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There is quite a bit of digital information being shared and posted daily (90% of data on the internet has been created in the last 2 years, and billions of messages and texts are posted every day). With all this information, it may seem overwhelming to apply that data to something like personalized guest engagement. The digital environment provides leverage to make this engagement unique and customized. And looking at this process in stages can help guide the engagement and provide the best guest experience.First, understand the guests’ expectation with digital engagement: The first consideration needs to be around what expectations the guest has on digital engagement. This includes privacy and data collection. Many guests understand that shared data can be used for marketing and engagement. However, there needs to be discretion in how the data is applied, and selectivity in what data points are used for a personal touch to guest engagement.Next, let the digital data guide the best experience for your guest: Let the data provide you with the engagement road map that not only customizes the experience, but shows trends and common interests among your guests. Your guest experience can not only be personalized but also help guests meet others who have similar interests.Finally, think outside the digital box when personalizing guest engagement: Whether using prior stay data to offer certain services, have specific items ready in the guest’s room upon arrival that are normally requested, or providing a customized list of restaurants or activities in the area for the guest, the guest engagement can be personalized to be memorable and thoughtful. With so much digital information readily available, there are endless possibilities that can be created and applied to your guest list.Not sure where to begin? Start with a subset of your current guest list and try different approaches based on the data you already have collected with bookings and hotel requests. It only takes one great guest experience to keep the momentum going.
The speed of evolution in technology has fuelled the creation of hundreds of web agencies in the world. Try googling hotel marketing agency and you get thousand of results, very similar one to the other: All in one, Low commission, Best Conversion, Your marketing partner, High ROI, you name it. Under these conditions it’s easy to get lost and give trust to the wrong agency. I have gathered eight tips that hoteliers can use to choose the right hotel marketing agency.THE EVOLUTION OF ONLINE MARKETING FOR HOTELS We consider modem internet connections and static page websites as ancient, but let’s look at the calendar: this happened only a few years ago! Can you imagine your life without Google, WikiPedia, or Facebook? You don’t, do you? But just a decade passed since their birth. Can you imagine a world without any online hotel reviews? or comparison site to check prices? Yet a few years ago that was the case. The idea of time and evolution has changed with the advent of the internet. Things that used to change over a generation now change over a decade. And in a single decade technology can come and go only to be entirely replaced by something new. So, if you think your hotel’s website does not need updating because it has been renewed recently, you’re probably misunderstanding this different concept of time. This short 8 points-guide is intended to help you choose the partner that suits you the most:1. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY CREATES THE WEBSITE AROUND THE HOTEL Hotels have their own needs, so their websites must be created according to different rules and specifications. The competition of booking platforms (OTA, Tour Operators, metasearch) is a unique to the hotel business and it makes the planning of the hotel website possible long before the design is started. Creating a website for a hotel without fully understanding their needs, their strengths and weaknesses is like selling expensive shoes without asking the customer for the size that he fits; they will do a good impression in the shoe rack, but you won’t be able to wear them and walk.2. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY ASKS YOU FOR WHAT YOU WANT TO SOLVE, NOT HOW TO SOLVE IT. Every hotel has something that does not work properly or that could be improved: it could be the global turnover, or the high amount of OTA monthly commissions, or the lack of a specific type of market, etc. Who knows more about these needs than you? What a good agency needs is data, problems, situations etc, then it will make its own strategy based on your needs. You don’t need to tell them what to do or how to do it. They will set-up a whole strategy based on your needs and followed up by professionals. If you find yourself telling your agency what to do, it’s a strong sign that you should be changing agency3. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY GETS TO KNOW THE PRODUCT Every marketing strategy is created around a product or a service. If your agency doesn’t know the product like the back of their hands how can they even imagine to market it? A good marketing agency builds your strategy with highly trained hotel specialist. They will literally knock at your door to make a audit of the hotel, finding the good and the bad of your product and determine your USP and your Positioning Statement.4. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY IS INTERESTED In the process of working with your new agency you should be getting tons of questions such as: What’s your ADR?, Occupancy rate?, Booking window?, Most booked rate?, Unique visitors on the site?, Conversion rate? , Could you give access to your Analytics stats?, Exit pages? etc. All this info is necessary to setup your strategy, so even if it would be great to sign a contract and forget about it until the site goes online, that’s not going to happen, because your future can’t be improved if you don’t study your past.5. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY CONSIDER WEBSITES AS A PIECE OF THE STRATEGY, NOT THE STRATEGY ITSELF Remember that the website must be seen only as a part of a complete strategy. Very important, yes, but what is a site without a fast and fully integrable CRS? Or what if your beautiful expensive new website is put on a slow server? And, most important, what if your brand new site brings you less reservation than the old one? Imagine your new strategy as a car: the website is the body but in order to drive it’s not enough, you will need wheels (SEO), fuel (SEA), engine (strategy), etc. A site alone never made the trick, why should you be the exception? It is quite common for hotels and chains to get a full redesign of their website by agencies that don’t know the hotel market and see the sales decrease. Not so with a good agency, the sales should increase immediately if they know what they are doing.6. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY CALLS YOU BEFORE YOU CALL THEM Ok, now you have the new site on-line. It’s beautiful and exactly as you dreamed it. However the sales haven’t improved much or at all. Well, maybe the strategy is not good and has to be reworked. Remember that a good marketing agency knows if something is not working properly before you do. Professionals check and study visits, conversions and trends on a daily basis so they fix the bugs before they affect your revenue and can react fast and try something else.7. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY WILL TRACK EVERY ACTIVITY AND GIVE YOU REAL TIME ACCESS Do you know wich the top-5 keywords that brings you reservations are? Any idea of your exit pages on your site? Your bounce rate? Unique visitors? Conversion rates? The most clicked typo errors of your hotel name on Google? Do you know what are the important stats to look at and which ones are not? How does one synthesize the huge amount of data one can collect and make it into key information that will solve problems? A good marketing agency can. And with their help so can you. All you need is a laptop and a internet connection. Trust the agencies that gives you professional stats software where you can see with your own eyes all these data in real time. Every cent you spend must be tracked and analyzed, you have to verify your R.O.I. for every campaign.8. A GOOD MARKETING AGENCY IS NEVER CHEAP Remember that a good marketing agency wants to keep you as a client forever, not just sell you the most it can and leave. That’s why everyone in the (good) agency will work hard to bring you the best results, contacting you on a weekly or monthly basis, giving you advices, coming to your hotel, study your stats, etc. As you can imagine there’s a lot of work behind a real “all inclusive” project, that means hours of professionals working for you, not just a bunch of guys creating websites with templates. That brings us to the 8th and last tip: a good marketing agency is never cheap. But what is cheap in marketing? Cheap is inefficient – it’s something that cost little money but produces little effect. If you agency costs you 20X more than the previous one, but produces 400X more results then it’s actually cheaper when you’re looking at your bottom line. So, when it comes to choosing your marketing agency there are only 2 questions to ask yourself: “How much does it cost?” and ”How much can they increase my revenue?” If you ask yourself the second question congratulations! You’re looking for a good marketing agency.CONCLUSIONS Find a good agency and measure the results. Ensure you have an exit clause in case there are no results (providing you have respected your part of the deal and listened to their advice) and go for it. We believe that hotels and marketing agencies can form incredible partnerships because marketing a hotel isn’t just making a site, or some advertising. It’s working with the hotel to improve the product so guests are happy and share their experience. The longer the relationship the better it is for both parties.
[PODCAST] Cendyn Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Tim Sullivan Talks Artificial Intelligence, Hotel Technology’s Place in Web 1.0 and Why Everyone is Wrong About the OTAs
As the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Cendyn, Tim Sullivan oversees global sales, business development, marketing, and client success. Previously President of Cendyn/ONE, where he brought an integrated hotel CRM and digital marketing platform to market, he is now responsible for Cendyn’s global expansion and strategy for the Cendyn Hospitality Cloud. During his eight years with the company, Tim played a key role in helping transform Cendyn into a cloud-based software and services company that is revolutionizing the hospitality industry. Throughout 2017, Tim helped bring in a vast number of integrations and partners, establishing the Cendyn Hospitality Cloud as the most integrated and connected in the industry.
