Hospitality Technology Trends to Implement in 2017

Here we are — 2017 — the whole year ahead of us! Ready to make it a good one? Perhaps you have already made some New Year’s resolutions, some of which might revolve around increasing the success of your business. For hoteliers and other lodging operators, technology is making operations more efficient and successful with every passing year. Here are the hospitality technology trends we feel are most important to put into action in the year ahead.

System Integration (and Data Consolidation)

Integrating core systems further automates processes and is key to maximizing efficiency and consolidating data.

At the heart of operations, your property management system (PMS) can be connected to other core systems such as CRM, online distribution channels, revenue management software, point-of-sale systems, payment processing software, and phone and entertainment systems, to greatly speed up tasks such as managing distribution, guest check-in and check-out, managing reservation folios, building rich guest profiles and sending targeted guest communications.

When core systems share relevant data automatically, the need to manually duplicate data across systems is eliminated, significantly cutting administrative workload and improving data accuracy and timeliness.

What’s more, integrating your PMS with other hotel systems helps bring the right data together at the right time, making information more accessible and actionable.

For example, integrating the PMS with guest engagement tools such as CRM software, guest marketing platforms, loyalty programs and mobile apps empowers lodging operators with enhanced guest insight to personalize the guest experience. When these systems talk to each other, rich guest profiles are automatically created, using data collated across systems that goes beyond simple stay history to include guest requests, preferences, travel motivations, receptiveness to promotions, feedback, etc. Armed with this kind of intelligence, lodging operators have to power to personalize service and target communications much more seamlessly and effectively.

Among other advantages, system integration is a significant motivation behind the shift from on-premise to cloud software in the hospitality industry. Built on common Web standards and open APIs, cloud software is designed with cross-application communication in mind, making integrating your core hotel systems easier and cheaper than it’s ever been.

Mobile PMS

The ability to access data on-the-go via a mobile device is another driving force behind the move to cloud hospitality software.

A mobile PMS can have a significant impact on the guest experience; with guest and reservation data at their fingertips via a tablet or smartphone, hotel staff are freed from the physical constraints of the front desk to provide more prompt and personalized service to guests wherever they may be — in the lobby, the hallway, by the pool or in the dining room.

Increasingly in demand, paperless check-in with electronic signature capture allows guests to sign registration cards or check-in receipts on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in means arriving guests don’t have to queue at the front desk; they can instead be greeted in a more welcoming way in the lobby or lounge. And the savings in paper not only helps a hotel’s bottom line, but the planet too.

Another much-appreciated feature of a mobile PMS is mobile access to housekeeping reports. This simple feature greatly improves productivity by allowing housekeeping staff to update room housekeeping status directly to the housekeeping report via their mobile device in real time as they work.

Direct Bookings

While OTAs dominate the online hotel booking scene, hoteliers are becoming more focused on the quest to increase direct bookings. There are a variety of tools available to help lodging operators improve direct conversions and, as the year unfolds, we imagine more and more properties will be engaging them.

First, there are the aforementioned guest engagement and CRM tools such as Guestfolio, Constant Contact, Revinate and Twilio. Such platforms help properties collect and make sense of comprehensive guest data to deliver highly targeted guest communications that help turn customers into loyal direct bookers.

Revenue management software (RMS) is becoming more critical as pricing rooms becomes even more complicated. Finding the right price hinges on numerous factors; in addition to seasonal fluctuations, market demand and room type features, rates are increasingly based on more fluid variables such as channel, weather, events, competitors and even guest data and loyalty. Dynamic and personalized pricing is becoming a powerful strategy in winning direct business and more and more lodging operators will recognize the enormous value in automating this process to ensure they remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market.

Properties that are slow to adopt a mobile-friendly direct booking engine will find it hard to keep ignoring this must-have feature in the year ahead. The way we shop has forever changed as consumers look to the Internet to research and buy whatever and whenever they want. We make decisions based on a series of spontaneous yet intent-rich micro-moments, enabled by mobile devices. Therefore, providing a consistent and seamless user experience across devices (desktop and mobile) is a must for all businesses wanting to attract, convert and retain customers.

Going back to our first point, integrating certain key systems goes a long way in boosting direct bookings; your PMS, RMS and CRM make a powerful team.

Mobile Messaging

Last year we heard about the success big brands were having with mobile messaging to communicate with customers, and this year we think more and more independent properties will follow suit.

From simple SMS text messaging to social media apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mobile messaging is fast becoming the preferred quick communication method of our time. Hotels are finding that mobile messaging, when managed correctly, enhances customer service and boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

With a focus on service rather than marketing, mobile messaging can be used to confirm reservations, welcome guests to the property and let them know their room is ready, support concierge services, promote relevant ancillary services, receive special requests and to thank guests after check-out.

