Email Marketing & Hotel CRM Articles

Cendyn CEO: This is what hotels can learn from the Grateful Dead

Cendyn’s Charles Deyo isn’t your typical hotel tech founder by any stretch of the imagination.  Deyo is an avid scuba diver, he meditates under pyramids for spiritual guidance and even plans to play guitar at an underwater music festival next year.  By 1996, the same year that Expedia was born, Deyo had spent 20 years in the hotel industry before founding Cendyn with his wife Robin to help hoteliers win in the digital age. Cendyn’s first product to market was its eProposal solution which allowed hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites and grow their group business. While eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite, it is only a small piece of Cendyn’s current offering.  Today Cendyn’s sales and marketing solutions power more than 30,000 hotels globally through products that touch on hotel CRM, sales software and hotel digital marketing services.   Back in 1996, Cendyn’s initial product to market was its eProposal solution which allows hotels to accept group business RFPs via their websites to increase group bookings.  Today, eProposal is still a core component of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite.    The best tech companies listen carefully to client pain points and develop solutions based on those requirements.  The history of Cendyn is a textbook example of how to build a great business by listening to your customers. As the internet boomed through the early 2000s Deyo and his team noticed that there was a huge skills deficiency in digital marketing amongst hotels and began to offer digital marketing services to help clients grow their direct channel. During our interview with the Cendyn chief, Deyo told Hotel Tech Report that the biggest inspiration for building his empire was Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.  When asked why, he noted that the Grateful Dead is not just an iconic band but is actually one of the greatest brands of all time. The Grateful Dead brand is so prolific that at its peak it raked in more than $90M per year.  Deyo believes that the Grateful Dead’s success could be attributed to one of Garcia’s core beliefs that is summed up in this iconic quote: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” ~Jerry Garcia Deyo has always wanted to innovate ahead of the competition and be the “only one doing it” as an ode to Garcia.  When Deyo started Cendyn there were few (if any) online platforms facilitating group business RFPs in hotels and he wanted eProposal to be the only one doing it.  While others were busy copying his recipe for success, Deyo was pioneering the concept of hotel CRM to provide actionable marketing insights where hotel marketers previously lacked any tools to make data driven marketing decisions. Cendyn is yet again pushing ahead with plans to change the way hotels leverage CRM systems within their businesses.  Historically, the hotel CRM sits within the marketing function but Deyo and his team believe it will become much more operational in the future and Cendyn is focused on pioneering the ways hotels leverage CRM systems for operations and not just marketing. Related article: "Super Angel" Dave Berkus on the convergence of PMS, CRS and hotel CRM Deyo believes that hoteliers, too, can benefit massively from living by Jerry Garcia’s credo.  The hotel industry is one of the most competitive in the world and in order to stand out hoteliers must find unique ways to can add value for hotel guests, shareholders and staff.  In this exclusive interview we spoke with Cendyn CEO Charles Deyo about the competitive advantage enjoyed by hotel technology early adopters, the evolution of hotel CRM as an operational tool and more. Power couple Charles and Robin Deyo co-founded Cendyn together What was your background prior to starting Cendyn? Before starting Cendyn I had many years of hospitality experience including 13 years at Hyatt Hotels as Regional Controller and AVP of Sales and Marketing, 3 Years at Kerzner International as Senior Vice President during the development of Atlantis in the Bahamas and 3 Years as Regional Vice President at Boca Resorts (which also owned The Biltmore and Registry Hotels). Tell us about the Cendyn founding story. After spending 20 years in the hotel industry, I realized that hotels needed software solutions to run their business better. We developed solutions that eliminated the pain points for hotels and drove sales and marketing performance. When Robin and I started Cendyn in 1996, the Internet bloomed in front of us and we decided to use this new medium to develop web-based tools that could help the industry we had worked in for years run their businesses better. The first product we brought to market was eProposal, which is still the industry leader almost 20 years later as part of the Cendyn Hotel Sales Suite. Back then, I did it all, from being the programmer to the accountant and everything in between. We were a small, family-run tech firm. After expanding into hotel CRM and digital marketing, (we were one of the early trailblazers in these areas for the industry), the momentum kept going as we won some of the biggest brands and best hotels in the world as clients. That really amped up with the investment from Accel-KKR a few years ago that gave us opportunities to open new locations, acquire companies and accelerate product innovation. Today, we’re lucky to have over 30,000 hotel clients using our solutions. Who was Cendyn's first customer? Frank Calaguire at Starwood. Frank and I worked at Hyatt together and we deployed our first SAAS solution (Cendyn eProposal) at The Westin back in the 90’s. Frank was a good friend and the Managing Director at Westin Copley Place. eProposal is now in over 22,000 hotels worldwide. The hotel tech market is incredibly competitive, how does Cendyn stand out? Cendyn is a cloud-based software and services provider that develops integrated technology platforms for driving sales and marketing performance in the travel and hospitality industry. The Cendyn Hospitality Cloud offers the most complete set of innovative software and services in the industry, covering hotel marketing, guest engagement, group sales, and event management. Cendyn's eInsight CRM is more than a marketing tool and delivers operational insight Who is one mentor that has made a big impact on your entrepreneurial journey? This is probably not one you hear everyday in hotel tech interviews but The Grateful Dead has had a huge influence on my perspective both personally and within the realm of entrepreneurship.  Jerry Garcia said: “We did not want to just be the best at what we did, but the only ones doing it.” Most people don’t realize that the Grateful Dead was one of the most successfully marketed bands of their time and turned their brand into a cash cow which generated $95 million a year at one point. What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true that is actually wrong? Hoteliers believe delivering personalized experiences is hard. I have always looked at technology as an enabler for innovation. With the right enablers, hoteliers can take advantage of technology to make personalization easy, which is one of the cornerstones of our eInsight CRM product. I think either hotels don’t know where to start with their data, or they haven’t democratized access to the right people who can leverage it to drive home personalization. Hotels that standardize 2-way communication among systems and make data integrations a priority are the ones able to break through and outperform in personalization. Information is more relevant, robust and customized when all the systems are speaking to the touchpoints guests have in the journey. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding Cendyn? I was always surprised that standardized integration took so long for our industry. Today, we integrate to hundreds of hotel systems which is key to getting a true 360-degree view of your guest. There are hotels leading the way in how they use technology integrations and those at the other end of the spectrum, but what we do see day-in-day-out is in those hotels that have done so, they have an improved ability to; send the right message to the right guest, through the right channels; gain a clear understanding about the history and preferences of each guest in real time regardless of how they booked; empower their guests to receive information and communicate in the ways that work for them; and deliver the best kind of service, whether it be human interaction or through the use of technology. How do you see hotel tech changing in the next 5-years? We will see more intelligent use of data with AI and bots to further leverage the guest experience. Because of more integrations between technology systems and a higher flow of data between platforms, bots and AI will increase in learned automation and intelligence that can deliver more of the right messages, at the right time through the right channel. We’re in the process of breaking new ground with CRM technology as the core with bots and AI serving based off centralized intelligence. In five years, it will all evolve around the model of a central global profile for guests that references a sophisticated rolodex of data to help serve the customer’s desire for personalization at every touchpoint. Bots will make recommendations, personalize communications and adjust service algorithms in real-time based on data points. CRM will no longer be seen as a marketing function, but rather an operational tool that intelligently orchestrates how everyone interacts with a guest. For Cendyn specifically, we will continue to grow our organic revenue at 20% year over year, along with continued evaluation of M&A opportunities. Do you have any new products or feature launches? As we continue to operationalize CRM for hotels, our latest release of eNgage allows for more sophisticated algorithms that anticipate varying engagement opportunities with hotel guests that, in turn, alert hotel staff. We have a lot of hotels using this solution with great success for personalization, including our client TFE Hotels, headquartered in Australia. They’ve got eNgage across their international hotel group in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark and Hungary. What advice do you have for hoteliers in this economy? Adopt more technology. Even with all the strides the hotel industry has made, it is still behind other industries. Technology must have an ROI by driving sales and marketing performance. With eInsight, our CRM product, we drove an average 33X ROI for our hotel customers in 2018.  As the economy hits an inevitable slow down, technology will determine the winners and losers.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into the hotel tech space? Keep it simple. Make it valuable. This has been a mantra of Cendyn from the beginning of our company. What is the best book you've read lately? I think we are experiencing significant generational differences due to technology, social media and the varying thought processes. Given that, I thought “Sticking Points” by Haydn Shaw does a great job of explaining how we can make this work with our evolving business teams. Great people working in harmony make great companies. What is your favorite podcast Cendyn’s upcoming podcast series, of course. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I play guitar and am certified in scuba diving. I plan to play the underwater music festival in Big Pine Key, FL next year. I also meditate under a pyramid on life and business opportunities when needed.

