BelleVue Oasis

BelleVue Oasis is a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, California that offers a wide range of guest rooms and amenities like an outdoor swimming pool, free WiFi, a hot tub and bicycle rentals. BelleVue Oasis has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help run their business. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s booking engine to accept reservations directly from their website!

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Upselling & Cross-Selling

If you’ve only ever thought of upselling as a way to increase revenue, think again. First and foremost, upselling and cross-selling are effective ways to enhance the guest experience. Done right, upselling offers more value to your guests, increasing guest satisfaction and loyalty. A rise in revenue will follow naturally.

Technically, there’s a difference between upselling and cross-selling, but the two go hand in hand:

>>Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of a product or service that the customer is buying.

>>Cross-selling is the process of selling a supplementary product or service to complement the product or service the customer is buying.

Both approaches result in providing the customer with greater value and enhancing the guest experience—as long as the offers are relevant and presented at the right time, in the right way.

What Can You Upsell and Cross-Sell?

From basic hotels and motels to luxury boutique inns and resorts, any property has what it takes to upsell or cross-sell.

Upsells

>> Room upgrades: Customers are often open to upgrading their room choice during their booking, or even after they have made their booking.

>> Packages: Same goes for packages. Make sure your customers are aware of available packages and the added value they offer compared to standalone room bookings.

Cross-sells

>> In-room extras: You don’t have to get fancy to enhance the in-room experience with additional in-room amenities. Baby high-chairs and cribs are as much appreciated by young families as champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are by couples celebrating an anniversary. Yoga mats upgraded bath amenities and in-room massage services are other examples.

>> Activities: From bicycle rentals to organized tours and activities (whether provided by your property or by local partners), activities are a popular cross-sell that make organizing such adventures hassle-free for your guests.

>> F&B: On-site food and beverage services can be cross-sold by offering dining discounts and packages, promoting your happy hour, or simply having your serving staff recommend meal accompaniments.

>> On-site spa services: Spa services are hard for weary travelers to resist, especially when you can take the hassle out of booking them, and even more so if they’re discounted for guests.

>> Other hotel services: Think parking, babysitting, transportation…

How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Successfully

The secret to successful upselling and cross-selling is to put the customer’s needs first. Remember, upselling (and cross-selling) is a means for enhancing the guest experience. If executed correctly, upselling results in satisfied, loyal guests and, consequentially, improved profitability.

Be relevant

Upselling and cross-selling are practical ways to personalize service, but it only works when offers are relevant to your guests.

Use data from your property management system and CRM to learn about guest preferences, requests and booking history to target offers more effectively. Sending automated pre-arrival emails asking guests to let you know of any special requests or preferences is an effective way to gather valuable information that can be used to identify relevant upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

Don’t be pushy

Remember that as consumers we hate to be sold to but we love to buy! Employ a soft-sell approach that conveys your effort to improve the guest’s experience (rather than to make more money). That means not bombarding guests with messages promoting upgrades and add-ons, and training staff to suggest relevant offers at the right time (more on that below) and in the right way (more on that below too).

Make the value clear

In order to convert upsell/cross-sell offers, the value represented by the additional spend must be clear. In addition to clearly listing room amenities, photo slideshows are an effective way to sell more desirable rooms on your website and within your online booking engine. Make sure room and package descriptions emphasize added value and use emotive language to convey the actual experience (“…wrap yourself up in one of our plush robes and enjoy your Netflix favorites on a big-screen TV”).

When staff make upsell offers directly, highlighting the added value gained for an incremental cost can be very persuasive. For example, “For just $20 more, you can enjoy more space for the kids in our family suite, with a kitchenette for preparing snacks, and a pretty great view over the lake…”

Position offers at the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. If an offer isn’t timed right, it will fall flat at best, or at worst, annoy customers.

>>During booking: During booking is a great time to upsell room upgrades and packages. Including photo slideshows in your online booking engine within room search results lets your customers easily compare rooms during the booking process and visually portrays the advantages of more desirable rooms. As well, package rates should be displayed alongside standard rates within search results, clearly outlining added value, and with the ability to book. Emphasize the value of discounted rates by displaying the strike-through price alongside the lower price.