How hotel and travel companies can experience ROI uplift of 20% to 40% with micro-marketing practicesIt's no secret ” the process of building out your 2018 business plan and marketing strategy can, more often than not, feel like gambling. Are you going to wager all your chips (marketing dollars) on black or red, odd or even? Should you make a high bet, or an inside bet? What happens if your bet is a bust? Did you just gamble away the potential success of your business or product?What if we told you that you could minimize that perceived risk, while maximizing results?Typically, the missteps experienced in marketing strategies (especially those specific to content marketing) stem from the misunderstanding of preferred content streams and social platforms popularly used by the target consumer, their core values and their subsequent buying behaviors and motivation(s). The problem here is, if a critical misunderstanding exists, but a company goes full steam ahead on that misinformed idea using the bulk of their marketing budget, recovery isn't always a walk in the park. And no one is exempt from this experience; even industry giants such as Pepsi and Dove (to use recent examples) have felt the effects of poorly developed or executed, high budget marketing campaigns that promptly imploded on a very public scale, leaving their PR teams scrambling to pick up the pieces and re-strategize.Large-scale marketing campaigns can also take a great deal of time to develop, approve and implement ” leaving companies at the mercy of a marketing landscape that is, more often than not, rapidly shifting to align with evolving consumers. Basically, if you take too long to come to the table, there might be nothing left waiting for you.This is where the concept of Agile marketing comes into play.The Agile marketing methodology revolves around the efficient implementation of mini, micro-campaigns (or critical segments of a larger campaign) that are released in waves using a highly collaborative approach from your entire team. This allows companies to effectively test and gauge consumer response in smaller doses, without utilizing all (or the majority of) their marketing resources in one shot. With an increase in speed, transparency and adaptability of company process, team members can focus effectively on minimal increments of each project until they become suitable for release or testing amongst consumers.After all, it's frequently said that, within the realm of digital marketing, you need to be able to 'fail fast'. If what you're doing isn't working, you want to know now, not later. The Agile approach capitalizes on this understanding, and ensures you are never putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Instead, you're setting yourself up to fail (and more importantly, learn) fast and adapt quicker than your competition, because you can discover an adjustment that needs to be made after a well implemented mini-campaign or test, almost immediately.Basically, to be agile within the marketing sphere, your business has to continuously leverage data and analytics to identify opportunities, roll-out mini campaigns and adjust existing campaigns or solve problems in real time. The entire approach is based on the traditional rugby 'scrum', where the ball is constantly being moved back into play while two teams are huddled together, pushing and crowding around the ball. In order to score, the ball has to be continuously passed backwards. Applying this format to Agile marketing, to be truly 'agile', a team has to be extremely collaborative at all times, with everyone playing their part in moving the ball (a strategy or campaign) forward to score (positive consumer response). A successful Agile marketing campaign requires everyone on the team to work towards a common goal, understanding that the process is, at it's core, entirely iterative and subject to continuous evolution. When a company is truly agile, they should be able to run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously, while constantly producing new ideas each week.The results speak for themselves. According to Mckinse y, "Even the most digitally savvy marketing organizations, where one typically sees limited room for improvement, have experienced revenue uplift of 20 to 40%. Agile also increases speed: marketing organizations that formerly took multiple weeks or even months to get a good idea translated into an offer fielded to customers find that after they adopt agile marketing practices, they can do it in less than two weeks."So, what does an Agile strategy actually look like? As a great case study example, the Extended Campuses of Northern Arizona University had always used a traditional marketing model, which consisted of annual budgets which fueled 50 or so marketing initiatives throughout the year. As the University become more aware of the rapid pace of the digital marketing realm, they realized they needed to change their process to adapt, remain efficient and relevant.That's when they discovered Agile marketing. Instead of relying on annual plans, they switched to shorter-term bursts of collective focus (one or two months ahead, versus an entire year). This shift in their marketing approach allowed them to be more responsive to their client needs, and move quickly to adopt necessary changes.Instead of assigning a project to a single individual, who then had to push the work through freelance graphic designers and wait through various approval/editing phases, they broke down big projects into smaller, prioritized segments. Within Agile marketing, this breakdown is called a "sprint". The segments were then assigned to individuals (chosen based on skills and availability) within the department, who were able to complete their contributions (creating the collective whole) with ease within two weeks. This not only minimized the time required to complete each project, but the University was able to reduce the amount of outsourced work, which helped to reduce costs.According to the reports, the University has been able to hire more full-time writers and part-time designers, and in 2013 the marketing department created more than 200 collateral pieces” four times what it produced the previous year. The marketing team limits itself to one hour of meetings a week, with twice-weekly 15-minute "scrum" meetings which help team members to remain accountable and share information without wasting time. Their productivity is up 400%, and sprint tasks have a nearly 95% completion rate.Ask yourself, is your business in need of Agile marketing makeover?
Many hoteliers and resort managers over-complicate the search for a new PR agency just as too many become confused when they ponder the question, is our current agency the right one.Really, it comes down to how well any agency answers just five questions. That's right: five.Of course it's useful to hear about past case histories - for instances where an agency mounted an initiative for a similar client - and I'm not diminishing their relevance. There's a lot more an agency can share that might be helpful in choosing which is the best fit.But what the choice comes down to is the quality of the answers to just five direct questions.How easy is that? Any incumbent agency ought to be able to ace this test even if it's a pop quiz. An agency bidding the business ought to be able to do very, very well, too. That's because the questions drill down into exactly what this property is and what its aspirations are - and any agency that doesn't grasp those points is the wrong agency.What are these magic questions?What is our business objective? Is it to be the best hotel on Central Park South? The most profitable? The must-stay hip place? Exactly what is the business goal of management - and the only way to know it is to research what management has said about the property. Every hotel has an objective - every single one. Sometimes it's simple: to meet the owner's profit expectation of 11%. Sometimes it's more textured - to be the in place for millennials in Brooklyn. What matters is knowing the objective because no PR campaign can stay on target if it doesn't know the target. What does TripAdvisor say about us? It is shocking how often agencies, including incumbents, are blissfully unaware of a property's stature on TripAdvisor, even when every influencer on the planet looks to TripAdvisor to figure out what could be credibly said about a property. No one wants to rave about a hotel that is rated 165th in Phoenix. Nobody. Go ahead, ask your agency in a phone call: what does TripAdvisor say about us? And if you hear the frantic typing of keys you know they are calling up Google because they are clueless.What is our competitive set? Demand specifics. "High end spas" is not good enough. You want names and you also want details. Sometimes it's a competitor for meetings - but not spa. Sometimes it's for weddings but not fitness retreats. Keep asking questions. Adequate representation of a property requires a keen understanding of the competitive environment it faces. Knowing competitors, by the way, really helps an agency in knowing what company a resort wants to keep - and what it might be indifferent to. By the way, in most cases, the only way to really know a comp set is to have asked the DoSM and/or GM. That's because properties often are idiosyncratic in their comp set beliefs and the path to knowledge is to have asked. So cut slack for an agency that is bidding for the business - its ideas of comp set may be enlightening but might not align with management's. An incumbent agency ought to know exactly who the management sees as competitors.What are our primary markets? It's very hard to sell Hawaii to the East Coast. It's close to impossible to sell the Caribbean to the West Coast. A savvy agency knows the markets that really matter to a property because knowing that is crucial in targeting appropriate media and influencers. Don't settle for cliche answers. Everybody is going after upscale Chinese business so when an agency says China ask them to try again. What matters here is seeing if the agency has the right targets in sight.Where is our great opportunity - geographically? Again, eliminate China as an answer. It's just about everybody's greatest opportunity. What you want to hear are ideas that will help the agency make a difference in how it spreads the word about the property. A good answer, by the way, will factor in knowledge about air lift and also local economies and interests. Here there may be no exactly right answer. What you are looking for is insight into how the agency thinks. Bonus round. If it's an in-person meeting with an agency's team, my advice is to single out what looks to be the youngest person and directly ask them, what are our business objectives? In a savvy, well-managed agency, everybody on a team - certainly anybody important enough to bring to a client confab - ought to know the basics. And do watch the faces of the senior team members as the junior tries to answer. What are you seeing about intra-agency interactions?Asking the five questions can easily be done in a half hour.And in that half hour you will gain crucial insight into exactly how much the agency knows about you and your journey - and if they don't know where you want to go, how can they possibly be a guide?
Over the last 17 years the international hospitality industry has assimilated and integrated itself to form part of the what we know as the digital revolution. A constantly changing landscape of creative engagement, seamless integration of highly dynamic customer journeys that have transformed the way we communicate and transact online as hoteliers.The first dimension is digital marketing, understanding the use of the internet to sell products and services to consumers. This dimension is in constant transmutation and has lead to the development of duopolistic OTA's with major market share dominance but without major foreseeable feasible alternative of direct booking options for hoteliers. From another perspective, digital marketing has positively impacted web growth and businesses through social media and mass collaboration. The different generations and their interaction with digital marketing technology has lead to an exponential accelerated growth of digital marketing tools. This has left hoteliers and consumers with an infinite array of choices in different digital marketing services and tools while hampering the decision making process when acquiring and using these new technologies.The second dimension is a mass collaboration related to the collaborative economy. The impact of the web has created an infinite amount of data, data that needs to be structured and shared. In other terms data that has been treated in a collective form through co-operation of people and businesses. This has lead to social software, wiki technologies, peer to peer online booking and payment platforms. Some of the most significant transformative companies in the hospitality industry have been Airbnb, Uber and bitcoin technology with positive and negative impact. A number of crowd funding and crowd sourcing initiatives have been gaining momentum and will have greater level of importance for the hospitality industry in the years to come.The third digital dimension is big data, until now hoteliers have organically contributed to the digital revolution which is closely associated to the information age. In this new era, data is key and has become the main focus point on how businesses operate and are structured. The hotel industry has proven that current revenue managers are becoming obsolete specialists , data scientists are the new upper coming specialists for the hotel industry. Data scientists can be considered as the revenue managers of the future, they help understand how to use customer data to customize an experience from this, therefore directly influencing and optimizing revenue flows and revenue patterns. Treating and organizing this overwhelming flow of data is a monumental task that requires a high level specialization knowledge and most advanced technology to have in place. Following the organic evolution of data technology we can consider that block chain technology may disrupt travel distribution, payment gateways and customer loyalty programs in the very near future. Helping hoteliers and customers to reduce their "infobesity", optimize their revenues and reduce the negative repercussions this may have on their decision making process.
