REPORT FROM THE U.S.—How hoteliers manage their distribution channels will directly affect pricing, which directly affects revenue. On top of the traditional platforms, channel managers today must consider social, mobile and search strategies to properly optimize distribution, a panel of experts said Tuesday during a webinar conducted by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.
“More systems are becoming integrated and complicated,” said Susan Spencer, director of hotels for channel manager ChannelRush. “You’ve got to figure out what the cost is of each new partner.”
While the mobile channel typically has a very short lead time, hoteliers should not treat it as simply another discount channel, said Rabi Royan, founder and CEO of Hcloo, which offers daily rate shops of online travel agency apps.
Royan said OTAs are pushing their mobile platforms and asking revenue managers to run mobile-only promotions. While this can be beneficial for hotels if used appropriately, Royan suggests at least giving travelers the option to book on the hotels’ own site at the same rate before dumping discounted inventory on an OTA.
“We believe you should have a mobile website and a mobile app,” he said. “Just as you should have your URL everywhere—on your welcome board and on all of your collateral—you should do the same thing for your mobile site. You want to make sure customers know where to book with you.”
Royan suggested creating separate codes for OTA mobile bookings and traditional Web bookings. That way, hoteliers can see where customers are booking and then figure out how to get them to book through the hotels’ own mobile app.
As far as a mobile website versus a mobile app, Royan said apps offer more opportunities to promote brand awareness.
“Mobile apps should be focused on making a reservation very easy,” he said. “People do other things on a mobile website—check photos, reviews, maps and see what’s around the hotel—but on a mobile app it comes down to booking.”
Royan said the consumer has more time to search and explore on a tablet, therefore hoteliers should keep an eye on both phone and tablet browsing separately.
If promoted and used correctly, Royan said the mobile booking window will extend with time.
Travel is something Google users care deeply about, and Google’s new travel products are game-changers that come after several years of research, said Craig Wingate, chairman and CEO of Woodcrick Ventures.
Wingate said 75% of users start exploring with search and 32% of bookings can be attributed to Google search. Most bookings that start with a Google search end up booked through an OTA, he said.
One common misconception is that only OTAs and large brands can participate in Google’s new travel initiative. In reality, every hotel can have their rates and inventory pushed to Google as long as they work with the right partner, Wingate said.
“Currently, most bookings are driven to OTAs, but this does not have to be the case,” he said.
|Woodcrick Ventures’ Craig Wingate displayed what he called the “anatomy of a Google hotel search,” or the various ways hotels appear within the different Google products.
Wingate said bidding with Google is the area where his clients have the most questions. He suggested hoteliers partner with a certified “Google connection”—a number of CRS providers who are providing Google with rates and availability—to help walk through the process. It’s imperative, he said, to ask about the specific data that will be provided, such as number of impressions, clicks and cost-per-click amounts, among other data points.
While many hoteliers might argue social media is a channel that cannot be accurately measured, Josiah MacKenzie, director of business development at ReviewPro, which helps hoteliers analyze and organize their hotels’ social-media presence, suggested hoteliers measure social return on investment by the improvement it brings in conversion rates.
“Look at social media not as an isolated part of your program, but rather something that affects your ability to sell and increase financial revenue,” he said.
MacKenzie said guests are increasingly shopping for hotel deals, but once they are on property they might be willing to spend more. Therefore, hoteliers can use social media to tactfully present ways customers can upgrade.
He offered some statistics that support increased investment in social media:
- 35% of social-media users switched their choice of hotel after browsing a review site.
- Good reviews (4/5 or 5/5) generate more than double the conversion rates of a poor review (1/5 or 2/5).
“Take individual reviews and post then to your website,” he suggested. “Let those happy guests do the selling for you.”