It can be tough to stand out in a sea of competitors. How do you craft the perfect custom blend of message and motivation that will have hotel guests booking in droves? Donald Gasper talks to two of the professionals.

“Hotels today are no longer just competing with rival hotel brands” says Rachel Grier, Asia-Pacific managing director of IDeaS Revenue Solutions. “They also have to contend with third-party distributors and disruptors from the sharing economy, such as Airbnb. Hotels do have one big advantage over these new competitors – they can directly engage guests, collect data about them and provide a customised experience.”

Rachel Grier, Asia-Pacific managing director of IDeaS Revenue Solutions.

For a hotel to personalise a guest’s stay, predictive modelling must be applied to the behavioural data that is gathered from all guest interactions. This allows hotels to improve their segmentation and group together customers who behave similarly, so the hotels can more effectively target messaging and ‘stay experiences’ to them. With predictive modelling, a hotel can understand a guest’s likely lifetime value, which can assist in growing the value of their most valuable guests, as well as determining where to source more of those high lifetime value guests in the future.

“Additionally, where in the past the guest relationship with a hotel was direct, personal and on a one-to-one basis; today, guests are in the driving seat and a hotel’s brand and reputation is what consumers tell each other it is,” says Grier.

In this context, social media and reputation information is vital as it forms a basis of value perception related to price sensitivity and demand as a subsequent function of price. To be effective today, revenue managers need to incorporate value perception data points, competitor set reputation and value weighting when developing pricing strategies and executing marketing campaigns, since value perception has a direct impact on a hotel’s ability to capture guests.

What are the latest trends in tools available to the sales and marketing team?   

Function spaces in hotels, and the areas dedicated to meetings and events, can account for up to 40 to 60 percent of a hotel’s overall revenues, Grier says. These spaces can have significant positive impacts on a hotel’s profitability, but if these spaces go undersold, they can also be a drag on a property’s financial performance. Today there are cloud-based, visual strategy management solutions on the market to help hotels analyse and dissect their business trends and meeting space performance at their properties. (IDeas offers one such solution.) These systems visually consolidate data from other sales tools to help hotel teams strategically manage property functions and collaborate on ideal pricing strategies to enhance revenues.

How do you motivate and mentor the revenue managers and the sales force?

Hoteliers must achieve optimal levels of revenue and profitability from non-room revenue areas like conferences and events, Grier says. They also need to incentivise their sales teams to achieve quality of business, rather than quantity. Having the right forecasting, data and metrics in place may not result in optimal business, without the sales team delivering the right piece of business with highest impact to the hotel. “Sales teams, therefore, need to channel their focus on quality of business, rather than on single- dimensional metrics such as sale volume or space occupancy.”

Using smart technology

Kristian Valk, chairman and CEO of Hotelchamp.

“I believe the next big step in the industry relies on using smart technology to create outstanding customer experience to engage with the guest from the very beginning of the booking process,” says Kristian Valk, chairman and CEO of Hotelchamp, which was founded to boost direct bookings and build guest relationships. “Hoteliers should be able to provide their guests with the same level of hospitality online, that they are already acknowledged for offline.”

Hotelchamp, which has offices in Amsterdam and Barcelona, “What we see with leading companies in other industries such as KLM, Netflix, or Spotify,” Valk says, “is that personalisation makes the online user experience unique and adjusted to every customer’s needs.

The hospitality industry should be at the forefront of these innovations to rebuild guest relationships online, however, nowadays, too many hotel websites remain very static and unresponsive.”

In the coming years, Valk expects that every hotel will have access to smart technology to create dynamic and engaging websites. “Imagine how appealing and interactive a website can be if it recognises in real time a business or leisure guest with or without kids. It will allow hoteliers to send ultra-personalised offers and relevant services. The business guest will be more likely to book if he receives a special discount for a taxi to the airport rather than a generic discount. On the other hand, a guest with two kids will be more sensitive to a special discount for the Family Room or more information about activities for the kids at the hotel rather than a free drink for two.”

Smart technology is the key to create unique optimised customer journeys for every audience with the highest possible chance of conversion, Valk believes.