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Screen Pilot is a distinguished collection of strategists, storytellers, and digital designers he...
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This vendor has active customers in fewer than 3 countries, check the map on their profile to make sure they service your region.
95
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

For more than a decade, Screen Pilot has delivered digital marketing and technology solutions for hoteliers, hotel management teams and... read more

  • Based in
    Denver, CO
  • Founded in
  • 30 employees on Linkedin
Full-service agency providing comprehensive digital marketing services and website development.
Most Popular
This vendor is the most popular in the category with 26 reviews across 3 countries.
92
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Travel Tripper’s award-winning agency builds hotel websites that combine high-end design with high-performance tools to help you quickly... read more

  • Based in
    New York (United States)
  • Founded in
  • 163 employees on Linkedin
An interconnected suite of solutions includes Business Intelligence, Reservations & Booking Engin...
76
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

TravelClick offers innovative, cloud-based and data-driven solutions for hotels around the globe to maximize revenue. TravelClick enables over 25... read more

  • Based in
    New York (United States)
  • Founded in
  • 1317 employees on Linkedin
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Full-service marketing firm that develops, manages and supports innovative integrated marketing a...

COMPANY DESCRIPTION

A specialized hotel marketing agency working to promote a strong relationship between you and your customers across multiple channels. Incite... read more

  • Based in
    Greenwood Village, Colorado
  • Founded in
  • 8 employees on Linkedin
Conversion-focused technology, creative digital marketing and cutting-edge web design are your ho...
Regional
This vendor has active customers in fewer than 3 countries, check the map on their profile to make sure they service your region.
67
HT Score
Hotel Tech Score is a composite ranking comprising of key signals such as: user satisfaction, review quantity, review recency, and vendor submitted information to help buyers better understand their products.
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COMPANY DESCRIPTION

Net Affinity is an international award winning Technology, Design and Marketing Company who work exclusively with hotels to drive more direct... read more

  • Based in
    Dublin
  • Founded in
  • 42 employees on Linkedin

Recent Digital Marketing Agencies Articles

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How to know when your hotel needs a new digital marketing agency

by
Hotel Tech Report

Digital marketing is one of the top ways to drive direct bookings to your hotel. It’s the demand engine that raises awareness about your hotel, and pulls guests directly to your hotel’s website.  Yet, most hotels lack the ability to fully harness the power of digital marketing. This is mainly due to limited resources -- both time and money.  Digital marketing sounds like a “field of specialty” but it’s actually more like 20 different fields.  Google is just one such platform that digital marketers need to stay ahead of the curve on and their search algorithm changes 500-600 times each year.  That doesn’t even factor the changes to products like Google AdWords and Google Hotel Ads.  Expecting an on property marketer to fully understand Google search trends alone with all of their other responsibilities is unrealistic, let alone expecting them to be experts at Bing, metasearch, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Your hotel needs to also have access to CRO (conversion rate optimization) expertise, link building capabilities, content marketing, graphic design, social media marketing and more. Your on property team is literally competing with billion dollar ad budgets from companies like Booking and Expedia - you need to provide them with the resources to compete effectively or you’re leaving thousands of dollars on the table each month.  The craziest thing is that even if you find someone who’s an expert in all of these areas - they still won’t know how they’re performing because they’re looking at a single property or small portfolio. What is a good website conversion rate? What percentage of your hotel website should be organic vs. paid? What is a good ROAS?  All of these questions will be answered in monthly meetings with a great hotel digital marketing agency. If one thing is clear it’s that you should not be sending your on property marketing manager to the fight without the right resources and assistance.  There’s never enough time in the day, and certainly not enough cash in the marketing piggy bank. While it’s not always easy to get more budget, there is one easy way to get more time: turn to a top rated digital marketing agency that will be a true partner and augmentation of your in house marketing function.   The value of efficiency In 2018, Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. totaled $107.5 billion, which was way up over 2017: a 21.8 percent increase, according to a recent report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The continued growth in digital marketing mirrors a massive shift in attention: in the U.S., consumers now spend more time on their devices than watching.   The takeaway here is that digital is where the eyeballs are -- and hotels must follow. That means competing with massive OTAs and well-heeled hotel groups for consumer attention. That means navigating a multitude of platforms, both existing and emerging. That means spending time to understand where your audience lives online and then spending money to reach them. It’s a massive mountain to climb, and it’s something most hotels shouldn’t do alone.  How can hotels boost digital marketing spend (and efficiency) with limited budgets and fewer staff to optimize performance? The answer lies in the hands of others: finding a great digital marketing agency that aggregates its expertise from other clients to power a better, more efficient, and ultimately more powerful digital marketing strategy.    Meet Screen Pilot In the competitive landscape that is the hotel business, partnering with a specialist digital marketing agency can prove a nimble approach. The right agency helps hotels formulate and execute the right digital strategy for a given property or brand. Acting as an extension of the hotel’s in-house marketing team, a digital shop can help drive more direct bookings by bringing added levels of objectivity and expertise to the table as well as more progressive insights and advanced technology.  Denver-based Screen Pilot has been with working with hospitality companies of varying sizes for more than a decade. The company scores 4.8 of 5 by Hotel Tech Report users, with 97 percent recommending the business. Unsurprisingly with this level of overwhelmingly positive feedback, Screen Pilot also won Top Rated Digital Marketing Agency at the HotelTechAwards in both 2018 and 2019.   Read more Screen Pilot reviews like this one   While Screen Pilot implements strategies that are customized to the needs of a specific property or hotel group, each digital marketing program delivers measurable results. Following the first 45 days of work with San Jose’s Hotel De Anza, total website transactions increased 13.8 percent and associated revenue jumped 11.2 percent. Extend out to 90 days, and website production resulted in increases of 97 percent in revenue, 113 percent in bookings and 116 percent in room nights. Impressive stats that dramatically improved profitability! To achieve these outcomes, Screen Pilot employs a variety of digital marketing tactics such as search engine optimization, paid advertising, social media and metasearch management. The company excels at the core pillars of website design, content marketing, and social media marketing. For hoteliers considering when to elevate your digital marketing game, here are three signs you may benefit from some expert help.   #1: You have a low website conversion rate A hotel’s website is fundamental to its ability to drive direct bookings. It’s where most travelers have their first encounter with the property, setting the tone for their potential upcoming stay. Ease-of-use in terms of user navigation as well as how efficiently a booking can be made on the site, factor into higher conversion rates. Users want a streamlined process that’s frictionless. Information on amenities and packages should be simple to search.  Screen Pilot’s approach to hotel website design and development includes the essentials such as graphic design, copywriting and tag management tracking and configuration. The company can also customize a hotel website’s look and feel, including unique features such as 360-degree room tours or review sections for specific room categories.  Since Google shifted its focus to how fast websites load on mobile, speed is an important consideration for hotels. Screen Pilot can also optimize a hotel’s website for mobile with specialized technology like Google AMP markup. The Screen Pilot team will optimize mobile experiences using tools such as Google Optimize, which allows up to five website options to run simultaneously, without permanently affecting the CMS platform. Leveraging Google Optimize for one hotel client’s website lead to an 80 percent increase in booking engine views.   #2: You have a low percentage of organic traffic  Content is paramount to strong SEO. It’s also vital to engaging with website users as they move from the top of the funnel down. But effective content must reflect the brand while also closely aligning with the interests of the hotel’s target audience and including targeted keywords. It’s a delicate balancing act that reaches across a hotel’s marketing.  In fact, improving organic SEO is at the center of the Screen Pilot approach, insofar as every facet of the digital marketing engagement exists to both add standalone value and to improve SEO outcomes.     The first step to determine the viability of current SEO strategies is an audit of a hotel’s existing website content. Where there’s room for improvement, the team has an arsenal of tools: copywriting by brand-specializing journalists, influencer marketing campaigns, interactive content like quizzes and customized itineraries, public relations, user-generated content and others. It all comes together in a single strategy that positions hotels prominently in search engine results pages and, of course, more direct bookings.  Working with a collection of boutique hotels located across the U.S., Screen Pilot created a three-month campaign across multiple channels, focused on interactive content intended to generate brand awareness for the individual properties and pair them with a specific hotel and ultimately, increase year-over-year bookings for that period.  The social media component of the program resulted in over 200 bookings, with a 13 to 1 ratio for return on investment (ROI). PPC, remarketing and awareness display advertising generated 879 bookings and a 16 to 1 ROI ratio.   #3: You’re overwhelmed by the ever-changing social media and search marketing landscape  Screen Pilot’s expertise in social and search marketing gives its clients an edge over their competitors. The digital marketing firm is both a Bing Partner and a Google Partner, meaning Screen Pilot is officially a certified expert on each organization’s advertising programs and policies, making them well equipped to optimize a hotel’s pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Moreover, Screen Pilot will also add new PPC channels into the mix, depending on client needs and strategy.  Social is also a key component of Screen Pilot’s suite of services. An active social media presence has a strong impact on hotels, as it acts as both a marketing tool and a guest engagement platform. A consistent (and constant) presence has become table stakes for any brand that engages with today’s traveler. A 2018 TripAdvisor report found that a hotel’s social presence is important to 92% of travel business owners. Of course, an effective social media presence can only be achieved with a customized strategy that incorporates the most relevant channels to a hotel’s target audiences and messaging that will resonate with those users while also communicating brand values. Screen Pilot buys media that supports each client’s objectives, incorporating elements such as social media photography, graphic design and influencer outreach.  In addition to crafting social media ad campaigns that drive brand awareness while also prospecting and retargeting users, Screen Pilot, a partner of social media management platform Sprout Social, can manage clients’ social media presence and deliver in-depth, monthly reporting and analytics. This also includes keeping up with guest comments and online reviews so that responses are timely and the brand’s reputation is safeguarded.  When the company was tasked with creating the social media presence for a new 878-room Orlando resort, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest channels were launched in April 2016. Between then and March 2017, Screen Pilot built a combined following of 2,400 followers, representing an increase of more than 4,000 per cent.  The entire social media campaign resulted in nearly four million organic impressions, more than 15,000 organic engagement and over 80,000 link clicks to the resort’s website.  More impressive results that show how valuable an expert ally can be to amplifying your hotel’s digital marketing efforts!   A final consideration When choosing an agency to level up your hotel’s digital marketing, be sure to find one that knows hospitality. It’s worth paying for that specialization, as this expertise pays off. You’ll spend less time training those unfamiliar with the business, and benefit from the learnings the team has from other clients. Prioritize agencies who are on the bleeding edge of hotel marketing tactics.  These agencies will have enough experience to know the latest updates in search algorithms and tactics to steal share from OTAs but usually won’t be so big that their work is cookie cutter - Screen Pilot fits right into this creative and trusted sweet spot. Much of Screen Pilot’s core team comes from a background in hotels, resorts and restaurants. The relevant backgrounds meant that they not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. This expertise also means that hotels with limited budgets can find an ally: since the team is efficient and knowledgeable, there’s less waste and more ability to help hotels of all sizes.  As this Assistant GM from Lakeport said in a review, it’s all about finding a “personable” team that’s “easy to work with” and “able to produce great results” -- even with a limited budget. That’s exactly the type of ally you need when investing more thoughtfully in your hotel’s digital marketing strategy!

