Hotels are often reminded of what they should be doing, or encouraged to try new things as the sector gets more competitive than ever.
Speaking at the Seize Opportunity In Disruption conference for hotels in London last week, Habbel’s take on it is that hotels should be more experimental, take a few risks and try some initiatives to understand what might work for a property.
He is very much from the school of thought that argues for innovation in a startup-type way – throw lots of things against a wall and see what sticks.
In no particular order, here are Habbel’s eight mini-projects (and a leftfield one at the end to finish off):
1. Make everything simple
This is particularly important for the booking process on a hotel website.
Scale back clutter is one tip, as well as adding elements such as that evening’s rate for a room (appealing to the late booker) and offering incentives.
Urgency messaging (“one room left at $100 per night”, for example), as pioneered by the online travel agencies such as Booking.com, has also been known to increase conversions.
2. Keep trying new distribution channels
Rather than setting a strategy on existing channels for a period of time, hotels should be more flexible.
Book-by-the-minute sites such as DayUse have seen some traction, with hotels realising they can utilise rooms during so-called down times during a day for business layovers near airports.
Also, consider social channels and lesser-known sites/wholesalers to display rates.
3. Experiment with chatbots
Sure, it’s the trend-of-the-moment yet even the general refuseniks of emerging tech shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.
Firstly, it can be used as a customer service tool and a method for showcasing services to up-sell to a guest.
But perhaps most crucially, there is an entire generation of travellers coming on-stream that will never call a brand, preferring instead to engage on THEIR platform of choice (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp et al).
4. Expand to the neighbourhood
Airbnb is credited (rightly or wrongly) with spearheading this movement to thinking about accommodation as part of the wider destination.
Hotels should consider creating or partnering with third parties to do a better job of showcasing the local area.
This should go beyond the obvious things to do in a destination (museums, landmarks, etc) and instead look at what else happens in a neighbourhood – art events, community projects, local-hosted tours.
5. Steal from the OTAs
If it works for the giants of the online travel agency world then why shouldn’t hotels adopt similar tactics for a property.
These include the aforementioned urgency messaging around rates but also how many people have looked at a room, booked it in the last 24 hours, or if they booked an additional service (with a link).
Hotels should think more like ecommerce brands with their online activity, rather just a shop window on their produce.
6. Personalise using Facebook
There is no reason why guests should not be able to log in to a site using their Facebook profile (implementation is very easy and free).
Such integration allows a brand to learn more about the customer for their own CRM activity post-trip or introduce special rates for loyal customers.
In particular, guests can be offered deals if they share a property’s details with a Facebook friend, or given exclusive and discounted access to another service (food, pool, gym, etc).
7. Sell your competitors
Considered controversial by many, hotels should mimic their intermediary counterparts by taking advertising for rival properties.
Affiliate marketing allows this to happen fairly easily via ad units on a site.
The thinking here is that it can be a small revenue stream (media) but the risk to a brand’s value is low.
Wider alt-selling can include flights and car rentals, or activities and ground transportation.
8. Invest in data science
Hotels do not necessarily need to hire large groups of nerds, by any stretch of the imagination.
But what they should consider is thinking about how they use web services to improve their online presence and activity.
A/B testing of site features is one area to explore (amazingly, many do not do this), or dipping a toe in predictive modelling of consumer behaviour based on previous activity.
For example, identifying trends in guest buying patterns when they in a property (a guest will rarely use a bar on the same day that they have spa session).
9. Buy a startup
Sounds a bit fanciful for a hotel to move into the world of M&A, yet if it works for the Big Guns of the hotel sector (such as Accor with OneFineStay) why not others.
The reality is that a hotel (or small chain) should understand what is coming down the startup pipe and how it might work for them.
This can come in a few guises, such as licensing technology or, one step further, acqui-hiring a team when it’s product starts to falter in the wider ecosystem of the startup world.
NB: Hotels image via Pixabay.