Social media, interconnectivity, consumer review sites –these have all become game changers in the booking process for hoteliers.
No new insights there, but with less than two weeks to go before we hit 2012, what “new” advice can I give to revenue managers to stay ahead and above the comfort curve? Let’s start with implementing intelligent, automated and dynamic pricing strategies to manage and preempt the evolving and sometimes unpredictable habits of consumers – starting on January 1st.
While this is not a new concept, it’s still one that some revenue managers evade or put off for another year. But with the calendar counting down, there are fewer excuses left, so let’s take a look at some challenges and their resolutions for the coming year.
What, When, Why, How?
It’s difficult to get a handle on exactly what motivates consumers to book both where and when. Is it mainly price points, brand loyalty, reviews from the media or trusted websites – or a combination of all three?
This interconnectivity can often leave revenue managers with an exhausted perspective of what’s working and what isn’t. With platforms in the playing field like social media, mobile apps, online travel agencies, and myriad travel deal sites– not only are consumers flooded with options for data, revenue managers need intelligent solutions to assist.
Latest industry reporting supports this trend. According to a recent Travelport study, 25 percent of leisure and 26 percent of business travellers researched their travel on OTAs, which is only going to continue to grow in 2012 as meta-search engines like Kayak and Google Hotel Finder expand customer touch points and drive traffic back to OTAs.
It’s Not Always About Price
It’s no secret consumers want value in a tight economy. But, what’s even more vital is perceived value – consumers want to feel confident with their booking decision. Like myself, industry experts realize that a room rate isn’t the only qualifying factor here in a what-when-why-how decision-making process. They may want to feel confident with a decision to book a particular hotel, not only based on rate but the inclusion of amenities, customer service and other intangibles.
So the booking rate equation becomes more complicated. Add in business traveller group discounts, package deals, special incentives or online travel providers, and the equation becomes even more challenging. Even more challenging still is understanding consumer behaviors and motivations, past, present and future. Analysing data of this complexity is, well, complex. By utilising automated pricing strategies, however, hoteliers and their key team can dig far deeper into the data without guesswork or relying on historical information only.
Mobile, Mobile Everywhere
Based on what’s happening in the retail and airline industries, where the mobile channel has become the buying and booking tool of choice, mobile will be very big business in 2012. Hoteliers, it’s time to get onboard with mobile. Google projects that 8 percent of mobile users will be booking travel from their smartphones by 2012. Automated pricing systems can preempt the quick changes in technology. As booking windows continue to shrink, being not only receptive to mobile booking but also preemptive to rate strategy will be key to increasing occupancy rates.
And then there is consumer engagement. Facebook, Twitter, other social media outlets and e-commerce generates buzz: travellers share their experiences, both favorable and unfavorable, and this is proven to be a growing trend. But revenue managers already have a lot on their administrative plate. Maintaining high occupancy rates while maximising profits is most important; however, other variables such as guests writing about travel experiences or special offers on mobile apps can have considerable impact on demand, and bookings. This level of access, powered by interconnectivity, breeds a level of openness and transparency not often seen in the hotel industry. But, with automated systems in place, this can create a new pathway for hoteliers, revenue managers and other executives to get a grasp and, importantly, keep a grasp on increasing occupancy, revenue and customer satisfaction – because that is ultimately what matters most.
Clearly, consumer behaviour is not stagnant, it’s somewhat of an organic being–twisted and turned and influenced by environmental factors. Pricing rooms is a combination of intuition, sales trends, economic fluctuations, and increasingly new variables such as mobile apps and social media. Using automated pricing strategies will help hoteliers navigate through these variables using technology. As we embark on a new year, 2012 presents exciting changes for hoteliers.
Think and visualise bigger by grouping together market segments, tracking inventory, integrating customer information, and improving the platform for your hotel’s operation. Build your property loyalty, embrace technologies and include automated pricing strategies that in turn will support mobile bookings, maximise revenues and fill rooms.
Isn’t that a better way to see in the New Year?