital marketing strategy is understanding the

stages of the digital customer journey. The case study present the hotels’ current (loyal) and

potential clients as well as hotel marketing strategies. Marketing strategies include changes in the

hotel portfolio offering, different pricing levels, communication and content marketing strategy,

and partnership deals with all players in the hospitality industry. This case study is interesting for

both the academia and industry experts.

Originality of the research – We explain how hotel managers define client value proposition for

Accor Hotels, with a better understanding of modern trends in the hospitality industry:

digitalization, personalization, innovative business models and faster response to client needs. This

case study is intended for teaching in Digital Marketing or Hospitality Management courses for

masters or undergraduate students.

Keywords Digital Marketing, Accor Hotels, Strategy, Digitalization, Customer journey

OPENING PARAGRAPH

Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, preparing for Investor Day: Digital

Transformation Strategy for Accor Hotels and thinking about the Accor Hotels’ vision

said, “We create new opportunities to maximize the business of hospitality by combining

our brands with our real-world solutions, seamless global networks, and specialist

expertise. Accor Group is built upon four brand pillars: maximize performance,

empowered talent, open innovation and acting for a meaningful hospitality, that embrace

the future while continuing to put people – guests, customers and talents – at the heart of

everything we do”. Accor is shaping the future of hospitality by digitalizing the customer

experience and providing value propositions for all partners in the hospitality value

chain.

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1. INTRODUCTION

Today’s hospitality industry is being transformed into an integral digital technology-

enabled provider powered by different tech tools and applications: mobile, cloud, online

travel agency (OTA), AI (chatbot, dynamic pricing, database management), blockchain,

IoT, AR and VR. Thus, hotels have the potential to engage with guests at every possible

touchpoint of the customer journey and provide them with opportunities to create

personalized experiences throughout their lifetimes.

Many recent studies emphasize, however, that hotels need to go through a digital

transformation to meet the changing demands of customer experience and should focus

on a customer-centric approach to stay ahead of both traditional competitors and industry

disruptors (sharing digital platform) in a competitive tourist environment (Lam and Law,

2019; Zach et al., 2020; Torres, 2018). Furthermore, the impact of the coronavirus

(COVID-19) is shifting daily; it is impacting travel brands across every sector, from

hospitality to air transport to cruises to tour operators (Sorrells, 2020). Referring to recent

news from Business Traveller, Chen (2020) explains that Accor has joined a growing list

of hotel groups that are offering membership tier status and points extensions to members

of their loyalty programs Accor Live Limitless (40 million members) for one year more

in the Greater China region. Accor Hotels has also extended the booking change and

cancellation fee waiver for guests travelling to or from mainland China, Hong Kong

Macau and Taiwan until March 31, 2020.

In the hospitality industry, being customer centric is not enough. It is also crucial to

create partnership deals in order to stay competitive and reach revenue streams from

collaborators: airlines, food and beverage companies/ restaurants, cruise lines and travel

agents. Accor Hotels is building digital capabilities, leveraging the partnership with

digital providers in the tourism industry: online travel agency and metasearch sites.

Revenues of OTAs and alternative lodging platforms such as Airbnb have been rising

rapidly. Another challenge is to secure the internal digital competence of people to

manage the digital marketing strategy for hotels. Accor is connecting employees for a

connected customer experience by educating them with strong global and national sales

teams: 700 sales representatives in 45 sales offices and an e-commerce team of 250

experts worldwide.

Hotel companies should understand how to choose and apply digital tech solutions in

their everyday environment to improve guest satisfaction, partner collaboration and

employee know-how (Starkov, 2019). Another important competence is to be ready to

respond quickly to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and provide crisis management plans

for surviving the global pandemic. The three targets of the new digital Accor experience

are customers (seamless journey), partners (transparent relationship) and employees

(digital empowerment). Accor boasts an ambitious digital strategy based on a €225

million 5-year plan to enhance the digital experience of their customers, partners and

employees (Accor, 2019).

