Challenge: in the context of the Hotel Industry, can you give me a clear definition of Attribute-based selling?
Typically, in an attempt to answer a question like this and in times like these, you might be falling into either of the following categories:
you know what ABS is, but barely any hoteliers has been using it, so you quite don't trust;
you are not sure what's the real difference between attribute-based selling and ancillary services;
you quite don't know what it is... and probably you don't care (fair enough).
In this article I'm NOT going to guide you through what ABS is, plenty of other blog posts out there already succeeded in this attempt.
As per title, today and together we are about to get much more practical by reverse-engineering some real examples of how hotel attributes, even the smallest and most unconceivable ones, may turn a boring Standard Room into an appealing and valuable product, with the ultimate goal of providing your customers with a better guest booking experience and, consequently, helping you increase the ADR (average daily rate), revenue stream and direct bookings.
Ready? Let's get started!
Same product for different target markets: Just... why?
Have you ever thoroughly thought that you sell the exact same product to a wide variety of targets with completely different needs, wishes and desires?
In the hotel rooms that you conventionally categorize with the label Standard can sleep solo biz travellers and senior couples. As do young couples and families. As do groups and mice.
In other words, we label our rooms with what we can define a lowest common denominator (standard room, superior room, etc.), so that we can use one single word (therefore, one single product) to sell to a variety of different customer personas.
And so you might be asking:
How else can it be?
In fact, a hotel room is... a hotel room: you can't change the color of the walls, the bathroom, the floor, the furniture depending on the preferences of each target market.
However, you could also change the way you package your products (your rooms) in a way that they get perceived as the most appealing room in the world in the eyes and mind of your prospective customers.
And that's exactly what a clever ABS system is for.
Attribute- vs. Benefit-based Selling.
In copywriting, the first rule to follow is: turn features into benefits.
This very rule is particularly tricky when it comes to attribute-based selling, precisely because attribute is just another word for feature.
The result? We may be tempted to keep thinking in terms of product (attributes) rather than people (guests), who instead only care about the benefits your attributes will provide them with.
This is why even though all the attribute-based booking systems in the market (not many, to be honest) fall under the same category ABS, in my own view there's a huge difference between attribute- and benefit-based selling softwares and strategies.
Again, softwares and strategies: in fact, you'll see how useless it can be to adopt an ABS system without thoroughly driving it.
So let's see how we can turn some apparently meaningless feature into some revenuable benefit, together with the ideal target market that most may benefit from it.
Hotel ABS #1: West-facing
Target Markets: All leisure individuals (couples, families, seniors, etc.)
If your hotel is in the city center of a modern metropolis, maybe surrounded by other high buildings, a west-facing room brings no to very little value.
But if, for example, you are a resort located on the hills of Tuscany and your rooms are facing east or west (other than north and south) and I am a potential guests of yours, I'd be willing to pay more to enjoy a spritz from the balcony of my room with a fantastic sunset view.
In itself, west-facing may mean nothing; deep down, may mean everything.
Attribute: west-facing room.
Benefit: Sunset view (and spritz :))
I don't recall when was the last time I could choose something different than a sea view, a garden view, a mountain view.
Depending on the seasonality and revenue strategy though, you might want to charge for this particular feature... or give it for free; either way, if you let people choose this preference whilst all other hotels in the area and all other channels don't, the odds that you are going to get picked drastically increase.
Hotel ABS #2: Wooden Floor
Target Markets: All
I'm not a picky guy. At all. But I really can't stand room carpets!
I'd rather get a room with a tiled floor, but if I could choose I'd be willing to pay extra bucks to get a wooden floor.
The reasons can easily be understood, but that's beyond the point. The point is: if you, hotelier, let me choose, I will choose twice: first I'll choose the wooden floor, but before that I'll choose YOUR HOTEL because you are giving me an option. People looooove options. And so do I.
Spending $7, $10, even $15 more to have what I want? Hell, just take my money. And the money of thousands of other potential customers that could turn into your best ambassadors.
That's the power of choice, the power of taking informed decisions that are relevant to me.
And same as with the previous example: low season? Give it away for free.
Hotel ABS #3: Office Chair
Target Markets: Bleisure, Business.
Ever since the pandemic started, a billion hours have been spent on webinars, live sessions and interviews talking about Digital Nomads, a new target market called Bleisure (business + leisure) and remote workers, another potential new market segment for the Hospitality Industry.
Let's think about it together: all these targets (nomads, business, bleisure), while traveling, need to work, right? 99% of the times in front of a laptop.