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HITEC 2019 Recap: Everything You Missed in Under 5-Minutes

by
Hotel Tech Report

The Hotel Tech Twins just returned home from HFTP’s annual US HITEC show which just so happened to find itself in...wait for it...the twin cities.  This year’s location in Minneapolis is the hometown of hotel tech darling IDeaS which happened to be celebrating its 30th year in business - serendipity was in the air. The week kicked off with our favorite part of every major conference, Klaus Kohlmayr’s exclusive tech startup happy hour where we got to bump elbows with CEOs like ALICE’s Alex Shashou, Meeting Package’s Joonas Ahoola and Triptease’s Charlie Osmond who just returned from running a marathon in North Korea (nope that’s not a typo...NORTH Korea!). During the conference we met with more than 50 tech companies to learn about the latest tech developments and tips to grow your hotel business.  In this article we distill major trends that we saw in the market and highlight key innovations that should be on every hotelier’s radar within each trend.  Consolidation certainly seems to be driving the market with Travel Tripper + Pegasus making its first combined HITEC debut, Jonas Hospitality launching its Jonas Chorum brand and HeBS/Serenata rebranding the organization Next Guest. Whether you were at HITEC and were too overwhelmed to cut through the noise or couldn’t make it at all...fear not, we've got you covered.  Below you’ll learn about the 6 biggest hotel tech trends we saw at the show, discuss what they mean for your hotel business and highlight the companies that are pushing the envelope within each.   TLDR; HITEC trends at a glance TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error (12 products covered) TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help hoteliers manage and make sense of their data (6 products covered) TREND 3 | A new focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service (8 products covered) TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution (4 products covered) TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up (4 products covered) TREND 6 | Fraud and security are still poignant post-Marriott breach (8 products covered) Bonus Coverage: More Notable Product Rollouts and Launches From the Show (10 products covered)   Before we jump into the trends...3 shout-outs for creativity at the show Most creative HITEC marketing initiatives: a tie between IDeaS and Infor IDeaS went big for their 30th anniversary and brewed their own line of local craft beers for the show.  We heard they still have a few extra cases left so when you are negotiating that contract for your hotel group’s next RMS - make sure to ask them for a hoppy throw in. Infor launched its new grab-and-go POS solution where guests can purchase food on a touch screen kiosk.  The Company went all in on the demo and had a full service food and beverage operation running in real time.  It turns out hoteliers love free food and the demo was super slick so the Infor booth was slammed every time we passed by. ALICE delighted conference goers by shelling out envelopes of cash to announce its latest release.  While envelopes of cash alone would have been enough to secure a shout out for creativity, the meaning behind the stunt sealed the deal with class, creativity and customer centricity.  Having just launched the all new ALICE Housekeeping, the envelopes were actually tip envelopes for conference goers to bring back to their hotel rooms and leave for their room attendent paying homage to housekeepers and the back breaking work they do day-in and day-out.   Congrats to SABA Hospitality, the winner of E20X People's Choice Award.  SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue.     TREND 1 | Companies are doubling down on automated workflows to save time and reduce human error Due to years of overzealous media hype, when hoteliers hear the word ‘automation’ they mostly think about robots but the kind of automation that’s actually changing the hotel industry is a very different kind of automation. Most techies are familiar with companies like Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That).  Essentially these companies are platforms that help businesses setup and execute rules for repetitive processes.  For example, you could set a “Zap” that triggers a Google Calendar meeting scheduled every time someone fills out a form on your website.  These kinds of automations are the backbone of building a great business because they free up your team to focus on high value tasks.  Hotels are notorious for having these kinds of repetitive tasks.  For example, every time a room attendent finishes cleaning a room they need to radio the housekeeping manager who then needs to mark the room ready for inspection.  Take another example where your night audit team needs to do a manual bucket check to cross reference each in-house folio against your in-house list in your PMS.  All of these tasks can be automated away which frees up those team members to focus on higher value tasks which can really move the needle for your business. At HITEC this year we saw a ton of companies from guest messaging platforms to revenue management systems showcasing ways for hoteliers to automate away those redundant and tedious tasks.  These tools help you save time, eliminate frustration and mitigate the risk of error across your property operations.   Below are the key HITEC launches and showcases that help hoteliers like you with task automation. Whistle launched AI conversation and dispatch automation for its guest messaging product Some hoteliers fear that adding guest messaging at their property will increase the amount of work for their teams by adding a new channel for requests. The good news is that Whistle has been honing their conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) model which now claims to predict responses to 80%+ of guest questions and requests. With this knowledge, Whistle can suggest or automatically prompt the appropriate response back to the guest, and even auto-prompt service requests and work orders to internal departments via Whistle’s lightweight task management module or other integrated Service Optimization solutions like Quore.  Whistle has won the top rated Guest Messaging category two years running and its new time saving functionality looks like they're likely to step up their game again this year. IDeaS showcased Investigator, a new feature to show hoteliers how pricing decisions were made As technology plays more of a role in revenue management many revenue managers want to know the “why” behind pricing decisions to ensure that mistakes aren’t being made and so that they can effectively communicate strategic decisions to stakeholders. With Investigator, revenue managers can drill into the analytics behind decisions made by IDeaS’ G3 revenue management system. Investigator allows revenue managers to embrace automation while also staying in the loop to make sure everything is working properly. OTA Insight adds intelligent rate parity breach detection and bulk actioning via automated alerts Hotel distribution is extremely complex and due to the way that 3rd parties resell inventory it’s nearly impossible to track down parity issues like price discrepancies or room-type issues. Parity Insight provides a turnkey solution to detect, action and resolve parity issues in real-time. The new functionality provides workflow automation and streamlines communication between groups, chains and hotels. OTA Insight is trusted by more than 40,000 properties globally and leverages data across the entire group to help each individual client ensure that their distribution partners aren’t engaging in costly breaches of contracts. Zingle launched automatic message categorization and intent triggered automation Without the right automation, guest messaging can add more work onto your team’s already busy plate so it’s important to have the right automations in place to ensure that this great guest amenity doesn’t come at the expense of team productivity. Zingle’s messaging software has pre-made and customizable automated workflows that re-route and follow up to messages to save staff valuable time on repetitive tasks. There are dozens of automations available today, including recognition of plumbing issues, process information requests (like gym hours), or housekeeping related messages like  room-cleaning and turn down service. Zingle  streamlines communication for hotels and improves service times by reducing the need for manual ticket entry, routing and follow-up by staff.  Zingle raised $11M from Peakspan Capital to fuel technical R&D and drive growth. Fun fact, Zingle's founder Ford Blakey also happens to be the brother of billionaire Spanx founder, Sarah Blakely.   Travel Tripper showcased its ADA compliance audit and monitoring platform to automatically detect compliance issues with your website. The platform offers a proactive approach to the increasing threat of ADA website lawsuits in the hotel industry, allowing hoteliers and their web service providers to address website accessibility issues and mitigate the risk of ADA compliance lawsuits.  This platform is the first of its kind (in the hotel industry) which actively audits hotel websites according to WCAG 2.1 AA-Level standards and automatically alerts property teams if a technical violation is found.  Upon recognizing an ADA violation, the platform sends regular notifications to account users until the issue is fixed.  In addition, Travel Tripper assists hoteliers’ legal teams by giving them the proper documentation they need when responding to an ADA website compliance lawsuit. Cendyn announced a new funding round lead by Accel/KKR to increase the capabilities of its marketing automation products both in SMB (Guestfolio) and enterprise (eInsight). Cendyn was one of the first movers in the hotel CRM market and to this day is amongst the top hotel CRM choices in the enterprise clients with its eInsight product.  Back in 2016 Cendyn acquired Guestfolio, a provider of hotel CRM independents and moving forward AKKR is likely to have its sights set on more M&A opportunities like Guestfolio (or even a larger merger).  With Tim Sullivan taking the helm from founders Robyn and Charles Deyo, hoteliers can expect the firm to push deeper into automation.  Over the last few years hotel CRM vendors have needed to invest heavily in GDPR compliance initiatives but with that behind them expect more "Marketo" like marketing automation functionality out of this category in the next 6-12 months. Protel launched zero cost 1-click integrations to fuel automation Integration is the key to all automation but historically integrations have been extremely expensive and time consuming to set live. protel launched one-click connect and slashed activation costs for select partners in its i/o marketplace. Now protel clients can instantly turn on top rated apps like OTA Insight, Oaky Upselling and Atomize revenue management without paying a dime. While this is a small step towards a more integrated future it is a critical one since this kind of move from a major PMS company like protel with 14,000 clients will put pressure on others to follow suit. Atomize launched its group booking price optimization functionality Group sales reps often price groups manually which takes a lot of work.  If they ask too much they could lose the contract and if they charge too little they leave money on the table. Atomize’s new group booking functionality allows hoteliers to automatically set optimal prices for group booking packages.  The software cuts out manual calculations, negotiations and collaborations by taking into account the total expected spend of various groups on property.  Atomize can factor varied requests within the same group like different arrival and departure dates. Atomize won top rated revenue management system in the 2019 HotelTechAwards and has been taking the industry by storm ever since.  This new group functionality is another step towards rounding out Atomize as a complete revenue management software the platform. SevenRooms launched email marketing for hotel restaurants Hotel food & beverage operations often lack the resources and know how to run personalized marketing campaigns. SevenRooms’ segmentation and email automation enables F&B managers to easily add customizable tags to guest profiles then run rules based marketing campaigns to those segments.  Run unique marketing to critical segments like: first timers, high value regulars, positive reviewers and more. Companies like Revinate and Cendyn have demonstrated the immense value of personalized hospitality marketing campaigns.  Now F&B outlets can benefit from marketing automation too. Zoox debuted facial recognition technology for hotel check-in Front desk agents are overloaded with repetitive tasks like identity verification which creates bottlenecks at check-in and hurts the guest experience. Zoox’ facial recognition software allows guests to check into the hotel in under 15 seconds without the front desk ever needing to verify their identity with ID or credit card. Facial recognition is already being used in markets like China which have leap frogged some of the West’s archaic traditions by using next gen tech. Avvio showcased its Allora powered booking engine Each guest is enticed by different booking messages, layouts and visuals so having a static booking engine means that you’re losing guests by not putting the right offer and presentation in front of them. Allora leverages data from Avvio’s client base to put the right messages and visuals in front of guests that are likely to be enticed by those calls to action. Continuous website optimization is mainstream in eCommerce and is a critical piece of maximizing direct bookings. Avvio guarantees that you will see a 25% increase in direct booking revenue when you switch to their booking engine. Knowcross launched KNOW Maintenance to automate preventative maintenance KNOW Maintenance is a cloud based multilingual application that helps automate, schedule and monitor all preventive maintenance activities at hotels.  The application organizes all engineering responsibilities for hotels, thus ensuring superior guest satisfaction, minimize malfunction accidents and maximized equipment lifetimes. This also results in enhanced productivity and better manpower forecasts. Event Temple showcased group sales automation. Sales & catering is the lifeblood of any business hotel and managing your group sales pipeline effectively could be the difference between making or losing money.  Event Temple's group CRM is purpose built for the hotel industry and features digital contract signatures, banquet orders, pipeline overview, menus and more.  With this software your sales team can track progress at the property or portfolio level.  Event Temple features built in emails and the ability to automate initial drip outreach with new leads.     TREND 2 | A cambrian explosion of tools to help manage and make sense of your data We know that you and your staff are probably sick of tech companies talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. Ultimately the big hotel data challenge can be boiled down into 3 simple buckets: (1) Guest profile data (2) Market data (3) Operations data   Most of the datasets that tech marketers are referring to are not really big data.  Here’s how analytics firm SAS defines big data. “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.” Since big data can be overwhelming for hoteliers, let’s first define our data types so that we can see it’s actually not so scary: Guest profile data helps us target new guests and better serve them on property.  CRM systems use recency, frequency and monetary value as the core data points but this data includes PMS data like stay dates as well as 3rd party data pulled in from social media platforms, reputation platforms like Revinate, guest surveys and other data sources.  