Hotel Tech Report

Deep dive into Revinate's hotel marketing and CRM technology

In our Product Deep Dive series, we go deep into one solution to help hoteliers evaluate and assess the best software for their specific situations. In hospitality, relationships are everything. When a potential guest browses search results on third-party channels, price is the most prominent attribute. If a hotel wants to capture this booking, reputation and brand must be strong enough to push through the clutter. Ideally, the hotel has established a relationship with this potential guest and has thoughtfully nurtured this relationship over time. A top-of-mind relationship encourages more direct bookings, which improves overall profitability per booking.  This relationship materializes through return visits to your property or hotel group. To accomplish these objectives, hoteliers turn to top rated hotel marketing software, such as Revinate, that delivers 1:1 relationship building via email marketing, powered by a hotel CRM with rich guest profiles.  Revinate’s hotel marketing platform combines email marketing, CRM and upsell functionality into one suite that facilitates stronger connections between guests and hotels. Here’s what you need to know about Revinate.     Revinate CRM helps you build rich guest profiles and leverage their data to drive incremental revenue In a recent presentation, Chief Revenue Officer Karen Stephens shared how Revinate’s focus on data unlocks revenue for hotels. With deep integrations across 45 different property management systems, the value of data is made more accessible and valuable through rich guest profiles. By busting silos and bringing this information together in one view, it's much easier to personalize messaging which in turn fosters a more accurate and authentic guest relationship.   Revinate’s guest profiles include data that helps personalize communications to ensure that you are delivering the right offer to the right guest at the right time. Of course, it's not easy to integrate data into existing workflows. Data is often isolated in disparate systems, creating quite the complexity for hotels that want to merge data sources into a single view. Complexity adds cost and impedes speed, tempering even the most ambitious initiatives. Revinate’s product integrations solve this problem allowing the software to both pull and push data from core systems. Related reading: Everything you need to know about hotel CRM software Grow your email list at the front desk and enrich those contacts with data from various systems automatically Revinate wrangles this complexity with its various PMS integrations. By synchronizing information between the PMS, and Revinate’s marketing suite, hoteliers can rely on rich guest profiles to improve segmentation. Each guest becomes a segment of one, which empowers the hotel to prioritize personalization over mass marketing. Data from these integrations are then aggregated and distilled into unified dashboards that eliminate the need to log into multiple systems. With PMS data pulled all the way up, hoteliers can see a top-level view of guest profile count, guest geography, average stay length, average spend, and more. Since Revinate surfaces all of this data into a single view, hoteliers can easily monitor the recency, frequency, and monetary value of individual guests, segments, or the entire property. This is called RFM analysis, which identifies customers most likely to purchase again in the near future. For example, marketers could target a segment of Loyal Guests Without Stays in the Past 90 Days to re-engage a cohort with slipping frequency.     The dashboard also shows how many guest profiles have emails attached, which acts as a useful metric and motivator for the front desk, says Revinate CRO Karen Stephens: “The number one thing properties want to do is to gather emails at the front desk. You can filter this by custom time field. This means you can set a goal with the front desk to collect a certain number of emails in a certain timeframe. What’s measured gets done, and this is a great way to check that.” Notable feature: View into top booking channels. It’s impossible to surface this information in typical email marketing. Booking channel insights help you understand your best channels and run your distribution accordingly.   Revinate's profile-based approach decreases unsubscribes and increases revenue per contact As they aggregate information across touchpoints, these rich profiles become the center of the guest relationship. Guest communications flow from there, says Karen Stephens, Revinate’s CRO, “All the fields on here can be used as merge tags in communications, so it’s really a beautiful way for hotels to surface this data and understand how to speak to each guest.” Instead of relying only on instinct or common demographic segmentation, hotel marketers can now use any data point on a guest’s profile as a hook. With recency, frequency, and spend data readily available alongside guest preferences, marketers can deploy smart segmentation to send personalized emails. Divide your hotel’s total email list subscriber count by total revenue from email offers and you’ll come to a ‘revenue per subscriber’ metric.  When your email list subscribers receive generic content that doesn’t meet their needs they become more likely to unsubscribe and each unsubscribe costs you real money. Conversely, personalized product recommendations generate up to 170% lift in revenue compared to non-personalized recommendations (Bariliance). For example, the guest below could be pulled into a campaign targeting Past Guests with Last Stay Over 90 Days, Past Guests with VIP Status, or Past Guests Who Work for Amazon, as well as a campaign for Spa Lovers.   Rich profiles on Revinate's dashboard highlights key guest history summary data   Another option for hotel marketers looks at recent survey data for segmentation opportunities. Dissatisfied guests may be carefully segmented to avoid certain types of promotions or phrasing. For example, a guest who felt that the room wasn’t well-designed shouldn’t be paired with a promotion focused on room design. All of this is rolled up into the guest profile, which becomes the “single source of truth” about a guest’s history with a property.   Revinate's guest profile integrate directly with guest surveys for attribution analysis   Increase ancillary revenue and grow tRevPAR with upsells In recent years, hotels have looked at airline ancillary revenue with envy. As airlines saw such strong results with unbundling, hotels have dedicated more attention to incremental revenue. With fixed costs for rooms and on-property amenities, additional revenue has outsized impact on profitability. Alongside the traditional Revenue Per Available Room, many hotels now track Total Revenue Per Available Room and/or Total Revenue Per Client to monitor how well they're doing at growing revenue from upsells and non-room sources.   Data from Phocuswright on which add-ons interest hotel guests most.   Revinate’s rich guest profiles are tied deeply to email marketing, which means that email campaigns can be precisely targeted for optimal performance. With detailed analytics to show which campaigns work best, revenue can be easily attributed to the proper segment. This analysis can be looped back into hotel marketing workflow to improve incremental revenue efforts continuously.   Upselling and targeted offers can help marketers pick up lost revenue in real time   As far as pricing, Revinate's Marketing platform allows for an Oaky-style model with upselling functionality charged on a flat fee basis. This is in contrast to some other upsell platforms, such as Nor1, that charge up to 20% on commissions. The simple flat fee structure aligns everyone towards a common goal: more revenue from precisely targeted campaigns that don't alienate guests. Notable feature: Any field in a guest profile can become a merge tag or a segment. Hotels that develop accurate guest profiles can create smarter segments that personalize messaging more accurately. Precise segmentation means marketing to guests based on hotel-chosen attributes (such as “wine lover”) and not just basic segments (such as geography).   Revinate integrates seamlessly with sales applications to drive more group business When using smart segmented campaigns, Revinate’s clients see an average of 73% higher revenue per recipient. Whether it's a one-time campaign or automated, the efficacy of e-mail marketing is greatly improved by segmentation based on Revinate’s rich guest profiles. The power of using data to inform segmentation becomes quite clear when considering examples of marketing campaigns geared towards specific segments. Group segment: Target group bookers with specific offers by importing lists from third-party event management software, such as Social Tables and EventPro, RFP software, such as Cendyn Sales Suite and Cvent Hospitality Cloud, or hotel CRM software, like Revinate and Salesforce.  Once these lists arrive into Revinate’s system, e-mails are matched with existing guest profiles to further enhance your segmentation abilities.     Corporate: Target specific companies to encourage more direct bookings by showing show what’s included with the corporate rates. Business travelers that book out-of-program may not realize what they're sacrificing, as far as negotiated perks. Use this segmentation to inform this cohort about the benefits of booking direct or via their corporate booking tool.       Locals: Boost transient revenue by segmenting drive markets to entice nearby guests with exclusive deals. Messaging can be targeted to individual cities, giving marketers the chance to be more nuanced in writing copy that resonates with guests from each city.       Current guests: Use “time of week targeting” to extend existing stays. The “Sunday Check Outs” segment is low-hanging fruit that engages on-property guests with 1:1 offers that aren’t public. Weekday targeting could also focus on upselling additional activities, such as spa booking or in-destination activities.     Notable feature: Real-time email list integrity checks. The system monitors database health to maintain email deliverability and sender reputation. By keeping your list accurate and avoiding spam flags from email providers, you’ll enjoy higher open rates which lead to more conversions.  Each email you send has a theoretical monetary value so email sendability is critical for hotel email marketing success.   Is Revinate the best hotel marketing platform for you? Revinate’s hotel marketing platform is a powerful ally for hotel marketers looking to optimize marketing efforts and nurture long-term relationships with guests. With its centralized, data-rich approach, hotels can engage in ways that meet guest expectations, preserve guest privacy, and deliver business results.   Related reading: Everything you need to know about hotel CRM software