When it comes to cross-selling, be careful not to overwhelm customers with options at the booking stage. Forcing customers to choose or decline added extras at this point can put customers off, resulting in abandoned bookings. If you do choose to offer add-ons during the booking process, keep things simple with limited options and ensure add-ons are presented directly within the booking form (rather than within a separate page or window), without requiring the customer to accept (or decline) offers in order to progress with the booking.

>>Pre-arrival: The time between booking and arrival is perfect for both upselling and cross-selling. During this stage of growing anticipation about their trip, many future guests are open to upgrading and enhancing their stay experience.

With high open rates, email and SMS are the best way to communicate offers prior to arrival. Targeted offers can be automated by creating pre-arrival email templates that are attached to certain room types and/or rates. Read our recent post about how to upgrade the pre-arrival guest experience for some pre-arrival email tips. Emails can point guest requests to the front desk, or direct guests to your hotel app where they can purchase selections directly.

>>At Check-in: During guest check-in is another ideal opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, and can come across very naturally as front desk staff learn a little more about the guest’s needs. Remember to highlight the advantages of the upgrade or add-on, and don’t be pushy. Upgrades and add-ons can be promoted within self-check-in apps too.

>> During stay: Cross-selling opportunities abound during the guest’s stay and can be communicated through mobile messaging, email, your hotel app or in person—as long as they are relevant to your guest’s needs and/or interests. When communicating offers to guests digitally (by SMS or email), be careful not to bombard them with various offers and don’t push the same offer more than once.

Upselling and cross-selling are important strategies for personalizing the guest experience, adding value and increasing customer loyalty. When implemented successfully, offering relevant upgrades and add-ons to your guests at the right time, in the right way, not only results in more satisfied guests, but increased ADR and incidental revenue too.

Ocean 7

Located in popular Ocean City, New JerseyOcean 7 Motel is a seasonal property that offers 75 individually-owned and decorated studios and suites. All units are equipped with kitchenettes with two-burner stoves, and additional amenities include laundry facilities, an outdoor pool and a convenient located just steps from the beach and boardwalk. Ocean 7 has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit the hotel’s website to see how they are using WebRezPro to accept online bookings!

5 Hospitality Technology Trends for 2020

The rise of mobile devices may appear threatening to an industry where face-to-face interactions and human connections are its defining characteristics. Even most movies and books recognize this, with characters meeting and developing relationships with each other on planes, trains, in taxis, and in hotel lobbies. Human interaction is integral to the travel experience.

However, technology is equally important in maintaining guest satisfaction through increased efficiency and personalized service. As a result, time is freed up for hotel staff and guests to participate in other services and activities that enhance the hospitality experience. The following mobile hospitality technology trends decrease the amount of time spent waiting in line at the front desk and elevate the guest experience to the next level.

Mobile Device as Door Key

People are more prone to make sure they have their mobile devices rather than their room key, so combining the two into one ensures that guests don’t need to spend their limited holiday time waiting to receive their door keys or replacements for their lost keys.

When mobile key solutions and smart technology systems are integrated with the property management system (PMS), guests can enjoy seamless access to their room by using their mobile phone as their door key. Integration with the PMS automates mobile key delivery upon check-in and deactivation of the mobile key upon check-out.

Integrating mobile key platforms with the PMS allows for a completely mobile self-check-in process for guests wanting to skip the front desk entirely.

Broaden your Bandwidth

Door keys and checking-in/out are not the only purposes for which guests wish to use their mobile devices while travelling. Being able to stream shows and movies, browse the internet, and access emails and apps quickly and for free are just as important to guests during their stay, so make sure that your bandwidth is adequate enough to accommodate this.

Make your rooms mobile-friendly by including amenities like casting devices or smart TVs and integrating internet systems with the PMS to allow your guests to cast and stream their favorite content on the room TV from their mobile devices.

Paperless Check-In and Check-Out

Paperless check-in allows for a mobile front-desk check-in experience, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards on an electronic signature capture device such as a tablet or smartphone. This paperless feature not only frees up your guests’ time and your staff’s time, but it saves on paper and printing costs and reduces your property’s environmental footprint too.

