Innovative Hotel Ecommerce Strategies Bubble Up at HSMAI Conference

by Jason Q. Freed, Managing Editor | March 30, 2018

I recently had the chance to listen to some really smart people – experts, I would call them – talk about best practices in hotel revenue management, digital marketing, ecommerce and guest personalization. As always, HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy conference was fascinating, thanks to those who got on stage and shared their knowledge.

Let me pass along what I learned …

Marriage Between Revenue Management and Hotel Marketing

We often talk about hotel revenue management being a fairly new discipline. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that hotels changed their rates just for weekends and peak season.

Well, Chris LaRose has been helping shape Hilton’s revenue management strategy for more than 20 years. So it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about the field.

As VP of Digital Marketing at Hilton, LaRose discussed the importance of revenue and digital marketing teams working together to build and sell a hotel’s story. He confirmed the adage that revenue people and marketing people are often two different breeds, underscoring the importance of each explaining their respective disciplines and the benefits they bring to the partnership.

“You have to explain marketing to the revenue people and revenue to the marketing people,” he said, adding that revenue managers see things in black and white while for marketing it’s all gray.

More specifically, hotel revenue managers are focused on predicting consumer behavior and optimizing the room availability and price to maximize revenue growth. They will look at historical trends and make decisions from there.

Marketing will have more context and will help determine how to position the product on the shelf correctly. They will answer different types of questions, such as whether you can sell to a certain type of person.

More tips from LaRose:

  • Of increasing importance to hotels is ecommerce — but 20 people within an organization could have 20 different definitions of hotel ecommerce. It’s important for leadership to rein that in, ensuring everyone is talking the same language.
  • Easy revenue meetings are not productive revenue meetings. Challenge both teams to understand each other’s business and how you can coordinate strategies to lower acquisition costs and increase profit.
  • Give both sides self-service access to reports, but prepare for small issues to turn into second- and third-level questions. Embrace those who engage through poking and prodding, but make sure it’s productive.
  • Be able to sell the story. Every promotion is not going to go great, but learn from each situation and be able to explain why you’re doing it throughout.
  • Manage the conversation in layers, first ensuring the hotel is positioned correctly before executing media, and then demonstrating where you can deliver revenue. Develop a multi-year plan that incorporates ancillary revenue, including F&B, golf, spa, etc.
  • Make fewer decisions based on your forecast. Get out of the 90-day cycle and do better full-year planning, aligning your strategy with the budget. “Don't talk about the plan in February for a May wedding,” LaRose said.

Related video: Duetto’s Marco Benvenuti on Optimized Pricing vs. Forecast Accuracy

Implement Guest Personalization Across All Channels

After LaRose reminded attendees that hotel revenue management is not a new discipline, a second expert suggested the same is true for the industry’s latest attraction: personalization.

Personalization “is not new, it's just marketing with more advanced technology,” said Michael Shaw, Client Success Manager at Hedgehog Development.

Shaw said that while personalization might start to sound like a buzzword, it’s incredibly important to hotel marketing and revenue teams.

“Why should you care? Because loyalty matters,” Shaw said. “Why do you go to your local bar? Because they know you.”

Shaw pointed to retail as an industry that is doing a much better job at personalization, already implementing recommendations based on knowledge of a person’s purchase history.

Since it’s early on in the game for hospitality, hotels have the ability to prepare a bit better, he said. For example, hotels can prepare for machine learning and predictive analytics by ensuring the appropriate data is tagged accurately before giving it to a machine to determine trends.

To set up your hotel organization for a personalization strategy, Shaw recommended the following steps:

  • Plan holistically. Establish a team with specific roles, such as a customer experience lead, a digital strategist and a content marketer.
  • Choose your technology stack by opting for solutions that integrate, and ensure you’re able to tag and organize the data across all of your systems.
  • Have goals in mind. Identify and quantify your key performance indicators.
  • Be patient. Start small with a tactical strategy that identifies what you know about your visitor, what you can give them to make them happy and loyal, and where you want the visitor to go next along their customer journey.

Feature photo by Dani Maczynski for HSMAI.

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Jason Q. Freed, Managing Editor

Jason joined Duetto as Managing Editor in June 2015 after reporting, writing and editing hotel industry news for a decade at both print and online publications. He’s passionate about content marketing and hotel technology, which leads to unique perspectives on hotel distribution and revenue management best practices.

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