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2. HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY PLAYERS

The hospitality industry has been undergoing tremendous changes and disruptions over

the last two decades. What key trends have been steadily reshaping the hospitality

industry?

Customers request extreme personalization, unique travelling experiences. This could

very well lead to the death of the travel agent and the rise of the independent traveller.

New generations such as Gen Z and Gen Y have different requirements and needs

compared to older generations (Toress, 2018). “Older generations think about hotels and

car rentals. Younger generations think about Airbnb and Uber.” (Weisskopf, 2020) Hotel

customers are now more knowledgeable and empowered to tell more, complain more

and expect more.

Digital transformation and new digital attackers are changing the rules and disrupting the

traditional value chain in the tourism industry. There are three groups of digital attackers

(see Figure 1 comparing level of change and share of value chain):

ï‚· Disruptors (Airbnb, HomeAway) with a high level of change and a high level of
share in the value chain. Airbnb as the market leader in P2P (peer-to-peer)

accommodation. According to a study (Boswijk, 2017), Airbnb’s initial value

proposition combined experience and economic benefits for travellers and for

residents in tourist areas.

ï‚· Innovators (Booking.com, Expedia), online travel agents with a medium level of
change and a medium share in the value chain. They develop their private rental

offer. Expedia provides the tools to manage the guest in stay. The brands owned

by Booking Holdings and Expedia are such that these companies have almost

replaced hotel brands.

 Aggregators – metasearch sites (TripAdvisor, SkyScanner, Kayak) with a low level
of change and a low share in value chain. A travel aggregator is a website that finds

availabilities and prices of travel offerings across many sources and aggregates them

all in one place. This helps users find the best prices out of all the results the

aggregator has found. That makes it easy for consumers to know that they are

booking at the lowest price and it has also led to improvements in the quality of the

services provided by hospitality companies that could not easily differentiate on the

market based on pricing.

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Figure 1: New digital attackers in the tourism industry

Source: Digital Strategy for Accor Hotels

While new attackers are focusing on experience and restaurant booking, hotels (Marriot,

Hilton, Hyatt and Accor Group) are focusing on the customer experience, customer

lifetime value and customer loyalty.

3. ABOUT ACCOR HOTELS

Accor, a global leader in augmented hospitality, offers unique experiences in close to

4,800 hotels, resorts and residences in 100 countries. Accor is present across all

continents. It accounts for 47% of all rooms offered in the hotel industry in Europe, 30%

in ASPAC, 9% in MEA, 8% in South America and 5% in NCAC. For more than 50

years, Accor has combined the full breadth of its hotel know-how and diversified

portfolio from Sofitel hotel: luxury&upscale (26%), Novotel and Mercur hotels:

midscale (34%) to Ibis hotel: economy brands (40%). (Accor’s Integrated Report, 2018.)

Accor has adopted an asset-light business model that brings together value-creation

mechanisms and the hotels operating under its brands (Demirçiftçi and Kizilirmak,

2016). Accor works with hotels it does not own, maximizing their revenue through the

brands and services (marketing, loyalty programs, distribution systems, etc.) it develops

for them.

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Figure 2: The Accor business model

Source: Accor’s Integrated Report, 2018

Accor derives its “hotel” revenue from three types of fees and services (see Figure 2):

ï‚· The first revenue stream: a trademark fee (flow 4), based on a percentage of the
hotel’s revenue (franchise and management contracts);

ï‚· The second revenue stream: mandatory and additional service fees (flow 5).
Mandatory fees include marketing and sales fees, distribution and loyalty fees and

IT fees (franchise and management contracts);

ï‚· The third revenue stream: for managed hotels only, there is an incentive bonus (flow
6) based on the EBITDAR (Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation,

amortization, and restructuring or rent costs) generated by the hotel. This rewards

Accor’s sound management of the hotel on behalf of the owner (Accor’s Integrated

Report, 2018). Increasing revenue streams for Accor Hotels requires different

strategic marketing approaches to new and current guests (Alrawadieh et al., 2020).