Mobile Guest Engagement

Respond to and solve your guests’ needs and issues while they are staying with you, not after they leave. Engaging your guests through SMS messaging allows for a proactive response rather than a reactive response and creates a deeply individualized style of service and memorable experiences for your guests. Plus, resolving potential issues before your guests leave avoids negative online reviews (and guest experiences). These interactions also aid in getting to know your guests and further build loyalty since you can record their preferences, special requests, and needs in their guest profiles for future stays.

Mobile Housekeeping / Maintenance Reports

Improve not only staff productivity but also guest service by using the PMS housekeeping report on the go. Fully integrated with the PMS, mobile housekeeping reports allow housekeepers to view live room and occupancy status, and to update room status and add notes and maintenance requests in real time as they work, streamlining internal communication and ensuring timely resolution of maintenance issues (e.g. chipping paint, ragged bedding, discolored carpet, etc.).

While technology can distract from the human connection and interactions that are essential to the true travel and hospitality experience, using it in these productive, efficient ways allows for elevated, personalized service. Investing in these trends means investing in customer satisfaction and building loyalty to the travel experience you offer.

Top 5 Blog Posts for Independent Hoteliers in 2019

Goodbye, 2019; hello, 2020! As we look back on another exciting year in hospitality, our final post for the year highlights our five most popular posts of 2019, indicating what’s most important to our readers.

Going by our most-read blog posts of the year, it seems that giving guests what they want and using modern technology to support that quest is a top priority for hoteliers. As guest expectations evolve along with our digital world, hospitality technology is adapting and innovating too. There have never been so many innovative and accessible solutions for enhancing the guest experience—it’s an exciting time for independent hoteliers looking to exceed guest expectations (and, according to our top five posts of the year, that’s you—our readers!).

So, without further ado, here are our top five blog posts of 2019. Did you catch them all?

5. Going Desk-less: The New Hotel “Front Desk”

While it might seem like a bold step, losing your front desk can be a liberating way to elevate guest service—and today’s hotel software can make it happen. This post looks at how a mobile-friendly cloud property management system can work to create a more welcoming experience for guests. Read the full post >>

4. Common Customer Complaints in Hospitality and How Your PMS Helps to Avoid Them

Customer grievances have a habit of finding their way online, where they can do damage to a business’s reputation. It’s so important to manage the guest experience and prevent dissatisfaction. Did you know that a modern property management system can help you avoid the most common customer complaints? Read the full post to find out how.

3. TripAdvisor has Changed: Here’s What’s Different and What it Means for Hoteliers

From search engine algorithm changes to new social media advertising options, it’s important to stay informed about changes implemented by the online channels you use to market your property. Our third-most-read post takes a look at TripAdvisor’s travel feed, introduced late last year. This major update aimed to simplify travel planning and booking for TripAdvisor users, and to help businesses reach new customers on the go. Read the full post >>

2. 7 Simple Ways Independent Hotels Can Personalize the Guest Experience

Across industries, personalizing the customer experience is increasingly important for businesses to remain competitive. For the hospitality industry, this is particularly true. It doesn’t necessarily take high-tech solutions and expensive loyalty programs to personalize the guest experience; with a modern property management system, any independent property has what it takes to elevate guest service to the next level. Read the full post to find out how.

1. Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look for When Booking Accommodation

Our most-read post of 2019 gets right down to the nitty gritty of guest satisfaction and hotel success: the hotel amenities that today’s guests want and expect. While fundamental requirements never change (like a comfortable bed and a quick check-in), guest expectations evolve with the times. If you’re not offering the amenities that your guests are looking for, you risk losing bookings or receiving bad reviews. Read the full post to make sure you’re giving guests what they want.

Thank you for reading! We look forward to blogging about the topics that matter to independent lodging operators in the coming year. If you have a specific subject you’d like us to tackle, let us know! In the meantime, have a happy and profitable holiday season.

A Quick Guide to Payment Gateway Integration with Your Hotel PMS

Keeping up with guest expectations in our fast-paced, high-tech world can be hard! Today’s guests want more personalized service yet more self-service options and although that might seem like an oxymoron, modern hospitality technology makes it all possible.