Ultimately we want to use this data to find new guests who are like the ones that stay with us and to deliver personalized experiences that drive loyalty Market data helps us price our rooms and plan for the future.  This data includes historical pricing, demand trends, local events and more.  Market data sources come from platforms like OTA Insight or TravelClick Demand360 as well as 3rd parties like Kalibri Labs, STR or CBRE. Operations data helps us streamline how we run our business.  This data comes from PMS and operations systems.  We’ll want to look at things like how long it takes to turn our rooms, average cost per occupied room, time to service requests and more. The challenge becomes tying all of this data together in ways that enable us to make business decisions and act on them in real time.  Integrating these datasets and visualizing them in a clear and understandable way is critical for the success of any hotel. Because this data is constantly flooding into our properties it’s impossible for humans to process it and make good decisions without the right software systems in place. From budgeting and forecasting to marketing and operations, the vendors below showcased new ways of visualizing and manipulating a hotel’s existing data to help hoteliers make better business decisions. Revinate debuted its new platform that promises to manage and organize all of your hotel’s marketing data How can hotels manage relationships with guests? Not just manage room inventory, but create and manage rich guest profiles that tell them everything they need to know about potential guests: recency, frequency, and spending of previous stays to really understand who their VIPs are and when and how they should be marketed to. Currently, data is tied up in various systems that don’t speak to each other very well. Hoteliers need tools specifically built for the complexities and nuances of the hospitality industry. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to managing guest relationships effectively at scale. The Hotel GMS allows hoteliers to easily surface insights on their guest, segment and market to them, and learn more about them over time to make future communications even more effective. Hotel Effectiveness showcased its labor optimization dashboards and new wage benchmarking capabilities With labor costs on the rise and labor being the single largest line item on most hotel’s P&L, finding ways to monitor and optimize your labor and staffing is mission critical for most hoteliers.  The problem is that most hotels still track and manage their labor manually on pen and paper but luckily, Hotel Effectiveness (in depth review).  The team showcased their purpose built tool that is used by major clients such as Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Pacific Host Hotels and Chartwell Hospitality and promises to reduce total labor costs by 5-10% by turning labor hours and cost data into actionable recommendations served up right in the dashboard. SHR launched its Wave RMS (revenue management system) SHR is the latest in a slew of companies launching revenue management systems in the last couple of years. SHR's algorithm uses Reinforcement Learning techniques with a proprietary mathematical model that recommends prices not only based on one specific date, but factoring in both days-to-arrival and optimal price on shoulder dates, as well, to maximize revenue across the stay pattern.  Wave combines advanced algorithms with a Strategy Builder tool so that Revenue Managers don't need to solely trust a “black box” recommendation. Cenium showed off its Microsoft BI powered customizable dashboards If you’ve used multiple PMS’ before you know that the dashboards often look the same.  Based on your role, there are different metrics and views that are most important to you but it takes a million clicks to get to your favorite view. With a redesigned interface, Cenium put its new customizable dashboards on display at HITEC.  Powered by Microsoft BI, hoteliers can pick from pre-built templates or easily slice and dice data to personalize their dashboard. Owned by a Norweigan hotel conglomerate, Cenium was built for the portfolio’s own hotels and is now being made available globally to other hotels outside its portfolio.  Funded by the cashflow of the real estate business, Cenium’s pockets are deep and offer a deep resource pool to build a strong product with a customer mindset at the heart of product development. SnapShot rolled out its V1 POS Analytics to compare PMS and POS data in one interface While PMS Software was built for hotels, most POS Software was built for restaurants which often becomes evident when trying to run hotel analysis of various F&B outlets or compare POS and PMS data in one interface to identify performance by outlet as well as slice and dice data from both systems to do things like remap and unify POS outlets' names, payment methods, F&B categories and price modifiers. Snapshot POS Analytics is currently only available for hotels who utilize sister Shiji company Infrasys’ POS and the lightning fast growing Lightspeed POS. Profitsword showcased its custom financial performance dashboards The new user interface is a continuation of ProfitSword's commitment to provide instant and straightforward access to the information that businesses need in order to plan and ensure a successful, efficient and profitable operation. ProfitSword customers are now able to instantly access, group and compare real-time performance data in a way that fits their specific needs at any given time, and with a level of detail that is truly a first for our industry and save custom reports as favorites for easy 1-click access.     TREND 3 | A new Focus on enabling guests and driving revenue with self service We’re living in an age where we manage our investments on mobile devices via apps like Robinhood and choose our workouts at home via platforms like Peloton.  As technology gets better, we’re able to go straight to the source and get exactly what we want, when we want it and at a fraction of the cost. In the hotel industry the notion of self service has taken a bit longer to catch up except in innovative markets like Las Vegas.  Many hoteliers believe that disintermediating services is detrimental to delivering a great hospitality experience. In many ways they are right and there will always need to be a highly personal component between guests and staff to truly create a great guest experience. Having said that, there are many facets of hotel operations where guests are actually better served completing these tasks themselves which also frees up staff to focus on building personal relationships, surprising and delighting. An example of this in our professional lives exists within the meeting booking space.  Platforms like Calendly and x.ai are actually much better at scheduling meetings because they integrate directly with our calendars and don't require back and forth to coordinate between parties.  That doesn't mean executives no longer need personal assistants, it just means that personal assistants can focus on adding more value for their employers and skip the back-and-forth. There are lots of examples of this dynamic in hotels. Most guests would prefer an automated grab and go where they don’t need to go through an entire transaction process with an associate.  This seamless experience at the front desk actually builds loyalty by cutting out any wait time or frustration - something that is increasingly critical in the age of instant gratification.  Similarly, there is no check-in experience that can make up for waiting in line at the reception. Solutions like mobile check-in and keyless entry can alleviate wait times and free up staff to focus on higher value tasks. Below you’ll find the latest technology developments within the self service trend that deliver instant gratification and consistently perfect service to guests while freeing up your team to focus on surprising and delighting. Zoox Smart Pass rolls out facial recognition for seamless and verified self-checkin So you’ve been Global Entry or Nexus and wondered why the kiosks there can check you in but you have to talk to someone at the front desk at a hotel.  Well, now you don’t have to. As self service check-in goes more mainstream especially at select service and extended stay properties, it’s only logical that facial recognition will allow for a more frictionless and secure identification process.  With this new tech, guests simply walk up to the computer camera like they would a Global Entry terminal, scan their face and checkin to their room in under 15 seconds. Impulsify showed off its ShopPop hotel pantry solution that they're so confident in it actually comes with an ROI guarantee Having a hotel pantry has often been reserved for brands and larger properties who have the manpower to be able to properly service customers.  Even so, in the majority of cases front desk agents double as grab-n-go cashiers and anytime something is sold it creates a bottleneck at the front desk.  Impuslify’s purpose built pantry POS, ShopPop, allows any hotel to easily run their own pantry to offer additional convenience items to guests while driving ancillary revenue through an easy to use self service checkout kiosk.  In addition to time saving features like automated shopping lists and PMS integrations-- Impulsify has processed over 5 million transactions, giving it a growing database of information so you won't have to rely on instinct or habit to decide what guests prefer.   The results are so good that Impulsify even offers new clients an ROI guarantee. Infor showed conference goers just how easy self-service can be with its POS Kiosks Usually we expect creative displays from smaller companies but at HITEC, Infor stole the show with a live demonstration of it’s grab-and-go solution where attendees ordered food and beverages on one of Infor’s new self service POS kiosks.  Similar to Impulsify, Infor’s self service kiosk allows hotels to offer additional food and convenience items to guests with the tap of a button without having to worry about staff oversight. Zaplox rolled out its new customizable self-service check-in kiosk While self service check-in/check-out kiosks are ubiquitous in the airline and grocery industries, most hotels have lagged behind the trend and few offer a fully self-service check-in process.  More and more technology providers are creating solutions hoping that hotels will wise up and follow their more technologically advanced sibling categories. Following the likes of Mew’s Self Service Checkin Kiosk that was released earlier this year, Zaplox launched their take on the tech hoping to bolster usage of keyless entry by offering a more fluid end-to-end check-in experience.  Zaplox Kiosk enables guests to skip the lines and check in and print their own key cards - with 24 hours availability. The kiosk's custom-branded interface enables hotels to create a cohesive brand experience and because the kiosk runs on any tablet-based device, hotels can select the hardware that best matches the interior and space limitation. Whistle put its conversational commerce on display with its new text based upselling feature According to Whistle, nearly 30% of guest interactions on their guest messaging platform are potential revenue generating opportunities for the hotel. While guests often express their interest in purchasing an item or placing an order through messaging, they are then inconveniently redirected to communicate their request to the appropriate department (ex. Please call room service to place your order) which both adds friction for guests and reduces conversion to purchase for hotels (aka lost revenue). With Whistle’s new upsell module, hotels can add custom inventory from their F&B outlets, pantry, local businesses or even add-ons like late checkout and guests can now seamlessly purchase with one click and have the charges added to the room via PMS integration or leverage 1-click checkout with Apple or Google Pay.  Conversational commerce has long been the gold standard in Asian markets so its great to see frictionless ways to tap into more guest wallet share during their stay while simultaneously adding convenience value for consumers, a win-win for Whistle, hotels and their guests.  MeetingPackage showcased it's group booking engine and channel manager If you’ve ever tried to book a hotel meeting space or venue online you know just how cumbersome of a process it usually is. First you have to fill out a form, then you wait for a response, then when you finally get a response the first question hotels often ask is ‘how much is your budget’.  The whole experience is cumbersome, awkward and feels inherently like you’re being taken by a used car salesman. In comes MeetingPackage to the rescue with its M&E booking engine and channel manager that allows you to manage content, sync across channels to increase your reach and add a booking flow with rich content, add-ons and full customization for your next event promising to drastically increase conversion rates while delivering corporate clients and meeting planners a seamless self-service booking experience that consumers expect. Aethon Robotics turned heads with its delivery robots to cut down on delivery times Aethon’s TUG robots take a different approach to self-service by delivering things like food, linen, banquet supplies and luggage via an R2D2 looking robot.  Except for singularity believers waiting for the Terminator to jump through a time warp portal to initiate Skynet--the Aethon is likely to leave guests with a unique and memorable experience that they’ll want to tell their friends and social media followers about.  Beyond the buzz factor, for hotels looking to cut down on expensive labor can leverage Aethon’s robots to automate common deliveries and cut down on delivery times. Intelity's tablets got a backend upgrade to make it easier for guests to access information at their fingertips New additions to INTELITY Staff include an enhanced ticketing system, a more robust content management solution (CMS), in-depth guest and operations analytics, and Guest360™, which provides a 360-degree view of guest preferences, designed to help hotel staff across all departments make the right decisions at the right time while further personalizing the guest experience. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff will provide staff with access to comprehensive business intelligence and the ability to streamline daily workflows, seamlessly track, manage, and organize preventative maintenance and service recovery, and make real-time content updates. One of the biggest challenges today's hoteliers face is connecting and engaging with their guests in a personalized manner on digital platforms. Guests expect highly personal experience and interactions in hospitality, but also want to have access to the convenience that technology affords them. The new enhancements to INTELITY Staff streamline staff workflows so that staff can spend more time focusing on creating the connection and personalization guests crave. Saba's chatbot and no-download app  SABA Hospitality manages every aspect of the guest journey. From answering questions, to managing requests, making recommendations, fulfilling F&B orders and everything in between. Their artificial intelligence driven chatbot transforms a hotels guest experience, while lowering staff workload and driving revenue. Swyft put its Amazon-esque cashierless stores on display And we’re back...more automated retail! Have you ever walked by a Best Buy or CVS vending machine in the airport? If so, then you’ve seen Swyft’s cashierless retail kiosks in action.  While not as widely adopted in hotels Swyft’s tech offers another option to generate ancillary pantry and merchandise revenue without the added labor bottlenecks or cost. StayMyWay rolled out all new keyless entry door hardware StayMyWay featured a series of shiny new access solutions including its signature Cylinder door lock hardware and 3 more unique digital replacements that each boasted clean lines and strong functionality without breaking the bank starting at under $200. 