When peak season hits, the pressure heats up for hotels to fill rooms to capacity. More than any other time of the year, guests are actively searching for properties, so how can a hotel maximize this golden opportunity? For marketers, the key to winning seasonal business is a digital strategy centered around location, context and relationships.Strike while the iron is hot Invest! Now is the time to use your marketing budget funds. There's more opportunity going into the market, so don't hold back on digital advertising. While there is no perfect budget allocation ratio for season vs. shoulder, it's important to take this time to analyze your strategy on a case by case basis, market to market; however, the bottom line is - invest.Partner with the CVB The Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is your best friend during peak season. Engage in a partnership, get their media calendar, learn where the CVB is spending advertising money and piggy-back off their efforts in the same spots. The synergy is unbeatable. It's also beneficial to know the heads of marketing at your local CVB, so participate in CVB events and network.Identify new flight routes During peak season, new direct flights pop up to handle demand, which means more potential guests for your hotel. Identify those new routes and place ad buys around them. Geotarget paid search, display, video and social ads to these seasonal markets, they could be in your competition's blind spot.Invest in a "hotels near me" search campaign Seek out travelers who haven't booked a hotel yet, and show them your hotel is nearby and ready to accommodate. With the added tourism in the market, both drive-in and fly-in, consumers will be searching for different businesses in the area. Serve up location-specific PPC campaigns and optimize your ads for "near me" searches.Maximize impression share Get in front of every traveler looking for you. That means increasing your search ad spend on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Make sure brand campaigns are at least 95% impression share”this will prevent competitors from stealing your customers. Check your remarketing campaigns: are they remarketing to your entire cookie pool? Remarket to potential guests with creative content that reflects what they were engaging with on your website. If a visitor spent a lot of time on your golf page, serve them a golf-centered ad. Mirror your approach to their behavioral and intent “ they're already interested in specific aspects of your hotel, and your digital marketing efforts should take advantage of that.Contextual keyword campaigns Contextual programmatic advertising allows you to target and advertise to consumers based on the content they are searching for or reading online. Imagine someone is reading "Top 10 Things to Do in Denver," on USA Today.com, searching for Denver flights or reading about an upcoming music festival in Denver. Those searches represent potential hotel guests. Tap into contextual programmatic advertising to reach these travelers and deliver the right message at the right time “when they're actively thinking about that trip.Events & activity content During peak season, there's an abundance of festivals, concerts and events in your area. For example, Chicago is known for its block parties during the summer. Showcase that your hotel can elevate the event experience and you're more likely to fill rooms. Create a special weekend package with a free ticket to the festival. Buy digital advertising space utilizing event keywords and interests. Market your strengths related to the event. If you're close to the concert, promote your location in your advertising. If your hotel is miles away from the event? Mitigate it. Advertise that your hotel offers a shuttle with drop off at the festival gate every hour, or market your hotel as a great place to escape the noise and traffic after the show.In closing, make the most of the peak season “ it's your hotel's best time to shine, so use those marketing dollars and be smart about digital advertising. With a proactive approach, you'll be filling rooms in no time.
2016 was always set to be a year of shiny-new toys to play with from a hospitality marketing perspective. From video conferencing to remote training opportunities to the most simplified centralized management systems to date, the IT takeover really has taken over the sector. But what's at the forefront of the minds of most industry leaders right now is exactly how to capitalize on cutting edge technology, in order to further sales and marketing efforts.The answer? Well, those with the biggest budgets are already exploring the following, but sooner or later we'll be looking at a picture where these emerging 2016 marketing trends are nothing less than the new industry standard:Virtual Reality If you thought VR would turn out to be a short-lived fad, think again. Likewise, if you thought it had no relevance in the hospitality space, you couldn't be further from the mark. The VR arena is only just getting off the ground, with devices like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung VR proudly leading the charge. Soon enough though, we'll be looking at a consumer phenomenon that actually gives people the opportunity to visit and tour your whole hotel in full VR, before making a booking. And while it might be a while before this happens, those getting in at ground level will have a huge advantage.Video Marketing Hardly a new concept for the hospitality industry, but video marketing is nonetheless set to continue exploding in power and prowess going forward. As the influence and value of TV, print and other marketing platforms waver, the online video is becoming a powerhouse like nothing else. Strategic use of video on a business website translates to lower bounce rates, longer visit times, improved engagement and considerable better conversion rates. And that's all at the same time as painting the prettiest picture possible of your business/establishment. Web video marketing is and will continue to be a real game-changer.Social Marketing Consumer studies have shown time and time again that the thoughts, opinions and pointers of both fellow consumers and influential figures mean more to them than all the marketing spiel in the world. Just five words and a solid star-rating from a person they don't know from Adam could do you brand's reputation more good than all the self-promotion in the world. The web has transformed the way the consumer public decides what it will buy, where it will buy it and how much it will buy. Content, community, commerce “ the 3Cs strategy (again, one Marriott swears by) “ focuses on social influence first, traditional marketing second.Social Media Advertising Similar to video, social media marketing is an established, explored and exceptionally powerful concept that's only just beginning to hit its stride. What's really significant about social media advertising from a 2016 perspective is its incredible potential for targeted, localised marketing. If you were considering a deal targeting mid-30s females within a 30-mile radius of any given hotel branch for example, social media offers unrivalled scope for doing exactly that.Wearable Technology While it's true to say that the wearable technology market has gotten off to a slow (understatement) start, it will eventually take over. It's just that the devices on the market right now like the Apple Watch and so many imitators haven't quite nailed the magic formula. But they will. And when they do, this will represent a spectacularly powerful new marketing platform for the hospitality sector. Take the Disney MagicBand, which guests can use in place of papers tickets, as a key to gain access to their hotel rooms and basically to plan their Disney World holidays from start to finish. We've really only just begun scratching the surface with wearable technology, but one way or another, it is the future.Deeper Analytics Last but not least, the results of a recent CMO survey suggest that the hospitality will up its collective marketing analytics spending by an eye-watering 60% this year. Which isn't entirely surprising, given the way in which there's a ridiculous amount of consumer data ready and waiting to be tapped into, which can effectively allow for the creation of fool-proof blueprints for stellar performance. From website and social media engagement to demographic behaviour to competitor performance, the more than happens online, the more we know about every customer we target.And right now, pretty much everything happens online!
Internet makes our life more practical, bringing oodles of benefits like all-over-the-world communication and information seeking. Have you realized how fast a phone call is, when it reaches another talker on the other side of the world? Not to forget face-to-face meetings via web camera. Technologies are on a such tremendous level that you can get education even without leaving your house.As it turned out, the world wide web is also profitable for business. Pretty profitable. No matter what kind of business you are about to set up, its online version start up is your another priority. Otherwise, you won't survive and your rivals will eat you alive. Why? Because they have a website and you don't!A website is a keystone that will help you to earn more, lure a bunch of new customers and multiply your hotel business popularity. When building your own hotel empire, bear in mind that your business must be online.Taking into account that a hotel website, like any other, has its peculiarities, related to target audience and industry character. The right way of website building and implementation will allow your online hotel business gain true success. Read what steps you should make to guarantee yourself the solid position on the hotel service market.Design & Image Content Does your hotel have original branding? If so, your hotel website design is 50% ready. Come up with the web appearance, implementing the color palette that you used previously for your brand. The same look will tie your hotel and its website in a customer's mind. The combination of original design and familiar logo will do the stuff. As a result, a website visitor will know that he or she came to the right place.Images is the best solution to demonstrate all the advantages of your hotel. What could be better of showing where and how a customer will stay to rest? Aside of the photos exhibition a website gives you also an opportunity to engage clients beforehand due to video content. Make videos that highlight your hotel. Reveal its bright sides. If you have Youtube or Vimeo accounts, don't miss the chance for their promotion.User-Friendly Navigation What is the major goal in providing a comfortable stay for each hotel visitor? Making a customer feel oneself home, as soon as he or she crosses the threshold of your inn, agree? The same thing is with your hotel website.Remember that a user-friendly navigation rocks! Take care of users by giving them the information they are looking for. Structure the content. Create clean and easy-to-find links that will guide visitors through each website page. Don't oblige customers to register. Make the website registration optional. Ease the booking process by minimizing the number of clicks. Put hotel contacts in the foreground. Add breadcrumb trails.Multi-lingual Functionality If you dream of a profitable and popular hotel, you should think more globally. A potential hotel visitor is a traveller, probably coming from another country. So a multilingual website is a "must-have" component to widen your inn network. Increase the odds to invite foreign customers, making translations of the website content on most-used world languages.But website content lingual adaptation is still not enough. Don't forget about the mentality of various countries. Each has its own market distinctiveness. First, learn culture peculiarities and customers' behavior and only then lay your cards on the table.Search Engine Optimization There are two ways to find your hotel site on the web. The first one is going through a direct link. The second one - using search engines.Search engine optimization (SEO) is the package of measures, presupposing your site rankings raising. In simple phrase, if you would like to see your site in the top of search result lists, the optimization is required. Profitable business can't exist without one. The higher rankings your website has, the more traffic it gets. To achieve this you should: think of keywords that must be literally what your potential client types in a search engine bar, in order to stumble upon your website; create original text, titles and descriptions to signify website content uniqueness; set correct URLs to reflect their destination; mould link network to gain more search engines' trust. Social Media Social Media is the very special segment of the world wide web. This is not just a revolutionary communication means, but a social phenomenon, affected millions of lives in different ways all around the world.Such a conception changed also online business practices. New market area has emerged. And you should not miss this chance to grab your own piece of this cake. Social Media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and others provide a great many of various tools that will deal with your hotel website promotion.The finest advice is... Be active around the web! Do action. Represent your hotel network by creating communities, making photos, filming videos, putting ads and banners, drawing prizes, offering specials and other stuff to promote the website of your hotel. Leave as more trails as possible, in order to become more noticeable for search engines.Mobile Friendliness A website is literally useless today without a well-made mobile version. Today mobile devices have enough power to be regarded as a competitor of PC. The lion's share of your future website visitors will definitely be smartphone or tablet owners. Using a mobile device is much handier, planning a trip or vacation, agree? Don't underestimate this fact and make your hotel site responsive.Responsive design is the revolutionary approach in web design, allowing the website layouts' adjustment to any mobile device screen resolution without website content loss. With responsiveness you get a website mobile version that is equal to its desktop counterpart.Another significant aspect that really matters for mobile version is website loading speed. Don't make your clients waiting, because the respond may be likely negative. Even a few seconds of delay may force a customer to leave your website and never come back.So how to achieve a fast working website? Simply don't overload it. Create clean minimalistic design with minimum of large images and videos, but maximum attention to the booking process.Conclusion Modern lifestyle encouraged business to explore the web and reap the fruits of it. It goes without saying that a hotel without a website won't gain an altitude of ace-high business level. An effective strategy in combination with sound method is the working formula for your hotel website. For more detailed information, you may read this eBook about hotel website creation, where you will find useful tips, including 7 mistakes during the development of a hotel website.