But while the technology supporting hoteliers in delivering a great guest experience evolves, there are fundamental guest expectations that don’t really change, like a clean room and a comfortable bed. As well, an efficient check-in process and secure payment options will always be key to guest satisfaction.

One way lodging operators can improve check-in and payment processes is by integrating their property management system (PMS) with a payment gateway. A payment gateway interface not only speeds up guest check-in, but it makes accepting card payments more secure—a win for both your business and your guests.

What is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway is a system that securely transmits card payment data from a website to the payment processing network. If your property wants to accept online payments, you need a payment gateway.

When a customer makes a payment with their credit or debit card, the payment gateway encrypts and securely sends the card and transaction data from the website to the payment processing network and then returns the response (approved or declined) back to the website, and authorizes the transfer of funds.

How Does a Payment Gateway Interface Work with Your Cloud PMS?

Integrating a payment gateway with a cloud PMS eliminates the need to manually process card payments on a physical terminal. Payments and authorizations can be completely automated and securely managed online, directly through your PMS.

Here’s an overview of how a payment gateway interface works with your PMS:

  1. The customer enters their credit card information on your website (through your online booking engine), or they insert their card into a credit card reader connected to your front desk computer or mobile device.
  2. The card and transaction data is sent directly from your website booking engine or card reader to the payment gateway.
  3. The payment gateway encrypts the credit card data and sends payment information to your payment processor via secure connection. Some gateways create a token —a placeholder— for the credit card information as an additional layer of security, ensuring your PMS never possesses guest credit card data.
  4. The payment processor transmits the encoded payment information to the rest of the payment network, including the credit card network, issuing bank (customer’s bank) and acquiring bank (your bank), to authorize the payment.
  5. Whether the transaction is approved or declined by the issuing bank, the payment processor sends the response back to the payment gateway, which automatically delivers it to your PMS, authorizing the transfer of funds when required.

All of this happens in approximately two or three seconds.                   

Take a look at our video for a visual, step-by-step explanation of how a payment gateway interface works with WebRezPro PMS:

WebRezPro Cloud PMS: Payment Processing Explained

Advantages of a Payment Gateway Interface

Integrating a payment gateway with your cloud PMS offers two important advantages:

>>Reduces the steps required to process card payments, speeding up the check-in/out process.

Payment gateway integration allows you to accept card payments directly through your PMS, removing the need for a standalone credit card terminal, eliminating manual keying errors by staff, and completely automating online payment acceptance.  

There’s no need to manually duplicate data across systems, speeding up the check-in process and simplifying the reconciliation process too.

>>Makes processing card payments more secure.

Payment gateways use security measures such as point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and tokenization to keep customers’ credit card data safe from hackers. When the PMS is integrated with a payment gateway, these measures protect hotel businesses too, by keeping guest credit card data out of the property management system and therefore reducing hotel liability in case of a system breach.

Unfortunately, online payment card theft is as common as stolen wallets. Consider working with an EMV-certified payment gateway to protect card-present transactions on site too.

There’s no reason not to connect your PMS with your payment gateway. Now’s the time to offer your guests a more secure booking experience and a speedier check-in, while protecting your business. WebRezPro PMS integrates with a number of leading payment gateways, including Shift4, USAePay, Stripe, Authorize.net and PayPal. Visit our website for a complete list of payment gateways we work with. The list is always growing, so if you’re interested in connecting to a payment gateway that isn’t yet included, let us know and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

How to Win Holiday Bookings

Here we are almost at the end of 2019! As the year winds down, business heats up for hotels all over the world. Both a joyful and stressful time, the holiday season brings a torrent of travelers into the market. While this typically means an increase in bookings for most accommodation providers, the ever-expanding selection of lodging options available to travelers (from new hotel brands to Airbnb rentals) also means that competition is getting hotter. It’s time to gear up your marketing efforts to ensure your property gets its fair share of holiday bookings.

Holiday Specials & Packages

Running holiday specials and packages is a proven way to attract guests. You’ve probably been doing it for years. But if you’ve been offering the same deals for years, you might want to consider changing things up a bit.

Due to the wealth of properties to choose from these days, holiday packages can all start to look the same to travelers. While Christmas is a time of tradition, try thinking outside the box to stand out by offering something a little different from the usual discounted-stay-with-dinner approach.