4Suites showcased its app-less mobile key solution 4Suites mobile keys are fully automated for hotels and frictionless for guests. No actions required from hotels, no app download or login for guests. All intelligence and security is handled by 4Suites in the background to offer the easiest, yet most advanced mobile key solution. Mobile keys can simplify guest operations, reduce costs and improve the guest experience. If done correctly.  4Suites removes friction and has created a fully automated process for hotels and a simple, seamless and impossible-not-to-understand journey for guests. Qwick showcased its short term staffing platform The Qwick app refines and matches job listings for professionals and allows them to accept and confirm shifts all through a smartphone device. The Qwick app has features all in one central place: view matched shifts to accept, view work schedules, clock-in and clock-out, and receive payments within as little as thirty minutes after completing a  shift through their secured platform. This level of convenience and accessibility is helping to grow Qwick’s database of professionals, ensuring high quality workers and quickly filled shifts for businesses.     TREND 4 | Big tech is leaning into hotels for new use cases & distribution Hospitality has always been a big focus for big tech and fortune 500s but it seems to be heating up in recent years.  Travel and tourism contribute $1.5 trillion to GDP globally so it’s no surprise that these companies want in on the action. Traditionally companies within the room automation space (e.g. Honeywell), high tech materials (e.g. Corning) and business electronics (e.g. LG) focus on the hotel sector and increasingly we’re seeing big tech get into the mix with the likes of Samsung, Microsoft and Amazon.  Below we highlight some of the key hospitality launches for big tech players at HITEC this year. Peloton made its HITEC debut offering a new way to attract a fitness focused audience for hotels Peloton made it’s HITEC debut where the firm unveiled its new “Hotel Finder” feature.   With Hotel Finder, riders can find and book hundreds of hotels with Peloton bikes across the United States.  The Company is set for IPO this year with it’s last valuation set at $4.15B and growth has been on a tear.  Peloton’s rider base recently surpassed Soul Cycle as it doubled its user count year over year and the firm is naturally looking for new growth avenues.  Fitness focused hotel brand Westin partnered with Peloton and this move seems to be an evolution of that thesis.  More than 400,000 bikes were sold by February of 2019 and many of those riders are die hard fitness junkies who are highly likely to seek out hotels where they can get their fitness fix.  As Peloton continues to grow it’s install base and product offerings (e.g. Peloton Tread) hotels could find an interesting niche distribution channel to reach fitness enthusiasts. Samsung mounted its 8k QLED monitors dubbed, ‘The Wall’ outfitted with captivating next generation digital art Samsung’s gorgeous 8K QLED and The Wall stole the show with digital art provided by partners Niio and Black Dove. 8K digital signage delivers impeccable picture quality and resolution that was previously unimaginable at scale. Samsung’s technology uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) upscaling to produce lifelike images and immersive experiences. Great hoteliers know that first impressions are everything. For select service hotels digital art can provide new advertising revenue while for more upscale high end and boutique properties it can give your hotel a huge leg up.  Digital art leaders include firms such as Niio, Blackdove and the 2019 HotelTechAward winner in the digital art category, Wrapped.   Create your own next gen hotel check-in experience with digital art like Sharks from Wrapped on an 8K Samsung Wall.   If you need some inspiration, we highly recommend checking out Wrapped Studios’s Shark installation that wow’d even the high brow crowd of attendees at this year’s renown Art Basel in Miami. Amazon and LG’s hospitality divisions collaborate to make in-room entertainment remoteless Gernophobes will be rejoicing at Amazon for Hospitalty’s latest partnership announced with LG.  Together the companies will infuse Alexa voice controls into the hotel TV experience allowing guests to never have to touch a remote again.  Other than being carriers for germs, most hotel remotes are clunky and make channel surfing a frustrating experience so voice controls promise to make for more seamless guest room entertainment. Microsoft steps up to the plate looking to bring its Teams for Frontline Workers product to hotel operations and compete in the employee engagement category While most offerings in the staff collaboration and employee engagement categories are purpose built for the hotel industry, Microsoft appears to be testing the waters by tailoring its employee communication offering to empower frontline workers.  Teams for Frontline workers dubs itself as “the hub for teamwork” and touts benefits including easier employee training, culture building and document management. With Microsoft’s office suite already being used by most hotels to manage email, the company has a strong foothold into the industry already and may just be able to gain footing in the employee communication category if it plays its cards right.     TREND 5 | Housekeeping software is heating up Earlier this year the NY Times wrote a great piece titled ‘The next wave of unicorn startups’ where it argued that the next wave of billion dollar tech firms will not look like the last.  Rather than splashy consumer facing companies like Snapchat, Uber and AirBnB making their way towards IPOs - the article hypothesizes that the next wave of unicorns will be filled with B2B software companies focused on seemingly boring and unexpected industries.   Now, many of the up-and-coming start-ups that may become the next unicorns have names like Benchling and Blend. And they largely focus on software for specific industries like farms, banks and life sciences companies. ~New York Times Add hospitality to that list because there are some major players entering the market.  Where the OTAs and digital distribution have largely driven the last wave of massive technology adoption in hotels because they focus on the top line, the next wave of hotel tech adoption is coming from operations software and specifically within the housekeeping segment.  After watching Quore take the title as “Top Rated Housekeeping Software for Hotels” in the HotelTechAwards two years in a row, several newcomers are entering the space to capitalize on the opportunity. ALICE upped its game with the launch of its all new ALICE Housekeeping While ALICE has always offered a flexible staff communication and task management platform that is used by housekeeping teams across the globe--the all new housekeeping offering is designed from the ground up to deliver a magical experience that will leave even non-housekeepers wanting to take it for a spin. The platform packs a punch with mission critical housekeeping management functionality like automated room assignments but delivers this functionality in an elegant and easy to use solution that integrates each department on property like a finely tuned orchestra. ALICE gave us a glimpse into the future of housekeeping with an exclusive behind the scenes tour of their reimagined housekeeping product. ALICE gave Hotel Tech Report an exclusive behind the scenes look at the all new ALICE Housekeeping See the product in action Hkeeper showed off new functionality that enables housekeeping departments to track materials usage and supply levels Using HKeeper, you will find all needed operational management hotel's tools and avoid unnecessary problems related to the human factor and lack of collaboration between departments. HKeeper will optimize all daily routine processes, improve your guest relations quality, and free up more time for working with projects and vendors. Hkeeper is one of the best tools for managing the personnel of the hotel and tracking material usage. With HKeeper, you can streamline workflows, reduce the turnaround time between tasks, and increase employee productivity. One of the main advantages over other housekeeping software is that Hkeeper offers a unique feature that allows tracking all materials used during cleaning and maintenance tasks or other operations through the program in real time. Moreover, HKeeper also monitors working progress in real time and analyzes staff performance by counting active working time, turnaround time, and time required for each task. Another exceptional function in the HKeeper program is that the mobile application can work off-line. Not all similar programs are offering integration with PMS software, and Hkeeper does, so hotels can easily stay updated on room status, availability, and guest information. Nuvola showed hoteliers if you can't measure it, you can't manage it The housekeeping department in the hotel industry is simultaneously one of the most valuable areas in creating the best guest experience possible while at the same time the hardest to optimize. Introducing new technologies and systems can often make daily processes seem more complicated and be met with resistance. Developed by former hoteliers with this unique understanding in mind, Housekeeping Productivity has been created to meet the specific department needs through an easy to use system and provides accessibility across desktop and mobile devices. Daily room attendants are now able to streamline activities (i.e., room assignment needs, cleaning service tasks) through an intuitive platform that speaks to the notion of making their lives easier.  Nuvola's analytics suite helps hoteliers gain critical insights to reduce average time spent "in between rooms" for room attendants, measure room attendant productivity by credit count and compare guest survey score vs. room attendants effectiveness. PurpleCloud takes a unique approach to housekeeping by leveraging gamification to increase staff productivity Housekeepers for hotels are in short supply and the nature of the work is unique. Their work is time sensitive and requires great attention to detail. If we give these housekeepers world-class tools to make them better at their jobs and couple this with common sense, easy to understand recognition and incentives, then we start winning their hearts. In doing so, hoteliers win for the guest.  PurpleCloud organizes the housekeeper’s day with a world-class digital platform. Gone are messy paper assignment sheets and balky walkie-talkies. The system is easy to use: self-explanatory; requires only a few clicks; and is available in the housekeeper’s given language. The system further provides housekeepers with feedback on their performance and rewards them for doing well by way of a gamification leaderboard. The result: housekeepers are connected and function as a team.       TREND 6 | Fraud and security still poignant post-Marriott breach A recent study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) reports that as much as 55% of all credit card fraud in the US takes place within the hospitality industry. Of course, that only considers criminal fraud; but when you factor-in other loss sources like fraudulent chargebacks, the real figure is much higher. Fraud tends to impact the travel and leisure industries even more heavily than other sectors like retail or digital goods. According to Kount, this is attributable to five specific factors: Fluidity: Multiple and last-minute booking changes create more opportunities for fraud. Perishability: Fraudsters tie-up space that cannot be used for legitimate bookings. Margins: Higher ticket values for hotel bookings mean greater impact on the bottom line. Revenue Loss: Excessive false positives mean merchants are declining valid bookings. High OPEX: More manual reviews mean increased operating expenses. With such high transaction volumes and so many moving pieces--hotels continue to be highly susceptible to fraudsters and hackers as evidenced by the Marriott data breach earlier this year of more than 500 million guest records that were hacked earlier this year.  Luckily companies are coming out with new and innovative ways to help hotels ward of expensive fraud and damaging hacks. Canary showcased its Y Combinator approved software that claims to cut chargebacks by up to 90% While not the sexiest topic, payments and fraud prevention are big business when it comes to hotels.  Y Combinator backed Canary Technologies has a suite of PCI compliant solutions to secure guest data, reduce chargebacks, and speed up sales and catering contract execution by eliminating paper processes on property.  If you’re ready to leave your fax machine in the 80s, minimize fraud or just want to hear about why PG is bullish on the product--its probably time to reach out for a demo. Insighti offers hackers for hire to help brands and management companies pre-emptively identify security flaws and protect their data Insighti offers hackers for hire. With the hospitality industry suffering loads of hacks lately from Marriott to Sabre, insighti offers much needed protection. insighti goes in-depth with physical, social, and digital facets of security, using creativity and persistence to find the vulnerabilities other companies miss.  Insighti recently partnered with former MGM Resorts VP of IT Marc Fancourt to create hiGuard.io taking the firm’s approach to cybersecurity and applying it to the unique complexities of the hotel industry. VENZA announces partnership with the PCI Council positioning them on the forefront of the latest compliances and security measures Navigating the ever changing PCI compliance regulations and ensuring that your hotel is up-to-snuff can feel like the endless climb to the top of Everest.  Luckily, Venza is here to be ‘your guide to data protection’. In the limelight was Venza’s partnership with the PCI Council and certification as a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) that enables the team to work hand-in-hand with the council to set requirements, become early adopters on new PCI DSS requirements and, overall, ensure that customers are receiving the highest quality standards possible.  If you’re looking to shore up your hotel’s compliance you’ll want to check out VENZA’s Everest Plan, their entry level plan to get your hotel compliant. ADAsoft launched eSwipe, a passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in ADASoft launched its new passport/ID scanning solution for speeding up and automating guest check-in and registration while eliminating data entry errors by seamlessly reading, capturing and accurately transferring data from ID documents and passports into practically any PMS in the market. The company lately announced the release of another unique feature allowing printing of a pre-filled customized registration form available after each passport/ID scan for the guest to sign. Simply scan each guest's Passport/ID in less than a second creating an accurate and complete database, and enjoy the benefits of a great marketing tool and after sales potential. ADAsoft’s eSwipe passport scanning solution facilitates GDPR regulation compliance since typing errors are eliminated and data is accurately registered as stated in GDPR regulation, Chapter II, Article 5, Section 1.d ASSA ABLOY GLOBAL SOLUTIONS unveiled its all new staff safety solution  With the US hotel industry continuing to up its requirements when it comes to staff safety with many cities such as Chicago and Miami now requiring hotels to provide employees with safety devices--ASSA ABLOY is the first major company with a storied history and strong credibility to bring a safety solution to market.  The safety solution runs off of blue tooth low emission gateaways (BLE) via its Vostio Location Solutions software meaning that (a) it doesn't take up any wi-fi bandwidth and (b) it allows properties to unlock additional location based services within their hotel including asset tracking, proximity messaging and wayfinding.