Before we talk about digital marketing we need to realize that digital marketing is just marketing. So let’s start with marketing 101 inspired by a lesson from my favorite marketing professor (Kent Grayson) at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Today we’re going to focus on the leisure business. There are really only three things that can occur to improve leisure fundamentals at your hotel: (1) market growth (2) volume growth (3) market share stealing. Market growth can often be based on macro tailwinds like low supply growth and strong demand. Market growth can be catalyzed by one-off events like a sports team moving into your city or a wave of international inbound. Market growth can also come from innovative new products like Dayuse which allows you to rent previously vacant rooms during the day. “So the first step to tackling your 2017 budget is to capitalize on demand trends in your city then learn about innovative new technologies in the market. These will always be the most profitable sources of growth for your business.” Volume growth comes from increased spend with your existing customer base. Marketers have two critical ways to create value here: (1) retention marketing (2) ancillary up-selling (through services like Nor1 or Oaky). Retention marketing is all about bringing back previous customers. This is exponentially harder for independent hotels (or even brands) than it is for 90% of other product categories due to the geographic constraint as well as total expense (i.e. transportation, food, activities, lodging), consumption time (i.e. length of stay) and opportunity cost (i.e. taking vacation days). The lowest hanging fruit in hospitality is loyalty but while it's proven to be extremely effective when executed properly with a differentiated strategy, marketers have to realize that most loyalty is just bribery. Incentives are powerful but in the end the majority of loyalty programs just say, “please stay with me 9 nights and the 10th is free.” If we have $100 ADR and 70% gross margin we would have made $700 profit on this customer. Now we’re only making $630 (minus CPOR) so we need to make sure that $70+ was well spent. The way we do that in theory is by looking at the likelihood of a return visit prior to the “gift” let’s say 5% and then the likelihood after, let’s say 10%. So assuming that the next visit will be 3 days at $100 we’ve just increased our expected profit by $210 (or 3 x $70 gross/day) x 5% lift = $10.50. This is a single year calculation so we need to do this over the expected lifetime of a customer and run a present value calculation. “Loyalty economics are easier calculated for brands with a sample of millions but we can see how sketchy loyalty calculations can be for independents and smaller chains.” As far back as 2012, a McKinsey study showed evidence that companies who spend more on loyalty perform slightly worse than those that don’t (more recent practical experiments have been executed as noted by revenue management visionaries at Duetto). For that reason we have to make sure that $70 couldn’t have been better spent somewhere further down our P&L (e.g. guest experience, social media sweepstakes, etc.). I recommend a heavy focus on email marketing and CRM. Quality > quantity. Email lists are customers that you already know have awareness of your property so they convert at a much higher rate and are less expensive to educate (unless their first stay was below expectations). Best yet, emails are extremely cheap so they have incredible ROI metrics. The one trade-off here is intent - since your previous guests don’t necessarily have the intent to travel to your destination at the time of your email. Remember that sending promotional emails at the wrong time can lead to the dreaded “unsubscribe” because 87% of emails in user inboxes are promotional by nature. So if each guest in your mailing list has an LTV of $50 and you send a marketing email to 10,000 guests with a 5% unsubscribe rate you’ve just potentially lost ~$25,000 in theoretical value. Email click thrus (CTR) in the hotel industry average around 6.46% with a wide variance. That means only 6 out of 100 people who you send emails to will head to your website. When we look at actual conversions that number is closer to 2 in 1,000 guests. Start by building a healthy email database. This means centrally consolidating reservations data and capturing OTA guest emails. Companies like HelloScout can help you do that while improving the guest experience. Once you have that database built up you need to focus on conversion rates. Unfortunately, many hotel providers in the email space are based on legacy infrastructure and don’t have the sophistication or UX of mainstream CRM (e.g. MailChimp) so setting up with the right player is absolutely critical. Once you have the email infrastructure in place you’ll feel the writers’ block come on. “What do my guests want to see? What offers would they like?” “Experience based email offers convert at a rate 2x promotional emails. Telling New Yorkers to come for a surf lesson in Cocoa Beach, Florida while staying at your hotel on a cold winter day is much more powerful than trying to bring them back with a free room upgrade for a trip they probably weren't even planning in the first place.” Products like CityKey can help you create better content for email marketing and retargeting campaigns by building experiential packages with local businesses. They’ll onboard partners for you and set you up with digital fulfillment so that you can focus on driving demand with operational ease. Stealing share is the trickiest of the three but it can be a whole lot of fun when you get it right. Even when we are trying to steal from our competition, we need to start by understanding our customers. The typical guest starts research on OTAs (Expedia/Booking.com) or meta (Kayak, Trivago) then moves to hotel websites for more information. About 82% of guests have been to your hotel website prior to booking yet 57% of online bookings still come from OTAs. I actually don’t believe that there’s a “war” between OTAs and hotels. Yes OTA commissions are insanely costly but they’re handing us business by advertising our hotels and are incredibly effective at what they do (merchandising and price transparency). For that reason we want to make sure that we’re budgeting appropriately to advertise on OTAs and metas (I recommend ~2% of your digital spend). Better to advertise on an OTA than try to bid against them on Google which can get extremely costly since the 2 largest OTAs have larger marketing budgets than Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, IHG and Marriott combined (admittedly you'll have to do both though). Before thinking about paid search, social ads and Google Display Network we need to focus on our websites. Remember, we have 82% of guests come to our websites so we need to monetize them first! Hotels have incredibly low sales and marketing efficiency because many start at the top of the funnel before fixing the middle. Increasing marketing efficiency is by far the easiest way to steal share instead of throwing scarce budget dollars at the top of a broken funnel. Start by investing in a responsive website – I find it funny when people make this recommendation because it’s so obvious and easy (cheap too in any other industry) but here I am and many hotels still don’t have them. Also, make sure that your website is intuitive. Guess what? Target.com and Walmart.com have very similar shopping experiences. It’s important to infuse your brand but don’t get caught up in the “uniqueness” of your website - don't make your website so unique that guests can't figure out how to book or find local area info they came for in the first place. Be there and be useful. Focus on the things that are helpful to guests, drive purchase and are things they want to see but didn't find on an OTA/Meta. Location is the #1 driver of lodging decisions, so show guests what it’s like to experience your neighborhood. Building unique experiential packages can have the same effect. Make sure your website isn’t static or promotional. The “15% off” popup that’s irritating skeptical guests on your website is sending them right to your competitors. Stop with the gimmicks and shift your strategy to experiences.
This is the first part of a two-part series. Catch the next edition on our website. The latest buzzword comes to Marketing in full force. Artificial Intelligence or A.I. There's nearly a million items that come up when you search Artificial Intelligence Marketing. The idea of A.I. has been around for 40 years with numerous false starts. However, today's computing power and advances in natural language are enabling us to make A.I. a reality.In the words of author Malcolm Gladwell, A.I. is reaching a tipping point, "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." According to data from CB Insights, the number of companies and the amount of funding funneling into A.I.-based companies continues to rise. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a 54% growth in Marketing spend on AI software over the next four years, from $360 million in 2016 to more than $2 billion in 2020. Why? Efficiency and transparency are the promise of A.I. “ where a machine takes over a repetitive but vital task.What tasks? A.I. is being used by Marketing both behind the scenes and on center stage. A.I. and Machine Learning (ML) are already mainstays within the realm of customer experience. Chatbots are replacing face-to-face interactions in brick-and-mortar stores. Most of us are familiar with the data-fueled algorithms used by Amazon, Netflix and other to make personalized recommendations based on prior purchasing behavior. Behind the scenes, A.I. supports data analysis and automation. It won't be long before we can use A.I. and ML to support A/B testing experiments. A.I. can be applied to support media purchases, program analysis to enable faster course corrections, mix planning and predictive modeling.Before worrying about being replaced by a machine, it behooves us to realize that there are important and valuable uses for AI in Marketing that allows Marketers to be less stuck in the weeds and to play a more strategic role.How To Truly Utilize the Power of A.I. So far, Marketing organizations are experimenting with using A.I. on programmatic issues. The challenge today for most Marketing organizations isn't accessing data as much as it is interpreting and using it. It is a tragedy when Marketing doesn't use its data well, or worse, uses data incorrectly. The volume and constant flow of data is bringing many of us to our knees, actually increasing the analysis-paralysis syndrome. Gleaning information and identifying patterns is increasingly more challenging for the human brain. Before long we will reach the point when the value of the insights fails to increase in proportion to effort and investment.There is a true opportunity for Marketing to use A.I. to help identify patterns in data and guide better Marketing decisions and performance. A.I. and ML enables Marketing to uncover rich and new insights worthy of action “ accurately and quickly. It will still require us to take these insights and apply our experience and expertise to make wise and meaningful business decisions about customers, markets, and services/solutions. This is the real power of A.I. - supporting strategic direction.Three actions every Marketing organization can do to tap A.I.:Take an integrated approach. There is tremendous power in being able to quickly understand the relationship between all the channels, touch points, and content, and sequence them to create a whole that is greater than the individual parts. This is the domain of A.I. Inventory your repetitive tasks. The immediate value of A.I. is the ability to automate repetitive administrative tasks that sap Marketing's time and energy. Determine how much time each task takes. Decide if some of these tasks are candidates for A.I. Establish performance parameters. On the performance management front, machine learning can help quickly detect when performance is outside of acceptable parameters and help reduce the increasing Marketing Performance gap. Understanding and harnessing A.I. and ML isn't something Marketing is going to do overnight. To be effective, we need to do more than beat the drum. We need to get smart about A.I. and how to use it to drive better decisions. Watch for Are You Ready To Make The Shift to A.I.? on our MeasureUp blog.In the meantime, everyone in Marketing needs to understand the fundamentals of A.I. and how we can use it, for example to improve customer experience, Marketing processes, Marketing performance management, and Marketing data management. For me, that means turning to trusted resources to come up to speed. For example, I'm checking out the latest book by my friend and colleague, Jim Sterne's: Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications. Have some other resources and books to recommend? Hope you'll post and share them in the comments.