Perhaps your Christmas package could include an in-room Christmas tree, Christmas stockings and peppermint bath salts?

Look to seasonal local events and activities to inspire packages that could feature sleigh rides, snow tubing, or tickets to a celebrated Christmas concert. Consider partnering with nearby local businesses to offer unique seasonal perks like Christmas shopping discounts, craft beer tasting, ice-skate rentals, or even a small gift (locally made, of course).

Find out what your competitors are offering and try to top it—not necessarily by providing a bigger discount, but by putting a more creative spin on your promotions to stand out.

With a modern property management system that offers flexible rate management tools, your imagination can be the limit when it comes to designing holiday packages and specials.

Festive Menus

If your property offers onsite dining, have you tried spicing up the holidays with seasonal menus? There’s nothing quite like traditional holiday dishes to get people in a festive mood. Make sure all your guests can partake in culinary festivities by providing options for specialized diets, for example gluten-free and vegan choices.

For properties without onsite dining, consider partnering with popular local restaurants to offer your guests discounted meals over the holiday period, or simply compile a list of nearby eateries with exciting holiday menus that you can recommend to guests onsite, on your website and on social media.

Specialty Programming

For something extra special, why not arrange holiday events or activities on site? Think big, like Christmas markets, parties or performances—or think smaller, like cookie decorating stations and elf tuck-ins for kids, carolers in the lobby, card-making workshops, snowman-building competitions, or a toy drive.

Such activities can be marketed to the local community as well as prospective guests, and will contribute to a memorable holiday stay experience.

Festive Decor & Amenities

Christmas just isn’t the same without a little glitter and sparkle, so make sure your property is dressed for the occasion with some festive decorations—like a beautiful Christmas tree for the lobby, fairy lights for the patio, festive napkins for your breakfast bar… Just don’t get too carried away; there is such a thing as too much tinsel! (Really!)

Christmas-themed amenities will go down a treat with guests too. How about a hot chocolate and/or mulled wine station in the lobby, wish list kits for kids (free downloadable Santa letter templates are available online) or a gift-wrapping station?

Holiday-Themed Website

Make sure prospective guests know about all the fun festivities you have planned by spreading some holiday cheer to your website. Update property images to reflect the seasonal vibe at your hotel, and consider decorating your website too with a tasteful touch of festive graphics and messages (again, be careful not to go too far with the glitter and sparkle!).

Make sure holiday packages and specials are up to date and available through your online booking engine, promote your holiday menu, and for properties that sell gift certificates, now’s the time to draw some attention to them! Add a holiday spin to your local attractions page by highlighting seasonal activities and events, complete with insider tips like the best decorated street and the best spot to watch the NYE fireworks display from. Your blog is a great place for sharing the excitement of local and on-property holiday build-up and will help boost SEO too.

Social Media Marketing

Don’t forget to drum up some excitement for the holidays and drive traffic to your website through your social media accounts too. Post images and videos showing how your property is prepping for the holidays, from putting up that magnificent tree in your lobby to that drool-worthy new dish your chef just created for your holiday menu.

Consider boosting engagement with simple contests and polls. You could offer followers the chance to win a free Christmas package upgrade (for example) by simply liking, commenting on, or sharing your property’s post. Inspire user-generated content by creating and promoting a holiday hashtag for your hotel that guests can use to post their own on-property pics for the chance to win.

Setting a budget for boosting posts that are performing well will help gain even further reach.

Email Marketing

Last, but not least, let’s not forget about email. In our world of rapid technological evolution, email has stood the test of time and is still one of the best ways to communicate with customers.

In addition to sending holiday email campaigns to segmented mailing lists, booking confirmation and pre-arrival templates can also be updated to include information about holiday upgrade offers and seasonal amenities for guests staying over the holiday period. And why not send past guests a Christmas gift of a special discount or promo just for them? Property management systems that offer automatic emails (and/or integration with CRM platforms) and the ability to create password-protected rates, make holiday email campaigns a breeze.

You could even add a festive touch to the design of your holiday email communications—but be careful not to overshadow your property’s branding.

As temperatures drop and competition heats up this holiday season, try to offer guests something a little different for Christmas to stand out. Aim to spread holiday joy to your guests and you’re sure to win holiday bookings—and great reviews too.