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We Need To Talk About Conversion

by
Claire Sawier

What is conversion and why does it matter? Your conversion rate is typically defined as the percentage of how many bookings you received compared to the number of sessions to your website, and is a key metric often used to measure marketing efficiency. For booking engines using Google Analytics, the e-commerce tracking feature displays the number of bookings made and the amount of revenue generated, as well as the e-commerce conversion rate for both mobile and desktop. According to this traditional outlook a conversion is a booking. But at Bookassist we are challenging this simplistic metric. Certainly the goal for most hotel marketeers is to secure a booking and that’s where most conversion metrics end, at the point of booking. It’s a simple ‘lookers to bookers’ ratio. But what about cancellations? If you are only measuring your success in terms of bookings made, then you are masking the reality of what happens after the booking is made. Do you even know how many of your bookings go on to be cancelled?   Misconceptions about conversion In our recent article on cancellations we found that the most successful hotels are those that take a combined view of conversions and cancellations and manage both carefully. High conversion rates might look good, but they may simply be delivering high cancellation rates unless a robust cancellation strategy has been implemented. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a marketing strategy aimed at increasing the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers and is crucial to your hotel’s online success. Your CRO strategy needs to focus on; Conversion rates therefore need to be considered alongside cancellation rates to give a true picture of success and marketing effectiveness, i.e. we need to be looking at a Net Conversion Rate. You therefore need to start tracking cancellation rates, both direct and OTA, for a more realistic conversion metric for your distribution channels and an assessment of their true effectiveness.   Net conversion rate Getting the right traffic to your website in the first place Converting those visits to bookings And making sure they stick around to actually end up staying at your hotel The real challenge for CRO is to tackle the full booking journey right through to the point of stay. The industry as a whole needs to switch mindset to reporting on net conversion rates and not just conversion from the point of view of bookings. And marketers also need to focus on their post booking strategy to minimise cancellations and increase net conversion rates. This is particularly important with the clear rise in online booking cancelation rates that we’ve been seeing throughout the industry in recent years. It is often quoted in the industry that the average website conversion rate for hotels is 2% or thereabouts. This 2% is based on the bookings made relative to the ‘total’ number of sessions to your website. Many hotel website visitors of course have no booking intent and are simply browsing the showcase aspect of your site which often includes spa facilities, restaurant, wedding and corporate pages. We’ve all done it.   Limitations of website conversion metrics So your website conversion figure is a useful benchmark but it doesn’t really tell you a lot. For example, the 2.93% conversion rate shown in figure 1 tells us simply that the website in question is performing above the industry average, but it doesn’t give you any insight into the steps that you need to take in order to improve your direct booking capability.   Figure 1: Sample Google Analytics data for a three-star Dublin city centre hotel. Because hotel websites are traditionally a cross between a showcase and an e-commerce site, a more relevant conversion metric is the booking engine conversion rate. Unlike your overall website conversion rate which is skewed and therefore lowered by your overall general-purpose traffic, your booking engine conversion rate focuses exclusively on the booking e-commerce aspect of your business and is likely a truer and more insightful measure of what your are trying to achieve. Your booking engine conversion rate and conversion goal funnel provide so much more additional information, especially where your booking engine employs Enhanced E-commerce with Google Analytics, as is available from Bookassist. Essential insights into your visitors’ paths to purchase tell us how many people enter the booking engine funnel, what room types or packages they are engaging with, where you’re losing bookers along the way, and at which stages we can improve their experience. In our opinion at Bookassist, hotels should focus on their booking engine conversion rate as a priority over the overall website conversion rate. Furthermore they should not settle for the industry average and should not be complacent around average figures. In terms of website conversion there is a lot that separates hotels who achieve figures much higher than the industry average and there are a number of factors that can cause this number to fluctuate wildly. Equally, good-performing hotels report website conversion rates lower than the industry average and that may be okay too, depending on their overall website goals and type of visitors that they want to attract. Hotels simply differ too much across the industry for industry averages to be relevant in many cases. Strong conversion rates are only possible when underpinned by a strong conversion strategy. This takes time, cost and attention but is absolutely worth the effort in terms of the resulting increase in revenue. Once a hotel’s booking conversion funnel has been optimised for an engaging and frictionless booking experience, the increase in booking and conversion opportunities will inevitably follow.   Strong conversion strategy = strong conversion rate If your website and booking process are not optimised to convert then you are just wasting your money investing in activities to increase traffic to your website. As a result of this incorrect focus, many hotels are surprised when their increase in PPC or meta search advertising spend does not result in a significant bookings uplift. Sure, the more you throw at something the more likely some of it will stick, but if the conversion issues are not addressed before you invest in bringing more people to your site you’ll find that you may only manage to increase revenue slightly, and to a degree where it is not worth the additional spend and effort.     You’d be better off spending your time and money first on making sure that your site, booking engine and booking engine setup are converting your current visitors before turning to visitor growth. Try taking that journey yourself to understand first-hand the would-be booker experience when booking a room online for your hotel. We’ve yet to come across anyone who enjoys the experience of a slow site, inaccurate information, broken links, or being forced to sift through volumes of information trying to find what they are looking for, all against a background of dubious data security. In many cases you’ve already lost your potential booking even before they check availability. By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.Consumer expectations are the same the world over - a booking experience that is speedy, seamless and secure. Friction will not be tolerated and hotels that continue to add friction to the booker’s journey will pay in terms of lower conversion and ultimately lower revenue.   CRO before SEM By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.   Frictionless booking experience Your website, booking engine and digital marketing all need to work in perfect harmony. In this holistic scenario, (a) your digital marketing effort generates traffic with high purchase intent that (b) goes on to visit your mobile-ready and fully-optimised landing page showing the best available rate and clear direct booking benefits, thereby (c) drawing that traffic into the booking engine which (d) has clarity of content and presentation that makes it simple for customers to complete their reservation with ease. Bookassist tightly integrates booking engine with website and digital marketing for a truly frictionless direct booking experience. This holistic approach is far more effective than using separate providers for each solution where that tight integration is much harder to achieve. There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned! Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.   How to increase your conversion rates There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned!   Bottom Line Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.

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

by
Hotel Tech Report

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.

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Smart technology buyers judge companies by capabilities not number of employees