This week I was having a phone call with the leader of a travel business and she described to me how web-based lead forms were a significant originating source (50%+) of all the leads they generated off the web, but how today's prospects just were not filling out the forms anymore. Form abandonment is at an all-time high in her business and she said they're anxious to develop new methods to collect the lead. What I've been hearing constantly now is: the customer lead gen form is on life support.So, is it time the lead form to go away? Well, not so fast. The lead form is still one of the most practical places to help a traveler, visitor, prospect or customer who has developed purchase interest or intent to state their purchasing desire to your organization. Before pulling the plug on the lead form, we have to acknowledge that there is a dearth of replacement mechanisms. If you pull out X and X is critical to your business model you better have Y to replace it, right? Well get back to that Y in a second.The reality is that travelers don't like lead forms, and here's why:Lead forms are impersonal Lead forms don't address a traveler's sense of immediacy or urgency Lead forms ask the traveler for something BEFORE offering something Lead forms don't generally explicitly state how disclosed information will be used Lead forms assume the traveler is ready and willing to part with their anonymity Lead forms are not evident to WHEN the traveler will get a thoughtful response Lead forms are not evident to HOW the traveler will hear back Lead forms are insulting to a traveler who has endless choice [insert your own reason here based on your personal experiences] Hospitality professionals don't necessarily like lead forms either, and here's why:Lead forms create latency between traveler desire and a hospitality response, and hospitality professionals know that reaction time is critical to customer experience success Lead forms DO NOT introduce personality and personal selling skills Lead forms generically qualify a traveler; all travelers are unique Lead forms give an otherwise interested traveler a reason to abandon O.k. So what is the Y? What can replace the web-based lead form, a data extraction tool used since the dawn of the Internet? The prospective replacements are few, but let's take a look at each:Commodity Chat Support: Tools like legacy live chat which are used by the call center to capture the lead and follow up with the traveler through another method such as phone or email. o Pro: Relatively quick o Con: Impersonal, unauthoritative, traveler may sit in queue, buyer can never find the same chat call center rep againImmediate Direct Engagement: Tools like Engage.co provide instant one-to-one interaction and relationship development between customer facing agent and buyer. See an example here used by Travel Leaders: http://tvlleaders.com o Pro: Personalized, trusted, immediate (really fast), relationship continuityo Con: Requires change and utilization by hospitality professionalsVirtual Agents: These can be pre-scripted and automated Q&A interactions with the traveler that allow natural language to help guide the traveler to an answer in a self-service fashion. o Pro: Relatively quick, doesn't require humans o Con: Impersonal, cannot cover 100% of questions, can frustrate/dead-end customerIn-Asset Collection: Tools like Docalytics.com can take the existing concept of form collection, and make it feel less threatening by tastefully asking the right lead extraction questions to the traveler at the right time, inside of assets like digital brochures and landing pages. o Pro: In-context data extraction is subtle (less pushy) o Con: Impersonal, requires thoughtful integration, less than immediate response timeClick-to-Email: Enables the traveler to email your organization directly. o Pro: Makes the inquiry/outreach quick o Con: Impersonal, typically generic (info@company), open-ended, less than immediate response timeClick-to-Call: Enables the traveler to connect to your organization via phone. o Pro: Relatively quick o Con: Typically unknowledgeable reps supporting calls, difficult phone tree system navigationFacebook (and other auth/sign-up tools): Tools like Facebook enable website publishers to empower travelers with a way to join the site with a single click. And, customers LOVE clicking things. The Facebook API provides an obvious replacement for lead forms and letting people fill out a form with a click ... your conversion will likely ascend back to where it used to be. o Pro: Relatively quick, convenient for visitor/customer o Con: Requires integration work What about a hybrid approach? Blending a combination of traditional lead forms, as well as these alternatives above may extend the life of your lead form practices without a complete overhaul or removal. On the page where you want to collect the lead, can you surface 2-3 of these tools? It's possible by giving the traveler a choice over the available methods to reach out you'll catch them through THEIR preferred method vs. trying to force them into YOUR preferred method.Summary Lead forms are no longer attractive to many types of travelers for a number of reasons. They also are not appealing to hospitality professionals who understand how relationship-driven this industry is. However, there is a short list of alternatives. Rather than killing off the lead form, or continuing to use the lead form ONLY (at your own peril), consider a blended model that empowers travelers with choice. This may offer the next step in the evolution of lead collection practices.
Social media for hotels, does it work? Does it convert? Is it a waste of time? Is there any ROI? Should one have a Facebook page? An Instagram one? As always, there are no totally right or wrong answers and one size does not fit all. First of all let’s start analyzing the three typical hotel approaches when it comes to social media, to further emphasize the lack of a unique and standardized methodology: 1. The Über-Social Hotels It’s the minority of hotels that makes of their social DNA their selling point: they train their staff, hire social media managers, allocate budget for social ads, work on niche social networks, etc. 2. The Let’s try it Hotel Hotels that approach social networks with fewer resources, limiting their actions to the most known players (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and working without a proper method and strategy. This group includes the majority of the hotels. 3. The I don’t care Hotel In this group are those hotels that have no interest in being present on social networks, relying mainly on established advertising channels. Which of the three is the right method? While I have personally sometimes discouraged hotels to go all-out on social media, I have also managed and led many very successful campaigns for some clients. ROI or ROE? The main problem with social media for hotels is understanding and measuring the results. As Douglas Quinby from PhoCusWright once said: ”hotels are reluctant to disclose the numbers associated with the conversions of the hotel on Facebook because the data is irrelevant.” Supporting this thesis is a recent study by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Lucerne, which states that social networks are “much less important than previously believed”. The study was conducted on 1,000 online bookers of three critical markets: UK, Germany and United States. For English and German travellers, a good website is (still) the decision-making element priority. Americans give the Palme d’Or to hotel reputation and notoriety of the brand and only a minority of (less than 20%) think that social networks are important. Friends, not clients So, are social networks completely useless for hotels? Of course not, but to understand if it is worth to use social marketing you have to understand what social networks are all about n the first place: sharing. And what users share? Stories. If the stay was pleasant guests will more likely write a review than share or interact with a hotel social page. They will post photos from the city, or funny things they saw or did during the trip, but rarely anything related to the hotel. Why? Because if the hotel does not offer a story to tell then that story, obviously, won’t be told. On the other hand, if a hotel has something special and unique or it offers a non standard hotel experience, that’s where social networks become useful. According to Jana Zvolánková, former IT marketing and social media manager for a famous hotel in Prague I used to work with “guests are like friends and you do not send advertising to your friends. They give us good ideas and we give them interesting facts and links in return. Facebook should not be the commercial backup of your official hotel website: it is a social media platform designed for friends to communicate with friends, so that is what you have to focus on. Once they actually arrive in the hotel, they have the feeling that they are already part of the family. The hotel is created with the uniqueness in mind and with the urge to be different then the rest of the pack. In this increasingly difficult hotel market, you need to find a way to stick your neck out. We opted to change the complete interaction with the guests and we strive hard to give the guests a completely different experience, that is great to share over social media. Combine this with the kind of guests that we attract with the concept of the hotel and you have a clear view of why social media works well here, with 6% of direct reservations coming from Facebook only.” IN CONCLUSION While many hoteliers and marketers still look at social media as an ROI tool, it should be looked at primarily as a communication platform to engage with guests and potential guests. Hotels that are built with social elements in their DNA may receive more reservations through social media but that is a positive side-effect that one should consider as a bonus and not the main goal. As to who should have a social media presence? most any hotel can and should but if they’re ready to manage it for real, that means answer questions, post regularly, make it interesting and not just an advertising outlet. If the hotel isn’t ready to handle the traffic I recommend not to take this path, as there’s nothing worse than an old page not kept alive.