Hotel Tech Report

Why is it that real estate agents love Zillow but hotels hate the OTAs?

While Zillow and Expedia are similar in many ways, Zillow is loved by many in the real estate industry while Expedia and its rival Booking are widely considered to be “frenemies” of the hotel industry. One look at Zillow and Expedia side-by-side and it’s easy to see that the two marketplaces have quite a bit in common. Not only were both founded by the same serial entrepreneur (Rich Barton) but they were both built upon a simple, yet extremely powerful core concept: in markets where there are seemingly infinite options to choose from - consumers benefit from transparency and easy access to information. Funny enough Zillow's name (which is a play on combining the words 'zillions' and 'pillow') could have worked just as easily for Expedia. In Rich Barton's own words: “Zillow was pretty much a logical extension to what we did when we built Expedia. With Expedia, we were giving power to the people, giving travelers the power to plan their own trips, to make decisions for themselves, to see all the prices and all the choices and be able to take the time they wanted in planning something that was so important to them, a trip.  Wow, it’s 2005, I can’t believe that we can’t access all this marketplace information. We should give power to the people in real estate, too.” Expedia and Zillow side-by-side So one might wonder why given such similar roots and underlying principles the relationship between agents and Zillow is one of positivity and collaboration while the one between OTAs and hotels is tense and fraught with frustration. The main reason for this difference of sentiment lies in dramatically different market dynamics.  Brokers are service providers (intermediaries) and generally incur low fixed costs relative to hotel businesses (suppliers) which are extremely capital intensive. Zillow makes money selling optional advertising solutions to brokers while the OTAs make money charging mandatory commissions to hotels.  These commissions eat into hotel profitability and disintermediate relationships with guests. This is the dynamic that has lead to what is widely debated (and dramatically coined) “direct booking wars”. Zillow made a strategic decision to kill the real estate software market in an effort to build stronger relationships with broker clients.  In 2012 the Company launched premier agent websites and more recently it launched a property management solution for rentals.  In order to save face with their hotel industry partners, the OTAs have been following some of Zillow’s moves. The OTAs have been buying and building accomodations software to improve their industry relationships but the OTA duopoly (Expedia/Booking) and rising commissions make it extremely dangerous for hoteliers to adopt OTA supplied tech.   A hotelier complains about Booking.com's business practices on LinkedIn Hotels are rightfully wary of accepting cheap or free software from OTAs because they know that “low cost” or “free software” will ultimately lead to increased dependency and in turn higher commission fees and less control of their businesses.  In the words of one hotelier1, “Booking.com does the best thing for Booking.com; not for us.” Zillow investor and famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley recently commented on the ambitions of Booking and Expedia that (via Skift), “the boldest move any OTA (online travel agency) could make, would be to be putting more R&D (Research & Development) dollars into hotel property management systems than anyone on the planet”. Hotels who opt to buy software from an OTA are letting the proverbial fox in the henhouse. The similarities between real estate listings on Zillow and hotel listings on Expedia are obvious but the differences between the two underlying businesses are more nuanced.  Few understand this better than Revinate’s Dan Hang who has served as a senior executive in both industries. For years Dan led product management at Trulia which was acquired by Zillow for $3.5B in July of 2014.  Following the Zillow acquisition, Dan led the combined firm’s rental business before joining top rated hotel marketing and email software provider Revinate as Chief Product Officer where he has since taken the reigns as COO. Having personally built both real estate and hotel software, Dan brings a unique perspective on these rapidly evolving market dynamics so we caught up with him to learn about how his real estate technology experience informs his views on hotel tech. Dan, what’s your take on how hotels should view OTA software? I worked a lot on the tools provided to real estate professionals.  I think similar types of tools, whether provided by OTAs or others, could be beneficial to hotels.  Hoteliers struggle from the fact that their technology is antiquated and their systems don't talk to one another very well.  Modern cloud-based software can help them make more efficient use of data, cut training costs, and satisfy guests. If I were a hotelier, I'd of course be wary of providing too much power to any vendor or supplier -- including the OTAs.  That said, I'd also take a hard look at what the technology could provide to my business and weigh that benefit carefully with the strategic risk. Taking a step back, tell us about your career. I loved math more than anything when I was a kid, and that led me to study engineering in college and grad school.   I started my career in 2000, right around the time that the tech bubble burst. It was a difficult time, but it was also a great time to learn! I learned that product management was the function where you get to make decisions around what to build and why, so I eventually moved around to get to that department.  I later ended up moving to San Francisco because I had a great chance to be an early employee at Trulia, which turned out to be a great choice. My role there exposed me to SaaS, mobile, ad tech, agile development, and how to scale a company from 10 to over 1000 employees and through an IPO. Trulia eventually got bought by our main competitor, Zillow.  I shifted roles for another year, running Zillow Group’s Rental division as a general manager before getting the startup bug again  which is why I made the jump to Revinate. What about the Revinate product enticed you to leave Zillow? Since 2009, Revinate has been on a mission to help hoteliers better understand their guests and deliver more personalized communications and experiences - all in the name of driving more direct revenue. One thing that makes Revinate really unique is that our platform was imagined and designed by our team of actual hotel industry veterans who intimately understand the pain points that hoteliers face every day. That’s why our product suite ( Marketing, Surveys, and Reputation) is as intuitive, specialized and easy-to-use as it is. Across all three products, our underlying goal is to empower hoteliers (both at the property and group level) to unlock the incredible power of their guest data and help them generate higher revenue, engagement, and repeat bookings. With thousands of happy customers in more than 135 countries, it’s been a wild and fun ride - but I can honestly say, the best is still yet to come!   