PHOENIX—While many debate whether flash-sale sites create enough of a return for hotels, successful operators are focused on capturing value-driven customers and ensuring they return. It’s a bonus if the repeat customer books direct the second time around.
In a recent survey commissioned by LivingSocial Escapes, 70% of customers responded that before seeing a LivingSocial Escapes promotion they didn’t intend to travel. More than 80% who purchased a roomnight from Living Social had not been to that specific property before.
To Dave Madden, GM of LivingSocial Escapes, that signifies that flash-sale sites drive incremental demand.
“We’re putting something more than just a roomnight in front of people who never knew this place existed and try to inspire them to come,” Madden told HotelNewsNow.com during a break at the PhoCusWright Conference last week. “Would those people have taken a trip? Maybe, maybe not. But they weren’t in market.”
Madden said the most successful hoteliers are the ones who can convert consumers into repeat, long-term guests.
“It’s the same way that they get customers back that they acquire from any channel—the ones that have great (customer relationship management) systems; the ones that are really thoughtful,” he said.
For example, Vail Cascade Resort & Spa in Vail, Colorado, has been successful in creating a strategy around the flash-sale space. Hotel management has been able to monetize guests once they are on property and then get them to return.
Madden offered three tips to capture flash-sale demand:
Capture email addresses. “When somebody calls to complete their reservation, capture their email address and … start communicating with those guests pre-trip,” Madden said.
A successful hotelier will offer small discounts to get customers into the spa or restaurant once they’re on property.
“Use those touch points to market to those customers after they’ve left the property,” he said.
Continue communication. Continue to communicate with those guests, Madden recommended. A bounce-back offer—a follow-up package that is not quite as heavily discounted as the first promotion—is one way to get the guest to return to the property.
“Just give them an incentive to come back,” he said.
“We found that sometimes we’re the most successful—and it’s a win-win-win for us, the hotel and the consumer—when we can find things that are unique that the customers couldn’t buy just by going to the website and booking a room only,” Madden said.
For example, Carroll Villa Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, was looking for a promotion that would allow them to hold rate, wouldn’t cost much to run, but would be interesting to consumers. The hotel management created a wine-tasting experience led by the on-property bartender during late afternoon hours when the bar is otherwise slow.
Create a package. Don’t simply discount the room rate, but create a package with add-on amenities, Madden suggested.
“For us, it’s less about the price—there’s very little about the price (on the promotion),” he said. “It’s storytelling and unique packaging.”