The growth in technology tools for hotels has complicated life for hoteliers. While it has always been important to bring potential guests into the conversion funnel, there are now many ways to both capture and convert lookers to bookers. When considering the different ways to bring prospects into your hotel’s funnel, it can be helpful to start with the goal and then look at technologies that accomplish that goal. This approach differs from other common vendor evaluation processes in one key way: it puts the goal first rather than the category. For instance, rather than comparing only direct booking tools to one another, this process focuses on the desired outcome -- and then compares tools across categories that may help a hotel achieve that outcome. With this outcome-based approach, hotels have stronger odds of successfully matching with the correct vendor for a specific issue. "I want to improve conversion on my website" When it comes to getting more direct bookings, it’s all about the hotel website. After all, a hotel with a buggy website and poor user flow will scare off many potential guests who seek a trustworthy booking experience. Direct booking tools promise growth in direct bookings by increasing conversions on a hotel’s website through price check tools, real-time guest messaging, smart segmentation, and pricing optimization. These direct booking tools offer a mix of capabilities, so it’s best to evaluate each according to how your hotel prioritizes direct bookings. Booking engines are a necessity for selling rooms directly. Without a modern and intuitive interface that’s optimized for conversion, guests will go elsewhere out of frustration or suspicion. Look for a booking engine with real-time inventory updates; otherwise, you risk double booking across channels. Reputation management is more than just an operational tool: it’s also handy for marketing. Most hotel reputation management solutions have the ability to feature previous guest reviews on your website; doing so can dramatically boost your conversion rate. Virtual tours can help conversions. When potential guests consider a hotel, they want to be certain that the property is as advertised. Consider investing in a virtual tour to give guests piece of mind. "I want to drive new traffic to my website" Once a website has been optimized for direct bookings and conversion, the next step is to entice more potential guests to it. There’s a blended approach to making this happen. Content marketing is one of the most affordable ways to engage potential guests and to bring them to your website. With great content, you’ll have an engaging website to attract visitors, as well as plenty to post on social media. Be sure to make your content relevant to your guest profile. Social media is a challenging place but can deliver results when done right -- especially for distribution of the great content you’ve created! Social media is also a goldmine of consumer insights. Leveraging social media tools can bring you closer to your customers. Influencer marketing continues to be a growth area for hospitality marketers. Inviting influencers to experience the property, or paying them to post about the property, appeals to hotels looking to reach particular demographics. These influencer marketing tools should factor into the mix, helping identify the right influencers and tracking the success of your campaign. Digital marketing agencies are assets for those hotels that have enough budget to engage subject matter experts. Hospitality marketing agencies use their experience across clients to build high-impact campaigns that can be quite intimidating to deploy solo. "I want to bring back old guests" According to research from the company that invented the Net Promoter Score, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Statistics aside, it really comes down to customer acquisition cost for hotels. With each booking channel taking a large commission for bringing in a guest, it can be extraordinarily lucrative to re-engage former guests. Loyalty programs are helpful assets to organize and track a comprehensive loyalty program for independents. The best technology will give you insights into your guest profiles, and help you craft the best offerings to each group. Read our article "Do independent hotel loyalty programs actually work?" to decide if this option is right for your hotel or properties. Email marketing is a critical piece of the loyalty puzzle. When evaluating email marketing tools, you want to be sure that it integrates with your existing loyalty program and hotel CRM tools. "I want more bookings on OTAs & Metasearch" Third-party websites and metasearch are important pieces of any hotel revenue management strategy. As part of a cohesive approach that includes direct bookings, wholesale, and groups, these channels are valuable tools to shore up low demand periods and achieve overall revenue targets. Metasearch and ad tech bring advanced reporting, bidding and inventory management to your third-party distribution strategy. These metasearch tools help hoteliers wrangle the complex web of metasearch campaigns, as well as integrating in real-time with existing systems to maximize profitable bookings without overbooking. Review management software performs a critical function: it monitors your hotel’s reviews for potential operational issues. Catching poor performance before it affects the guest experience means better reviews -- and a higher ranking in search results on OTAs and metasearch sites.
Email marketing continues to be paramount for effective and affordable hotel marketing. Unlike social media or search, it's also a channel that hotels own, which means that the investment in growing and maintaining that email list reaps dividends over time. With an email list, your hotel builds a longer-term relationship based on trust and ongoing awareness. Sure, it’s not like every former guest is waiting by their inbox for an email to arrive from your hotel. Even so, these micro-moments matter. A robust, thoughtful email marketing strategy gives hoteliers more control over marketing costs, leveraging the email list as an asset that liberates some of marketing spend from platforms like Google and Facebook. Successful email marketing also requires a strategic approach that puts it on par with other marketing channels, such as paid search, says hotel revenue optimization expert Vikram Singh: “Email marketing cannot be an afterthought. There is a tendency for marketing departments to devote a ton of time to their paid marketing efforts, to the exclusion of almost everything else.” One reason why email marketing becomes an afterthought is benchmarking. The major paid platforms do an excellent job of helping brands benchmark performance against similar companies. Email, however, is more of an echo chamber without that critical feedback piece. The CRM and email marketing firm Revinate recognized this and completed a thorough analysis of the performance across 77 million emails sent through its system. The resulting analysis offers an unprecedented benchmark for hotel marketers, highlighting the types of emails convert the best across geographies. These benchmarks offer a four-step process for email marketing success: start with segmentation, then create relevant content for those segments. Automate wherever feasible (and without sacrificing relevancy), and then track performance against accepted industry benchmarks by geography and content type. With that framework in place, your hotel’s email marketing will adapt and thrive over time. 1. Segment One of the original sins of email marketing is non-existent segmentation. Blanket emails to an email list rarely perform well; in fact, these types of untargeted e-mails do damage in the form of unsubscribes. It’s just not good for the health of your e-mail list. By dividing our annual revenue that comes from email marketing by the average number of email contacts in our database we can calculate the theoretical value of each email subscriber. If we then multiply that by number of unsubscribes per year we can see how much money we're leaving on the table with ineffective email marketing. For example, if we have 50,000 emails in our database and make $2M in revenue from email marketing each year - each contact in our database is theoretically worth $40. If 2,000 contacts unsubscribe due to poor segmentation we have destroyed $80,000 of theoretical value for our hotel. “Bragging about the size of your email database is so last decade. The more relevant question is: how many segments or groups do you have within your database? Sending massive email blasts without any segmentation is a sure shot way to get ignored/unsubscribed.” -Vikram Singh Examples of suitable segments range from the obvious, such as gender, to the more complex, such as loyalty based on a guest’s lifetime spend at a hotel (recency, frequency and monetary value). Attributes can be combined to build detailed segments that represent important demographics for a particular property. The right balance is one that is achievable and sustainable for a hotel’s marketing team. Too many segments are difficult to manage, as far as creating and matching relevant content to each segment (as we’ll see next). Too few segments and your content risks coming across as impersonal and won’t drive as many conversions. To find that balance, translate your knowledge of guest personas into structured experiments that generate data on which segments work well and which don’t. Once you know which segments need tweaking, adjust content methodically to test engagement. To determine success, take stock of your current metrics and then compare them over time to the post-segmentation results. According to Revinate, segmented campaigns should dramatically out-perform non-segmented ones. “Our analysis of customer data shows that segmentation drives a 20% higher open rate, a 70% higher click-through rate (CTR), and 73% higher revenue per recipient than non-segmented campaigns.” Proper segmentation starts with selecting an email marketing solution that enables the process of list segmentation; ideally, the solution acts as a CRM and/or connects to the hotel’s PMS to use customer attributes and behavior for better relevancy in each e-mail message. The best solutions offer rich guest profiles, live data streaming, intuitive drag and drop editors and top notch customer support. 2. Be relevant Proper segmentation is the first step. Once you have segmented your audience into groups, now you must focus on relevancy. The goal is to pair each group to relevant content in a way that increases conversion and reduces unsubscribes. To achieve this goal, you need strong segmentation. The right segmentation makes the content creation process much easier, as each segment shapes the content. One caveat: What’s actually relevant to a specific group is not always evident. Perhaps the segment doesn’t mirror a team’s own demographics, or maybe there are assumptions about what appeals to a particular segment. That’s where testing comes into play. Test different creative, messaging, and offers to each of your segments, and let the audience tell you what’s relevant. This “test and learn” process removes the magic from the process and puts some structure around the process. To start, brainstorm the reasons why a particular segment signed up for the email list in the first place and go from there. Success comes from targeting intent effectively. 3. Automate Revinate’s survey found further support for the value of automation. Emails with the greatest engagement were related to a guest’s stay, such as the confirmation and pre-arrival e-mails. In fact, the pre-arrival emails were the highest performers when it comes to revenue. Since 98% of all upsell revenue came from pre-arrival emails, hotels should focus on pre-arrival emails to drive upsell conversion. Certainly, this makes sense; guests are in more of a transaction mindset before the trip, and often consult emails for information around the upcoming stay. The analysis found breakfast, parking, and airport transfers were also popular upsell items, as were early check-in and late check-out. Breakfast deals bring in the most upsell revenue, followed by offers for advanced parking. Early check-in, late check-out and airport transportation offers are also popular. Other campaigns that should be automated include the OTA Winback, guest re-engagement, and birthdays. Pull this information from your CRM and/or PMS, and then automatically send these campaigns to solicit more direct bookings over time. For the best results, use your guest segmentation to pair the best subject line with relevant content. Test, and iterate. Click here to see the 5 top rated Email Marketing and CRM vendors for hotels 4. Benchmark over time The final step is to benchmark performance of each e-mail send against both internal and industry data. To do this effectively, track performance for each geography, segment, and email type. Geography. To some extent, geography defines behavior. One of the most useful parts of the Revinate research was how geography impacts conversion; for hospitality marketers that serve guests from around the world, it’s useful to understand the nuances in behavior. The global benchmarks for email performance. Segment. Over time, a segment’s behavior may shift. Benchmarking to past behavior identifies any potential engagement erosion before it becomes a problem. It might be worth it to revisit segmentation to see if such shifts occur, or potentially try new offer/subject line/content combinations. Email type. Revinate compared open rates across booking windows and email types, such as Events and Announcements, We Miss You, Room Offers and OTA Winback. Different campaigns have different booking windows and that’s why it’s important to benchmark accurately to compare like-for-like. Nurture the list By using segmentation, creating relevant content, automating where feasible, and benchmarking results, hotel marketers build a productive habit that nurtures a hotel’s email list. As a long-term asset that has a reasonable cost of acquisition, the email list should be one of the most valuable pillars of a hotel’s marketing strategy. Click here to see the 5 top rated Email Marketing and CRM vendors for hotels