by
Hotel Tech Report

Unseasoned technology buyers often make the assumption that the biggest companies have the best products.  It’s not a terrible assumption when you think about it. After all, didn’t the biggest companies become so big by delivering great products to clients? There’s the old adage that “nobody gets fired for buying a Xerox” - doesn’t that still hold true? It’s true that big companies often get big by delivering great service to clients but technology changes so quickly that assuming ‘bigger = better’ can lead technology buyers into precarious waters.  When companies get to a certain size, they risk losing focus on customer relationships. Many massive companies, especially in hotel tech, have become synonymous with poor customer service. Think about the last time you called your CRS vendor because the system went down but they don’t reply for 48-hours - that’s a major problem.  Similarly, when engineering team grows to a certain size, the company’s products become plagued with feature bloat. Teams become more and more disparate which makes working on the same product a disaster if the organization isn’t managed properly. Big companies are also notoriously susceptible to disruption from smaller and more nimble firms. This isn’t to say that everyone should go jump into bed with the startup down the street.  The most savvy buyers know to look for the most innovative vendors who have achieved product market fit, are innovating quickly and will become the giants of tomorrow.  Travel Tripper is a firm that has proven itself in the market, is innovating at a rapid clip and still maintains strong relationships with clients through world-class customer support.  Don’t take our word for it, read what verified Travel Tripper customers are saying.  Perhaps that’s why hoteliers have rated Travel Tripper’s CRS #1 in the world for 2 years in a row.  The firm has recently expanded its offerings through a highly praised merger with Pegasus so we sat down with Travel Tripper president Gautam Lulla to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on what’s to come. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service.  ~ Gautam Lulla Prior to launching Travel Tripper, Gautam worked at hotel tech giant Amadeus so he has seen the inner workings of both startups and massive enterprise in the space.  He also began his career working in hotel operations and eventually corporate hospitality where he developed unique insights about the hotel tech vendor landscape before jumping in himself.   As with many great businesses, Travel Tripper’s founding team created the business to solve real-world problems that they were experiencing.  After working with several distribution and marketing technology vendors, the leadership team at Highgate Hotels wasn’t impressed by the results they achieved and thought they could do it better, so they launched Travel Tripper.  It turns out that they were right -- now hotels around the world are knocking on Travel Tripper’s door to tap their knowledge, technology and services. We are lucky to have caught Gautam in the midst of his integration between Pegasus and Travel Tripper, which he calls a highly synergistic transaction.   Gautam Lulla Travel Tripper's NYC Headquarters   What does the Travel Tripper-Pegasus merger mean for clients? It’s important for us to emphasize that as a combined company, no capabilities or services will be lost. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. The driving force behind the merger was our complementary set of strengths, from our product offerings to our customer base. In this case, 1 + 1 really does = 3! To illustrate, Pegasus has always been uniquely and natively built for enterprise hotel chains and have more experience serving chains than any other business in the history of the hospitality industry. Additionally, Pegasus has a long and proven record of helping hotels increase corporate business with their Corporate Sales Representation Services, offering instant connections to 800+ corporations and 30+ consortia and TMCs.  Additionally, the recent introduction of Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform gives Revenue Managers the ability to turn their raw data into actionable information to positively affect their bottom line. Travel Tripper has built its reputation among independent hotels and casinos with its powerful CRS, e-commerce, and digital marketing solutions, which work together to help hotels grow their overall business while maximizing revenues in their direct channel. Combining this strong suite of products means that we can now offer existing customers and prospects a broader range of solutions tailored to their needs. What is Accel-KKR's thesis behind the new infusion of capital? Accel-KKR is a company that invests in high-growth technology companies in many verticals and different industries, not just hospitality. The primary thesis for their investment was the recognition that both Travel Tripper and Pegasus were two companies with a similar DNA of innovation and top-notch customer service, as well as complementary sets of strengths in our product offerings and customer base. They believe that they can provide us the infrastructure and support to help take our combined company to the next level. What was your background prior to launching Travel Tripper? I started my career in the hotel industry with Taj Hotels in India, where I was introduced to the world of hotel technology, after spending about a year or so in the front office. As Electronic Marketing Manager, I was responsible for managing the usage of our central reservation system as well as building and strengthening relationships with our CRS providers. I was also responsible for growing the GDS business. Subsequently, I joined Pegasus Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona as a Product Manager and stayed there for about two years. It is where I learned all about the the workings of a CRS, and what better place to learn it than at Pegasus. It was the clear leader in the space with no competitor even a close second to Pegasus. Later on, I accepted an offer from Amadeus in France to join their e-commerce team. Hotel booking engines were a part of the portfolio, however as a GDS company it was not economically viable for hotels to pay GDS transaction fees on top of CRS fees for their direct booking channel. But Amadeus decided to invest in Hotel IT solutions, with the intent of replicating their success in Airline IT. I subsequently moved from France to the United States and continued with Amadeus for two years, during which time I became deeply involved with our first prospective customer. But after a short while with Amadeus USA, I realized I was also far removed from the center of activity within Amadeus and got a little bored.  It’s when I decided to join Travel Tripper, in its earliest days. What made you decide to jump in and launch Travel Tripper? My friend and ex-colleague Kurien Jacob had just started a booking engine company and asked me to run and grow the business. After leaving Amadeus, I was ready for a new challenge that would allow me to work at a much faster pace, so I jumped right in. Technically, I didn't found the company, but I joined as a partner when we were just a team of three people. As a partner, I did or oversaw everything on a daily basis—from product design and development to engineering, sales, and marketing, invoicing, customer support, so, literally everything that a young company of that size has to deal with.   Travel Tripper's Reztrip CRS took gold in the 2019 HotelTechAwards   Who was Travel Tripper’s first customer? Highgate Hotels was our first customer at Travel Tripper. Kurien, who had started the company, was the Chief Revenue Officer at Highgate Hotels at the time. He was convinced that Highgate could earn more direct business if they designed a booking engine, designed by the way, as a seed that would grow into a full-scale CRS, with certain features. So, that was sort of the rationale in founding, the raison d'être of the company. It became our motto and philosophy: Be Direct. Highgate tried out the first version of our product on one of their properties, a very large midtown Manhattan property. Even though it was a big risk for them, they went ahead and tested the technology anyways. After seeing spectacular results with the first property, we rolled out the booking engine across various Highgate hotels in New York and elsewhere. One of our other early customers was the Leela Hotel Group in India, which also benefited a lot by taking a chance on us. We increased their website contribution by very impressive numbers. Another early customer of ours was the Stratosphere Hotel, a large 2,500-room hotel in Las Vegas and our first casino hotel (a segment in which we now have 30% market share in the U.S.). We were able to get them on board because of our strong track record. They joined us in 2008 and significantly increased their website contribution as the result of our partnership. How do you see Pegasus and Travel Tripper working together moving forward? The combined entity of Pegasus and Travel Tripper provides a solid platform for hotels that  want innovative technology solutions combined with the best customer service in the industry. Pegasus has a deep and storied history in CRS and distribution, and offers world-class demand generation services designed to increase direct and corporate bookings while considerably expanding a hotel’s market reach. Travel Tripper has grown a strong reputation in helping independent hotels and casinos/resorts in direct channel optimization, bringing user experience to the forefront in our CRS, booking engine, e-commerce, and marketing solutions to help drive highly profitable direct bookings. Our merger brings together the best of our combined capabilities to help hotel groups large and small to directly own guest relationships and maximize bottom-line ROI. In short, we are a formidable and disruptive challenger to some of the bigger (yet more stagnant) players in this space! Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale the business? I’m lucky to have several mentors who have helped and influenced me at different stages of my career. In my early days at Travel Tripper, right after leaving Amadeus, I remained close friends with an ex-colleague of mine, Andy Ahluwalia, who has since passed unfortunately. Andy had built a successful business in our space and was very encouraging and gave me sound advice about the effort and the patience that it would take to make this company successful. He also taught me a lot about how to sell the product and negotiate with customers. I'm very grateful to have known him. Kurien and the team at Highgate, from whom I’ve learned a lot, have also been spectacular supporters of Travel Tripper. Of course, they have been one of our key customers since the beginning and have a vested interest in our success as a company. They’ve always been very encouraging and have provided me with the space and room to make mistakes and persevere while growing Travel Tripper. Highgate itself has grown tremendously since the time when we started our company. Watching their growth and expansion, even as they were already such a large company, has been an inspiration for me. And Paul McGrath, erstwhile and now again Product Manager extraordinaire was my first boss at Pegasus—he taught me all about the workings of a CRS. Paul led the product management team at Pegasus during its heyday and has returned to the company to once again lead the product management team of our combined company.  What's one commonly held belief that most hoteliers believe to be true in your niche that actually is false? Unfortunately, in this industry, the size of a hotel tech vendor sometimes is overplayed or overemphasized, while the quality of product and engineering teams is underemphasized. People often assume that large companies have better products simply because they can afford better engineers relative to smaller companies. This is far from the truth—I've seen very large companies struggle with their platforms and engineering initiatives. And I’ve seen smaller companies blow away the industry with their solutions. The important thing for hotels to remember is not to judge tech vendors by the size of the company, but by the quality and capabilities of their product and their dedication to customer service. It seems obvious, but happens more often than you think. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels? I don't know if I can call it a surprise as much as learning, but one of the things that we have learned how to do effectively is to scale the platform based on evolving needs. For many organizations, it is quite difficult to anticipate the proper architecture in its early days until you meet challenges along the way. You can plan and design for scale, but there will alway be unexpected hiccups and scaling issues that you will certainly come across along the way, no matter how well you plan ahead. Therefore, you should plan and design as best as you can, but also be prepared to make some fundamental changes along the way when you encounter obstacles. We've done that several times throughout our history and have been able to successfully scale the platform. For example, when Travel Tripper took on Stratosphere Hotel around 2008, I recall that traffic volumes would peak around a certain time of day, and the system would simply keel over and fall down, so we always had to reboot at around 4:00 p.m. It turned out that was a relatively small problem to solve that wasn’t anticipated at initial design time. Along the way, we've come across other challenges as our customer base grew to a certain size. At one point, we started getting hit by a lot of robots that were scraping our booking engine user interface to get pricing information on our hotel customers. This is a common phenomenon in our industry and we were able to resolve the issues along the way when we encountered them. What have been some of the most successful partnerships for Travel Tripper over the years? Obviously we have numerous close partners in the industry, and our relationships with all of them are very important. We enjoy our partnership with Stay Wanderful, which provides a conversion optimization tool that helps hotels to increase their direct bookings and revenue through instant gratification and AI technology. We have worked closely to provide a strong integration and good user interface that generate good results for our customers. OTA Insight has also been a great partner for us on the industry level. Their company offers one of the top hotel Rate Intelligence/Business intelligence platforms on the market. We often run many marketing initiatives together to help educate the industry, such as webinars, roundtables, and our upcoming Tech Talks series at ITB Berlin. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? As a CRS company, there are so many vendors that we need to build interfaces and integrations with. We particularly enjoy working with the ones that are open to quick integrations in order to foster better functioning between our respective products. In other words, they do not lock up their APIs and charge unreasonable fees for integration and certification. How will the hotel distribution landscape change in the next 5-years? Traditionally, the companies in the hotel tech space have focused on being very good at one “category” of product. Sure, a PMS company could offer a booking engine, but ultimately it was more known for being a PMS company. The new startups in the space have amplified this trend. But now that companies are starting to mature and consolidate (ourselves included), the lines are going to start blurring and it’s going to be difficult to pigeonhole a company into a product type or category. The industry is moving quickly in the direction of a “platformization” model, where the breadth and interconnectedness of solutions will trump—or at least bring together—smaller niche solutions. We think we are on the cutting edge of that trend. We see ourselves as the strongest provider of the products and services we offer to the hotel industry. We are well on the way already.     Does Travel Tripper have any new product or feature launches we should know about? Travel Tripper and Pegasus have recently launched innovative new products lately that we think are going to be very exciting for our respective customers and prospects. To help hoteliers combat rate disparity and increase direct revenue, we created Rate Match, a powerful price checking and rate matching tool that automates best rate guarantee against the OTAs. On the e-commerce side, we recently introduced a very simple but enormously helpful ADA Monitoring Platform and audit services to help hotels mitigate legal risk of potentially expensive ADA compliance lawsuits. We are also about to launch Conversion Plus, a new direct booking optimization tool that drives conversions using personalized messaging and special offers based on real-time booking engine rates, OTA comparative rates, and user behavior. There is power in numbers which is why we recently launched the Pegasus Business Intelligence Platform. This solution offers Revenue Managers a way to turn raw data into immediately actionable information to amplify revenue management and marketing success across all distribution channels, all in one place. We combine guest data from multiple sources and deliver it with automated intelligence and easy-to-understand dashboards. The result is instant insights that help guide a hotelier’s strategy to increase bookings and occupancy and improve revenue and profitability.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneur looking to get into the hotel tech space? Be patient and persevere. It's a crowded space, and it’s getting increasingly more crowded and competitive. There are a ton of companies that you will need to work and integrate with in order to succeed. In the hotel CRS space, the barrier to entry is quite high so it will require a lot of money and technology to be built before you can come in with a viable product for a meaningful segment of the market.