Revinate Marketing Dashboard - read what customers are saying here Why do you think that agents love Zillow but many hotels hate the OTAs? Zillow and Trulia, through cost effective, hyperlocal, efficient advertising, offered agents with ways to grow their businesses -- many times with less dependence on the broker or franchise.  That’s a pretty great value proposition for an agent. In fact, many entrepreneurial agents have been able to use their ad spend on Zillow and Trulia to grow their businesses from zero to millions of dollars and a team of agents.  The equivalent in the hotel industry would be if an indie could, through heavy use of OTAs, fill beds and compete well with franchises and bigger brands. I think we know that’s not really possible with hotels though. Hotels have high costs (real estate, labor, etc) that don't really exist for agents.  I think that's part of the difference. Zillow, while controversial to the industry, for sure has many raving fans in agents. The same is likely not true for hotels with OTAs. So OTAs, despite their huge scale and market power, have probably not won as many fans. When did you first become interested in hotel technology? At Trulia, I worked on developing software for real estate agents.  It was no easy task as real estate agents are extremely busy and not typically very tech savvy.  To gain traction, we had to focus a lot on simplicity and ease-of-use. Hoteliers have similar challenges in that they are also extremely busy and don’t have a ton of bandwidth to learn new systems.  They need quick access to information, a simple UX, and automation wherever possible. That’s what we work hard to provide. How would you characterize the learning curve moving from real estate tech into hotel tech? Given the similarities between industries, the learning curve wasn’t as steep as you would think.  In both places, you find legacy tech, much of which is on-premise. In both cases, users feel hamstrung and unable to do what they need to do. I was slightly surprised by the lack of standardization around data and just the challenges around integration in general.  However, that too was analogous to real estate, where I’d seen an evolution of data going from offline and hard to find to online and ubiquitous. What makes 'hotel tech' different than just 'tech'? One of the biggest differences I see  is that hotel buyers tend to be a bit more risk averse,  so it places an even higher burden on tech vendors like us to prove value early. That’s why we are so committed to getting our customers launched and successful as early as possible. Do you think it's harder for hotel tech companies to raise capital? Not necessarily.  Capital has been readily available for the past many years, and a decent chunk has flowed into this sector.  Attending PhocusWright this year served as a good reminder for me of just how many small tech companies there are in our space.  The fragmentation tends to make it hard to achieve scale, but that actually makes the prize for the winners who can figure it out even greater. What's the single biggest opportunity that hotels are missing today? There’s a big opportunity for hotel tech to become more guest-centric by bringing together all of the industry’s raw and disparate data and turning it into actionable insights.  Unfortunately today, a lot of the tech in this space is antiquated, unnecessarily complex, inflexible, and not really optimized around the guest. For example, the property management system, even by name, is designed to manage an inventory of rooms in a building as opposed to optimizing guest experience or driving revenue. How will the hotel technology landscape be different in 5-years? Future systems need to close the gap I just mentioned.  They need to harvest all the guest data, make sense of it all, and provide the hotelier with actionable insights or automated campaigns that drive revenue.  With this year’s launch of the GDPR and all the news surrounding data breaches, I think we’ll also see increased efforts in security and data privacy protection over time. Do you think that branded hotels have better or worse technology that unbranded properties? It’s hard to generalize, but I will say, one clear advantage of being part of a large group is access to the brand’s full tech stack. However, bigger brands are notorious for using old, legacy systems.  In some cases, they even build their own proprietary systems which can cause a lot of headaches. But unbranded properties may not have access to any technology at all. Either they don’t understand the value themselves or have a hard time convincing ownership on why it’s worth the investment. With that said though, there are some really cool, smaller groups out there (and even some indies) who understand the role modern technology plays in their overall success and are willing to take risks and make the investment. These are the guys to lookout for as I believe  they will be the ones who change the way hotels operate...even the big enterprise brands. If you were to start a business in hotel tech tomorrow that wasn't in your own market segment what would it be and why? Revenue management. Maybe because I’m a numbers guy at heart.  I find pricing strategy really fascinating. What's one piece of advice you have for engineers and entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a tech company that serves hotels? My biggest advice would be to remember that the hotel industry is about people - not technology. Most hoteliers got into the business simply because they love people.  They love delivering amazing experiences to their guests and they’re highly motivated by making others happy. So even if you, as an engineer or entrepreneur are motivated by using cool tech or measuring the hard numbers of the impact you can make in one area or another, it’s important to keep in mind the human aspect of this industry.  Your user is motivated by delighting guests, so don’t just put the user in the center of what you build - put the guest in the center as well. How will this technology ultimately provide a better, more memorable experience for the guest? That question should never be far from the engineer’s or entrepreneur’s mind. What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they'd like to eventually move into tech? Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s Solution is my favorite book on innovation.  It was a huge inspiration to me as a product manager, but the thinking in there is applicable to any general manager.  Most books have one idea, but this one had a new important idea in every chapter. What is your favorite hotel in the world? The Resort at Squaw Creek in Tahoe.  I’ve gone there a couple dozen times -- in both summer and winter -- with my family over the past five years or so.  In the winter, you can ski Squaw straight from the hotel. In the summer, the pool is awesome for my kids and I love running from there.  There are fancier hotels out there, but for me, it’s perfect because they have everything my family and I need. And now, we have so many wonderful memories there, which makes it even more fun to go back to year after year. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I’ve traveled to 48 states, which is a result of having lived on both coasts, having family in the middle, and traveling a bunch.  I have a goal of getting to all 50, but Arkansas and North Dakota are still out there -- taunting me. One of these days I’ll get to both!

