When I first started in a commercial role in hotels about 10 years ago, I remember the data-gaps in our knowledge, based on which we had to make serious business decisions. Some of the interesting things I remember that came up from our PMS reports:
- A huge amount of guests came from Afghanistan, which seemed strange for a hotel based in Prague with no direct flights
- When we did a mailing campaign, over 40% of e-mails proved not to exist
- 80% of guests were male
Upon closer investigation we learned that this was due to a poor user-interface of the Property Management System, and inconsistent training/supervision in front office. When completing a booking, the receptionist simply clicked through guest bookings without verifying any of the fields. So how could we trust any of the data?
In 2016 we find that hotels are still often stuck with similar challenges, and make key business decisions on a small subset of data points. For this reason, I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned in the last 3 years during which we built our PMS, which may come in helpful when you start looking around for an upgrade of your hotel reservation system:
Online Check-in allows guests to give you the correct data
Very early on, we implemented an online-check-in, it enables guests to update their own personal data into the PMS directly. This ensured that we always had the most correct address, nationality, telephone, age and e-mails in the system to begin with. 40% of our guests are currently checking-in online.
Implement Google Address check on guest profiles
When I worked at Hilton we had a suspiciously high number of guests from Afganistan. Had we not used our common sense, we would have deployed sales people to this country to find more business… luckily we figured out that this was simply the first entry field in the list of countries, and users were bypassing the field.
A good way to improve the data entry of guest addresses, check with your PMS or CRS provider whether its possible to implement a Google Address Finder, so that it will automatically search for the correct address of guest.
Integrated channel manager
When we first connected channel managers into some of our initial hotels, we instantly noticed that data was getting much cleaner and correct. Why?
- Guest e-mails were filled in correctly, so guests were invited to check-in online
- Part of guest profiles (such as nationality) were passed correctly through the connection
- We obtained the exact time of booking
Once you have waterproofed the data entry, you should be safe to start analysis and start making conclusions.
Now work with the data to improve your commercial strategy
1. What is the guest-nationality breakdown on your website vs OTA’s? Often you see a difference, due to the lack of a languages on hotel websites. There are great online translation services that help translate your website for a fraction of the cost you would traditionally pay for transaction services. It will have an instant impact on conversion!
For example many French guests still prefer to book in their own language. If you see a high percentage of French guests booking via an OTA, you know they are interested in your hotel, they are simply not able to book via your website if you only offer English as a language.
2. When are people booking your hotel via your own website? Do you see trends in the timings when guests are making bookings? For example do you see that on Monday evenings you have a significantly high number of bookings… why not use this information to create a special promotion or messaging on your website to further improve conversion. (We love what the startup www.hotelchamp.com is doing in this space)
3. Target upselling to the right customer. Analyse who of your customers actually purchased an upsell in the past, if you see that for example “men” from countries X, Y, Z are highly likely to purchase an upsell, ensure you update their profile with a message to reception to attempt an upsell.
4. Analyse your stay patterns per channel: every serious OTA now allows you to set commission overrides, but if you fill your weekends anyway, focus on those channels that bring you business during shoulder and low occupancy nights. So if you see a trend where Expedia brings business with a longer LOS, spend your money wisely.
5. What type of customers have what lead time: analyse your guests by Nationality/Gender/Channel and compare this to similar stay-periods in the past, to find trends in lead time. So if you have a gap in occupancy in a specific period, spend your PPC budget by targeting those customers who are most likely to book in your distressed periods.
6. Is there a trend between age and spending patterns?: review whether you see a significant trend between the age of your guests and how much they spend at the hotel, both in ADR but also in ancillary revenue. Focus on those channels that bring you the customer with the most optimal spend pattern. Be creative in your adwords and ensure your website is enticing to the most profitable customer group.
7. Create different landing pages of your website for different customer groups: analyse your guests and segment them into 3 or 4 major groups of travellers (such as: leisure male travellers, age 30-50). Next create special landing pages (with tools such as this one, this is very easy and cheap) where these customers enter your website via AdWords targeted to this group specifically. This should drive significantly stronger conversion.
For example a millennial traveller will care mostly about having great fast wifi, compared to a young family who are on a leisure break, so target your websites differently to these 2 customer groups.
In order to have a waterproof sales and e-commerce strategy in place, ensure you clean up your data, and spend some serious time analysing it to set smart goals and targets.
Matthijs Welle - CEO