How can tech vendors meet the business needs of their hotel clients and help them build the perfect tech stack?So far in our blog series around our tech Partner Program we’ve looked at what digital transformation means for hotels, how to choose the most valuable partner program for you, and what it takes to be a successful tech vendor partner or reseller. Now we‘ve reviewed the hotel tech marketplace, it’s time to look at the tech itself.
Say you’re working with hotels about to invest in IT and technical solutions that will streamline their operational processes and boost their revenue. What will you be recommending for their perfect tech stack?
Typically the first tech solution we think of for hotels is their Property Management System (PMS). For sure anything that streamlines bookings, payment, room allocation, room service, housekeeping and so on is a must. But before we look at the solution, let’s first understand the problem.
Research from TellCharlie revealed hoteliers’ main goals for their property:
- Increase direct bookings
- Improve guest satisfaction
- Control costs
- Increase revenue per guest
- Increase occupancy rates
Knowing these are the challenges that hoteliers most want to tackle, shows consultants where to look when recommending the perfect tech for their clients. And it’s no wonder, given the past year, that hoteliers want to get as many heads in beds as possible, boosting their direct bookings and reducing their spend on commission fees.
Happily, several of these problems can be addressed with one suite of interfacing business intelligence solutions.
How to increase direct bookings
Direct bookings are a win-win for hotels. Besides avoiding commission fees, when the guest comes via their own website, the hotel owns their contact details which offers future sales opportunities. It gives the hotel the greatest control over their brand reputation and helps them build a relationship with the guest from the outset.
But most guests begin their search for a hotel on Google or other metasearch sites like Tripadvisor. So it’s vital that hotels’ own websites appear at or near the top of those search results. This has become easier since Google allowed hotels to list their own sites for free via Google My Business. But they still have to compete with OTAs and others who are prepared to pay for a higher ranked ad placement, or who are advertising rooms at the property for a lower price.
This means it’s important for hoteliers and revenue managers to see how their property is performing in terms of its visibility and competitiveness in the marketplace. Solutions like FornovaDI give clients a ‘Distribution Health’ score which offers them instant insight into how they are performing. It shows where they can make changes to improve their score - and visibility - as well as allowing them to benchmark against similar hotels in the area.
Don’t forget. Although hotels may prefer direct booking, they’re unlikely to fill all rooms themselves so OTAs are part of a strong distribution strategy. Revenue Managers should work with a mix of channels to access guests in overseas markets.
Independent hotels might find themselves slipping in OTA and metasearch rankings because of content parity issues. These occur when information about the hotel is incorrect or out of date across the many platforms and listings found online. Updating all those listings is time-consuming, but failing to do so can be costly as Google deboosts hotels when the information it aggregates from multiple sources proves inconsistent.
Hotels can take charge of their listings across Google, TripAdvisor, Tvivago, Facebook and more using a simple tool designed specifically for hotels which allows them to create one data-rich listing to roll out across all other platforms. HotelDirectoryListings.com is free to use and can help hotels boost their online visibility and ranking.
How to improve guest satisfaction
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for guest satisfaction. Hotels might use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to assist their marketing and track their relationship with guests throughout the customer lifecycle. This helps them meet the needs of guests who’ve expressed certain preferences.
But, whilst a CRM can point the way to increased sales for certain market segments, it's unlikely to have much impact on individual guest satisfaction. This will be driven by good communication with the guest – even after they’ve stayed and left reviews for you on Google or Tripadvisor – and by meeting their needs prior to booking and throughout their stay.
Seek to understand what guests are looking for when they’re planning their stay. Aim to provide it and keep them informed throughout their visit. This should ensure their happiness. Owning and addressing mistakes quickly and without fuss will also earn brownie points.
FornovaEC (E-Commerce Optimizer) can help hotels increase their sales by optimizing promotions and personalizing marketing, targeted at specific guest needs. Google recently highlighted that decisions to buy are based less on price and more on needs being met. Hotels can satisfy more guests - boosting sales conversions - by offering those experiences in their marketing messaging.
How to control costs
There are many ways for hotels to keep a tight rein on their costs. A PMS can help with this, particularly if it streamlines front desk activities, freeing up staff to work in other parts of the hotel.