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We Need To Talk About Conversion

Bookassist

What is conversion and why does it matter? Your conversion rate is typically defined as the percentage of how many bookings you received compared to the number of sessions to your website, and is a key metric often used to measure marketing efficiency. For booking engines using Google Analytics, the e-commerce tracking feature displays the number of bookings made and the amount of revenue generated, as well as the e-commerce conversion rate for both mobile and desktop. According to this traditional outlook a conversion is a booking. But at Bookassist we are challenging this simplistic metric. Certainly the goal for most hotel marketeers is to secure a booking and that’s where most conversion metrics end, at the point of booking. It’s a simple ‘lookers to bookers’ ratio. But what about cancellations? If you are only measuring your success in terms of bookings made, then you are masking the reality of what happens after the booking is made. Do you even know how many of your bookings go on to be cancelled?   Misconceptions about conversion In our recent article on cancellations we found that the most successful hotels are those that take a combined view of conversions and cancellations and manage both carefully. High conversion rates might look good, but they may simply be delivering high cancellation rates unless a robust cancellation strategy has been implemented. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a marketing strategy aimed at increasing the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers and is crucial to your hotel’s online success. Your CRO strategy needs to focus on; Conversion rates therefore need to be considered alongside cancellation rates to give a true picture of success and marketing effectiveness, i.e. we need to be looking at a Net Conversion Rate. You therefore need to start tracking cancellation rates, both direct and OTA, for a more realistic conversion metric for your distribution channels and an assessment of their true effectiveness.   Net conversion rate Getting the right traffic to your website in the first place Converting those visits to bookings And making sure they stick around to actually end up staying at your hotel The real challenge for CRO is to tackle the full booking journey right through to the point of stay. The industry as a whole needs to switch mindset to reporting on net conversion rates and not just conversion from the point of view of bookings. And marketers also need to focus on their post booking strategy to minimise cancellations and increase net conversion rates. This is particularly important with the clear rise in online booking cancelation rates that we’ve been seeing throughout the industry in recent years. It is often quoted in the industry that the average website conversion rate for hotels is 2% or thereabouts. This 2% is based on the bookings made relative to the ‘total’ number of sessions to your website. Many hotel website visitors of course have no booking intent and are simply browsing the showcase aspect of your site which often includes spa facilities, restaurant, wedding and corporate pages. We’ve all done it.   Limitations of website conversion metrics So your website conversion figure is a useful benchmark but it doesn’t really tell you a lot. For example, the 2.93% conversion rate shown in figure 1 tells us simply that the website in question is performing above the industry average, but it doesn’t give you any insight into the steps that you need to take in order to improve your direct booking capability.   Figure 1: Sample Google Analytics data for a three-star Dublin city centre hotel. Because hotel websites are traditionally a cross between a showcase and an e-commerce site, a more relevant conversion metric is the booking engine conversion rate. Unlike your overall website conversion rate which is skewed and therefore lowered by your overall general-purpose traffic, your booking engine conversion rate focuses exclusively on the booking e-commerce aspect of your business and is likely a truer and more insightful measure of what your are trying to achieve. Your booking engine conversion rate and conversion goal funnel provide so much more additional information, especially where your booking engine employs Enhanced E-commerce with Google Analytics, as is available from Bookassist. Essential insights into your visitors’ paths to purchase tell us how many people enter the booking engine funnel, what room types or packages they are engaging with, where you’re losing bookers along the way, and at which stages we can improve their experience. In our opinion at Bookassist, hotels should focus on their booking engine conversion rate as a priority over the overall website conversion rate. Furthermore they should not settle for the industry average and should not be complacent around average figures. In terms of website conversion there is a lot that separates hotels who achieve figures much higher than the industry average and there are a number of factors that can cause this number to fluctuate wildly. Equally, good-performing hotels report website conversion rates lower than the industry average and that may be okay too, depending on their overall website goals and type of visitors that they want to attract. Hotels simply differ too much across the industry for industry averages to be relevant in many cases. Strong conversion rates are only possible when underpinned by a strong conversion strategy. This takes time, cost and attention but is absolutely worth the effort in terms of the resulting increase in revenue. Once a hotel’s booking conversion funnel has been optimised for an engaging and frictionless booking experience, the increase in booking and conversion opportunities will inevitably follow.   Strong conversion strategy = strong conversion rate If your website and booking process are not optimised to convert then you are just wasting your money investing in activities to increase traffic to your website. As a result of this incorrect focus, many hotels are surprised when their increase in PPC or meta search advertising spend does not result in a significant bookings uplift. Sure, the more you throw at something the more likely some of it will stick, but if the conversion issues are not addressed before you invest in bringing more people to your site you’ll find that you may only manage to increase revenue slightly, and to a degree where it is not worth the additional spend and effort.     You’d be better off spending your time and money first on making sure that your site, booking engine and booking engine setup are converting your current visitors before turning to visitor growth. Try taking that journey yourself to understand first-hand the would-be booker experience when booking a room online for your hotel. We’ve yet to come across anyone who enjoys the experience of a slow site, inaccurate information, broken links, or being forced to sift through volumes of information trying to find what they are looking for, all against a background of dubious data security. In many cases you’ve already lost your potential booking even before they check availability. By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.Consumer expectations are the same the world over - a booking experience that is speedy, seamless and secure. Friction will not be tolerated and hotels that continue to add friction to the booker’s journey will pay in terms of lower conversion and ultimately lower revenue.   CRO before SEM By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.   Frictionless booking experience Your website, booking engine and digital marketing all need to work in perfect harmony. In this holistic scenario, (a) your digital marketing effort generates traffic with high purchase intent that (b) goes on to visit your mobile-ready and fully-optimised landing page showing the best available rate and clear direct booking benefits, thereby (c) drawing that traffic into the booking engine which (d) has clarity of content and presentation that makes it simple for customers to complete their reservation with ease. Bookassist tightly integrates booking engine with website and digital marketing for a truly frictionless direct booking experience. This holistic approach is far more effective than using separate providers for each solution where that tight integration is much harder to achieve. There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned! Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.   How to increase your conversion rates There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned!   Bottom Line Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.

7 Instagram Tips For Independent Hotels

Screen Pilot

Your hotel, of course, has a polished presence on Instagram. Now boasting more than a billion monthly actives, the visuals-first platform is the third-largest social network in the world (surpassed by only Facebook and YouTube) and a key component in a comprehensive hospitality digital marketing strategy. Still, as with all facets of marketing, there are opportunities for hotel teams to evolve and advance their social outreach. Here are seven tips that can help independent hotels (and others) take their Instagram game to the next level.  1. Showcase your unique traits. While some travelers appreciate the predictability of chain establishments, many seek a special place to stay, and a hotel’s social channels are often the first opportunity to showcase what makes it unique. Images of unique décor and signature architectural elements are a natural fit for an Instagram feed, either as the focal point or as a backdrop. For example, if your hotel has mosaic tile archways throughout the lobby, post the shots and become “the place with the beautiful mosaic archways.” Unsure what the average traveler finds interesting about your property? Check out the photos guests have posted recently. (More on that in tip #3.) 2. Highlight area attractions. Your locale is unique, be it for the cuisine, the geography, the proximity to frequently visited places, or something else. By featuring what makes your community special, you’re giving people fresh reasons to visit and stay at your hotel. Some marketing teams form partnerships with other area establishments to drive user-generated content that benefits both businesses. 3. Learn from your guests. One of the best ways to attract and satisfy new guests is to learn what previous guests loved, and others maybe didn’t like so much. Make it a habit to locate your hotel on Instagram’s “Places” tab and monitor the “Top Posts” for your location. Understanding what guests find Insta-worthy can help marketing teams customize content and highlight those elements at the heart of past positive guest experiences. Find something negative? Take it in stride and talk with the team about where you might improve. 4. Leverage user-generated content. There are multiple forms of user-generated content (UGC), including guest photos, contest images and recommendations/reviews. Each format has the potential to be leveraged as an effective marketing medium. Some words of caution, though. If you’re re-posting guest photos on your hotel’s Instagram page, you should always get their permission first. Not only is this common courtesy, it offers legal cover. Plus, in many cases, when people find out you think enough of their shots to re-post them, they’ll love you for it and brag to whoever will listen, potentially resulting in more followers. 5. Craft branded hashtags. Using hashtags has been shown to increase engagement, but how confident are you that your team is using them correctly, consistently, and to maximum effect? There are two types of hashtags; generic and branded. Generic hashtags are unspecific and widely used. There are tens of millions of posts that include #wanderlust, for example. You’re probably using some of these currently, and that’s fine, but be sure to additionally create property-specific or campaign-specific tags to help your team track feedback and grow the conversation. For example, rather than using a generic tag such as #travel, consider branded hashtag such as #TravelToPropertyName. Don’t forget to share your custom hashtags with guests, and encourage travelers to weave them into their own posts. 6. Include geotags. An Instagram geotag is a record of the latitude and longitude of your current location when you post a photo. This information is collected by the GPS in your mobile device and is only accessible to Instagram if you grant permission. The use of geotags effect the manner and frequency your photos appear in Instagram’s location feed and local search results, meaning more people will find you, often when they need you most. Some stats suggest the use of geotags can increase engagement as much as 79%. 7. Embrace Instagram Stories. Just a couple years old, Instagram Stories is a feature that allows you to post photos and videos that automatically disappear after 24 hours. Though the idea may have been “borrowed” from Snapchat, it was done so because “Stories” have become a refreshing departure from the static images and scrolling video users are used to seeing in their feed. From a marketing perspective, “Stories” can be used for; Offering limited-time discounts Showcasing “behind-the-scenes” content Getting follower feedback in the form of follower votes Posting impromptu photos or videos of guest experiences (with their permission, of course) Highlight daily specials at eateries and outlets Promote and showcase special events   Digital marketing is an evolving animal, as is the manner in which marketers use the tools of digital marketing, such as Instagram. With new features being introduced constantly, it’s important to stay on top of the latest updates. Work closely alongside your trusted digital marketing partners to understand and apply the latest tricks and trends, and to be sure your property is a leader in crafting creative, engaging and – most importantly – productive posts.

5 Reasons To Integrate Video Into Your Marketing Strategy Now

Screen Pilot

“A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth 1.8 million words.” If you haven’t yet integrated video into your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on tremendous opportunities for your hotel. It is imperative to keep up with the current digital trends to retain prospective guests’ interest so they will keep returning to your property. With the human attention span stretching just to a staggering six seconds, video has quickly become a solution in keeping users engaged for longer online. Below are four ways video proves itself worthy to be your hotel’s next marketing tool. Users retain more information from videos than text. Prospective guests are more likely to remember your hotel if you have some sort of video content on your website. According to Insivia, people retain 95% of content from a video versus 10% when reading it in text. Moreover, when creating and utilizing video content, shorter is better. Keep videos under two minutes, preferably no more than fifteen seconds depending on the platform. With this strategy, your hotel will stand out in the reader’s mind when planning their next vacation. Clickthrough rate is higher when using video. From click to book, video has proven to show significantly higher click-through rates for properties implementing video into their marketing strategy. “Companies that use videos in their marketing have 27% higher click-through rate and 34% higher conversion rates than those that don’t (Biteable).” Further, 52% of marketers using video are reporting a bigger bang for their buck (Biteable). Users are inclined to share – which means free marketing for hoteliers. Not only is video statistically a better return on investment, but it markets itself since prospective guests love sharing videos with friends and followers. Moreover, unsurprisingly, 92 percent of consumers are sharing video content with friends, family, and followers, which, if created and marketed wisely, is an amazing window of opportunity for hotels and businesses alike.   Virtual reality is quickly becoming the next big thing. With VR on the rise, it is best for your property to get ahead in creating visual content for users. This shows that properties care enough to provide the best user experience possible. Make it easy for your future guests and stand out simply by painting a picture of their dream getaway through the ever-rising power of video.

