Going Direct? Data-driven Pricing & Distribution Strategies

November 24, 2021 | Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Content, EMEA

How to optimize revenue management strategy? How to increase customer engagement and loyalty through data and technology? And how are companies adapting to emerging trends? These were just some of the talking points up for discussion at the Revenue Management panel at the Annual Hotel Conference (AHC) in Manchester this week.

Moderated by Shona Whitehead, Managing Director of Cogent Blue, the panel consisted of:

  • Robert Alley, Chief Operating Officer, Roomzzz Aparthotels
  • Chris Crowley, SVP, Global Sales, Duetto
  • Jonathon Liu, Director of Revenue Marketing Strategy, glh Hotels UK
  • Sally Richards, Managing Director, RaspberrySky Services

Changes in guest behavior and demographics were key talking points, as the panelist talked through how their businesses had navigated the past 18 months.

Moderator Shona Whitehead explained how her company recently ran a LinkedIn poll that showed staycations were here to stay! “We’ve seen a big boom in staycations and our recent LinkedIn poll showed that 66% of respondents think staycations are here to stay,” she told the audience.

Chris Crowley of Duetto concurred with Whitehead: “The bubble of direct bookings will fade a bit, but hotels can protect a lot of what they’ve got with tailored packages and personalized offerings,” he said.

Jonathan Liu of glh Hotels UK explained how the company had changed all its digital marketing content during COVID. “We used to promote proximity to tube stations now it’s all about parks and outdoor spaces,” he said.

When it came to channeling direct business, the panel talked through:

  • How to breakdown distribution costs effectively
  • When to drive direct
  • The role of third-party channels, such as OTAs
  • How tech can streamline operations

Crowley from Duetto succinctly broke down why direct has grown substantially during the pandemic.

“We track a lot of web intention data and what we see is that people are still looking at OTAs, shopping for the deal, then they go to the hotel to book the room. This is because they want a direct relationship with the vendor. They think it’s the most flexible way to book. And it gives them confidence,” Crowley explained.

“During the first six months of the COVID-19 situation, GDS accuracy rates were below 60%; effectively shopping inaccurate or false content. As a consumer, the best thing you can do right now is go direct to the supplier,” he added.

Robert Alley of Roomzzz Aparthotels also underlined the other benefits of channeling direct bookings. “There are other values than just cost of sale, such as brand development. For us as a small brand going places that’s important,” he said.

“You can spend on digital but it’s not that difficult to phone a customer up and find out what we can do to make things special before they arrive. Ask the right question when the booking was made or read the details that come through on those bookings - it’s the simplest thing in the world,” Alley added.

External logo close upCheck out how Roomzzz Aparthotels uses Duetto to optimize revenue and streamline business reporting in our Duetto Presents: Roomzzz Aparthotels film. Watch here: https://www.duettocloud.com/videos/duetto-presents-roomzzz

Looking at the role of the OTA, Crowley highlighted how hotels can and should be more creative in their direct channels.

“You can package a hotel in ways the OTA cannot. You can offer unique things for the guest that simply cannot be sold on an OTA,” he urged the audience, adding, “the guest has a transactional relationship with the OTAs and during the pandemic, there were no transactions to base their relationship on. As a hotel, the relationship goes way beyond the transaction; it’s about sleeping, eating, sharing experiences.”

Sally Richards from RaspberrySky Services commented that storytelling and building relationships are not something hotels have always been good at, as she tackled how hotels can sometimes complicate the buyer journey by adding too many room types to their websites.

“Hotels put on their website what they want to tell you and not what the customer wants to hear. For me, there are only three room types: too small, just right, and a suite,” Richards said.

Lui from glh explained how keeping your unique rooms back from the OTAs and uniquely marketing them can get people craving that exclusivity.

Talking about how tech can help streamline processes, Crowley tackled the topic of going from multi-channel to omnichannel: “For suppliers it means they can build quite complex processes into single-channel perspectives that allow packaging to be more creative, serving a personalized pricing offer based on a customer’s profile. We are coming close to seeing omnichannel distribution with personalized pricing at the point of reservation,” he said.

Duetto client, Robert Alley from Roomzzz Aparthotels, explained how they were already working towards omnichannel distribution. “We now have four ways to book direct. Our chatbot (which handles 85% of interactions on its own). The call center, which remains very popular. Automation through our reservations email inbox can automate a response and is a huge timesaver when dealing with 2,000 emails a day. And our website,” he said.

“What is important is ensuring you deliver the brand experience throughout. To get that automated email to not feel like an automated email. On the phone, we are ourselves, in our hotels we are ourselves, and our website is on-brand. When you start to get it right that brand story comes through and starts to count for something, a third-party website is not as much fun!”

Richards from RaspberrySky Services explained how all this tech can help streamline operations from a back-office and front-office perspective. “If you make things more seamless then there’s more time to interact with the guest. The back-office piece is really important in terms of personalization, speed, and transparency.”

Alley from Roomzzz Aparthotels summed up how going direct has changed.

“We have turned the tables on the book direct ratio and that’s amazing. Length of stay has changed dramatically, and the customer booking experience has changed a lot and keeps evolving. Weekends have become two nights again. For a long time, it used to be just Saturday night. For digital nomads who can work anywhere, they can arrive on a Thursday night, work Friday from the hotel and their weekends can start on a Friday at 6 pm with a glass of wine. Friday nights are as good as Saturdays now.”

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