Hotel Tech Report

The 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech 2019

Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business.  Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%).  A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team.  These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process.  Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables,  office snacks and vacation days are nice,  but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results.  The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development? Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into?   Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech:       10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name.  Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years.  Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ.  New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!).  Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips.  Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease     9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together.  Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck.  Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one.  Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu     8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally.  As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit.  Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building.  This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments.  Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper       7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz.  The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here.  If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’.  Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again.  As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves.  This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness     6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing.  The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members.  This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product.  Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale.  Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months.  His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate     5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more.  The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list.  How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well.  All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime.  Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds       4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it.  The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth.  This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business.  Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M.  Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up.  If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid. Check out open positions at Clock     3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver.  The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider.  The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot     2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award.  While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list.  So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture.  One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need."  Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year.  Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause.  Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews     1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture.  ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers.  ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion.  ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally.  Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees.  Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class.  “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE

Hotel Tech Report

Benchmarking your hotel's email marketing for success

Email marketing continues to be paramount for effective and affordable hotel marketing. Unlike social media or search, it's also a channel that hotels own, which means that the investment in growing and maintaining that email list reaps dividends over time. With an email list, your hotel builds a longer-term relationship based on trust and ongoing awareness. Sure, it’s not like every former guest is waiting by their inbox for an email to arrive from your hotel. Even so, these micro-moments matter. A robust, thoughtful email marketing strategy gives hoteliers more control over marketing costs, leveraging the email list as an asset that liberates some of marketing spend from platforms like Google and Facebook. Successful email marketing also requires a strategic approach that puts it on par with other marketing channels, such as paid search, says hotel revenue optimization expert Vikram Singh: “Email marketing cannot be an afterthought. There is a tendency for marketing departments to devote a ton of time to their paid marketing efforts, to the exclusion of almost everything else.” One reason why email marketing becomes an afterthought is benchmarking. The major paid platforms do an excellent job of helping brands benchmark performance against similar companies. Email, however, is more of an echo chamber without that critical feedback piece. The CRM and email marketing firm Revinate recognized this and completed a thorough analysis of the performance across 77 million emails sent through its system. The resulting analysis offers an unprecedented benchmark for hotel marketers, highlighting the types of emails convert the best across geographies. These benchmarks offer a four-step process for email marketing success: start with segmentation, then create relevant content for those segments. Automate wherever feasible (and without sacrificing relevancy), and then track performance against accepted industry benchmarks by geography and content type. With that framework in place, your hotel’s email marketing will adapt and thrive over time.   1. Segment One of the original sins of email marketing is non-existent segmentation. Blanket emails to an email list rarely perform well; in fact, these types of untargeted e-mails do damage in the form of unsubscribes. It’s just not good for the health of your e-mail list.  By dividing our annual revenue that comes from email marketing by the average number of email contacts in our database we can calculate the theoretical value of each email subscriber.  If we then multiply that by number of unsubscribes per year we can see how much money we're leaving on the table with ineffective email marketing.  For example, if we have 50,000 emails in our database and make $2M in revenue from email marketing each year - each contact in our database is theoretically worth $40.  If 2,000 contacts unsubscribe due to poor segmentation we have destroyed $80,000 of theoretical value for our hotel. “Bragging about the size of your email database is so last decade. The more relevant question is: how many segments or groups do you have within your database? Sending massive email blasts without any segmentation is a sure shot way to get ignored/unsubscribed.” -Vikram Singh Examples of suitable segments range from the obvious, such as gender, to the more complex, such as loyalty based on a guest’s lifetime spend at a hotel (recency, frequency and monetary value). Attributes can be combined to build detailed segments that represent important demographics for a particular property. The right balance is one that is achievable and sustainable for a hotel’s marketing team. Too many segments are difficult to manage, as far as creating and matching relevant content to each segment (as we’ll see next). Too few segments and your content risks coming across as impersonal and won’t drive as many conversions. To find that balance, translate your knowledge of guest personas into structured experiments that generate data on which segments work well and which don’t. Once you know which segments need tweaking, adjust content methodically to test engagement. To determine success, take stock of your current metrics and then compare them over time to the post-segmentation results. According to Revinate, segmented campaigns should dramatically out-perform non-segmented ones.   “Our analysis of customer data shows that segmentation drives a 20% higher open rate, a 70% higher click-through rate (CTR), and 73% higher revenue per recipient than non-segmented campaigns.” Proper segmentation starts with selecting an email marketing solution that enables the process of list segmentation; ideally, the solution acts as a CRM and/or connects to the hotel’s PMS to use customer attributes and behavior for better relevancy in each e-mail message.  The best solutions offer rich guest profiles, live data streaming, intuitive drag and drop editors and top notch customer support.   2. Be relevant Proper segmentation is the first step. Once you have segmented your audience into groups, now you must focus on relevancy. The goal is to pair each group to relevant content in a way that increases conversion and reduces unsubscribes. To achieve this goal, you need strong segmentation. The right segmentation makes the content creation process much easier, as each segment shapes the content. One caveat: What’s actually relevant to a specific group is not always evident. Perhaps the segment doesn’t mirror a team’s own demographics, or maybe there are assumptions about what appeals to a particular segment. That’s where testing comes into play. Test different creative, messaging, and offers to each of your segments, and let the audience tell you what’s relevant. This “test and learn” process removes the magic from the process and puts some structure around the process. To start, brainstorm the reasons why a particular segment signed up for the email list in the first place and go from there. Success comes from targeting intent effectively.     3. Automate Revinate’s survey found further support for the value of automation. Emails with the greatest engagement were related to a guest’s stay, such as the confirmation and pre-arrival e-mails. In fact, the pre-arrival emails were the highest performers when it comes to revenue. Since 98% of all upsell revenue came from pre-arrival emails, hotels should focus on pre-arrival emails to drive upsell conversion.   Certainly, this makes sense; guests are in more of a transaction mindset before the trip, and often consult emails for information around the upcoming stay. The analysis found breakfast, parking, and airport transfers were also popular upsell items, as were early check-in and late check-out. Breakfast deals bring in the most upsell revenue, followed by offers for advanced parking. Early check-in, late check-out and airport transportation offers are also popular.   Other campaigns that should be automated include the OTA Winback, guest re-engagement, and birthdays. Pull this information from your CRM and/or PMS, and then automatically send these campaigns to solicit more direct bookings over time. For the best results, use your guest segmentation to pair the best subject line with relevant content. Test, and iterate. Click here to see the 5 top rated Email Marketing and CRM vendors for hotels   4. Benchmark over time The final step is to benchmark performance of each e-mail send against both internal and industry data. To do this effectively, track performance for each geography, segment, and email type.   Geography. To some extent, geography defines behavior. One of the most useful parts of the Revinate research was how geography impacts conversion; for hospitality marketers that serve guests from around the world, it’s useful to understand the nuances in behavior.   The global benchmarks for email performance.   Segment. Over time, a segment’s behavior may shift. Benchmarking to past behavior identifies any potential engagement erosion before it becomes a problem. It might be worth it to revisit segmentation to see if such shifts occur, or potentially try new offer/subject line/content combinations. Email type. Revinate compared open rates across booking windows and email types, such as Events and Announcements, We Miss You, Room Offers and OTA Winback. Different campaigns have different booking windows and that’s why it’s important to benchmark accurately to compare like-for-like.     Nurture the list By using segmentation, creating relevant content, automating where feasible, and benchmarking results, hotel marketers build a productive habit that nurtures a hotel’s email list. As a long-term asset that has a reasonable cost of acquisition, the email list should be one of the most valuable pillars of a hotel’s marketing strategy. Click here to see the 5 top rated Email Marketing and CRM vendors for hotels