3 New Technical Strategies To Personalize Your Targeting

Screen Pilot

Earlier this month, we shared four key elements in personalizing ads to increase engagement and bookings. In order to do things like write compelling headlines, choose relevant images, develop enticing offers, and create user-friendly landing pages, you must first be familiar with the data in order to create advertisements that speak to your audience’s current interests and needs. For those that are a bit more technical, there are additional elements you can integrate into your campaigns for better performance. All of us, as marketers, are familiar with the old adage “no two customers are alike” and with personalization in marketing reaching its apex, we should not be sending the same ad out to all audience types in hopes that it maybe – just might…perhaps, catch the eye of a handful. Our job is to customize our efforts to relevantly reach users through all stages of their customer journey. Through custom dimensions, custom intent, and in-market/affinity audiences, we can reach new users and deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.   Custom Dimensions In Google Analytics, Custom Dimensions are user-defined data points that can be retrieved whether or not a user is logged in to their Google account. These are also particular points of data that will not be revealed in Google Analytics unless you tell it to. Your hotel’s own web pages offer a plethora of data that digital marketers can then use to customize and personalize efforts towards your different audience groups. Your potential customers may be searching for a hotel room in July, and by utilizing Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics, you can tailor your ad copy to users looking for specific dates or time-frames: By breaking out ad groups based on days, months, or holiday searches, you can provide compelling copy that creates a sense of urgency and relates to the customer. Benchmark your ad engagement before and after you customize your ads and take note to see which strategy provides the highest Click Through Rate (CTR), Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), or other KPIs such as Time on Site, Form Submissions, etc. By customizing ad copy using custom dimensions, the Search Marketing Team here at Screen Pilot have seen a 314% increase in CTR and a 140% decrease in Cost Per Click (CPC).   Custom Intent Recently, Google released Custom Intent Audiences, giving advertisers the ability to reach customers based on their Google search queries. For example, you can create an audience based on users who search “resorts in Charleston” or “where to vacation in South Carolina”. As users do research during their early stages of travel consideration, it’s important to get your brand out there to match the users’ search intent and gain new user website traffic. The content of both your advertisements and your landing pages should match the intent of the user. Shouldn’t users researching “where to vacation” receive more brand awareness advertisements – while users searching specifically for “resort packages in Charleston” should receive an offer and/or package specificadvertisements to give travelers what they’re looking for when they need it most? So, what are the results? Since launching these new campaigns as soon as custom intent audiences were available to us, Screen Pilot has seen brand awareness ads with a 4:1 ROAS, averaging 2-3 conversions a month using this targeting method.   Audience Insights In-Market and Affinity audiences are additional avenues you can explore when deciding who to target your ads to. Google categorizes users as “in-market” by those actively researching or comparing services across the display network. “Affinity audiences” is simply associating user’s browsing activity with a specific interest category. For example, a user who likes hiking and is planning a trip to Boston might have an “affinity” for the outdoors while being “in-market” for rental cars according to Google. By targeting our In-Market users in search campaigns, the team here at Screen Pilot see, on average, a 20% increase in conversion rates and a 20% increase in view rate for our YouTube ads. You can either guess what audiences your customers fall in to, or, you can use audience insights to determine where your users actually stand. By reviewing insights from your All Converters audience list, you can see which in-markets and affinities are associated with your hotel guests.     With these three new targeting methods in mind, not only can you write compelling headlines, choose relevant images, develop enticing offers, and create user-friendly landing pages – you can reach users with personalized marketing that tailors to their current need or interest. Segmenting out your audiences and customizing content in your ad copy is key in order to increase engagement and conversions. You will not only find new audiences you weren’t reaching before, but you’ll provide compelling content that matches your customer needs. For help on reaching your customers throughout their buying journey, reach out to Screen Pilot and let us take your data to a whole new level!  

Why Your Hotel Website Needs An FAQ Page

Screen Pilot

It’s 2018 and there are now entire generations of consumers walking (surfing) around (the net) who would prefer not to (would rather die than) speak on the phone directly with another human. When users try to book a hotel online, they may struggle to find answers to simple questions such as check-in time, pet policy, or dining options. Implementing a Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) page on your website could be a perfect solution that benefits both brand and consumer. Here are four reasons why your website needs an FAQ page: Save Time & Money One of the most difficult tasks when managing social media accounts can be answering the same question time and time again. If it takes three minutes to reply to a guest who has questions about your parking fee, valet availability, or any general parking information and you get a similar question ten times a day – you’re spending 30 minutes responding to inquiries just about parking. This results in labor and opportunity cost being taken away from other, more strategic social initiatives. Building and maintaining an FAQ page will allow guests to find answers more quickly, and on their own, and ultimately save time and money. This should also be an indication that a certain volume of searches for the information may be happening – and when a consumer can’t find the answer, they’re taking to social media. Why not drive traffic, repeat or otherwise, to your website first. After all – that channel should be the one-stop-shop of information regarding your brand. Featured Snippets & Voice search A featured snippet is a prominent box located at the top of Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This box can answer a user question in a concise manner. Be aware though, sometimes third parties or even your competitors can steal featured snippets and route visitors away from your site. An FAQ page will let Google know you are the verified source for property-related questions and point users directly to your site, not through a third party. In a study performed by Backlinko, over 10,000 voice search queries were analyzed on a Google Home device. Nearly 41% of all voice search answers came from a featured snippet. Digest this for a second with us, every two out of five answers are pulled from a featured snippet. With mobile devices making up 52% of web pages globally, voice search queries will continue to rise. TRY IT YOURSELF: Go to Google and type, “Is [property name] pet-friendly?” and see if your site pops up in a featured snippet. If not, time to add an FAQ page! Develop New Content Consistent content marketing is another popular strategy and tactic for the hospitality industry. This relatively “newly popular” initiative may be hard for some to wrap their minds (and budgets) around, but building an FAQ page is a nice win and a great first step for your content marketing strategy. Website content serves a “best foot forward” way to provide the optimal user experience. Some questions or topics may just require a more detailed response or presence. In this instance, having a page or two dedicated to frequently asked questions or frequently searched topics will benefit both your prospective guests and your digital marketing; consistent content updates = more content = more chances for optimization = more chances to rank. TRY IT YOURSELF: If you’re struggling to develop social media content. Chop up the FAQ page question by question or however you see fit, reconfigure the content, sprinkle in some graphic design or video and suddenly – you’ve got a new post ripe for engagement! Optimize the Booking Funnel (aka: Increase Revenue) As mentioned above, a main function of content is to enhance user experience. What is the intended result of a good user experience? Transactions. In 2016, Forrester Research found “53% of US online adults will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.” You could be losing half of your potential online bookings by not offering easy-to-find answers on the website. An FAQ page allows users to find answers themselves, but most importantly, keep them on the website and in the booking funnel. Providing answers to your hotel’s frequently asked questions is a great wait to save time, enhance other marketing channels and create a valuable user experience.

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Digital Marketing Agency Category Overview

How to select a digital marketing agency for your hotel

Why do hotels need a specialized digital marketing agency?
The OTAs are taking guests away from you and charging 15%+ commission on each booking. What digital marketing agencies do is make sure that your property is interacting with your guests throughout the entire booking journey and that these prospective guests are ultimately booking directly through your website. The channels and strategies involved in any agency's approach and are highly customized to each property. Using a blended approach to media distribution and channel distribution in addition to behavioral and personalization techniques both on and off website, a digital marketing agency should drive incremental direct bookings for your hotel.
How can a digital marketing agency help my hotel?
Digital marketing agencies that specialize in hotels understand the great benefits of channel distribution, namely the diversification of budget and brand control that such a strategy gives. However, their goal is always direct bookings and limiting the number of large commissions being paid from clients to the OTAs. 

What are the most important things to look for when selecting a new digital marketing agency for your hotels?
  1. Relationship: A digital marketing agency that can act as an extension of your in-house team (both in level of knowledge, and responsiveness).
  2. Practicing Knowledge: A team that won’t just take orders. Properties need an agency team that can play devil’s advocate, provide alternative solutions, and act as a sounding board. They must be knowledgeable not only in the digital space, but hospitality and travel space as well.
  3. Forward Thinking: If your goal is to continue seeing ROI and your agency hasn’t brought any new ideas to the table in the last quarter - you need to be looking elsewhere.
  4. Status Within The Agency’s Portfolio: Will you be a top priority for your agency, or will be just another number? Not all properties need the full-service treatment, but if you do - make sure they have the account management resources to truly deliver. 
  5. Proprietary Technology: Has the agency created their own proprietary technology? If so, could it be a solution to a current issue or problem you are experiencing? Does it add value to the user experience for your audience? Will it assist in driving direct bookings? Make sure your tech investments match your long-term needs and that your agency truly created their tech based off industry or client specific needs.

What is the typical pricing when engaging a digital marketing agency for hotels?
Generally speaking, hotels should expect to pay between $4,000 - $18,000 for a new website that usually should be revamped every 18-24 months.  Hotels should also expect to pay a retainer in the range of $1,000 - $10,000 per month for services such as SEO, SEM (paid advertising) and social media.  These ranges are so wide because each scope put together for a property will be fully customized to their specific needs, and pricing models are able to adapt depending on those needs. Agencies usually discuss and discover the needs a property has then develop a custom proposal based on those objectives.  Connect directly with agencies on Hotel Tech Report to get fully customized price quotes for your property.

Even below this range, there are digital marketing companies that will charge a few hundred dollars a month, and they’ll “set and forget” activity. Properties will see a return, but ROI will unlikely increase. This level of engagement is fine for hotels that don’t concentrate much on leisure room night business or hotels that have corporate marketing teams handling most of their digital marketing efforts.

How long does it usually take to bring on a new hotel digital marketing agency?
For a property looking to utilize a robust suite of services and technology - four weeks is a reasonable expectation. This gives time for proper discovery and for all campaigns to launch in the strongest manner possible. For those with lesser scopes, we can typically launch inside a few weeks. 

How do I know when it’s time for my hotel to move onto a new digital agency?
Independent hotels represent nearly 30% of the U.S. hotel room inventory and more than 85% of global hotel rooms. The segment has many unique challenges and opportunities. Failed engagements don’t drive improved KPIs and often neglect to deliver top notch customer support.  Agencies should be true partners offering coaching and learning for your marketing team - if you aren’t becoming a better marketer by working with your current agency - it may be time to consider what another agency can offer.

What are the top rated digital marketing agencies for hotels?

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