3 Things Hotels Can’t Do Without a Cloud PMS

Despite increased efficiency, scalability and profitability that cloud technology brings to hospitality businesses, many hotels are still running on outdated legacy systems—or, believe it or not, pen and paper.

We all have our reasons for making the decisions we make, but to approach the case for the cloud from a different angle, here are three things hotels can’t do without a cloud property management system (PMS).

Can’t Make Your Data Work For You

If you’re working with separate standalone systems or with manual ones (ledgers and spreadsheets) you probably feel a bit like a slave to your data. Manually cross-checking and compiling data from multiple sources is a time-consuming, error-prone process.

Without automated, integrated systems, hotels commonly suffer double bookings, under booking, rate and billing errors, slow check-ins and check-outs, and, ultimately, low customer satisfaction. With data stuck in silos or hardcopy, workflow and customer service are uninformed and disjointed.

When data is unified, the picture is very different. A PMS that shares information between departments and systems automates data workflow, eliminating the need for staff to manually duplicate data across those systems.

Through APIs (application programming interfaces), cloud PMS connect to other hotel systems (CRM, POS, online distribution channels, revenue management systems, mobile messaging platforms, electronic locking systems, room automation solutions, call accounting systems and more), consolidating data to automate administrative processes and improve the guest experience. Essentially, data integration allows systems to talk to each other so you don’t have to be the middleman.

Let’s look at some examples. When a PMS is integrated with a POS system, call accounting software or in-room entertainment platform, charges for restaurant meals, long-distance calls, and pay-per-view are applied to guest folios automatically, saving manual administrative time and improving billing accuracy. Integration with payment gateways and electronic locking systems allow payment acceptance and key coding to be facilitated directly through the PMS (instead of requiring staff to manually enter data into the credit card terminal or locking system) for a faster and more secure check-in process.

OTA, GDS and channel manager integrations allow you to conveniently manage rates and availability for all connected channels at once directly through your PMS, rather than updating each channel one by one, duplicating data each time. Integrations with CRM and guest engagement solutions can automate routine guest communications and heighten personalization.

In short, system integration automates data workflow for enhanced efficiency, accuracy and service. When the data takes care of itself, you have more time to focus on your guests.

Can’t “Mobilize” Your Front Desk

One of the most celebrated advantages of a cloud PMS is being able to access your data from anywhere, any time. Unlike legacy systems, which chain staff to the front desk (where the only access point for completing front-office tasks is the front-desk computer on which the PMS software is physically installed), cloud PMS are deployed online, conveniently accessible to authorized users via any computer or mobile device connected to the internet.

With a cloud PMS, managers can log in when they’re away from the property to generate reports, update room rates, or provide off-site assistance to on-site staff as needed. Accessing PMS data on the go via a mobile device, on-site staff can look up reservation folios, enter bookings, log and action guest requests, update housekeeping room status, and even check guests in—all without returning to the front desk, maximizing time and efficiency.

Using a cloud PMS, modern hoteliers can essentially take the front desk with them wherever they go to serve guests better and manage their business more effectively.

Can’t Stay Competitive

Legacy PMS require expensive licences and upgrades that do not inspire hotels to keep their systems up to date, eventually resulting in obsolete software that holds business back.

Key to remaining competitive in any industry is implementing current and innovative technology that helps businesses keep up with consumer demand and behaviour, like the desire for self-service options and personalization.

From improving mobile functionality to developing new integrations, cloud PMS are constantly evolving in an ongoing mission to improve operational efficiency, profitability and the guest experience for lodging operations. Technology that unifies and mobilizes data will put a hotel ahead of another employing systems that trap data in silos and staff behind the front desk.

Properties running on cloud technology usually enjoy standard feature updates and system upgrades free of charge as new features and upgrades are quick and easy to deploy online compared to legacy installations. This ease of deployment means that cloud solutions are easily scalable too, readily growing with your business, whether further rooms, locations or revenue streams are added.

Through connectivity, constant innovation and scalability, cloud PMS give lodging operations a sharp competitive edge that keeps them ahead of the game.