Hotel Tech Report

How to maximize your hotel’s bookings by aligning your technology with your goal

The growth in technology tools for hotels has complicated life for hoteliers. While it has always been important to bring potential guests into the conversion funnel, there are now many ways to both capture and convert lookers to bookers. When considering the different ways to bring prospects into your hotel’s funnel, it can be helpful to start with the goal and then look at technologies that accomplish that goal. This approach differs from other common vendor evaluation processes in one key way: it puts the goal first rather than the category. For instance, rather than comparing only direct booking tools to one another, this process focuses on the desired outcome -- and then compares tools across categories that may help a hotel achieve that outcome. With this outcome-based approach, hotels have stronger odds of successfully matching with the correct vendor for a specific issue.   "I want to improve conversion on my website" When it comes to getting more direct bookings, it’s all about the hotel website. After all, a hotel with a buggy website and poor user flow will scare off many potential guests who seek a trustworthy booking experience. Direct booking tools promise growth in direct bookings by increasing conversions on a hotel’s website through price check tools, real-time guest messaging, smart segmentation, and pricing optimization. These direct booking tools offer a mix of capabilities, so it’s best to evaluate each according to how your hotel prioritizes direct bookings. Booking engines are a necessity for selling rooms directly. Without a modern and intuitive interface that’s optimized for conversion, guests will go elsewhere out of frustration or suspicion. Look for a booking engine with real-time inventory updates; otherwise, you risk double booking across channels. Reputation management is more than just an operational tool: it’s also handy for marketing. Most hotel reputation management solutions have the ability to feature previous guest reviews on your website; doing so can dramatically boost your conversion rate. Virtual tours can help conversions. When potential guests consider a hotel, they want to be certain that the property is as advertised. Consider investing in a virtual tour to give guests piece of mind.   "I want to drive new traffic to my website" Once a website has been optimized for direct bookings and conversion, the next step is to entice more potential guests to it. There’s a blended approach to making this happen.   Content marketing is one of the most affordable ways to engage potential guests and to bring them to your website. With great content, you’ll have an engaging website to attract visitors, as well as plenty to post on social media. Be sure to make your content relevant to your guest profile. Social media is a challenging place but can deliver results when done right -- especially for distribution of the great content you’ve created! Social media is also a goldmine of consumer insights. Leveraging social media tools can bring you closer to your customers. Influencer marketing continues to be a growth area for hospitality marketers. Inviting influencers to experience the property, or paying them to post about the property, appeals to hotels looking to reach particular demographics. These influencer marketing tools should factor into the mix, helping identify the right influencers and tracking the success of your campaign. Digital marketing agencies are assets for those hotels that have enough budget to engage subject matter experts. Hospitality marketing agencies use their experience across clients to build high-impact campaigns that can be quite intimidating to deploy solo.   "I want to bring back old guests" According to research from the company that invented the Net Promoter Score, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Statistics aside, it really comes down to customer acquisition cost for hotels. With each booking channel taking a large commission for bringing in a guest, it can be extraordinarily lucrative to re-engage former guests. Loyalty programs are helpful assets to organize and track a comprehensive loyalty program for independents. The best technology will give you insights into your guest profiles, and help you craft the best offerings to each group.  Read our article "Do independent hotel loyalty programs actually work?" to decide if this option is right for your hotel or properties. Email marketing is a critical piece of the loyalty puzzle. When evaluating email marketing tools, you want to be sure that it integrates with your existing loyalty program and hotel CRM tools.   "I want more bookings on OTAs & Metasearch" Third-party websites and metasearch are important pieces of any hotel revenue management strategy. As part of a cohesive approach that includes direct bookings, wholesale, and groups, these channels are valuable tools to shore up low demand periods and achieve overall revenue targets. Metasearch and ad tech bring advanced reporting, bidding and inventory management to your third-party distribution strategy. These metasearch tools help hoteliers wrangle the complex web of metasearch campaigns, as well as integrating in real-time with existing systems to maximize profitable bookings without overbooking. Review management software performs a critical function: it monitors your hotel’s reviews for potential operational issues. Catching poor performance before it affects the guest experience means better reviews -- and a higher ranking in search results on OTAs and metasearch sites.

