Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the world's largest luxurious hotel chains. It is an American multinational corporation that owns, operates, manages, and franchises luxury hotels, resorts, residences, vacation ownership properties, and spas. It has more than 1100 hotels, resorts, and properties in almost 100 countries across the Globe. Its internationally recognized hotel brands include Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien, W Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, Element, Aloft, and Westin. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. manages 48% of its hotels and resorts while 46% have been franchised to private investors from all over the world. It only owns 6% of its total hotels, resorts, spas, and vacation ownership properties. It has currently employed nearly 171,000 people -- more than a quarter is employed in the United States (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Founded as Starwood Lodging (a real estate investment trust) in 1969, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. has become one of the most competitive high-end hospitality corporations in the world. It is headquartered in Stamford -- a city in Fairfield County, Connecticut State, United States. Starwood Hotels also runs an honored loyalty program called 'Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)' which allows its members to enjoy numerous facilities and luxurious amenities at all the Starwood brands (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Integrated Marketing Communication Strategies at Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Centralized Marketing Channels:
Minimized Abandoned Reservation Calls (MARS):
In order to facilitate its customers in a more effective and efficient way, Starwood Hotels and Resorts maintains Minimized Abandoned Reservation Calls (MARS) system at its hotels and other properties. This system operates 24 hours a day and serves as a hub for all hotels, resorts, vocational properties, and spas owned, managed, and franchised by Starwood Hotels. All these hotels and resorts can communicate and send their reservation calls to the Customer Care Center employees in order to ensure an efficient booking of properties. MARS is one of the most effective customer services offered by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. It not only helps it in retaining and satisfying the existing customers, but also serves as a word-of-mouth strategy to attract new customers (Keller, & Parameswaran, & Jacob, 2011).
By offering a high level of convenience and efficiency, this service has also become a major source of enhancing brand equity of the company. Starwood Hotels and Resorts promote this service on all the major marketing and promotional mediums, i.e. television, newspapers, marketing website, social media networking sites, and publications for internal and external customers and primary stakeholders.
Sales and Marketing Strategies:
Starwood Hotels and Resorts is one of the largest luxury hotel chains in the world with 1162 hotels and distinguished properties. Therefore, the sales and marketing activities of the company also benefit its owned, managed, and franchised hotels and properties in enhancing their brand awareness and improving sales performance around the Globe. The expensive promotional campaigns, advertisements, and other marketing activities of the company on both digital and traditional channels largely facilitate its business partners and franchisee hotels.
Sales Training Programs:
In addition to the marketing and promotional campaigns, Starwood Hotels and Resorts also run comprehensive sales training programs for its internal associates (sales force). The Field Marketing Team as well as the sales force from all the hotels and distinguished properties of the company participates in these programs. The primary purpose of these sales training programs is to increase the skills, knowledge, and competencies of the sales people in a view to improve the company's sales performance (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
The Sales and Field Marketing Teams formulate strategies (for long-term goals) and tactics (for short-term endeavors). By participating in these programs, all franchised, managed, and self-owned hotels of the company observe a significant improvement in their revenues (e.g. $25 against every single dollar spent) (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. maintains a comprehensive marketing website to digitally present itself to the outside world. The website contains all types of information which the company's internal and external customers and other primary stakeholders may need. For example, it provides a complete portfolio of the company; including its brands, ownership status, global citizenship, franchise operations, management services, development support activities, geographic division, etc. The website also provides information on the company's sales and marketing activities. The websites of all the branded hotels showcase their interiors and exteriors through media gallery, videos, photographs, etc. (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Other important sections of the website include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), queries related to finding a hotel and detailed booking information, availability of rooms and other services, contact information, and all types of promotional offers; like resort offers, spa offers, partner offers, weekend offers, beach offers, etc.
The website also expresses certain promises of the company to its customers. For example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts guarantee the best rates of hotel rooms, spas, and recreational services. It recommends top destinations to the customers and offers all types of help in such matters.
The 'Guest Reviews' section provides verified reviews by the company's most prestigious customers. On their departure from the hotels, resorts, and spas, the company requests its customers to rate its services by expressing how did they feel during their stay. The 'Guest Reviews' section is an important part of the company's Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategies. When the company's customers give their opinions and testimonials about their experience with the company's hotels, resorts, and spas, they become a word-of-mouth for the future customers and investors (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Since these opinions, reviews, and testimonials increase the brand awareness and share positive customer experience on the most visited marketing channel (the official website), they become a major source of enhancing brand equity of the company.
Customer Relationship Management Strategies
Customer Contact and Call Centers:
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. has a specialized workforce that serves its customers 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. The call center agents at its Customer Care and Contact Centers received 20 million telephone calls in 2012. These telephonic services are provided in 25 languages -- making it convenient for the customers to get all types of information before visiting hotels and booking rooms for themselves (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
The call center agents and customer care representatives assist the company's customers in all aspects -- from entertaining simple room booking queries to proving destination information, weather conditions, in-house and out-door facilities and services offered by the company, and other important information. By providing highly efficient customer services over the telephonic channel, Starwood Hotels and Resorts try to build and maintain strong customer relationships (Brassington & Pettitt, 2006). All the integrated marketing communication (IMC) strategies of the company are centered towards satisfying its most important stakeholder, i.e. The customers (Gustafsson, Johnson, & Roos, 2005).
Branded Web Channels:
In addition to the official marketing website, Starwood Hotels and Resorts brands are also promoted through branded web channels. These channels are operated by booking agents that entertain all types of queries by general customers, find available rooms and services in different branded hotels and resorts of the company, and confirm their booking on behalf of those customers. On the whole, these branded web channels entertained 334 million visits during the previous year.
In addition to providing customer care and booking services, these branded web channels also play a big role in increasing the brand awareness and improving the marketing performance of the company. They introduce the company's hotels, resorts, vocational properties, and spas to potential customers and investors in all the corners of the world. Based on their knowledge and available statistics, they recommend the best options by keeping in view the personal and business requirements of the individual and corporate clients respectively.
These branded web channels -- supported by customer call centers, Minimized Abandoned Reservation Calls (MARS), sales training programs, and marketing website collectively boost up the company's total room revenues by 50% (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 2013).
Social Media Marketing Strategies:
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is expending the biggest part of its marketing budget on digital media marketing. Almost 75% of the total marketing budget is taken by the social media networking sites, marketing website, branded web channels, and online advertising on private websites (Hotelier Middle East Staff, 2012). Social media networking has proved to be an effective medium to communicate the company's messages to its most potential customers, investors, media agencies, supply chain members, and regulatory authorities (Pickton & Broderick, 2005).
By advertising its promotional offers and services on its social media incarnation, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. not only attracts new customers, but also ensures that they make their decision in the most convenient and efficient way. The company makes every effort to engage its customers through its branded websites and promises to deliver services that are…