Still not convinced that a cloud PMS can help your business be more successful? Read 5 Ways a Cloud PMS Directly Increases Hotel Revenue next!

Best E-Commerce Practices for Independent Hotels

When you think of “e-commerce,” online retail sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy probably first come to mind. But have you ever thought of your property’s website as an e-commerce site too?

E-commerce refers to commercial transactions that are conducted electronically over the internet, so if your hotel website processes bookings through an online booking engine then, technically, you should think of it as an e-commerce site, especially if your goal is to drive direct bookings.

Retailers have shaped consumer expectations of the online shopping experience. Today’s consumers are used to simple, seamless and secure shopping experiences online and hotel websites need to provide a similar booking experience to maximize conversions in an increasingly competitive hospitality industry.

Hotel websites must go beyond compelling visual design and great photos; a frictionless user experience is key to the success of any e-commerce site. So, start thinking about your property’s website from an e-commerce perspective and follow best e-commerce practices to ensure your website provides a simple, seamless, credible and supportive online shopping experience that turns lookers into bookers.

Simple

The most successful e-commerce sites keep things simple. Even online retail giants like Amazon that sell hundreds of thousands of products across a multitude of categories offer a straightforward and intuitive shopping experience.

Consumers prefer websites that are visually uncluttered and easy to navigate and understand. For hotel websites that means a clean, modern visual design, a clear USP (unique selling proposition), well-organized content (one topic per page), images that specifically support page content, prominent and relevant calls to action (CTAs) like “book now” and “view deals” buttons, and familiar menu formats for intuitive navigation. 

The online booking engine must also offer a simple, intuitive user experience that guides users effortlessly through the booking process. Avoid overwhelming users with too many options and reduce the steps to complete a booking as much as possible by only asking for the minimum amount of information required to make a booking. Personalization is important here too; your online booking engine should recognize repeat customers and auto-complete information as appropriate to simplify the reservation process.

An uncomplicated path to booking is key to converting website visitors into paying guests.

Seamless

A seamless user experience goes hand in hand with simplicity. It’s important to eliminate any obstacles to booking—you don’t want to give customers any excuse to bail. As mentioned above, simplicity helps pave the way to booking via an easily understandable and navigable website and online booking process. 

As well, look at your website from a more technical perspective to ensure a seamless user experience that eliminates friction.

Ensure pages load quickly; approximately half of website visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. You can run your website through a page speed test (like Google’s PageSpeed Insights) to find out how your website performs and what you can do to make it faster—because every second really does count.

Today’s online consumers frequently switch between desktop and mobile devices (and browsers), so a website that functions optimally across devices is key to a seamless online user experience. A responsive website and booking engine automatically detects and adapts itself to the screen it is being viewed on, adjusting layout, content and functionality accordingly to present an optimal and consistent user experience on all screens.

In addition to being mobile friendly, your online booking engine should offer a branded experience with a similar look and feel to your website to create a seamless booking experience and gain customers’ trust. Even basic customization of your booking engine with your logo and background colour helps support credibility of your business (which brings us to the next point)…

Credible

Successful online retailers earn consumers’ trust by establishing credibility. Professional product images, customer reviews, contact information, payment and shipping policies, affiliation badges and secure URLs are all important elements of an e-commerce website that help gain customer confidence.

Make sure your hotel website demonstrates your property’s authenticity and reassures prospective guests that it’s safe to book direct online.

Do this by investing in a quality website design and professional, high-res images of your property (avoid stock photos) that accurately portray the stay experience. Include guest reviews throughout your site or on a dedicated page, and add social media icons to your header or footer that link to your social channels, to provide your customers with the social proof that will convince them to book with you. Most review sites and social media channels provide widgets that display a live feed of your reviews, ratings and posts directly on your website.

Display trust symbols like a TripAdvisor badge (if your property is doing well on TripAdvisor), and affiliation badges for any relevant memberships you have, for example, with your local Chamber of Commerce, lodging association or eco-friendly certification, to show you take your business seriously.

Make sure you’re providing your customers with a safe shopping experience with secure URLs (secure URLs begin with https rather than http), and that goes for your online booking engine too. Display a Best Rate Guarantee and make booking and cancellation policies readily available for customers.

