When periods of dislocation and disruption occur, they often create an environment ripe for change and innovation. With the pandemic continuing to hover menacingly over the hospitality industry, that moment is now, and nowhere is that change more apparent than in the need to revitalise our industry’s focus on digital and data.
These areas will define the success of hospitality companies in the next few years as they come out of the pandemic period and the way it has created a fire blanket over a previously hot travel market. Those that survive will need to be lean and effective at reaching and retaining customers. This won’t be possible without understanding who those customers are through analytics, personalising their experience and reaching them with the right offer when they are considering booking.
In this post we therefore look at the digital adoption underpinning the industry, how that is driving personalisation, and how revenue management is moving with these trends to become a more evolved and integral part of hoteliers’ approaches.
To catch up on our first three trends, which covered staffing, changing demand patterns and the future that awaits the MICE segment, click here. Read on to see how to take your hotel into the digital age.
You may be sick of hearing it, but the digital and data side of the hotel business is not going away. In fact, quite the opposite is true, and you need a comprehensive strategy in place that takes a digital-first mindset, both for reaching out to the customer and handling their information behind-the-scenes.
The fundamentals are clear: hotels need to be fostering a long-term relationship with their most profitable guests and looking for similar potential bookers in their marketing and partner programs. That’s just not possible in today’s distribution system without the right digital approach.
Lying at the heart of this are well-structured and accessible datasets that allow insights to be derived and shared across different segments of the business, depending on their needs.
This can start with something as simple as site analytics and SEO, growing into a comprehensive suite that includes Customer Relationship Management (CRM), a Property Management System (PMS), financials, marketing and promotions, revenue management and third-party data.
The key is to keep building and integrating these layers in a structured manner that improves the picture of information each time and to then link that back into measurable goals and informed decision making.
It is also pretty much mission-critical now to make sure that information is hosted in the cloud. Migrating data away from local systems creates several benefits, most noticeably breaking down internal silos and sharing information far more easily, but also being able to link internal data and systems up to third party micro-services. The growing profusion of services in this latter category allow more nimbleness from hospitality companies as they can tap into a wide range of external expertise and skills.
Through this, hospitality businesses can fully contextualise relationships with their customers, not just in a particular moment, but across that entire lifetime. With that, comes efficiencies and revenue-generating opportunities: marketing can be better directed; loyalty programs targeted meaningfully; in-stay ancillaries positioned at key moments; and post-stay communications tailored, all while streamlining overall operations. That ability to increase the margins through this process will be vital at a time when hotels are being faced with tough budget calls.
A huge part of the ability to reach out and talk to customers effectively is a result of being able to action the data and talk to that consumer on a personal level, which brings us to our next trend: personalisation.
Another trend that is now a must and that has been on the rise for a while is personalisation. Taking all your touch points with a customer and bringing together what you know to provide a personalised service will be a core part of getting your hospitality business back on its feet.
Why is that? Because a host of surveys and studies have shown that personalisation works. It does this by creating a connection between brand and business in initial interactions, helping to secure first-time bookings, and then also builds the relationship, so that customers trust that brand and return to it. More than one piece of research has found that around 80% of consumers say that they are more likely to shop with a brand that creates personalised experiences. Take a look at this guide from Oaky on why personalising your offer is essential at your hotel.
For a hotel brand, personalisation takes on several phases depending on the customer’s point in their journey, all of which should be linked up by a central CRM system. These are:
At a time of curtailed budgets, maximising paid channels and reducing cost of acquisition is a must, making personalisation more a requirement than an option for hoteliers looking to conduct campaigns.
Marketers need reliable data from a variety of sources to create accurate personas of their guests. They need to be looking closely at forward-looking data and noting when and where demand is coming from to produce personalised digital advertising. At a time when so much is up in the air, they cannot be solely reliant on what their prior guest has looked like and need to work to spot all revenue opportunities in the market. That is why a market intelligence solution like Market Insight is now indispensable for hotel marketing teams - providing granular, segmented demand insights to better inform marketing campaigns.
Then on own-brand channels, personalisation needs to take another step up to capture these potentially valuable direct bookings. This should encompass a dynamic online experience that can tailor the messaging and process depending on the visitor’s location, language, prior booking interest and preferences.
In the time between booking and the stay, revenue and data gathering opportunities abound, but no one wants to be spammed with useless material. Hoteliers need to nurture those email connections and build in relevant and engaging communications with guests. A CRM system can kick into gear here and identify what works and doesn’t for different guest personas, capture key data and allow ancillary offers and up-selling to be positioned correctly.
