Published by HotelWorld Network
Written by Chris Crowell
National Report–A takeaway for the industry during this recession has been how to efficiently do business and maximize resources. These strategies help deflect the impact of a slow period on the bottom line, and they make business sense during good times as well. One strategy is leveraging everyday technology to capture a larger share of your guests’ wallets.
This starts with a website booking engine that enables and encourages guests to personalize or upgrade their stay. Guests usually gravitate to the cheapest and most basic options at first, so a booking engine should function as a guide to other add-ons and pricier choices to maximize the revenue from their roomnights.
“The merchandising capability of a booking engine is critical,” said John Hach, SVP of TravelClick’s digital agency. “It’s one piece to have simple technology to book a room, but that’s kind of antiquated. You’re leaving guest revenue behind.”
Hach said 28 percent of guests booking online upsell themselves, if enticed.
“Don’t push anything,” said Gautam Lulla, COO of Travel Tripper, a company that provides e-commerce and marketing solutions. “Just display other options. …[After they choose a reservation], on the next page, summarize their stay and present higher room categories. People are buying higher than base from that page and not the original search page.”
Lulla said it’s important to show the price difference per night. Seeing that the ocean view is only $20 more per night may seem affordable whereas seeing the total four-night stay will cost $80 more may not. Just be sure to detail why the upgrade is superior to their original option. This process has similar effect to a salesman pushing a slightly better model TV when you’re shopping, Lulla said.
“You go to buy a TV and you have your budget, then they try to entice you,” he said. “For $100 more you can get a 40-inch TV, and in your mind, you already spent that $500—that’s already gone, even before you got there. So now he only has to sell you a $100 product.”
The key in all these transactions, according to Warren Dehan, president of Northwind’s U.S. operations, is giving the guest the options in an attractive, unobtrusive way.
Another way to use the Internet to boost revenue is through direct digital marketing, which starts by capturing e-mail addresses. Hach said the best practice is to do this at check-in or check-out and to get e-mail addresses from online travel agents when a guest books through them.
“A lot of hotels receive the e-mail address [as part of] the contract,” he said. “I’ll give you inventory, but you’ll give me the guests’ e-mail addresses.”
The upside of e-mail marketing is tailoring specific messages to a more targeted audience. According to Charles Deyo, president of Cendyn, there are several distinct options to use to reach these targets. One is via identifying triggers. These trigger campaigns could be automatically sent to frequent guests who haven’t booked in six months, first-time guests a year after their stay or a few days after a reservation to pitch other services.
“For those campaigns, [we see] a 30- to 50-percent open rate and a 20- to 30-percent click-through rate,” Deyo said.
Another option is creating more specific audience targets based on demographic and psychographic information.
“If you are able to target [the message] to the right consumer, you get a huge increase,” Lulla said. “Even with just 10 percent, you get a substantial increase to your bottom line.”
Start “really developing sophisticated and thorough guest profiles,” said Brian Deagan, CEO of Knotice. From the minute a guest books, keep track of the type of reservation, any ancillary spend or services, the keywords they used to find your site and any other relevant demographic information. Then categorize the guest into lists for specific, targeted e-mail messages.
“If you hit them too frequently, your click-through rates will go down,” said Wendy Lowe, director of product marketing for Campaigner, an e-mail marketing solution from Protus. “Also, if you send [the e-mail] out weekly, it should be shorter [and have less content than] a monthly newsletter.”
What about texting?
The up-and-coming enticement is the text. While e-mail might produce more gradual results among segments of your previous guests, texting influences immediate traffic generation, most notably within your restaurant or bar.
“E-mail is a retention tool and text is both an upsell and cross-sell tool,” said Steven Gray, COO of Money Mailer Direct Marketing. Gray said texting delivers a 10 to 13-percent return every time. “Text isn’t encumbered by spam or a filter.”