Hotel Tech Report

Everything you need to know about hotel CRM software

Customer relationship management software is a powerful ally for hotels. It’s the fuel for successful hotel marketing, helping hotels achieve profitable operations through more targeted marketing and deeper relationships with guests, groups, and corporate clients. Ideally, a hotel’s CRM is a single source of truth for guest information. Related systems within the tech stack should benefit from this rich source of information, and the CRM should benefit from information about a guest learned through other systems. For example, if the guest prefers a room close to an elevator, The best practice is to have this information logged both in the PMS and the CRM. That way, the guest's preferences inform how the hotel engages with the guest both at the front desk and in-between stays. In 2017, Gartner concluded that spending on CRM technology had pushed it to the largest spending category in enterprise software. This growth highlights how the need to nurture client relationships over time has become a critical challenge for all businesses.    Before you go out and invest heavily in a new CRM for your hotel, let’s explore what makes a good CRM, and then define the two categories of CRM to see how each fit into your hotel’s workflow.   What makes a good CRM? Answering this question effectively is tough. Each hotel has unique needs for managing its customer relationships. The higher level, a good CRM is: Easy to integrate. If you're not lucky enough to be planning a comprehensive tech stack in the pre-opening phase, you must consider integrations first. You need a CRM that is easy to integrate with existing systems -- especially your property management system. Multi-channel. Modern communications are complex; your CRM should reflect this by supporting the variety of ways you communicate with your guests. A good CRM records interactions across email, in-person, text, and online. Automated. Automations make your life easier. A CRM that removes rote Within budget. It's easy to get distracted by the bells and whistles during the vendor vetting process. Paying for a bunch of things you're never going to use is not wise. Select a CRM that fits within your existing budget -- and that can grow with you (see next point). Flexible. When you choose the software that manages your customer relationships, you need to know that it's flexible to accommodate future needs. Secure. Most CRMs are cloud-based. This is great for speed and flexibility but can leave sensitive information vulnerable in the wrong hands. Mobile. Finally, a good CRM is equally useful in the office and on the go. The mobile experience shouldn’t sacrifice quality or functionality. Now that we've defined some of the important characteristics of CRM for hotels, let's explore the differences between CRM approaches.   B2C CRM for hotels This type of customer relationship management software focuses on relationships with individual guests. This information can be used to personalize a guest’s experience while on property, as well as provide more targeted marketing in-between stays to increase future direct bookings. For example, a guest’s profile could personalize their room settings upon arrival, or your CRM could automatically send out a birthday greeting and gift each year.    Today’s CRMs attach communications from across all channels to one user profile, building a detailed view of the guest for sales, marketing, and even operations. With a CRM in place, a guest can switch communications channels without losing the history of past interactions. This multi-channel fluidity is a critical skill in today’s customer service environment. Fluidity also extends to CRM-driven marketing automation. Complex drip sequences should be feasible with a well-segmented B2C CRM, which improves conversion rates and drives more revenue for the hotel. Another benefit for CRM is tying it to reputation management to understand how guests perceive your hotel on social media and on popular review platforms. Many CRMs connect an email with social profiles and integrate with dedicated reputation management tools, making this process seamless. Desirable features: Robust tracking of interactions to see when, where, and how a guest engages with the brand; integration with hotel software, including reputation management and revenue management; multiple user accounts; segmentation to allow grouping of similar profiles for targeted promotions.   These are the top B2C CRM solutions for hotels: Download the 2019 Hotelier's Guide to Email Marketing & CRM Revinate. With a focus on blending CRM and marketing automation, Revinate empowers hotel sales and marketing staff to target promotions more effectively while also using guest data to improve the on-property experience. For more, check out our Deep dive into Revinate's hotel marketing and CRM technology For-Sight by Forth. The For-Sight CRM personalizes each marketing message to build custom touchpoints for guests, while also encouraging guest feedback to improve a hotel’s overall reputation of. NAVIS. The company bills its NAVIS REACH as the only hospitality CRM. With its focus on unifying teams, marketing, and operations, the CRM boosts marketing efficiency and drives more direct bookings. Guestfolio by Cendyn. By combining guest data and marketing automation, Cendyn’s Guestfolio builds a single view of the guest. Its marketing automation functionality ensures that all brand communications are personalized for each guest profile. ZDirect by Travelclick. TravelClick’s ZDirect provides comprehensive CRM software for hotels. The company calls this a guest management solution that drives incremental revenue through personalized communications pre, during, and post-stay.   Group CRM for hotels Group (or B2B) CRM focuses on the relationships with brands that bring group and corporate business to a hotel. These type of relationships are high-value and complex, requiring CRM software with enhanced functionality. When managing groups, events, and corporate accounts, hotels may be operating on multiple fronts. Whether its a sales team with multiple people, or a company with several decision makers, there’s a complexity with B2B sales that requires accuracy and transparency. The B2B CRM keeps tabs on these moving parts, and provides a comprehensive higher-level overview to keep everyone on the same page. It really is all about improving collaboration and increasing wins. Desirable features: lead capture, prioritization and scoring; integrated RFP management to track progress (or integration with an RFP management tool); call tracking; sales pipeline overview; task and appointment automation; robust reporting, including profitability of specific proposals; automated calendar sync; ability to manage channel complexity as far as inbound business.   These are the top B2B CRM solutions for hotels: Amadeus Advanced Delphi. When it comes to managing catering and events, this module from Amadeus allows staff to prospect for business with a mobile-friendly product. All details and information are captured and shared with all internal teams. Cendyn Sales Suite. The group sales software from Cendyn keeps sales staff aligned with the latest information on any given group, whether in the office or around the property. By reducing RFP turnaround time, you win more business. Salesforce. Salesforce is the dominant CRM software, which confers certain advantages: a diverse selection of products and integrations, a common language for new hires, and resources to support growth across business functions. Lanyon by Cvent. After its merger with the Cvent platform, Lanyon now has synergies that bring powerful features to hotels focused on group, meetings, and conference business. Quore. The Quore approach to sales involves the full hotel, with shareable access for non-sales people to empower teams across the hotel with sales information. BONUS: We found this infographic to be helpful in outlining the key differences of B2B versus B2C CRM software.  

