In Conversation with Pan Pacific Hotels Group: How UGC Increases Traveler Engagement Across Social & Web Experiences

By Megan DeGruttola - April 15, 2019
5 mins read time
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Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG), an established hotel group which operates  over 40 hotels, resorts and serviced suites under its Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL brands across Asia, Oceania, North America and Europe, has been a longtime advocate of user-generated content (UGC). With authentic UGC featured across their homepage and individual property pages, website visitors are immediately greeted with authentic, engaging and impactful customer-created visuals that provide an inside look into what a stay at a luxurious PPHG destination will be like.

In our recent report, Bridging the Gap: Consumer & Marketer Perspectives on Content in the Digital Age, we found that consumers looking to book travel are heavily influenced by this user-generated content they’re encountering along their booking journeys.

To get more insight into exactly how PPHG leverages authentic UGC across their marketing channels, I spoke to the Vice President, Digital Marketing at Pan Pacific Hotel Group, Tan Hsu Ching.

Q: Our report found that consumers and marketers agree on the importance of authenticity but disagree about what types of content are actually the most authentic. Consumers are 2.4x more likely to say UGC is most authentic compared to branded content, but marketers are 2.1x more likely to say brand-created content is most authentic. Were you surprised by this discrepancy? If so, why? What are your thoughts on the authenticity of UGC vs. branded content?

PPHG: We fully agree with our consumers on the importance of authenticity! That’s very much in line with our brand philosophy of doing business with integrity and sincerity. As marketers, our success is measured by the amount of brand love we get, and the only way that’s going to happen is with the building of relationships that are based on trust. We think through and curate every piece of “branded” content with a lot of care and with our consumer’s interests firmly in mind so it’s always meaningful to them.

At the same time, we’ve come to realize that sometimes a light touch is more effective, especially when we see some UGC attracting engagement rates of three times more than what we’ve created. These become actionable insights and ah-ha moments which we then incorporate into our content marketing strategy — even more so as we move towards content co-creation with our audience.

Q: We showed the two photos above to consumers and asked which one was more authentic? They overwhelmingly said the photo on the left (the UGC image) was the most authentic, most likely to make them trust the brand that posted it and the most likely image they’d like on if it were featured in an ad or social post. Are you surprised by this result? How would you have answered?

PPHG: Consumers are smart and they know what they want! We are consumers too, and we wouldn’t expect our guests to like something when we wouldn’t do so ourselves. While we trust our gut, it’s more important for us to act on data. That means running numerous tests on social channels like Facebook and Instagram for our range of offerings — from rooms, to dining, to weddings and our guest loyalty program, Pan Pacific DISCOVERY. Not surprisingly, UGC comes up as the preferred content source in terms of both engagement and clickthroughs. Armed with that insight, we modified our social content to feature more UGC. As CPM (cost per thousand impressions) went down, we were in the delightful position of getting more eyeballs with a lower investment!

Q: Our survey found that the influence of authentic traveler images has grown over the past couple years: 86 percent of people have become interested in traveling to a location after seeing photos consumer-created social images, 60 percent said UGC is the most influential when planning travel and 52 percent say they’ve made plans to visit a specific destination based on UGC on social media. How is your brand tapping into this authentic content to inspire and impact all stages of the booking cycle?

PPHG: Authentic content is an indispensable part of our content marketing strategy, and that holds true across global, regional and hotel levels. We love it when our guests share about their travels and it doesn’t have to be about us. Our job is to make sure they get the most out of their stay through experiencing (and capturing and sharing) the best of each destination, and that comes easily when we’re in some of the most exciting cities in Asia, Oceania, North America and Europe. Intra-regional travel is growing at a clip, and people are relying on UGC for up-and-coming (some say off-the-beaten-path) destinations such as Yangon, or the latest happenings in popular spots such as Melbourne.

We are constantly improving our web experience by enhancing it with UGC. Upon landing on our website, you’d immediately be drawn to UGC by our guests.

This year, we are looking into how we can further leverage UGC to inspire our potential guests to complete their bookings by displaying more user-generated visuals across different channels. This extends beyond the web channel as we strive to increase engagement and clickthrough rates with emails and retargeting ads that feature UGC.

UGC also goes beyond our digital channels and presence. We are exploring how we can display UGC at our hotels, resorts and serviced suites too, from the lobby to the guestrooms.

Q: Sixty-three percent of marketers feel pressure to constantly produce greater amounts of content at a faster pace, and traditional content sources and production methods are often costly and time-consuming. Does this resonate with you? What steps are you taking to create engaging content at scale?

PPHG: Stackla is a great tool for marketers! It has helped us scale in a big way by making UGC curation easy and more discoverable. It’s about finding the right balance between UGC and our own content. The latter is still necessary and will remain a key element in our marketing communications.

Aerial shots of our properties like PARKROYAL on Pickering, with its cascading sky gardens, or Pan Pacific Yangon, which is the second tallest building after the city landmark, the Shwedagon pagoda, are examples of content that will wow our audiences. With the right balance between UGC and our own content, we are able to achieve social media feeds that are beyond inspirational.

Q: What other content marketing trends do you see evolving over the course of 2019?

PPHG: Personalized content served to you right at the moment of consideration — that is something we are excited to see more of, as both marketers and consumers. Video content continues to dominate as the most popular content format. However, there are so many different ways to consume videos that we are eagerly looking forward to finding out what would be the trendy video format of 2019. Will Instagram Stories continue to stay relevant? Will IGTV take off? We cannot wait to find out!

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