REPORT FROM THE U.S.—While the term upselling can sometimes have a negative connotation, digital sales and marketing experts say the outcome is a win-win for both hoteliers and guests when presented online correctly.
Instead of thinking of upselling as purely a revenue driver, sources suggest that hoteliers present upgrade options as a choice rather than a sales pitch.
“Instead of thinking about it as upselling, think about it as presenting your guests with opportunities to enhance their experience,” said Caroline Cooper, president of Zeal Coaching and HotelNewsNow.com columnist.
The key to upselling online is making it personal, she said. And it all starts with better understanding guests.
“Having a strong social media presence helps upselling efforts,” Cooper said. “I think Facebook and Twitter is great to work out what types of things people think are important. If you’re a corporate hotel, you need to look at discussions on LinkedIn as well.”
Don Hood, revenue manager at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, echoed that approach, saying his strategy team discusses online reviews and customer reactions on social media sites to help better target guests.
It’s important to approach online upselling differently with each customer segment, he added.
“If we have a group customer that is coming in, their wants, from an upgrade standpoint, might be a little different than a leisure or corporate traveler,” Hood said. “One of the key things that we find has helped, from an upsell standpoint, is listening to our customer.”
Ultimately, whether a property can tap into this extra source of revenue depends solely on its inventory of amenities and accommodations, said Doug Kennedy, president of Kennedy Training Network.
While some hotel companies use their own internal strategies to upsell, others turn to third-party providers or consultants as a supplement, he said.
Matt Schalk, director of revenue for Hyatt Hotels Corporation in Chicago, pointed to Nor1, a provider of technological upsell solutions, as an example. The platform, which he uses at his four Chicago properties, allows him to do two things:
oversell and upsell to the appropriate amounts in case of no shows or cancellations; and
change and upsell on the fly.
“To (change and upsell) internally would take us months,” Schalk said. “That has been tremendously helpful.”
Upselling can occur in a variety of phases during the online shopping process. One particularly fruitful approach is to offer additional upgrades in confirmation emails.
“If you’re giving value when sending these emails, it shouldn’t create fatigue,” Cooper said. “Ninety percent of the time, they’re not going to respond. But that one in 10 will possibly bring you business.”
One way Expedia Worldwide offers upsells is through contrasting rooms in search results, according to John Kim, senior VP of global products at Expedia Worldwide.
When travelers make decisions on room type, they tend to do so by contrasting against other rooms, he said, while admitting “we’re not great at that yet.”
“We’re allergic to the word ‘sell’ a little bit. We just give you all the information, and maybe you are willing to pay a little more, but I’m not going to decide that for you. I’m just going to give you all the options.”
Another important consideration is how upgrades are communicated to guests, Hood said.
“I’m a big believer in if we’re describing our product correctly, then (guests) should understand the inherent value in paying more for that product,” he said. “It could even be something like more living space or an extra vanity.”
Creating the culture
The hoteliers who see the best results are the ones who manage their revenue the best, Kennedy said.
“There’s a lot of interest in upselling. Once your hotel occupancy is up and you only have so many rooms, you have to cut costs or you have to get more revenue,” he said. “There’s so much incremental revenue, it adds up.”
Kennedy added that upselling is “an excellent tool, especially since it’s one we can control locally. It’s very important not to just manage the best available rate—if you show the value, you’ll achieve results.”
But beyond that, upselling must be a deeply ingrained part of any property’s culture, said Hood of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport.
“It’s pervasive throughout our hotel, and everyone has such a buy-in to try to get the customer exactly what they need,” he said. “It’s not necessarily one person who makes it all work, but it’s truly a team effort.”