A variety of messaging platforms are available to hotels, from the aforementioned SMS text messaging and social media apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.) to dedicated hotel mobile applications such as Twilio, Alice and Checkmate.

In-Room Technology

While we don’t think independent properties need to go as far as trialing voice-controlled guestrooms (as Starwood’s Aloft brand is doing) just yet, it is important to ensure your guestrooms are equipped with current technology your guests expect.

Cable TV just doesn’t cut it anymore; today’s guests are looking to stream their favourite shows to (high-definition flat-screen) TVs from streaming services such as Netflix via smart TV technology or casting devices. But in order to pull this off successfully, properties must equip guestrooms with reliable high-speed Internet access. These days most hotels already offer in-room Wi-Fi, so the focus now is on making it as fast as the guest’s connection at home.

Keeping your property’s technology current is key to remaining competitive. If your property’s systems are hindering rather than helping guest service, productivity or revenue, make this the year to upgrade.

WebRezPro’s Top 5 Hotel Management Blog Posts of 2016

From hotel marketing to technology to general operations, we’ve discussed a lot of topics on the WebRezPro blog over the year and we hope you’ve found our posts useful and relevant to your property.

To wrap up the year on our blog, we thought we’d highlight our five most popular posts of 2016. It’s not surprising that these top five posts address some of the most pertinent current topics and trends in hotel management, namely online marketing, guest data and direct bookings.

Listed in order of the most-read, here are our top 5 posts of the year — did you catch them all?

1. Hotel Website Design Trends for 2016

Originally published on our company’s web design blog (World Web Technologies Inc.), our #1 post looks at 2016 website design trends that are particularly relevant to the hospitality and tourism industries.

A clean, simple, user-oriented design, eye-catching hero images, video headers and backgrounds, subtle animations, cool typography and a personal touch are highlighted as important design elements to consider for lodging operators thinking about redesigning their property’s website in 2016. >> Read blog post

2. Innovative Hotel Digital Marketing Campaigns to Inspire Us

In our digitally saturated world, innovation is key to standing out. In this blog post, we look at ways some of the big hotel brands have cut through the noise to grab attention and engage customers. Transcending traditional promotional techniques that simply aim to create awareness, these stand-out digital campaigns — including short films, social media campaigns, and virtual reality — all focus on winning customers through interactive digital experiences.

While big-brand budgets lie behind these specific campaigns, these examples are meant to inspire independent hoteliers to come up with their own innovative digital marketing efforts that engage customers with compelling, interactive content rooted in real experiences. >> Read blog post

3. Getting to Know Your Guests: How to Gather Guest Data

A hot topic the past couple of years, guest data is crucial to personalizing the customer experience and building stronger guest relationships. This blog post provides useful tips on how to use your property management system to build and use rich guest profiles to elevate the guest experience. >> Read blog post

4. 11 Practical Ways to Increase Direct Bookings

Increasing direct bookings is another hot topic among independent lodging operators and big brands alike. While OTAs play an important role in online distribution, too much dependency on them can hurt a hotel’s bottom line.

This post offers actionable tips on how to tip the scales in favor of direct bookings, including offering value-added packages and book-direct perks, using social media to drive traffic to your website, implementing a loyalty program, and trying out remarketing. >> Read blog post

5. The Power of Post-Stay Emails: Top Tips for Independent Hoteliers

Post-stay emails are a powerful customer retention tool, yet many lodging operators are still not taking advantage of this tactic. With a property management system and/or CRM that automates the process of sending guest emails, every property should be checking in with their guests post-stay.

In this post we provide a guide for developing an effective post-stay email campaign, including tips on timing, content and how to stay relevant. >> Read blog post

 

Thank you for reading! We look forward to continuing the discussion of topics and trends that matter to independent lodging operators in the New Year. In the meantime, we wish our readers a very happy and profitable holiday season and the very best success for 2017!

 

 

11 Practical Ways to Increase Direct Bookings

In an OTA-dominated online hotel market, every property strives for more direct bookings. While OTAs and traditional travel agents are effective for increasing occupancy and exposure, direct bookings boast the lowest cost of acquisition and are better for a hotel’s bottom line.

Here are 11 practical ways lodging operators can tip the scales in favor of direct bookings…

  1. Use Your Data to Identify Customer Segments and Your USP

Data is essential to driving direct bookings. A hotel’s data can help answer two fundamental questions: who are your guests and why do they choose your property? Identifying your property’s most profitable customer segments and unique selling points (USP) is key to driving relevant marketing and sales efforts that generate direct bookings. For more information on this topic, read our blog post about how to use PMS data to drive bookings.