Once guests arrive, then there is a huge opportunity to impress and build a long-term relationship, as well as boost property-related revenues. Using data gathered pre-stay, hotels can offer personalised interactions on the property, although it is important to think about the human elements and how staff can take advantage of information as well as feed it back into a system.
The post-stay phase is often neglected but automated and personalised messaging in this phase can draw guests back in and push them towards loyalty programs, which are extremely valuable from a repeat booking and data perspective. Look towards creating one-on-one messages here that reflect key pieces of personal information and that references their stay.
Creating customer personas and profiles and linking these up across a complete journey will unleash a host of revenue generating potential and marketing opportunities. As the cost to install these capacities continues to fall, while the need to maximise own-brand channels remains a priority, personalisation will only become more attractive and important in the race to remain competitive.
The pace of revenue management is stepping up dramatically and will continue to do so post-pandemic. It is going to be critical for revenue managers to have a high degree of agility across data-gathering, analysis and implementation of strategies. Having a data first foundation that can identify patterns as they emerge and react to them in a market-specific context will be critical.
The underlying drivers of this trend are more accommodation businesses going after a smaller pool of travellers, creating intense competition, and a highly fluid situation. Historical trends are now less reliable to set strategy and hospitality businesses are offering a wider range of rates tied to flexible policies or ancillaries to draw in customers.
As revenue managers shift back from support staff to revenue generators, they will need to fully understand these trends and lead the response to them. With hotel operators leaning more heavily on their revenue managers to help them get an edge in the market, there is then a race to create the perfect set-up in this new environment.
Achieving a better balance for the revenue management department will rely on achieving the right technological base, the core of which is a suite of advanced business intelligence tools powered by industry leading data. With forecasting more challenging and less reliant on prior periods, revenue managers need real-time data that covers on the books (OTB), but more importantly, forward-looking demand data, and information on the local environment (major events, travel restrictions, etc.) at any given moment. This is where a market intelligence solution comes into play.
They also need increasing agility when it comes to what discounting and promotional strategies they can set, alongside the overall rates. Since the pandemic broke, flexibility has been a priority for both consumers, as well as search engines and OTAs. This has driven a rise in semi-flexible rates and a fall in the prevalence of non-refundable rooms on offer.
The trend will carry through for the foreseeable future and revenue managers need to be able to respond, creating rates that cater to market needs, whether that is accommodating cancellation policies, or additional discounts for upselling rooms or for increasing length-of-stay. By using the Rate Strategy feature within Rate Insight, you can see pricing and promotional strategies in your market, understand the impact of promotions on your competitiveness and then benchmark this strategy against your compset.
As revenue managers move toward the role of key revenue generators, able to influence demand more directly, they need to be elevated into the heart of hospitality business decision-making and coordinate closely with their marketing and sales counterparts. This requires a holistic commercial strategy and close collaboration, all underpinned by shared data insights.
As noted above, the traditional position of the revenue manager to purely set room rates and advise on strategy from deep in the back office is going to fade. The revenue manager’s position is going to grow and move towards the centre of hospitality businesses.
Fundamental to this, is the need for more effective and encompassing metrics that really reflect what is going on within a property. Out of these metrics, Total Revenue Per Available Room (Total RevPAR or TRevPAR) is set to be the critical metric to take forward and put at the centre of how you measure property performance.
Already, pre-pandemic there was a need to increase the scope of how to measure a revenue manager’s success. This has now taken on added urgency as hotels need to really understand costs against revenues when operating capital is at such a premium, looking beyond pure revenue generation from rooms sold.
The metric takes the total revenue base for a hotel and then divides this between the total available number of rooms to give a per-room metric for how a hotel is performing across its entire business, not just from room sales. This should include all additional revenue generating areas, ranging from food and beverage to on-site spas, to commissions from in-destination activity partners.
This breadth is why Total RevPAR is becoming the core key performance indicator (KPI) for many accommodation providers, as it is a more effective measure of success than traditional RevPAR. By monitoring its constituent parts, hoteliers have granularity on performance across the business, which they can then tweak for greater business performance.
For example, they can quickly identify trends in their ancillary revenue streams and recalibrate pricing in these all-too-often static areas or place high-demand items front and centre on their owned channels. This kind of approach is only going to become more important as hotels look to widen their offerings, both to attract back critical leisure travellers, but also to squeeze all potential revenue out of their properties to carry them out of this difficult period.
That (and part one) summarises our seven key trends for 2022. Although many of these have been pushed to the forefront by the extraordinary times we are going through, taking them into account and using them to remodel your hospitality business makes long-term sense.
If you need help in doing this, then we are to give you advice and set you up for success. Get in contact with our team today and see how we can make sure you are ready for whatever comes your way in 2022.