Supportive

Without easy and instant access to customer support, online shoppers are more inclined to abandon their shopping carts if they have a question about the purchase. The same goes for travelers booking accommodation online.

Live chat is a common element of e-commerce websites, allowing an agent to help customers via real-time messaging as they are shopping. Now, AI-based chatbots, which can handle basic queries well, are replacing live chat. An increasing amount of hotel websites successfully employ live chat or a chatbot to answer prospective guests’ questions and guide them down the purchase funnel.

Whether or not you use live chat or a chatbot on your property’s website, it’s crucial to display contact information—especially a phone number and email address—on every page of your website (ideally in the header) so that customers can reach out at any point. Including social media icons in your header too will catch those millennial customers who prefer to communicate with businesses through their social channels.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once a customer completes a booking through your website, continue to offer excellent customer support via booking confirmation and pre-arrival messaging that invites them to upgrade their stay, informs them of useful property information, or asks if they have any special requests. They’ll feel reassured about their choice to book with you, and you’ll have laid the foundation for a loyal customer relationship.

Much more than a pretty digital brochure, hotel websites today are highly functional e-commerce sites designed to drive direct online bookings. Make sure your hotel website engages proven e-commerce practices to maximize conversions.

8 Key Performance Indicators Hoteliers Should Be Tracking

Running a hotel is a complicated job with a never-ending list of responsibilities. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that keep your property running smoothly and forget about taking time to assess your business’s performance. But, as they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure – so start measuring.

Here are eight important key performance indicators (KPI) every hotelier should be tracking:

Financial KPIs

Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) >> The AOR measures the percentage of rooms that are occupied over a specific period. It is calculated by dividing the number of paid rooms occupied by the total rooms available (for the desired period) and multiplying that figure by 100.

Occupancy is an essential indicator of hotel success. Increased AOR typically means increased revenue, so you should pay careful attention to this figure. Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing occupancy at your property.

In addition to providing insight into hotel performance, knowing your AOR is critical for operations. This metric can help you staff your hotel appropriately and manage inventory effectively.

Average Daily Rate (ADR) >> The ADR measures the revenue generated by each room on average. It is calculated by dividing total room revenue by the number of rooms sold. You should be comparing your ADR to the average costs per room to ensure profitable pricing decisions.

For tips on improving ADR at your property take a look at this past post.

Average Rate Index (ARI) >> The ARI indicates how your ADR compares to that of your immediate competitors. It is calculated by dividing your ADR by your competitors’ average ADR. This figure can help you determine if, and how, you should be adjusting your pricing.

Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) >> RevPAR is often considered the most important figure for analyzing hotel success. Although similar to ADR, it includes the rooms that are sitting empty in the calculation (RevPAR = total room revenue / number of available rooms).  Because this ratio accounts for both revenue and occupancy, it serves as a good snapshot of success and profitability.

Revenue Per Available Customer (RevPAC) >> RevPAC (calculated by dividing the total revenue from hotel guests by the number of hotel guests) reflects the average revenue generated by a single customer. This figure accounts for ancillary revenue sources (from spa treatments to food and beverage purchases to pet fees) in addition to room revenue.

Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing ancillary revenue, and therefore RevPAC, at your hotel.

Customer Acquisition Cost >> This metric indicates how much cost is invested in acquiring each new customer. You can compute it by summing the total amount spent on sales and marketing and dividing that figure by the number of clients acquired through those efforts. Calculate the CAC for individual channels to determine which ones are worth continued investment.

Guest Satisfaction KPIs

Online rating >> In the age of the internet, hoteliers no longer have to wonder how their guests felt about their stay; online reviews provide explicit and measurable feedback. You should be aware of the number of reviews and overall rating your hotel has on sites like Google and TripAdvisor, and making efforts to improve both.

Read this blog post for tips on improving your ratings online.

Guest engagement >> People engage with the brands that they trust and love, so how much engagement you get online can be a good indicator of overall guest satisfaction. Track the number of likes, comments, and shares your content is getting on social media platforms for a sense of how contented and loyal your guests are.

Running a successful business requires constant self-assessment and adjustment. Track, and regularly assess, these KPIs so you can run a more efficient and profitable property.