The digitalization of hospitality:
From trend to requirement, a topic that for many hoteliers still means “starting the house from the roof down”!
Much has been said about the digitalization of hospitality. It has become a regular subject in discussion forums on hospitality, leaving no one indifferent and generating as many fans as opponents. In fact, this is the theme that will certainly divide, and as ones will stand out, many will be left adrift.
Until 2019, the digitalization of hospitality could be considered a trend theme but since then, in the light of the events we’re experiencing today, it turned into a matter of necessity and, more importantly, a matter of customer expectations. Actually, even before any measure of social distance, when none of us would avoid touching surfaces, the up to date of a hotel was already measured by its adaptation to this new reality, a perception that has become increasingly intensified, finding its maximum exponent in the current pandemic context.
How to take advantage of this phase
Brands that intend to reinvent themselves are now obliged to take advantage of this moment to re-think and prepare themselves to take the leap towards a reality that, in most cases, pushes their structures out of the so-called “comfort zone”. It is precisely the reason why so many directions and shareholders prefer to reduce the meaning of the digitalization of hospitality to simpler processes as the creation of a service APP for customers, the provision of Smart TVs in the rooms or even the creation of internal communication channels. The key point, and so often overlooked, is: How about starting from the base, looking at the website as a sales channel and leveraging it?
Those who pretend
It is easier to reduce the digitization of hospitality to a product/offer transformation. When considering these digital products as an asset for the customer, it only takes a press release for the media and voilá, here is our “high-tech” “21st century” hotel. This is, of course, the best option for those who do not intend to shake the installed structures, who have no intention of facing the pressure of intermediaries or changing mentalities. It is the option that continues to leave out the potential of the website as a profitable sales channel.
Those who realized that the game has changed
For those who are willing to play the game differently and are not frightened by the usual arguments that compares their investment value in digital to the Booking.com ones (for example), we pointed out direct reservations as an evolution proposal for hospitality brands in ABC Hospitality Blog’s previous article. Now we highlight 3 reasons why you should invest on this channel and 6 steps to do it more efficiently.
3 Reasons to invest on direct reservations:
1. Direct revenue, without commissions, without intermediaries
The website is certainly a communication channel that you already have. It is the “showcase for your brand” and, therefore, it was a necessary investment to enter the market. So why not use it to obtain reservations that do not depend on intermediaries and have no commission costs? The investment you will make in digital marketing is up to you, you can adjust it to your business strategy and the results can be measured! This means that its cost/benefit can be quantified. Can you say the same thing about the investment allocated to attendance at fairs in the sector, for example?
2. Build customer loyalty
When booking on your website, customers are sharing their data, they are trusting you, and many gave their approval to receive communications on your brand. Thus, your website is a channel for communication and build customer loyalty. This allows you to build your own database, send promotions, special offers, thanking your customers for their trust with personalized and individualized products that will make them feel special and increase the likelihood of new reservations through the same channel. The cost of a loyal customer is much less than attracting new customers.
3. Diversification of sales channels
No sales channel is sacred, and you were able to see the countless threats of boycotts and complaints to which OTAs were exposed during the 1st wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. The difficulty of cancelling reservations and the lack of customer support generated great waves of indignation. Not to mention the complete disappearance of many travel agencies in this new context. Your website is the sales channel you can control, it is up to you to make it more attractive to the consumer.
6 steps to improve your direct sales
1. Investing on functional, user-friendly and Search Engines Optimized websites (SEO): websites that are easy to find by the search engines and to place on the first pages of Google allow you to not only generate organic sales, without any cost, but also decrease the investment needed in ads.
2. Design a Google Ads strategy (using performance teams or digital marketing agencies) based on ROI, defining markets with greater potential and using remarketing actions with a target on your website users.
3. Offer Added Values that make your website a more attractive channel for the customer. Much is said about price parity, however, hotels end up seeing their rooms among OTAs’ secret offers, often being sold below the price shown on their own website. Offering added values can be a solution, as it leads the customer to choose the direct booking for having an upgrade, free breakfast or any other decisive factor at the time of comparison.
4. Create a strategy of loyalty and direct communication with the customer so that the customer chooses to return and does so through direct booking. This type of communication, which must be an integral part of the digital marketing strategy, is once again quantifiable.
5. Reserve yourself the right to offer flexible cancellation policies on your website. In 2020, the hotel industry was entitled to a lesson on cancellation policies. The hotel’s website should generate trust, your team should be on the client’s side and show them how easy it is to solve some issue directly with the hotel, without intermediaries.
6. Have an efficient Booking Engine, with several payment methods and, please, a SSL CERTIFICATE. It seems absurd that a website’s security certificate is still part of a list of steps to improve direct bookings in 2021. However, there are a lot of hotels that trust their websites to companies that do not follow up on topics as essential as implementing or maintaining the website secure for transactions.
Have you ever stopped to think that the website that sells the most rooms does not own any hotel? That the platform that most food delivery orders generate doesn’t have any restaurant?
Do you still think you shouldn’t invest on direct selling?
Digital Marketing Strategist
ABC Sustainable Luxury Hospitality