Last Thursday, Sojern hosted an expert panel conversation on how hotels can use data to drive more direct revenue at Hotel Zetta, in San Francisco – and if attendance was any indication of boutique hoteliers’ interest in the topic, we’re onto something! The room was packed with hoteliers and industry experts eager to discuss how boutique hotels can adopt new technologies and best practices to increase revenue and exceed guest expectations.
Our invited panel experts were Dan Hickman, Revenue Manager at Solage Hotels & Resorts, and Dave Rubin, VP of Digital Marketing and PR at Greystone Hotels. Both shared with the attendees their experiences and perspectives on how to engage travelers and overcome current challenges in the industry.
The format included the panelists’ views on the below topic points and an active audience Q&A. Here are some of the conversation highlights:
On challenges in engaging travelers directly and driving direct bookings:
Dan: It’s been difficult to ensure that the public knows that our one, little 89-room luxury resort in a small town exists. Another big challenge is the growth of online, as great as it is to have online bookings come through. When you really want to be a service-oriented luxury property, it’s really hard to cater to a specific guest’s needs when all you get is basically their name and dates of stay. I think those are the opportunities we are missing with online bookings.
Dave: Our digital marketing goals are based on building connections and relationships with our guests via personal interaction and understanding who they are and WHERE they live (online and offline + pre-stay, during stay and post-stay) through the various digital marketing resources we have access to. Each one of our 11 properties has its own distinct brand (underneath the Greystone brand) and we try very hard to understand how each traveler fits into the brand story (property-wise and corporate-wise). We want to truly know and understand our guests, allowing us to create custom experiences that can’t be sold or obtained any other way. From a direct booking vs. OTA standpoint, we want to be able to offer packages and experiences that no one else can compete with – from guest interaction [with staff] through execution.
In regard to data insights and how they are using data to influence travelers today:
Dan: For us, one of the biggest sources of data points is the voice channel. We have real tracking in place to follow up with guests that did not book, and create outbound strategies that work. We are also able to track the nature of stay — whether it’s a spa trip, romantic getaway or food and wine tasting. We then cater our marketing to their specific interests. We also work with third parties who are looking for guests that look like our typical guests.
Dave: We start with the basics: stay patterns, and how often and when guests stay with us. We use our email newsletter open rates and click- throughs, and of course track all purchases made through the newsletter. We work to connect our PMS data to optimize booking patterns and habits which help us to “micro-target”. We take it to the next level by mixing in a slew of social analytics to learn a bit more about where our guests are (online and offline), what they are interested in, and who/what they are talking about.
On the dream custom distribution channel to drive direct bookings?
Dan: I would like robust tracking of how the guest found our site and booking engine, including what they used (mobile, tablet or desktop). This may be a pipe dream — a way to link all three so we can recognize the guest using their tablet that night is the same guest who looked at us on their work desktop. In addition, robust tracking when a reservation is not made — why they left? where they went? where did they book?
Dave: Ours would be digital that got people from Point A to Point B in the easiest, smoothest manner (eliminating unnecessary friction). The system would have the highest level of tracking data associated with it, using past history to establish data points that would allow us to build a, “User Experience Profile” that would help determine future outcomes. “Post-purchase information” would also be a big part of this dream scenario, to help us see where guests and other users go, and what they do AFTER they purchase. It would be nice to be able to capture each user/guest’s online comments (OTA’s, Review Sites, etc.) and not just their site histories. It would be supremely valuable if we were able to easily tie-in/connect their social profiles and their stay/purchase history for ALL of our hotels.
And finally my personal favorite quote from the night-
It was a great evening at the stylish Hotel Zetta’s Playroom where everyone enjoyed mingling afterward at our ADventure happy hour. One hotelier even raffled off a free night’s stay at his hotel…
Thanks to all who came, to all who participated, and especially to Dan Hickman and Dave Rubin for being such great partners!
If you missed this panel discussion and would like to hear more details, shoot me a note.