Booking a hotel room should be an exciting and seamless experience, but the hotel industry is grappling with a challenge: How can we forge meaningful emotional connections with consumers when selling room experiences? The issue lies in the reliance on simplified room types, which give rise to a host of issues that can't be ignored.
Let's start with transparency—or the lack thereof. When you see "standard room" on the booking page, what does that really mean? It's vague and leaves you wondering what you're actually getting. We need to break free from these generic terms and communicate room attributes more explicitly, providing a clear and transparent booking experience.
But wait, there's more. The battle for differentiation can lead to a confusing mishmash of room names. Hotel operators want to stand out from the competition, so they come up with fancy titles for their rooms. The problem? It confuses customers even more. On the flip side, aggregators aim to make room comparisons easier for their clients, but this makes standardization a tough nut to crack.
And what about those hidden gems within a hotel's inventory? We're talking about the rooms with breathtaking views or the ones on the higher floors that guests would happily pay extra for. Sadly, these assets often go unnoticed and under-utilized. It's like having a secret treasure chest that remains locked.
But fear not, fellow travelers! We've become experts at adapting to these quirks. Review sites are filled with hilarious stories and handy tips from those who have found creative ways to navigate their room conundrums. From toeing beds together to avoid the dreaded middle crack, to using their own clothes as window blackouts, we've seen it all.
Interestingly, most customers don't even think about these challenges when booking a hotel. They've become accustomed to either making special requests or overlooking room specifics based on their trip's purpose. But here's the twist: When they finally check in, everyone suddenly has an opinion about which room they prefer and how much they're willing to pay for it.
And that's the heart of the matter. We need a language at the Point of Sale that truly connects with consumers, allowing the hospitality industry to sell experiences rather than just ordinary commodities. It's time to shake things up and revolutionize the way we engage with guests, leaving them with unforgettable memories from their hotel stays.
The guest buying journey varies considerably based on factors such as the purpose of travel (business or leisure), travel companions (alone, with a partner, or with children), and duration of stay. Routine travel often emphasizes the need for quick bookings, while vacation planning warrants more time and attention.
In our quest to establish a more effective language that resonates with consumers at the Point of Sale, we embarked on a journey to explore the factors that truly impact experiences. Through our research, we identified four key dimensions that significantly influence the accommodation experience.
This encompasses the sensory aspects that engage our senses - what we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Additionally, it includes the functionality of room products, such as bed types, shower options, and more.
We consider the importance of the room experience within the broader context of the entire trip or stay. Understanding the purpose of travel, whether it be a quick in-and-out trip, a business meeting, or a leisurely vacation, proved essential.
This dimension focuses on the service levels provided, including amenities like room service. Furthermore, we considered the company of fellow travelers, be it alone, with a partner, family members, or other guests. Factors like visibility and the desire to make an impression played a role in shaping the experience.
Clues and stories that shape expectations were also taken into account. This includes visual representations, word-of-mouth recommendations, and reviews found on various platforms.
Armed with these insights, we recognized the need to redefine the traditional way of managing inventory. So we developed the Experience Inventory Platform, which functions atop existing Property Management Systems, introducing a new data structure and logic to accommodate providers.
The platform incorporates a Feature-based language, enriching each accommodation unit with additional data points conveyed through icons or emojis. These visual representations convey specific characteristics, such as a high floor, a quiet location, or a walk-in shower.
We’ve also implemented a dynamic merchandising logic known as polydynamic merchandising. This approach enables the dissemination of relevant information to various travel profiles, ensuring a personalized and tailored experience for each guest.
By recognizing varying customer preferences and budgets based on their unique travel context, our merchandising logic enables us to price and label rooms differently, akin to skilled salespeople. Integrating feature-based language and polydynamic merchandising ushers in a new era of sales techniques, revolutionizing consumer engagement and empowering both guests and providers.
The first groundbreaking strategy is the introduction of a match-making configurator, enabling consumers to select their preferences and find their perfect match. For instance, a guest may choose to prioritize being away from elevators and having a high floor. The configurator then presents options, such as a 50% match with a high floor but not away from the elevator, or a 50% match away from the elevator but on a lower floor. This transparent approach empowers guests to make their own trade-offs and allows for more diverse pricing strategies. Gone are the days when a low floor always meant a cheaper option. It all depends on the guest's specific preferences.
The second sales strategy takes a page from Amazon's successful book-selling approach. By leveraging data from previous guests who arrived on a Tuesday, for example, we can effectively recommend accommodations that align with their desired features, such as a high floor and being away from the elevator. This technique proves highly effective, drawing from the vast knowledge gained through analyzing customer behavior. Just as I found myself buying more books than I initially intended while browsing my book rack, this technique enhances sales conversion by catering to the specific needs and desires of the customer.
The third sales technique introduces a new level of sophistication by adopting the practices commonly seen in vacation home rentals. Each accommodation unit is assigned an individual calendar, allowing guests to select specific dates that align with their travel plans. This calendar-based approach offers flexibility and convenience, ensuring that guests can book their desired dates seamlessly.
Lastly, dynamic packaging is completely redefined through the strategic combination of rooms with specific attributes and additional services. For example, packages may include rooms on a low floor bundled with convenient parking spaces. This innovative approach enhances the overall value proposition, providing guests with tailored options that perfectly suit their needs.
By implementing these revolutionary sales techniques, the point of sale is transformed, resulting in significantly improved customer engagement. The remarkable results speak for themselves, with room revenue experiencing an impressive increase of over 30%. This newfound success stems from the ability to understand and cater to the unique preferences of each guest, offering personalized and tailored experiences that go beyond traditional sales methods.
To pave the way for personalized inventory distribution, it is crucial to embrace personalization at the Point of Sale and establish brand prominence. This entails gaining control over distribution through individualized inventory management, recognizing that Attribute-based Shopping (ABS) serve as mere sales tactic and only represent one aspect of this transformative journey.
To achieve this vision, a new technology and data structure for inventory management are imperative. We envision the evolution along two axes: technological capabilities and inventory data structure.
Currently, many operators remain confined to traditional room types and rely heavily on scale or loyalty programs to drive performance. However, by harnessing advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities, automated personalization and upselling can be achieved, leveraging customer data more effectively to engage guests intelligently.
The ABS movement, focused on post-booking upsells, brings us closer to true personalization of the guest experience. However, this requires further advancement in technology capabilities and the adoption of different data structures. The ultimate goal lies in hyper-personalization, where we combine feature-based data structures with real-time polydynamic merchandising. This approach optimizes sales while considering the contextual nuances of each traveler's journey.
By embracing this approach, operators gain the mechanism to reclaim control over their distribution channels. They can incentivize direct sales while optimizing strategies with third-party partners, resulting in a healthy distribution mix.
We are committed to supporting the industry on this personalization journey to unlock the full potential of individualized inventory distribution, driving brand differentiation and delivering unparalleled guest experiences.