  1. Maintain a Compelling and User-Friendly Website

A hotel’s own website is another crucial component of any direct booking strategy. To keep customers on your site, convey the genuine story or experience of staying at your property. Use your property’s customer segments and USPs to guide content. A simple, attractive design, quality images, captivating copy, online bookings, and user friendliness are key elements of a successful website that turns lookers into bookers.

It’s also very important to ensure that your website functions well across devices. It should be easy to navigate with clear calls to action and should load fast on both desktop and mobile. Nothing puts visitors off faster than a slow, confusing site.

Use Google Analytics to track visitor metrics such as time on site and conversions to help identify pages that need improving. Google also offers a helpful Mobile Friendly Test for websites.

  1. Offer Online Bookings

Most travelers turn to online channels to research and book travel nowadays, so providing direct online bookings on your website is a no-brainer. The easier it is to book, the more customers will convert. This means an online booking widget or “book now” button that is displayed prominently on all pages of your website, a simple booking process ideally limited to 2 or 3 steps, security signals that assure customers the process is secure, mobile-optimized booking forms, and automatic booking confirmation. Approximately half of travelers who book travel online do so using a mobile device, so user-friendliness across devices is crucial for increasing conversions.

Lodging operators should also ensure that their direct online booking engine is commission free and integrated with their property management system.

  1. Add Value

Offering value-added packages or booking add-ons through your website that are not available on OTAs can help encourage customers to book direct, but be careful not to overwhelm them with too many choices (too many choices make booking decisions more difficult and can actually block the path to purchase). Consider offering perks for booking direct (like free parking or a complimentary drink at the bar) and advertise the benefits of booking direct on your website.

  1. Offer Discounts to Limited Audiences

While OTA rate parity agreements prevent properties from offering lower rates on their own website, lodging operators can offer discounts to limited audiences such as email subscribers, social media followers and loyalty program members. Offering special deals to these groups is an effective way to stimulate direct bookings — after all, who doesn’t like exclusive discounts? Special rates can be accessed via a discount code that can be entered into a hotel’s direct online booking form or redeemed over the phone.

  1. Take Advantage of Social Media

In addition to enticing social media followers with special offers, hotels can and should drum up interest and website click-throughs by posting engaging content on their social media channels. Share blog posts, photos and videos about your destination and property, and link back to relevant pages on your website whenever possible — like your blog, local events listing page, attractions and activities page, special packages, etc. Keep your customer segments and USPs in mind when creating social media posts for optimal engagement.

  1. Make and Share Videos

There are over four billion video views EVERY day on YouTube! People love videos. Video is a major source of travel inspiration so it makes a lot of sense for hotels to include video in their marketing efforts. Adding videos to a property’s website helps to engage visitors and increase time on site. Posting videos on YouTube and other social media channels does wonders for engagement (and reach) there too — just be sure to link back to your website (where your “book now” button awaits!).

  1. Offer a Loyalty Program

Customer loyalty programs aren’t just for big chain hotels; they are relevant to any property that wants to encourage repeat business. Loyalty programs incentivize guests to book direct to earn and redeem points and to receive special perks or discounts. Some property management systems like WebRezPro offer integrated loyalty program functionality, and solutions like Preferred Patron and Stash Hotel Rewards specialize in simplifying guest rewards management for independent properties.

For more information on the subject, read our blog post about how to design a loyalty program that is relevant to today’s guests.

  1. Remarketing

No matter how awesome your website is and how easy your online bookings are, there will always be website visitors that abandon the booking process part-way through. One way to bring them back is with remarketing. If you’ve never considered remarketing before it is worth putting some thought into; remarketing allows you to re-engage customers that are already at the edge of converting — after all, you almost had them! By adding special code to your website, you can track website visitors who abandon bookings and then show them customized ads online or on social media after they leave your site to bring them back. It might sound complicated, but it’s not. Google AdWords and Facebook’s Custom Audiences are two good places to start.

  1. Include Social Proof on Your Website

User-generated content (UGC) is the most trusted form of marketing — it’s word of mouth in digital form. Reviews in particular help convert lookers into bookers, so including guest reviews on your website helps keep customers on your site to book direct. Other forms of social proof, like social media follower counts and trust symbols like TripAdvisor badges and rating widgets, work well to convert customers while they are on your site.

  1. Be Accessible

OTAs have become so popular among travel bookers because they make it so easy to book. If properties make it just as easy to book direct, more travelers will do so. In addition to an easy-to-use direct online booking process (that is also mobile friendly), lodging operators should make sure contact details are prominently displayed on all pages of the property’s website and booking process, inviting customers to reach out to the property via the method they prefer — whether that’s email, phone or text messaging.

 

While OTAs will always play an important role in online distribution, reducing dependency on OTAs and increasing direct revenue will result in a healthier bottom line for hotels. The effort is worth it!