Skift Take

To attract the attention and loyalty of Millennials today, hotels and booking sites need to communicate relevant hotel and destination content instantaneously and conveniently on mobile.

Stayful is an online booking platform selling independent hotels, with 43% of the customer base falling between the ages of 28-34.

That makes Cheryl Rosner, founder and CEO of Stayful, somewhat of an expert on Millennials’ online travel booking habits. Previously, she was president of Expedia Corporate Travel and

Launched in November 2013 with a handful of hotels in six cities, Stayful today sells over 1,700 hotels in 32 markets across North America, and also in London.

“We’ve been significantly growing the Millennial core part of our base,” says Rosner. “That’s driven by the fact that Stayful focuses 100% on independent and boutique hotels.”

The company is evolving along with its young customers. For example, Stayful developed a social media program within the last year where customers send a tweet with their desired dates, destination, and the #TweetStay hashtag to receive links for discounted rates.

Following is our interview with Rosner.

Skift: How should hotels market to Millennials in 2015?

Cheryl Rosner: For our core users of Millennials, information needs to be relevant and instant and convenient and mobile. That is where we have succeeded in really serving our Millennial customers. Instantly communicating information that’s relevant and convenient is being where the customer is. We use different communication channels, which will be on our app, what we do with TweetStay and Twitter, what we do on Facebook, or what we do on Pandora. Being convenient also means engaging with our customers on mobile.

First and foremost, you have to communicate relevant information instantaneously and conveniently on mobile.

Skift: Where have you found success on social media?

Rosner: We grew Twitter very quickly. We went from something like 100 followers in January to over 11,500 today. We grew very quickly there. We find that the reason why we grew quickly is because we created a torrent that lives on Twitter called TweetStay.

We are communicating in the language of Twitter as opposed to trying to create ads to work through Twitter. That’s using the channel natively. The same way you think about apps. You can use an app in a native way, as opposed to try and make people use the app in a way that you want your part to work. We always like to use the channel and use the medium and use the platform in a very native way.

We also initially grew very quickly on Facebook, but that’s kind of flattened out as we’re seeing our core users move to other mediums and other channels.

Skift: What about Instagram?

Rosner: For us, and we’re just really getting into Instagram, we’re seeing that Instagram is an easier and more relevant way to engage Millennial customers because it allows for sharing both visual and written content quickly.

But more importantly, if we’re talking about The Nolitan Hotel in New York on the Lower East Side, we talk about the noodle shop across the street, which is seriously the best noodle shop ever. It’s so easy to post a picture and say, “Right across the street from The Nolitan is a great a little noodle shop and here’s a picture of the place and the menu.” Instagram is something for us that we’re starting to see really work well for the hotel space.

Skift: How do Millennials define value?

Rosner: Everybody cares about price and Millennials are no exception. What we find is that Millennials are spending 20% more on their trips this year than they did in previous years. They look for basically what we consider to be a value rate. It’s not about finding just a deal. It’s about finding logical pricing for the room that they want to stay in that’s at the hotel they want to stay in when they want to stay there.

Skift: What do Millennials seek mostly in hotels, beyond fast and free Wi-Fi?

Rosner: What we found in our surveys is that the core Millennial customer or user is interested in collaborative, creative spaces above everything else. They are interested in meeting other people that are staying in the hotels that they’re staying in, whether they’re looking for places where they can work or play. The priority is the experience of meeting other people that are traveling around them.

But they also want to engage with the hotels and the hotel staff. There’s an expectation that the hotels are going to be knowledgeable and be able to provide local suggestions.

Skift: Are hotels in Stayful’s inventory considered more authentic and local by nature because they’re independent?

Rosner: Yes. We always bring that to light in our ads and throughout our platform, and we work with hotels to learn from them what it is they’re really adding to the experience for the guest. We add that content to our platform so the guests can see it, and we also look to include that type of content on behalf of the hotel in our marketing communications.

Skift: Do Millennials tend to extend business trips more than older generations?

Rosner: Expedia says that 62% of Millennials are more likely to extend their trip. That’s why once again, when you think about price and you think about how we communicate, and when to communicate, if you’ve already got 62% of Millennials extending a business trip into some personal time, then you want to be able to provide, from a marketing perspective, a good value because they’re spending their own money.

They care about their employer’s money as well, so you want to make sure that the value is there. Also make sure that if you know that you can capture a couple of extra nights, be able to direct market either through SMS or through email to make them aware.

Skift: What is your mix of leisure to business travelers at Stayful?

Rosner: We have no idea because we market to people based on people taking trips. We don’t think about people as being leisure travelers or business travelers. We think about people as being people who take trips.

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Tags: ceo interviews, startups, stayful

Photo credit: Stayful landing page for its New Orleans inventory. Stayful

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