Loyal guests should come more frequently and spend more money, while new guests

should experience one of the hotels in the diversified offering of Accor Hotels.

4. CUSTOMER JOURNEY IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

Digital tools provide new power for shoppers to more easily compare a hotel’s offering

and price and place an order. Sometimes, interaction between hotels and customers is

limited because the content present in the digital marketing strategy is not engaging

enough to make the customers start or participate in a discussion (Chen, 2011). The

benefits of digital marketing are in low costs and in the ability to personalize promotional

material. A study (Parvez et al., 2018) has shown that optimizing a hotel’s website can

frequently lead to better hotel performance.

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Accor Hotels use new technology, processes and organizational structures to proactively

lead the customer digital journey. According to Edelman and Singer (2015), journey

managers must be able to answer financial questions such as “What new revenue streams

do we need to generate?” and “What is the variable cost per customer or action that we

can afford for each journey?”. They also need to assess customer satisfaction with the

entire journey and with interactions at specific touchpoints. Accor creates its customer

journey approach in three stages: the pre-travel stage, stay stage and post-travel stage.

The pre-travel stage consists of four steps: dream, select, book and prepare. In the post-

travel stage, customers share their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and based on positive

or negative customer experience they will recommend and return to Accor Hotels or

switch to another brand. Players at every stage for Accor Hotels are (see Figure 3):

ï‚· Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/ Photos platform (Dream stage)

ï‚· Trivago, trivago.com – Compare hotel prices worldwide (Select stage)

ï‚· Booking.com, travel metasearch engine for lodging reservations (Book stage)

ï‚· Wipolo, https://www.wipolo.com/, is a mobile app that centralizes all your travels
(Prepare stage)

ï‚· Ibis, Novotel. Economy and middle scale Accor hotels (Stay stage)

ï‚· Trip Advisor, https://www.tripadvisor.com/ perfect travel planner (Share stage)

ï‚· Starwood’s Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program (Return stage)

Figure 3: Steps and players at every stage of the customer journey approach for

Accor Hotels

Source: Digital Strategy for Accor Hotels

Technology has been steadily improving customer experiences, across a breadth of

industries, with hospitality being among them. If customer journeys are relatively

complex and most visitors are not converting on the first visit, a different approach to

customers is necessary. The Accor Group has pushed its hotels to improve their customer

and partner management and to enhance their digital capabilities by employing staff

experienced in digital media and technologies. They also want to leverage data analytics

and re-map digital customer journeys to differentiate themselves through offer

innovations to loyal and new customers to achieve customer personalization.

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5. DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY FOR ACCOR HOTELS

According to Lončarić and Radetić (2015), companies that have a higher level of digital

marketing practice are able to achieve better business performance.

Digital marketing and sales strategies are becoming increasingly important in hotels.

Hotels are implementing diverse marketing strategies and developing a wide range of

digital marketing tactics. Usually hotels use paid digital tools: Social Media Marketing

(SMM): Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email Marketing (own and

third-party databases), Search Engine Marketing (Google AdWords or Display

networks), Publisher Networks (Direct advertising campaigns on specific websites),

Programmatic Networks (Using user-intent and contextual marketing targeting

travellers) and Review websites (Sponsored content and advertising banners on

platforms such as TripAdvisor) (Parvez et al., 2018; Khmiadashvili, 2019; Pelsmacker

et al., 2018). Hotels also use their own mobile applications, web strategies and big data

marketing as media to improve customer experiences. Traditional marketing tools (TV,

radio, web, print, etc.) are also important in the customer acquisition stage and it is

necessary to connect with the digital marketing strategy to support an omnichannel

strategy. Accor Hotels spends a €100 million budget each year on its traditional

marketing strategy.

It is important to draw up a digital marketing strategy for each stage of the customer

journey for hotels. Accor Hotels has developed a digital marketing strategy covering all

stages: customer acquisition, distribution, guest experience and customer retention (see

Table 1).

