In Newsletter #30: How to win guests back from the OTAs | Be proactive to improve your reviews | What if Airbnb built a hotel?
I was speaking with a few hoteliers last week who asked me how to beat the OTAs and who told me how, after countless efforts and switching between different strategies, they simply have not found the success they had hoped for in converting guests to book direct. We have quite the audience here so if anyone has any suggestions (and is generous enough to share them), do please let us know.
One thought though draws me back to a quite aggressive Tnooz interview with the former-CEO of Booking.com I read in March. In it, he said only 2% of their consumers stay at the same hotel twice. Now, if you believe as I do that in some ways an OTA is as much a discovery platform as it is a booking platform (“which hotels can I afford in the city I want to go to?”)...then perhaps there is a different way to play the OTAs. Let them send you guests but spend every ounce of your energy making sure that guest receives the best service they have ever experienced, and on their way out, let them know that with their email address you would like to mark them in your system for an upgrade next time they book direct. Turn the OTAs’ guests into your own AND take back those precious email addresses.
Now that has been said, we spent months working on a report to help hoteliers understand how platforms like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb work, and how you can adopt the same type of technology to deliver the same incredible service. With Airbnb just announcing another $850M in funding shortly after we wrote our piece, the timing couldn’t be more auspicious. If you do read it, we would love to set up calls with any hotels who want to discuss this thinking further.
Enjoy your Augusts, and send us your favourite hotel experiences,
- Alex Shashou
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK'S NEWS...
Independents have an opportunity to take every guest back from the OTAs
4Hoteliers | Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Independent Hotels
Why it matters: For an independent hotel, it is practically impossible to overtake the OTAs in online booking strength. No matter how much effort is made, the giants will outspend you on guest acquisition every time. Most guests even believe the OTAs are cheaper, which both you and I know is not the case. Is it fair? No, of course not. But does it mean you don’t have a chance to own your guest? Quite the opposite.
As an independent, you are uniquely positioned and incentivized to create unparalleled guest experiences and retain your guests by simply providing better and more attentive service than the larger brands could ever provide themselves. This piece by Kelly Rob from Revinate does a really nice job of highlighting that despite this opportunity, too often independents are not spending enough on technology to leverage this advantage. With platform technology, smaller brands and independents can indeed respond quicker and deliver faster service to guests, as James Gagnon, Director of Communications at B Hotels and Resorts explains.
What if instead of spending so much energy on trying to win over a first time booking from an OTA, you spent all of that energy providing an unforgettable experience and convincing that same guest to book with you next time? And the next time. And the time after that. If you can figure that out, then the OTAs are only feeding you future loyal guests.
Struggling to get your guests to leave a good review, no matter how hard you try?
Hospitality Net | The Future of Guest Feedback: Proactive vs. Predictive Experiences
Why it matters: It’s not enough any more to just hope your guests leave good reviews. Being proactive when it comes to guest reviews means understanding the needs of each individual guests to provide them with the best experience. Two ways to provide the best experience possible, suggests the author, are by leveraging technology - in the form of self-service and real-time messaging.
Both are technologies we’ve talked a lot about before (for example, the viability of hotel robots when it comes to self-service, and innovative ways to use text messaging at your hotel), but it’s interesting to think about these technologies specifically as ways proactive ways to exceed guest expectations and invite positive reviews.
Giving your guests the option of self-service is proactive, because it takes into account the diverse set of preferences of your guests (not all guests want a human interaction every time they need another bottle of shampoo).
Real-time messaging (defined as real-time online/digital communication) gives hoteliers an additional opportunity to engage guests before the guest hits a review site, post-stay. As the author notes, hotel-guest interaction occurs primarily in three stages - online pre-stay (for research), in-person during their stay (interactions with staff), and online again post-stay (for reviews and feedback) - it’s during the stay, every time when a staff member isn’t face to face with a guest, that’s overlooked. Being proactive, by employing real-time messaging with guests, could easily preempt a negative online review.
The author also hints at the exciting next frontier in proactive technology and that’s being predictive. Both self-service and real-time messaging support predictive technologies by supplying valuable in-stay guest data. The challenge and opportunity for hotels will be to mine this data to provide for a step change in guest satisfaction. But, as the author asserts, this is a while off. Let’s first focus on providing better guest experiences by being proactive with self service and real-time messaging.
What if Airbnb built a hotel?
Hospitality Net | What if Airbnb Built a Hotel?
Why it matters: This month we released one the biggest pieces of content we have created to date, which looks at how hotels can learn and adopt the platform technology model that has proven so successful in other industries (the platform model is basically the reason we exist). So, it seems only fair that we ask, “What might a hotel look like if Airbnb built it?” How would it be designed? Would it have any managed staff or all be outsourced to the Ubers of housekeeping and the Ubers of maintenance?
The main point here is not that Airbnb is building a hotel; we think it is safe to say that they will not be using any of their new $850M funding for that. But it is worth thinking about how a hotel would operate if it were built with technology as its DNA instead of with walls and staff (i.e. if the hotel IS technology, instead of having technology - Airbnb is technology, Hotels have technology). With platform technology as its DNA, the rules for this kind of hotel would be different, and in a world in which the rules are changing pretty quickly, this type of thinking is exactly where you can get ahead of your competition.
So, we outlined five ways hotels would be configured differently (and probably improved) if built by Airbnb. Can you think of any more? We would love to hear your ideas.