Building Management Systems (BMS) which help maintain HVAC and keep areas of the property at a constant temperature can also reduce costs. Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity of key equipment, allows engineers to check that everything is running at peak efficiency. In addition, many sustainability initiatives like switching to LED lighting, movement sensors in corridors which switch lights off when no one is present, aerator taps, dual flush toilets etc. will all reduce property overheads.
Direct booking also helps reduce costs as hotels won’t be paying commission fees for their occupancy. Solutions which help teams optimize their distribution across the channels should help with this.
We’re very aware that times are tough for hoteliers right now and their team resources are stretched very thin. With that in mind our CRO recently hosted a Masterclass laying out a 7 point plan for commercial teams to work together. By aligning marketing and distribution strategies, teams can avoid costly errors, boosting revenue and staying competitive.
Hotel data can offer valuable insights into ways teams can improve their competitive performance. To recommend the perfect tech stack for a particular hotel, a consultant needs to see and understand the bigger picture around the environment in which the hotel operates. Business intelligence solutions like FornovaCI can help hotels see where they stand in relation to other properties in their comp-set, as well as showing them where they can focus attention to gain a competitive edge, even across different country points of sale.
How to increase revenue per guest
There are two main ways to increase revenue per paying guest. First is at the point of sale when guests book their stay. By ensuring rate parity across the channels, guests are more likely to book via the hotel website, bringing all the revenue for the sale direct to the hotel. This is particularly true post-Covid when guests come armed with questions around how the property is mitigating risk, which platforms outside of the hotel’s own website may struggle to answer.
To support efforts that improve direct booking opportunities, hotels might value a solution like FornovaDI. This is a ‘rate shopper plus’ solution which helps hotels monitor their ‘Beat / Meet / Lose’ scenarios on room rates shopped across multiple channels and metasearch sites and more than 50 points of sale. This enables them to make quick intelligence-based decisions on pricing to ensure they’re not being undercut by other channels, reducing the chances of losing that direct sale.
Once customers are on their website or in the property, hotels can also increase revenue per guest by upselling. This could be through revenue management techniques governing length of stay restrictions and use of attractive packages which include meals or spa sessions, or it could be through marketing in situ, promoting add-ons for the guest stay. ePos (electronic point of sale) systems can help staff boost their upselling when serving guests throughout their stay.
How to increase occupancy rates
It’s fair to say that it’s going to be challenging for most hotels this year to achieve high occupancy levels. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to increase their market share against their competitors. Any tech which can help hoteliers achieve higher occupancy in their destination than their comp-set, is worth considering.
A hotel’s marketing strategy is critical for boosting their online visibility and their reputation with guests, improving their chances of increased occupancy. Marketing and the revenue management team need to work together, watching booking numbers by lead time and acting when occupancy rates slip below usual levels.
Then marketing can uplift sales opportunities with promotions, and revenue managers can work with the channels to increase their visibility. A system like FornovaRI can help revenue managers understand guest profiles and react to booking behavior trends, whilst the E-Commerce Optimizer works with marketing to develop smarter campaigns around Google Hotel Ads, building in personalization to target specific points of sale and helping RMs to respond dynamically according to demand, adjusting their rates and inventory accordingly.
There are many solutions in the tech marketplace that can tackle these five critical pain points for hoteliers. Any consultant should do their due diligence to compare what’s on offer and ensure they can recommend the best option for each client. It’s important to bear in mind that ideally these solutions should interface for the best results, so a shared API is imperative. Fornova partners with Oracle Hospitality to ensure optimal integration with a wide range of technical solutions.
Just as a PMS is a must-have for any hotel today, increasingly in a data-driven world, a business intelligence solution is also imperative. A good business intelligence tool will automatically collate the data from across a hotel's various systems and revenue streams (PMS, CRS, F&B, etc.) into a single unified dashboard.
By eliminating data silos and having better, faster, more accurate reporting, hotels can speed up decision-making and increase collaboration across revenue, distribution, sales, marketing, operations and management teams, maximising opportunities to get heads in beds.
In a recent webinar hosted by Event Temple, panellists suggested the key questions to ask of hotel tech developers included ‘what are the challenges you face?’ and ‘what resources do you have?’ to understand the level of product support and development available, as well as ‘will this add too much process?’ for a stretched hotel team. Ask other hoteliers what they use and recommend, and ask vendors their experience of product integration.
Armed with these insights you should be well placed to help your clients build their perfect tech stack. If you feel Fornova’s suite of business intelligence solutions offer a persuasive package for your clients, contact us to learn more about our Partner Program.