Hospitality's next 5 years will be shaped by mobile saturation, shrinking office spaces and the gig economy
It's never easy to push through the hype and find the substance -- especially in hospitality, which is a challenging blend of guest-facing technology and back office software. Each year the technology world looks to Wall Street analyst-turned-VC Mary Meeker for her annual “Internet Trends Report”. Meeker’s report uses data to tell stories of business-related trends that are shaping society. Using data from Meeker’s report we identify some of the macro global trends impacting hospitality in 2019 and beyond. Unless otherwise noted, supporting images below are pulled directly from Mary Meeker’s presentation. Mobile saturation means devices everywhere This slide highlights the slowdown of smartphone growth. How does that impact hotels? The slowing growth of smartphone sales means that we’re approaching market saturation and consequently every single traveler in the world will soon have at least one in their pockets. This means that we need to focus on being where they are. The saturation of mobile also means that guests -- and staff -- expect easy-to-use interfaces and seamless cross-device experiences. Technology must be unfussy and straightforward, working wherever and however the guest and staff need. For guests: Mobile-optimized booking engines and guest messaging platforms are two of the most visible guest-facing applications. When searching for hotels, potential guests want to see a modern booking engine that builds trust in the experience a hotel provides. When staying at a hotel, guests want to communicate with the hotel as easily as they do with friends and family, and via the same channels (such as SMS and messaging apps). For staff: When hotel staff comes to work, they shouldn’t have to re-learn how to interact with technology. Mobile task management and collaboration software allow staff to use familiar mobile devices to get things done more efficiently on-the-go with built-in accountability. When evaluating vendors, these factors should be towards the top of the list for any hotel that wants to offer the most modern experience. Remember that both staff and guests have plenty of options when it comes to where to stay and where to work. Providing technology that makes life easier, better, and less stressful will bear fruit over time. The simplicity of consumer experiences now extends to B2B. People expect all technology to have intuitive interfaces and reliable connectivity. App explosion delivers near-infinite options It seems like every company has an app store these days. As more and more companies seek platform status, they launch app stores to encourage development on their platforms. By opening up development, the underlying technology becomes stickier, making it more useful to hotels and also more lucrative for the platform company. There are two things driving this “appification everywhere” trend: plummeting storage costs and rising computer power, which has made cloud computing not just practical but affordable. In parallel to the growth in mobile, cloud computing has made it more feasible for apps to be more lightweight and nimble. Stats showing the growth of computing power and hard drive capacity alongside the steady decrease in the price of storage. Apps no longer require heavy computing power and on-device storage to deliver the impact required in a B2B setting. Now, apps can connect to the cloud to pull necessary information in real-time, making apps faster and more accurate even as apps become more complex. Apple’s App Store was the first to thrive. Now, nearly every platform and many travel technology companies have app stores as well. For hotels, 'appification' has ushered in a golden age of choice. There are now app stores for many of the largest travel companies, allowing hotels to plug-in specific apps for a wholly customized tech stack. In 2018 alone, we saw the launch of app marketplaces and integrators from travel technology companies Mews, Apaleo, SiteMinder, and Snapshot. Here at Hotel Tech Report, we’ve partnered with protel’s I/O marketplace to integrate rich reviews to its app store experience. This layer of social proof adds richness to the company’s marketplace, which allows hotels to pick, mix and test cutting-edge technologies all in one place. App integrations are also becoming much easier as services such as Impala and HAPI emerge to simplify the process of connecting apps through configurable APIs. As more hotels push to build the specific tech stack that works for them, these app marketplaces and API services will grow exponentially in the coming years just the same as we’ve seen happen with more mature app stores from companies like Apple and Google as shown in Meeker’s deck. An app store with honest reviews builds trust. Hotel Tech Report reviews are fully integrated into the protel I/O app marketplace. On-demand jobs exacerbate talent shortage More workers are turning to the on-demand gig economy to supplement earnings. Freelance workers also find work much more easily thanks to technology. As more workers find freelance work feasible, hotels face growing competition for talent, exacerbating an already-acute talent shortage. Technology continues to empower workers to build a work life that works for them. Hotels must keep up to remain competitive for workers. The flexibility in freelance and gig work appeals to workers, so hotels can apply some of this to their own scheduling. Providing workers with a degree of latitude in the way they work will make for a more appealing workplace. With more individualized control for staff, mobile-optimized labor scheduling solutions foster trust and transparency across a hotel’s operations. In addition, technology must be leveraged as a key selling point to potential workers. With staff task management and collaboration tools, applicant tracking solutions, and other HR/staffing technologies, hotels build resilience within the recruiting and staff management parts of the business. The objective is to leverage available technology to effectively track applicants and avoid letting the best candidates slip away to other hotels or on-demand work platforms. Today, hotels themselves can tap into the gig economy with next generation on-demand staffing platforms. Just like technology makes it easier for workers to find jobs, technology also helps hotels sharpen focus on recruiting and retaining top talent. As competition for workers heats up, people have more options than ever. It behooves hotels to provide a modern, sensible work environment across departments that attracts and keeps the best workers. To foster loyalty, invest in the right talent management solutions that develop your workforce. By providing opportunities for employee training and learning, hotels have a better chance of keeping the most ambitious employees engaged. Workers should be incentivized to stay through these development opportunities, as well as through a workplace that prioritizes workers as professionals. More workers turn to the on-demand economy to supplement wages and/or add flexibility to their work lives. The real-time and on-demand nature of these platforms diminishes loyalty in favor of flexibility. Office spaces shrinking, off-sites growing Another area affected by unprecedented flexibility is office space. The average square footage per employee is lower than it used to be, both due to open floor plans and the rise of remote work. Denser office spaces, coupled with remote workers, has expanded the role of hotels as destinations for off-site meetings. With less space at work, and teams dispersed geographically, more companies rely on off-sites. These events bring together remote teams in a non-office setting to accomplish concrete goals. For hotels, this means a potentially lucrative incremental revenue stream from groups. It also means more requests for proposal taking up precious staff resources for a non-guaranteed event booking. As the RFP pace picks up in 2019, hotels will turn to group sourcing and RFP tools to reduce the burden on over-taxed staff. Other technologies will further enhance hotels’ event capabilities, such as event planning software that brings efficiency and organization to the process, as well as sales platforms that aggregate knowledge and empower sales teams to sell more effectively. Data is also increasingly vital to successfully building a book of group business, with meetings and events intelligence tools growing in sophistication. Airbnb offers ultra-affordable accommodations 2018 saw an expansion of available channels for hotels. For example, Airbnb added boutique hotels to its platform, saying that it now considers itself in direct competition with OTAs. This year, Airbnb also released a meetings and events tool for corporate travel companies. These are only two examples of the growing ecosystem offering hotel bookings outside of traditional intermediaries like OTAs. The evolution of Airbnb into a full-fledged online travel agency creates pricing pressure for hotels but could also benefit hotels by breaking the Expedia/Booking duopoly that’s crippling them. The slide above shows how significant the average discount of an Airbnb is when compared to a hotel. The ultra-affordability of some Airbnb listings versus hotels will continue to influence how hotels price their rooms in certain markets. Hotels will look to rate intelligence solutions to monitor rate parity -- and may eventually even pull in Airbnb rates for a more accurate compset in many market segments. All of this data must be considered for revenue management software to make the right rate recommendations. The lower price point for some Airbnbs is also an opportunity for hotels to deliver rate competitiveness through streamlined operations. For hotels in hyper-competitive markets, technology rewards hotels with more profitable operations. The ultimate goal here is to either bring in more guests at similar prices or bring in the same number of guests at a more efficient cost structure. Bring in more guests: Price more efficiently to offer the right price to the right guest using revenue management tools. Consider contracting with a hospitality-focused digital marketing agency, as well as adding direct booking, and metasearch/ad tech tools to keep your marketing spend in high-performance mode. Streamline operations: Wasteful operations bleed a hotel’s profitability. Technology keeps costs in check. Tools for staff task management and collaboration, as well as for housekeeping management, help managers track staff performance through comprehensive reporting that identifies areas for improvement. A tighter operation gives a hotel breathing room as far as pricing and profitability. For 2019, outsource your hotel’s R&D So what do these trends mean for your hotel? Since most hotels are not in the technology business, outsource your research and development to trusted technology partners that specialize in defining and building technology. Meeker pulls together the top companies by research and development expenditures. The slide emphasizes the competitiveness of these investments; the fastest growing companies are also the ones that invest heavily in R&D. As these companies attract prime talent and continue to invest millions in exploring the applications of new technologies, there’s an economy of scale that fuels future growth. The top companies in the world by research and development. When it comes to technology, hotels don’t typically invest in research and development in the traditional sense. The outsourcing of these efforts is therefore not only sensible but imperative to compete in today’s digital economy. By investing in technology, hotels sharpen the edge in a fiercely competitive environment.
Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business. Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%). A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team. These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process. Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables, office snacks and vacation days are nice, but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results. The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development? Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into? Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech: 10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name. Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years. Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ. New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!). Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips. Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease 9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together. Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck. Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one. Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu 8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally. As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit. Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building. This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments. Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper 7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz. The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here. If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’. Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again. As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves. This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness 6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing. The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members. This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product. Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale. Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months. His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate 5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more. The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list. How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well. All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime. Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds 4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously. One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it. The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth. This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business. Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M. Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up. If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid. Check out open positions at Clock 3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver. The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider. The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot 2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award. While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list. So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture. One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need." Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year. Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause. Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews 1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture. ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers. ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion. ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally. Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees. Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class. “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE
Direct booking campaigns have been a centerpiece of hotel marketing for several years now. The push to encourage guests to ‘Book Direct’ stems from efforts to both reduce commissions paid to third-parties and to forge stronger bonds with guests. Without an intermediary, a hotel can market to the guest before, during, and after the stay, regaining control over the guest relationship, both financially and strategically. Evidence shows that the efforts have begun to pay off, says hospitality marketing firm Kalibri Labs: Loyalty member campaigns have either strengthened or stabilized the growth through Brand.com, while the OTA channel has either held steady or decelerated. Brand.com generates 50% more bookings on average to U.S. hotels than the OTA channel. To make its assessment, Kalibri Labs analyzed 80 million transactions from 18,000 hotels in its proprietary database. The results are promising, revealing solid gains in profitability and rate competitiveness among sampled hotels. Related article: Do loyalty programs for independents actually work? Direct bookings are more profitable Hotels prefer direct bookings due to the lower customer acquisition costs, which have been rising for the past several years. When it comes to how much revenue hotels spend on booking-related costs, the data reinforces the narrative that OTA commissions have risen at the greatest clip. With hotels facing 45% commissions from that channel, the 27% cost for loyalty-based bookings is a striking contrast. However, once a hotel turns away from intermediaries, it must spend money on marketing to secure bookings, some of which is spent on paid search and some on discounted Book Direct rates. So, some of the money saved on third-party commissions ends up going out the door anyhow. Even after accounting for the additional costs of paid search and discounting, the Kalibri Labs analysis found that direct bookings were 12.5% more profitable than those derived from OTAs. In fact, the more impactful value of direct bookings may be in the corresponding rise in Average Daily Rate. The ADR for Member Rate/Loyalty bookings reflects a solidpremium compared to OTA bookings (after acquisition costs are removed). ADR has grown to 9% in 2018, up from 8.6% in 2016. Even when tested for weekend/weekday and lead time differences, Net ADR for Brand.com loyalty bookings is higher in total, and for each chain scale. This is counterintuitive, as members-only rates are promoted as the “best available rate.” Are hotels lying to guests? On the contrary, guests are responding to the upsell. That’s the whole point of recapturing control of the guest relationship: Once a hotel can market directly to the guest through its upselling platform, it reveals new revenue opportunities such as room upgrades, bundled room rates, and premium experiences. It appears that guests respond to these efforts, pushing up the net ADR for brand.com when compared to the OTA channel. To achieve the greatest profitability for your hotel’s direct booking efforts, keep your marketing costs in check with metasearch management tools. And don’t neglect your hotel website - make sure you are working with a top rated digital marketing agency for hotels that can optimize conversion to your booking engine; you want potential guests clicking through from search to have a user-friendly experience. Direct booking tools can also encourage new sources of demand, such as from travel agents, in addition to existing loyalty members. Loyalty programs generate more bookings at a lower cost Since the launch of mainstream direct booking initiatives in 2016, loyalty program memberships have grown at between two to five times the growth rate before Direct Book. As more guests enroll to take advantage of exclusive rates, more bookings originate from loyalty members. In fact, the report found that “almost half of the business in the U.S.branded hotels is derived from loyalty members.” Do loyalty programs for independent hotels actually work? The cost savings are also significant. It’s just more expensive for a hotel to keep purchasing a booking from an intermediary, rather than re-engage a loyalty member to generate a booking. When calculating the benefit of a recurring guest coming three times after an initial visit, the average net benefit to a hotel using industry averages is approximately $65 per loyalty member, compared to cycling through 4 different OTA customers. To maintain that top-of-mind engagement with loyalty program members, carefully segment guests in your hotel’s CRM and then schedule e-mail marketing campaigns to nurture those relationships. With a precise and thoughtful approach to loyalty marketing, your hotel can generate more bookings at a lower cost, all while building that long-term relationship. A Revenue Management System is also beneficial to hoteliers seeking a more balanced approach to distribution. With the power of a comprehensive RM, small tweaks can create big results. This granular control of pricing strategy drives better ROI for direct bookings, which generate $8.33 for every $1 spent. Compared to the $4.77 to $1 ratio for OTA bookings, the investment in loyalty-based revenue management technology delivers more bang for the buck. It’s all about the mix Ultimately, it all comes down to channel mix. Hotels that work with OTAs must do so with an honest appraisal of the value these channels bring -- and how direct bookings fit into a specific hotel’s revenue profile, says study co-author Cindy Estis Green: “[OTAs] will do anything to be a part of the sales path. If you collaborate with them, you have to do it with your eyes open. The trick for each hotel and brand is to determine in each market what pipes are flowing and what’s available. It’s optimal to cherry pick which bookings are available at the highest possible profit margin. That’s the challenge everyone has.”
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.
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.
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.
Recent Digital Marketing Agencies News & Community Updates
February 12, 2018 - Hotel Tech Report has named Screen Pilot 2018’s top rated Digital Marketing Agency based on data from thousands of hoteliers in more than 40 countries around the world. Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel marketing and technology product and services companies competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. The HotelTechAwards platform (by HotelTechReport.com) leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “As a hotelier your website can make or break your profitability and channel mix. That’s why selecting the right digital marketing agency is critical to your bottom line since they are the ones crafting your funnel and then tasked to fill that funnel for a lower cost than your OTA commissions” says Jordan Hollander of Hotel Tech Report. Screen Pilot is poised for sustained growth in 2018. Hoteliers recognized Screen Pilot’s truly world class ROI where Screen Pilot exceeded the category average by 12%. “The company [Screen Pilot] & staff have been able to help us set, measure and improve Return On Investment from services offered. They have also been flexible and creative with suggestions to make adjustments as situation change.”, says the Sales & Marketing Manager of an independent hotel group based out of New York City. To read the full review and more, head to Screen Pilot's profile on Hotel Tech Report
Travel Tripper Recognized as Finalist for Top Rated Digital Marketing Agency in the 2018 HotelTechAwards
February 1, 2018 - Hotel Tech Report has named Travel Tripper’s Digital Marketing Agency a HotelTechAwards finalist based on data from thousands of hoteliers in more than 40 countries around the world. Over 100 of the world’s elite hotel technology products competed for a chance to win this prestigious title. The HotelTechAwards platform (by HotelTechReport.com) leverages real customer data to determine best of breed products that help hoteliers grow their bottom lines. “As a hotelier your website can make or break your profitability and channel mix. That’s why selecting the right digital marketing agency is critical to your bottom line since they are the ones crafting your funnel and then tasked to fill that funnel for a lower cost than your OTA commissions” says Jordan Hollander of Hotel Tech Report. Travel Tripper is poised for sustained growth in 2018. Hoteliers recognized Travel Tripper's truly world class ROI where TT exceeded the category average by 17%. A Miami based Senior Marketing Manager told Hotel Tech Report: “I absolutely love working with Travel Tripper and their digital team. I trust their support and tech teams with all of our accounts. They are extremely hands on with setting up anything from our websites to pay per click campaigns and don't leave any details. It is extremely user friendly for the business and I am able to make updates in real time simultaneously with the Travel Tripper team. I honestly love the people that work there as well, they are an absolutely pleasure and extremely insightful." To read the full review and more, head to: https://hoteltechreport.com/company/travel-tripper-digital-agency
(NEW YORK)—Travel Tripper, the industry’s most innovative provider of hotel reservation and e-commerce solutions, today announced the official launch of Real-Time Ads for the hospitality industry. This award-winning digital marketing solution helps hotels to boost conversion rates and increase return on ad spend (ROAS) by dynamically updating hotel Google search ads with real-time booking engine data, such as rates, availability, and number of recent bookings. Travel Tripper’s Real-Time Ads solves a problem that plagues many hotels: spending a significant amount of the digital marketing budget to drive traffic to the hotel website, but not seeing strong conversions to bookings. In many cases, travelers from hotel search ads will click over to the website to check rates or availability, but then abandon the booking if the price is too high or a specific room or deal is no longer available. In essence, hotels pay for ad clicks for a large percentage of people who were never going to book in the first place. With Real-Time Ads, hotels can now populate their Google search ads with dynamic variables from the CRS and booking engine, such as the nightly room rate, number of rooms available, and occupancy rate. As a result, hotels can dynamically populate search ads in real time with info that helps to pre-qualify website visitors and identify those most likely to book, ultimately increasing conversion rates and driving down customer acquisition costs. “Real-Time Ads represent a major departure from traditional search ads and a huge step forward in hotel digital marketing,” says Ben Hanley, Director of Digital Marketing at Travel Tripper. “The majority of hotel websites can only display rates and availability in the booking engine, or at best, somewhere on the hotel website. In contrast, Real-Time Ads allows hotels to advertise their up-to-date rates within the search engine, which helps them to better connect with potential guests earlier in the booking funnel.” Since its initial beta launch, Travel Tripper’s Real-Time Ads have delivered outstanding results for notable properties such as ROW NYC and The Quin in New York City. In a recently published case study by Google, ROW NYC reported a 68% increase in conversion rate and 28:1 return on ad spend when comparing real-time ads to static ads. Travel Tripper’s real-time ads campaign with ROW NYC has also earned multiple digital marketing awards and nominations, including the Adrian Awards, W3 Awards, and Search Engine Land Awards. All hotels working with Travel Tripper will now be able to integrate Real-Time Ads into their search marketing campaigns. Complete with RezTrip CRS and TT Web hotel websites, Real-Time Ads will transform the way hotels drive direct bookings.
For months Google has been testing new user interface designs for their hotel search results on mobile and desktop devices. Mobile was first to get a facelift, and now the desktop interface has a new design. Just this week, Google released a new desktop version of their hotel search results, emphasizing imagery and increasing the importance of GMB profile management. Why the new design? Google hopes to provide an improved user experience (UX) for users looking to book a hotel. The stronger emphasis on imagery, user ratings and other information from hotels’ GMB profiles in this latest update aims to give users a better understanding of each property while comparison shopping. Let’s take a deeper dive into the new-look hotel search results. Results Page Design When searching for “Boston Hotels”, this is what the new results page looks like. It provides users with date, price and other new filtering options, as well as displays results in the more visual grid. Hotel Profile Page: Once a user selects a hotel, they are then led to the hotel profile page, which now offers a one-stop shop for all things related to the property including prices, photos, and reviews. Google has also added a new section called “Location Summary,” which highlights nearby attractions and transportation landmarks. This could help properties in urban areas highlight the benefits of their location, as well as make it significantly easier for users to get location information beyond the traditional street address. The highlighted amenities next to the star rating underscore the growing importance of maintaining and updating property GMB profiles. How Does It Affect You? For most hotels, this design change could certainly impact the number of bookings they receive. After months of testing, Google found this design to provide the best UX, and a better UX improves the likelihood of a booking. The “Book a Room” button and meta search results are also prominently featured, providing users with multiple booking paths, which also increases the likelihood of a user booking. This update puts a greater emphasis on ensuring your Google My Business profile is constantly monitored and updated, including property images. The update also increases the importance of proper meta search management. At Screen Pilot, we are constantly monitoring Google My Business profiles for updates from our clients or from Google, as well as optimizing our clients’ meta search campaigns to ensure no opportunities are missed.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.