Motel 6 may be best known for one of the great ad campaigns in hospitality history — the use of spokesman Tom Bodett and the tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for ya.” It’s still running after more than 30 years.
That’s the good news. The less good news is that Motel 6, part of G6 Hospitality along with sister brands Hotel 6 and Studio 6, “needed some love,” specifically “ecommerce love,” in the words of Jeff Thomas, director of ecommerce and distribution. That love came when the brands were bought by The Blackstone Group in 2012 and transformed into G6 Hospitality in 2015.
After searching for an ecommerce love match, G6 decided to purchase the Adobe stack of solutions. Says Thomas, “We not only hired them to build an initial version of a mobile website but partnered with them to teach us how to be agile to transform our digital experience with a mobile-first mindset.”
In the case of G6, mobile is crucial because an astonishing percentage of bookings are made at the last minute by travelers on the road who need a place to stay that night. Consider that in the morning many of the brand’s properties show 20% occupancy on the books and end up with 80-90% by the end of the night. The mobile site was redesigned with mapping and geolocations, a light focus on text content, and a heavy focus on accessible visuals.
A customer used to need five clicks to book and that was brought down to three, according to Thomas. G6 leveraged its integration with Adobe through tight interfaces with Google — including maps and geolocations. “Google is baked through the entire experience,” says Thomas. “We eliminated friction points. Of course, you can swipe through pictures and look through reviews if you choose but we can take you to the point of decision quickly and easily.”
Getting to this point took time and money, says Thomas. It involved extensive testing down to different “button” sizes for clicking, terminology variations and much more. And, says Thomas, “we will have to keep changing.”
But the results are already clear. In the last two years bookings went from 45% on mobile to over 63% — with revenue up 50% through that channel. More, the conversion rate doubled from 3.7% to 7%. A lot of the revenue growth came through an increase of 20% in inquiries to call centers because the mobile site makes it easy to call with a prominent call button on every screen.
“Over the last three years, we have transformed that part of our business,” says Thomas. “When Blackstone acquired us, our only live distribution channel was Orbitz with 20 properties on Booking.com. Our first step was to connect directly with Expedia, which saw a monumental increase; and we added properties to Booking.com.
“What’s changing is how our customers are engaging,” says Thomas. “It’s no longer about billboards, but about mobile.”
Today, he says, “We are constantly iterating, in the lab cooking up cool things that will enhance the speed of the experience.”
Yes, rapid and constant change is now a given to keep up in the marketplace. But let’s hope that Motel 6 still keeps the light on for ya.