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How Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Uses Visual Social Proof to Boost Inspiration and Direct Bookings

These days, nobody books a trip without researching it online first. But is your travel and hospitality brand breaking through the noise to reach, inspire and motivate people to make the leap from browser to guest with good social proof?

Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, a global portfolio of 37 hotels and resorts in six destinations, including Hawaii, Maldives, Fiji, Guam, Thailand and Mauritius, saw the potential for user-generated content (UGC) right away.

“Myself and my team have been longtime advocates of leveraging UGC as a marketing tool. It’s the modern form of word-of-mouth marketing, and we believe that’s one of the most valuable touchpoints,” said Laura Essenberg, Social Media Strategist at Outrigger Hotels and Resorts. “It’s truly authentic — you can’t fake someone else’s experience.”

The numbers agree. With 48 percent of consumers reporting that they post about places they visit at least twice a month and 43 percent of consumers saying they’ve made travel plans based on a friend’s social post, it’s no surprise that Outrigger, with all of their beautiful destinations, wanted to efficiently tap into the photos customers were actively posting of their vacation experiences.

The importance of choosing a partner, not just a platform

Understanding the value of user-generated content from the get-go, Outrigger had a UGC platform in place — but from the start, they knew it wasn’t going to provide them with the complete relationship they required.

“We’ve been with other platforms, but we didn’t feel that we were getting to be as innovative and creative as we wanted and needed to be. We were looking for a vendor that would enable us to launch more than just these out-of-the-box type solutions — we wanted a partner, not just a business deal. We needed a solution who would grow with us and exchange ideas, and we really found that with Stackla.” said Essenberg.

“Stackla wanted to be just as next-level as we wanted to be,” Essenberg said. “It was way more customizable than we had experienced with any other vendor before — and it integrated with our Sitecore CMS.”

With Stackla Developer Services, Outrigger creates customized, seamless web experiences

To perfect the look and feel of the inspirational UGC across their Sitecore-powered site, Outrigger worked with Stackla Developer Services to create a customized visual gallery that integrated with their current brand strategy. The biggest priority was featuring user-generated content from all six destination locations in one Stackla widget across Outrigger’s homepage. From there, they could focus location-specific traveler-created content across each property’s homepage — seamlessly tailoring a visitor’s experience down the funnel with authentic visual content.

For the #OutriggerResorts Through Your Lens campaign, Outrigger began with an original UGC homepage gallery displayed in their basic color scheme, adding actionable ShopSpots when a visitor clicked on a specific UGC photo.

But, Outrigger knew that with Stackla, it could be more. “We enjoyed the features in the initial design offered — that’s why we went with Stackla. But, we knew we could take it further,” said Essenberg.

By partnering with Stackla’s Developer Services team, Essenberg shared her vision of how she felt the UGC had the potential to look on the homepage. She mocked up her ideal design ideas (below) and sent them over to the Stackla team.

The Stackla Developer Services team took her designs and brought them to life. “It was a really fast turnaround time,” said Essenberg. “To a tee, the final design was the exact look and functionality I had requested from the developer. It was fantastic.” Below are the final live designs that are featured on Outrigger’s homepage.

“Our Stackla Developer was so quick to create the exact design we wanted. He executed it perfectly.” – Laura Essenberg, Social Media Strategist, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts 

Now, each piece of inspirational traveler content includes two calls-to-action (CTA): a “See Resort” button and a “Book Now” button. The “See Resort” button sends visitors directly to that specific property homepage, where they’re able to see location-specific UGC alongside the destination’s information. Right next to that button, there is now a “Book Now” button that sends visitors directly to the booking engine for the resort featured in the image. Go ahead and click on one of the pieces of UGC in the dynamic gallery above to see for yourself! Between the two CTAs, the UGC has become a direct revenue driver for Outrigger.

And, the perfectly integrated traveler-created content doesn’t stop there. Outrigger decided to implement the fresh new design across all of their specific property pages as well. Visitors who share their photos from one of the Outrigger destinations can see their content featured across that location’s UGC gallery, inspiring memories of their trip and planting a desire to travel to an Outrigger resort again.

Celebrating Outrigger’s 70th anniversary as a community with traveler memories

With so much UGC populating their website pages, Outrigger decided to get creative with their upcoming marketing campaigns. They started with their platinum anniversary campaign, Outrigger Turns 70.

“Being 70 years old means we have had a lot — and I mean a lot — of memories come through our various resorts, especially from our location in Hawaii since it’s been around the longest,” said Essenberg. “What better way to showcase these memories than to use UGC?”

By using Stackla’s GoConnect forms, visitors could upload their photos directly to Outrigger’s 70th anniversary webpage. Between the two submission methods — if anyone uploaded a photo through GoConnect or posted a photo with the #OutriggerTurns70 hashtag — that content would appear in the dynamic Stackla visual gallery on the page.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting this was. We had so many people tell us really deep memories and serious connections they had to the properties in Waikiki, in Fiji and around the world,” said Essenberg. “It was touching to see, and I am so appreciative that we were able to use Stackla to do that. It made things so much easier for us.”

A UGC campaign turns a potential emergency into a stream of authentic stress relief

The platinum anniversary wasn’t the only creative way Outrigger implemented UGC into their marketing campaigns. When the volcano on the Big Island was experiencing more activity than usual last year, guests and social media followers began reaching out to Outrigger wondering if they needed to cancel their trips due to poor air quality or a potentially dangerous situation.

In order to quell the concern, Outrigger wanted to find a way to ensure customers and potential guests that the islands were safe and their intended vacations could continue as planned; all Outrigger locations were very far away from any volcanic activity. They came up with a solution right away. According to Essenberg, they knew that “UGC would be the best way to authentically and truly show that things were going ok.”

The Outrigger team added a Stackla-powered visual gallery to their Volcanic Advisory page showing visitors enjoying their Hawaii vacations in real-time. This way, visitors could see travelers across Hawaii having a safe, fun experience; there was really no reason to miss out on paradise. “We were really grateful that we could use UGC to show others that it was still safe,” said Essenberg.

The results: UGC is driving revenue (and Outrigger is making room for more)

Outrigger has seen this authentic, traveler-created content with activated ShopSpots directly drive revenue. “We’ve been able to tie that revenue to the Book Now links we have featured,” said Essenberg. “Those have really been a direct driving force to the booking engine. Before, we had no method of directing users straight to the booking engine from UGC, so that was a big step up for us.” So far, the Outrigger team has sourced over 13,000 pieces of UGC for use across their content channels.

Seeing the positive effects that UGC has had across their marketing strategy, the Outrigger team is already planning to expand their implementations. What’s next? Email campaigns that feature theme-driven UGC.

“Because our content in the Stackla backend is organized by location and by theme, if you’re going to Guam in the month of February, we can send you some romance-related UGC. The summer months become more family-oriented with people going on family vacations, and we have holiday themes and local celebrations, so we can send you emails with UGC that relates to all of that. We cover it all. It’s super exciting.”

With so much great UGC coming in all the time, the number of possibilities for leveraging that authentic content across their marketing strategy seems endless. For Outrigger, the most important goal is to always ignite inspiration.

“It’s visually and truly inspiring when you see someone else’s photo in a special location,” said Essenberg. “We hope that those who see the UGC will be inspired to go and take that same photo in the same location. We want to drive the energy and the desire to travel and visit the destinations that you’re seeing in the UGC.”

Interested in learning more about how Outrigger Hotels & Resorts leverages authentic traveler-created content to drive bookings and engagement? Tune into the free, on-demand webinar here.

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