Handy dos and don’ts on the battlefield of hotel distribution
Getting hotel distribution is not a one-shot deal and requires an attack from multiple angles
In case you missed the analysis piece last week – Hotels and the dirty battle of distribution – here we sum up the key points and recommendations from a series of interviews with industry experts.
Take a multipronged approach
Managing distribution and driving more direct bookings is not going to happen overnight. First and foremost it’s important that hotels get a handle on how they are faring in the online market place versus their competitive set. They also need to understand which channels are working best, and where they are being undercut.
Understand how rooms are priced
Also ranking and position is crucial. There are tools already from firms like Fornova and iDeas, which can help hotels and surprise, surprise, it is something booking.com is also working on. A spokesperson tells us it will be sharing details of availability and functionality of new tools in the coming months. But like anything don’t rush into deploying new technologies before fully understanding what you need.
Apply a rigorous approach to data
In order to start managing the direct channel more effectively, hotels brands need to consistently use data derived from the marketplace and their website.
Gathering actionable information from the endless data generated by property and reservation management systems, pricing resources, social media and so on, is a minefield which firms like Snapshot and Reinvate claim to help simplify into actionable nuggets of data.
Give the customer something more
Once you have the basics right such as getting your rates in order across all your channels, and the right data at your fingertips, do offer the customer something more. This could be anything from free breakfast to free Wifi (although increasingly guests expect this) or a free transfer from the airport. But most importantly ensure that these messages are being delivered in all your marketing messages - in retargeting, in prospecting display campaigns, email and so on.
Get your rates straight
This is absolutely fundamental, says Marco Corsi, Manager 3rd Party Distribution at Finland’s biggest chain, Sokos Hotels. In particular, hotels need to understand the finer points of their contractual obligations specifically in relation to static wholesaler rates that haven’t been contractually secured. After all, the last thing hotels need is very low prices appearing on random uncertified OTA websites, which is the result of wholesalers selling off inventory with unrestricted rates.
Dori Stein, CEO of tech firm, Fornova has a point when he says: “There is nothing more damaging for a hotel than being undercut in its own channel.”
Also though metasearch is undoubtedly a useful channel for hotels, it’s pointless if you don’t have rate integrity.
Overlook basic brand marketing
Since the three main distribution channels – metasearch, Google and display – count the OTAs as big clients it’s crucial for hotels to get any basic phrases – such as brand name, street name, neighbourhood and so on - out in basic marketing efforts. Why? Because if a customer has already searched for a hotel name in Google they are halfway to booking direct!
Spend pay-per-click budget when you don’t need to
If there is, for argument’s sake, a Justin Bieber concert happening in Manchester chances are that hotels nearby the venue will fill up fast. A mistake that hotels often make is that they continue to pay-per-click even when the hotel is almost full. Says Stein: “Hotels should not be afraid to yank their PPC budget when they no longer need to fill rooms”. And there are tools to inform you when it’s a good time to do this. Instead of wasting marketing revenue in this way you could put it to good use by making more of the advantages of booking direct.
Underestimate the power of a great campaign
According to Dana Shefsky, director of Digital Product Innovation at Hilton Worldwidesince launching its ‘Stop Clicking Around’ campaign in February 2016, bookings from it mobile app are up nearly 150% year-over-year with app downloads exceeding 70,000 a week, a 200% increase from 2015.
A report from technology firm Criteo that compares the mobile performance of OTAs vs hotels reveals that while the share on bookings on tablets is close, where OTAs really win is in smart phone bookings. “This should be a strategic concern for hotels chains, in particular in the last-minute booking window where smartphones count for half of all bookings,” says a Criteo spokesperson.
Think the consumer cares
They don’t. Well unless, of course, they are hoteliers and know how important it is that the consumer books direct. The consumer cares about price or, some would argue, value and they won’t see value in you getting it wrong.
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