The customer acquisition stage is divided into two parts: a pull strategy for driving

demand and a push strategy to convert demand. In pull strategy hotels, Accor Hotels uses

traditional marketing channels, combined with digital social media marketing, brand

sponsorship search engine marketing and partnership with metasearch engines. Big data

analytics tools and e-mail personalized campaigns are popular in a push strategy when

hotel companies have already collected the customer data.

The distribution stage for Accor Hotels is the most important channel with a 66% global

average contribution rate to hotel revenue (Central Reservation System). This stage

includes web partnership strategy, global distribution system partnership, mobile

marketing and customer care tools.

The guest experience is supported by mobile apps in Accor Hotels, Online check-in &

fast check-out digital platforms, digital in-app hotel services (room service, restaurant

menu, taxi) and one-click payment: personal E-wallet. It is important to emphasize that

Accor Hotels integrates city guides online, has partnerships with 500 restaurants

bookable online and provides 6,000 free magazines and newspapers via the Accor

application.

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Table 1: Digital Marketing Strategy for Accor Hotels

Stages in

customer

journey

Digital Marketing strategy

Customer

Acquisition

Pull strategy for driving demand

Traditional marketing channels

Social Media Marketing strategy: presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Pinterest & LinkedIn.

KPIs: 100 country digital campaigns each year >25 million fans

Strong Accor & brand sponsorships: AccorHotels Arena, Roland Garros,

Australia Open, 2024 Paris Olympic city, etc.

Search Engine Marketing strategy: High-impact Paid Search Advertising:

KPI: Budget > €45 million invested each year

Partnership Strategy: Booming metasearch engines: >20 global partnerships

(Trip Advisor, Kayak, Trivago, etc.)

Push & Convert Demand

Big Data Analytics Strategy: Great guest knowledge & big database: KPI:

>60 million individual customers

Smart and predictive email marketing campaigns

KPI: >1 billion personalized emails sent each year

Distribution Web strategy: KPIs: >40% of revenue generated. Accor websites:

all.accor.com + brand.com = >330 million yearly visits.

Web partners strategy: KPI: >110 online travel agencies (OTAs) Global

Distribution System: Amadeus IT Group, Sabre, traditional travel agencies,

TAGS: group booking solutions (100% focused on delivering outstanding

corporate travel management services and support)

Mobile Marketing Strategy: all.accor.com single app: >50% of web visits

come from mobile devices

Customer care: call centre: 900 sales agents operating in 10 call centres in 18

languages

Guest

experience

Digital Services for Accor Guest: 70 city guides: available on all.accor.com

app, Online check-in & fast check-out: personalized (KPI: 5 million

transactions)

One-click payment: personal E-wallet for 250,000 guests

Digital in-app hotel services (room service, restaurant menu, taxi…) KPI:

2,600 hotels equipped

Partnership: 500 Restaurants by Accor bookable online

Accor press: 6,000 free magazines available via Accor All App

Customer

Retention

Customer Feedback Online Strategy: 100% of hotels equipped to manage

guest feedback online (Mauri and Minazzi, 2013)

Bring-guests-back strategy: ALL – Accor Live Limitless loyalty program

advantage KPIs: 40 million members

Source: Accor, 2019

The customer retention strategy of Accor Hotels is about the guest loyalty programme,

which accounts for 30.6% of the global average contribution to hotel revenue. The digital

marketing strategy is based on knowing customer feedback online in order to improve

the customer experience.

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CONCLUSION

Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, has summarized all the facts: A hotel can

improve its ranking and earn more revenue by investing in digital marketing strategy.

This digital marketing strategy should focus on improving customer acquisition,

partnership distribution deals, guest engagement and retention programs. In this time of

coronavirus, Accor Hotels should use a differentiated approach to cancellation policies

by analysing the period of stay, place of stay and previous individual or group booking

arrangements. Given all the competences that Accor Hotels possesses, such as its

working staff, customer-centric approach and partners collaboration, how could it

continue expanding beyond a traditional marketing approach with digitalization and tech

trends? Customers are looking for a quality shopping hotel experience and offering

personalization. In such a scenario, would Accor Hotels plan to run a data-driven

business and give priority to defining a value proposition strategy for economy, midscale

and luxury Accor hotels? What will guarantee business growth for Accor Hotels in the

coming period?

