There are a number of issues that can plague hotels in the 21st century, including failing to receive enough direct bookings, keeping up with rising acquisition costs and improving operating efficiency through rate distribution management. However, one thing that can assist with all of these problems is having a better online distribution strategy; one that will get your property in front of as many guests from as many different markets as you desire. By effectively creating a network of people and tools that are working to promote you around the clock, you should boost the number of rooms you can fill at any given time of year. But this is easier said than done. How can you diversify your distribution strategies and boost your profile online this year?
Here are a few tips and techniques that could help you for 2017
- Always look for new distribution channels
For continual growth and development, it’s really important to keep your finger on the pulse regarding where travellers are looking for their travel and accommodation solutions. If there is a new big thing that everyone is using, you really can’t afford not to have a presence there. However, remember to focus carefully on the guest profile that you want to target – keep in mind those persona profiles you should have drawn up as part of your marketing strategy. If the latest trend is centred around millennials and you’re purely a hotel for retired couples, you probably won’t need to focus your marketing attention there. Keep in mind what your guests want and then match it to the appropriate distribution channels. For example, target the price-conscious category by finding out where they are doing their research and then contacting them there with a strategy that highlights your excellent value. Split your marketing budget between the appropriate channels and you should cover as many bases as possible within your means.
- Don’t neglect mobile web design and functionality
It’s absolutely essential to have a design for your website that works when people are using smartphones, as this is now an increasingly common way to consume travel information. Not only must you ensure the supporting technology is in place (responsive design, plug-ins whittled down, which we’ve covered in detail here before), but you should also consider the fact that mobile users have a different mindset to desktop users. For example, they are likely to be more task-oriented and in need of simple booking forms with safe payment methods that they can manage while they commute to work or scroll through as they make dinner. It’s also worth considering that your mobile audience is more likely to be looking for a last-minute deal on hotel rooms than static audiences, which you can capitalise on with targeted ads and calls to action that show you’ve got rooms available at great prices provided a booking is made quickly.
- Link up with metasearch sites
Metasearch sites are often viewed as something to be avoided at all costs by hoteliers, but the fact is that they can be a handy tool when applied properly. Using metasearch portals like Kayak, hotels are able to list their rooms for lower prices than they would on online travel agents (OTAs) since there is no commission fee to be paid – metasearch works on a pay-per-click basis that’s usually lower in the first place. What’s more, metasearch can drive further direct bookings, as travellers who come to you through them are able to go straight to your website instead of carrying out the entire reservation via an OTA. This helps with brand awareness and could provide a steady stream of future income. Hotels would do well to build a metasearch strategy into their digital marketing plan to offer would-be guests real-time information and comparison of rates, so consider taking a look at which one’s right for you in terms of distribution versus expense.
- Consider implementing chatbots for increased communication
Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular in the world of hotels lately. Not only can they help with conversions, but they can also improve your brand’s reputation and therefore increase trust and engagement with would-be guests. A chatbot is basically an artificial intelligence service that simulates a conversation with another human being. It allows the sending of text-based messages, but also other useful titbits like videos and hyperlinks so that people can ask questions and receive appropriate answers.
Many of the big-name hotels now have chatbots to improve communication, direct people down the path to booking, ensure service 24/7 and reconnect with visitors who have abandoned their bookings. They can reduce the workloads of employees and provide another channel for booking, although it’s worth keeping in mind that chatbots may need monitoring in case queries are too complex for them to deal with and real human interaction is needed. The way forward may be to implement a standard messaging platform and then work upwards from there.
At World Hotel Marketing, we can offer a portfolio of hotel distribution solutions that can be carefully tailored for your property’s needs and budget, from a booking engine designed for multiple platforms to a connection with the Global Distribution System. We also have a proven track record in hospitality marketing and development for brands as big as Hilton and Holiday Inn, so we will be able to assist you no matter what your requirements and how large or small your property. Just visit our website for a round-up of our products and service, then drop us a line if you want more information or to start working with us.