Question: are your room chairs comfy enough to the point that average people can work on them for more than 1 hour without suffering back pain?
If not, this is the most classic example of Thinking in terms of Products as opposed to Thinking in terms of People: translated, most times we end up offering what we have rather than what people want.
And no need to invest in new chairs: if you have meeting and conference spaces that likely remain unused in times like these, you certainly have different and more comfy type of meeting or office chairs that you can place in your guest rooms, for those who ask and who might even be willing to pay some extra cash, knowing that they can work a few hours without suffering from back pain.
Free or at an extra charge, your hotel room pricing strategy may vary depending on seasonality.
Hotel ABS #4: Walk-in Shower vs Bathtub
Target Markets: All, especially Senior.
This is easy, probably not the most revenuable feature, yet it's the an example that can help many hoteliers avoid creating dozens different room types.
Walk-in shower vs. Bathtub, Double Bed vs. Twin Beds, Wooden Floor vs. Carpet: you see how many tiny yet valuable variations? Valuable because customers and prospects value them, but if you wish to leverage each of these features, you'd likely need to create as many room types as the number of variations.
In a word: a huge mess. No hotel business could afford such room setup and any hotel property management system (PMS) would become unmanageable, let alone hotel distribution.
Hotel chains or independent hotels makes no difference.
That's where an Attribute-based selling system comes to the aid: while keeping base room types with simple base rates, everything else comes as a variant to it.
A walk-in shower may certainly be preferred by seniors who find it difficult other than dangerous to shower in a bathtub, whilst young couples may not give it any value.
Hotel ABS #5: Far from the elevator, gym, stair doors.
Target Markets: All.
Typically those who travel for business (but not only them of course) need an extra quiet room, avoiding the noise of other guests passing in front of their door, as it may happen when staying close to the elevator.
On the other hand, seniors may prefer a room near the elevator, requiring less walking than the ones at the end of the corridor.
I know, the vast majority of your hotel guests would prefer a quiet room, but this is an easy win: other than the very first one or two rooms right next to the elevator, or to any other access point to the floor, all other rooms can potentially be considered as quiet. And, as such, they can be sold.
So why not monetise on this asset? Monetise can certainly mean some extra bucks you'll charge on top of your base price, but likely it can be a free asset you let prospects simply choose, letting them feel in control of the room (and experience) they will be having when staying at your hotel.
Hotel ABS #6: Daily Housekeeping included/excluded.
Target Markets: All.
If you've been reading this post, it's likely that you read other articles about the Hotel Industry. And, if so, might have run into some post talking about the the burning topic of Housekeeping: more or less housekeeping, daily cleaning yes or no, etc.
This is one of those articles. To be honest with you, one of those I do NOT agree with, at all, to the point that it states that travellers should reset their expectations in terms of daily room cleaning (as if the Hotel Industry is in the conditions to lay down the law by telling customers what not to have great expectations on).
Besides, cleaning yes or cleaning no, why even raising the question, when you can let your potential customer choose?
Daily cleaning yes? Opt in.
Daily cleaning no? Opt out.
And if it comes at a charge, well, your hotel room prices will then vary depending on that. Maybe, at an advanced level, you can even let people choose the time of day they want the cleaning to happen.
Again, it's a matter of choices. Plain and simple.
Questions & Doubts.
Perhaps you wonder how to integrate an ABS system with your current infrastructure.
Your hotel property management system (PMS), your distribution partners to communicate with the Online Travel Agent (OTAs) and other booking channels, your Revenue Management System (RMS) to boost your hotel room pricing strategy... and tons of other similar questions.
Of course some changes will be needed. An Attribute-based booking system is a bridge between Marketing, Hotel Revenue and Distribution. Thus, distribution channels are involved to connect to other distribution systems.
However, at GauVendi we have thought of everything.
Each of us come from hotel operations and perfectly know about technology can be difficult to manage and integrate.
In fact, there is not even need to replace your existing booking engine, allowing you to first test&touch yourself, with results in your hands, how good, revenuable and profitable ABS selling is.
In our statistics, on average, an attribute-based booking is worth 25 up to 45% increase in the ADR (average daily rate).
This means that whilst the standard way of selling rooms would likely expose the lowest priced room first, with this way of selling you end up selling the same thing... but better, at a better rate and, therefore, ROI.
In fact, stating that an ABS system helps hotels get more direct bookings is too limiting: it helps get more bookings in general, by offering prospects something that other hotels and other channels can't.