TEACHING NOTES

Courses: Marketing and Consumer Behaviour (undergraduate and graduate level) or

Marketing of Hospitality Services courses (graduate level)

Topics: Service Digitalization, Customer Journey, Digital Marketing Strategy,

Hospitality Digital Transformation

Teaching objectives:

ï‚· Understanding the role of customers, partners and employees in different approaches
in defining a strategy for digital transformation in the hospitality industry

ï‚· Identifying the tactics of a digital marketing strategy for the Accor Hotel Group

ï‚· Recognizing the digital marketing tools and KPIs in customer acquisition,
distribution, guest experience and customer retention stages for the Accor Hotel

Group

Suggested Seminar Outline:

ï‚· Discussing the Accor Group: Class Discussion (company background, portfolio,
decision makers) (15 minutes)

ï‚· Identifying the new players in the hospitality industry and room for competitive
advantage? Class Discussion: Understanding the customer journey for hotels in the

digital transformation era. Explaining digital marketing tools and KPIs for the

Accor Group (60 minutes)

ï‚· Wrapping up the Case: Lecture (digital marketing activities across stages, key
learnings) (15 minutes)

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Student assignments:

1. How does digitalization affect players in the hotel value chain?

The teacher can begin by explaining the differences between competitors and

collaborators in the hospitality industry. It is important to emphasize international hotel

chains: Merriot International, Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotel Groups,

Wyndham WorldWide Corp and Accor. In addition, the hospitality industry relies on key

collaborators: airlines, food and beverage companies/restaurants, cruise lines and travel

agents. Airlines and cruise lines are often partnered with hotels to offer packages; food

and beverage: in-house hotel catering making up about 20% of hotel revenue. Hotels

work closely with travel agencies to provide them good deals. OTAs are changing the

market situation and shifting more power to guests (Dubois, 2016).

2. Define the Digital Customer Journey for Accor Hotels

The digital customer journey refers to the process a customer goes through with Accor

Hotels: from browsing to purchase, and staying in a hotel and to post-purchase. The

teacher should explain that a customer journey map is a visual representation of every

experience customers have with Accor Hotels. An effective customer journey map will

enable digital marketers in a hotel to gain a better understanding of how their customers

interact with their business while accessing helpful insights into what channels are most

effective for converting leads into customers, and customers into loyal customers (DMI

Daily Digest, 2020).

3. What are the players at every stage in the digital customer journey for the Accor

Hotels Group

Figure 4 shows the differences between the customer journey approach used today and

the product approach used before. Using Figure 4, teachers, together with students,

should identify all players in each stage of the customer journey for Accor Hotels.

Figure 4: Customer journey for hotel (today and before)

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Learning outcomes:

ï‚· Recognizing trends in the hospitality industry

ï‚· Customer Acquisition, Distribution, Guest Experience and Customer Retention
knowledge and skills in the hospitality industry

 Creating a hotel’s Customer Journey Map

 Understanding a hotel’s Digital Marketing Strategy (Damnjanovic et al., 2017)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This paper has been supported by the University of Rijeka under the project number

Uniri-drustv-18-235-1399.

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Vesna Damnjanović, PhD, Full Professor

University of Belgrade, Faculty of Organizational Sciences

Marketing Management and Public Relations Department

Jove Ilića 154, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia

Phone: +381-11-3950800

E-mail: [email protected]

Dina Lončarić, PhD, Associate Professor

University of Rijeka, Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management

Department of Marketing

Primorska 42, p.p. 97, 51410 Opatija, Croatia

Phone: +385-51-294187

E-mail: [email protected]

Jasmina Dlačić, PhD, Associate Professor

University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics and Business

Department of Marketing

Ivana Filipovića 4, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia

Phone: +385-51-355111

E-mail: [email protected]

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