We were lucky to spend a few days exhibiting at WTM London in November with some of the most forward thinking minds in travel technology. So we decided to ask them one simple but important question dealing with Hotel Technology trends for 2017.
What technology advice would you give hotels for 2017?
Hotels should focus on getting back to the basics of what makes their business successful. Recently, I feel hoteliers have been distracted with technology, there’s so many new and varied options out there.
It’s seems a lot of companies have forgotten what it is to be a hotel and started using some technology for the sake of it. Technology should be something that improves the business process, it should run in tandem with the hotel and business not be used by default, especially when it doesn’t fit the business objectives.
At the very core, the key is to have the correct strategy and let appropriate technology assist the business to achieve the goals of the business. In short, get back to running a hotel!
The hotel industry is one of the most notorious sectors that has been impacted in recent years by ecommerce and online developments. Hoteliers have no option but to become experts in the online space or someone will quickly do this in their behalf. Even if hoteliers choose to outsource the digital marketing of their hotel, it’s essential to still have a have a good understanding of the area and the advantages a good strategy can bring. If a hotelier knows how to effectively use the broad range of ecommerce techniques they will increase both direct bookings and profitability.
There’s a lot of change in all markets across the world and that presents challenges for hotels. Make sure you don’t blindly follow competitors actions, watch out for your own market signals and make decisions based on good data.
I also think it’s key for hotels to concentrate more fully on gaining back loyalty from their customer base. Hotels need to reward their loyal and valued guests in a smart way. It’s a key way they can win back business from the OTA’s. Understand who your best guests are and be sure to reward them.
There’s always a lot happening in the world of digital marketing for hotels, it can be difficult for many to keep up with the evolving landscape. Smart hotels are balancing the mix of Direct vs OTA bookings online. We’ve seen an increase of direct booking channels with access to paid meta search marketing and programmatic marketing techniques. Social advertising is also starting to produce tangible results for a lot of hotels we work with and will continue into 2017.
At the core of every successful direct booking strategy is rate parity and hotels need to be proactive and even agressive tp enforce this. Once this is in place as a baseline, the following areas will increase profitability:
Give your website visitor a reason to book with you, it doesn’t always have to be money off. Snatch some bookings back from OTA’s whose visitors generally visit your website before making a final decision.
A lot of hotels use legacy booking engines that attached to their websites and route users to another window and domain when they click the all important book button. Most are not designed well to convert, based on old systems and generally offer a poor and clunky UX experiences. Worst of all, they are expensive and ineffective. Investing in a more modern, simple and modern experience can help the hotel to replicate some of the booking conversions seen on advanced OTA’s who spend millions a year tweaking their flows. Don’t forget the growing importance of a slick and well designed mobile flow.
Many hotels receive thousands of visitors to their official website each month but very little in the way of revenue. Why? The website is not designed as an ecommerce tool. Yes, of course the hotel website should be creative, interesting and stunning but also capture leads and bookings while the user is immersed. Running A/B tests and optimising the flow and pages on your website can produce surprising results.
It should be a given, but still commonly get’s ignored, your mobile experience is essential for the modern traveller. Your website and booking experience need to be designed to work smoothly on mobile devices, it’s often the first place that people will make contact with your hotel. You will also start to get higher ROI’s from mobile paid search campaigns which can often underperform. Why not try mobile only offers to see if you can boost sales through this channel?
It’s time for hotels to start treating Paid Search as another channel. Instead of setting a limit on Paid Search spend each month, why not sell through the channel on a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) basis? Maximise spend while the equivalent cost is lower than the commission cost from other channels. You’ll also increase customer loyalty and lifetime value by getting them to book direct.
The smarter hotels are working towards consolidating their technologies into a single platform. More and more hotels that we speak to are tired of juggling different solutions and vendors. They would like to deal centrally, simplifying communication, training needs and increasing effectiveness.
Technology advise for Hotels in 2017 to hotels is to finally start competing against smart sites like AirBnB. Hotels need to engage into dialogue with potential bookers through the website by implementing chat options. Just like you can communicate with a host on AirBnB. Hotels are hiding too much behind their Booking Engine, and have forgotten what it is like to do personal one to one sales in thia digital era. Customer service should start not upon arrival, but the moment someone lands on your website. We are currently exploring and testing solutions to drive this home and give our hotels a diferentiating edge, with a personal pre-booking service experience, over their competitors.
The conclusion? Simplify your tech and concentrate in areas that help your hotel directly. Don’t ignore the evolving landscape, learn from the techniques of larger companies, consolidate and don’t ignore the impact of mobile to the hotel industry.