Hotel Tech Report

How You Can use Digital to Showcase Attractions Near Your Property

If your property has an attraction nearby, there are digital ways to showcase that attraction so your guests can be sure to add them to their itinerary. It will also help potential guests as they make decisions around which property to choose. Consider these unique ways to digitally showcase what is in and around your property to help your guests choose your property. If you have one key attraction: Start by providing your future guests with a preview of the attraction and a digital map showing how close it is to your property. The easiest way to share this is through digital communication such as email. You can also use email communication to highlight must-sees and must-dos at the nearby attraction. If you can partner with the attraction, be sure to link to the attraction to purchase tickets in advance with a special hotel rate. If you have multiple attractions: If there are multiple attractions near you, this is where you can provide some digital fun for your guests. Consider having a digital treasure hunt with your property app, where your guests scan a QR code at each location to check in. They can be entered for a prize, or given a discount at your hotel bar or restaurant. Partnering with these attractions is key, as you will need to have a QR or other sign at each attraction. If you don’t have a nearby attraction: Consider highlighting different local businesses, like a good coffee shop where locals go, or rotate a local restaurant as your favorite find for the month. While you may have to think outside the box, local businesses will be happy to partner with you to provide a digital coupon or free item. These businesses may also link back to your property website, which is a great way to increase your external link count. Attractions in and around your property can provide great digital engagement for your current and future guests. Be sure to digitally showcase these attractions so your guests can plan and anticipate a great time.

Lisa Apolinski

Using video for digital pre-engagement

I have recently seen several properties use video to digitally pre-engage their guests. While I love the concept, I have noticed there are several areas where opportunities still exist. If you are looking to add to your digital engagement with a video, go through these tips to maximize impact. Make the video around inbound engagement versus outbound messaging: It is very tempting to simply push the features of the property. Rather, think about the story of your property and what the guest can expect when visiting.  Have you done recent renovations that showcase a particular local artist? Is there a history of the area that guests would enjoy hearing? While you can certainly review amenities of the property, provide information that goes beyond what they can get from the website, such as the killer foods stand with great food that is within walking distance of the hotel and where all the locals go for lunch. Think about what behavior you are trying to develop: Listing amenities is not as engaging as showcasing your spa specials or signature food and beverage options. Focus on a unique drink that should be a must-try or a spa package specific to that group of guests, such as those in for a conference. Use the video to focus on helping your guest think, in advance of arriving, about additional services that will enhance their stay experience. Most guests have a good idea of their schedule prior to arriving and your video shares other choices to add to that schedule. Provide digital links that match video content and call to action: You want to remove barriers and make adding services easy. Most hotels have the video posted on a landing page to track traffic, which is great. There can also be buttons added to the page to link to where they can complete the call to action, including the scheduler for the spa or the concierge for an excursion. You can mix and match the links to see which ones perform better and have a direct link from video content to booking. Drive not only engagement but expectation for your guests with your video and be sure to keep these tips in mind as you go through the creative process.

Lisa Apolinski

Is your hotel ready to implement GDPR guidelines?

The General Data Protection Regulations has caused quite a stir in the hospitality industry of late. With the deadline for implementation, 25th of May 2018, drawing closer, we thought it would be a good idea to run you through the specifics.  Understanding why? Living in a data-driven age, where we have access to ample information on various subjects, from the closing stock price of a particular company to scores of the latest game and other tabloid gossip. However, all this information may include individuals names, addresses, bank details and passport information. In reality, most people would like to retain some control over their personal data to ensure that their data is protected. This is the reason why GDPR is being implemented by the European Union.  You may or may not operate within the European Union, so why is this applicable to you? The gist is that you need to pay attention to GDPR requirements, if you need to process the personal information of “EU data subjects” (citizens of the EU), offer them goods or services, monitor or track their activities and do business with them.  So where do I start?  For starters you could begin with looking at your organization’s data security and data governance parameters. Before starting to process personal data, sifting through the rights and freedoms of EU data subjects should be a good place to start. Here are a few of them for your reference: For an organization like a hotel, that deals with a lot of data, having a dedicated Data Protection Officer is a must. Pseudonymization is another idea put forth by the GDPR so as to have an encrypted method of tracing data to a particular individual. Thereby, restricting access to unauthorised personnel.  Individuals have the right to request access to any data you may have on them. To be more specific: ❏        How you will use that data? ❏        List of third parties that may have access to it ❏        For how long you will store that data? ❏        Any such request must be responded to, within a month Data Portability is another right of these subjects, where in they can ask for their information to be transferred to another processor (Competitor). Right to be forgotten is another area where the individuals can ask you to permanently get rid of data that you have on them. They can also withdraw any consent that they have previously given to you. Notification of breach entitles you to notify the individuals who have been affected by the breach within 72 hours of its occurrence. We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, but that’s not to say that the GDPR compliance comes without its challenges. To avoid running into any complications, it’s best that your hotel is prepared for this change. Let’s run you through a few tips to keep your head above the water: Inform your staff: The first thing is to bring everyone up to speed about GDPR and the EU citizens that it affects. Since your staff will be constantly interacting with guests, it's better that they are aware of how they can handle such situations. A habit of building trust: The first step here could be to let them know that you follow these strict security standards. A certificate of GDPR compliance on your website, and frontdesk is sure to build that first level of trust.  Review record policies and procedures: Start documenting the information that flows into your hotel. All this information should be recorded based on: -          What data is stored -          Where it’s being stored -          Where the data comes from -          Who all have access to this data -          The external parties involved like distribution channels and data providers -          And if the guest has agreed to collecting his/her data Informing and asking guests for their consent: Your guests’ approval on handling their data is one of the key aspects that you must look into. Keeping them informed about how long this data will stay in your possession are all confidence-building measures that will ease the process for you. Understanding their rights: As mentioned above, the rights of the EU citizens is something you must pay heed to. This will help you in gearing towards GDPR compliance. Being prepared does reward you! Handling guest requests regarding privacy rights: Understanding how you help secure the EU citizens’ data is very important. This will enable you to sort out any queries that they may have about the security of their data. This will  give you an edge, if there are any complaints raised. Data Breaches: Your hotel must be prepared to handle any data breaches. You must be able to detect the breach and also identify the exact data and whom that data belongs to. A notice of breach must be brought to these individuals’ attention within 72 hours. Checking with third-party service providers: There could be multiple sources that handle guest data -          OTAs -          GDS -          Loyalty Programs   All the above mentioned third-party service providers are connected to your Property Management System/ Central Reservation System. Make sure that they are GDPR compliant as well or it would defeat the purpose.  There’s a lot more to GDPR than the points we just covered, but these should suffice in getting you started.  And if you already have, this should assist you in implementing it.  Let us know your views on the subject. If you’d like to understand something more specific about GDPR you could mention it in the comments and we can look into it curating more content on the topic.   Sources: ●     GDPR Compliance For Dummies, Informatica Special Edition ●       Crowehorwath.ie ●       Hospitalitytech.com ●       Gdprforhotels.uk

Kevin Taylor