How hotels can leverage working with Expedia: an interview with Expedia’s David Hamblin
What is your role within Expedia for starters?
The role of market management is having a relationship with hotels, making sure that we are providing them with right information to get the best out of working with Expedia. We help hotels put their product onto to our global brands – Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity and most recently Wotif – those are the big ones. Then we also have the Expedia affiliate network – EN for short – and there we are offering hotels wider exposure again.
Our proposition for hotels is to be able to provide them with a global reach – across all the brands we have 150 sites, in 70 countries and 35 languages. We can take a product/hotel and put it out there globally, but do it in an appropriately localised way. The content will display slightly differently, each brand will decide how they display that content for their consumers – but one content load will go to every site and in every language immediately. Of course we localise the language, but it’s more than that. We know that Chinese customers are going to want a very different experience from an Indian customer; for example, many Indian travelers prefer to pay via deposit versus Chinese customers who prefer using AliPay.
The global online booking space is complex, and with the rise of mobile and and wearables, the whole ecosystem is continuing to expand. To give you an example, say you are small hotel say based in outer Sydney. You want to attract Asian customers, which is a growing segment for Australian hotels, but how do you reach those customers? They will want to book in their local language, pay in their local currency, and also use a payment method that they are used to. Visa and Mastercard don’t have great penetration in many of the Asian markets.
There’s also a good chance they will be using multiple devices as they go searching – they might start on a desktop at home, use their iPad on the way to work, and go look at their iPhone in the evening to make a booking. Tracking that whole experience and providing it in an optimised way is something that Expedia does well.
Does the average hotel need to be on all platforms?
That’s our value proposition -that it’s one back-end for all platforms and brands from our side. Hotels can sign up to Expedia Inc (which is the overall company and Expedia is one of the brands) via Expedia Partner Central, which is our back-end for hoteliers. From there the hotels will appear on all our brands. We’re not saying you have to manage multiple brands differently; they’re just there and we have the technology to make sure you’re out there across the globe. Expedia spends a huge amount on technology every year – roughly $980 million last year – and that’s not just on the consumer side (the mobile experience, the multi platform experience), it’s also on the hotel side. By using Expedia Partner Central, hoteliers can get information and leverage our global data to make informed decisions.
Hoteliers can access our Market Watch to see things like how they compare to competitors and their demand and conversion rates. It’s a powerful tool that can be leveraged to increase bookings and profits. We’ve used our data to develop two new really good products out at the moment.
We know that mobile is increasing and we know that as mobile bookings increase, we’re also seeing that lead times – booking windows – start to shorten. If you’re a hotel with last minute rooms, how do you quickly get out them out into the marketplace? We developed Sell Tonight with the idea that instead of having to go through multiple steps, you can just put in a rate, add some imagery and then just press click. Immediately you’ve got rates out in the market for that last minute business.
Real Time Feedback
We’ve all seen the rise of online reviews and the importance they have on bookings and conversion. All our reviews come from verified customers, so hotels can be confident they are getting a true review. But unfortunately, hoteliers generally get their review information post-stay, so there is little they can do to mitigate an issue that may generate a negative review. Likewise, there is no way to leverage a really positive experience.
Real Time Feedback lets hoteliers have a conversation with the customer while they’re actually in the hotel. When a customer checks in, Expedia will send the customer an email saying “How’s your stay?”. At that point, it’s a very small interaction – a smiley face or a sad face – but they can also add comments. So if someone goes into a room and they have no towels, they can send “sad face- no towels” message. They can say “my air-con is not working” or whatever, and that message immediately goes into Expedia Partner Central. The hotel will get a notification email so they can rectify the issue while the guests are in the hotel.
Our preliminary numbers indicate that there are slight increases in review scores by hoteliers who are using Real Time Feedback. It’s services like that this that we will continue to invest in so that guests and hoteliers can better communicate. Hoteliers can leverage the information we have to make better informed decisions.
Many hoteliers have a love/hate relationship with OTAs and see them as a necessary evil. What are your pitches to turn that tide, or what are the biggest misconceptions hoteliers have about OTAs?
My response to a hotelier would be that we are one distribution channel across many. From our point of view, we want long term relationships with our hoteliers. We recognise that we’re just one of many channels that they could use to distribute product, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to have a long term relationship with them.
The hoteliers who have the best relationship with Expedia view it as distribution channel and they understand how to use it alongside other distribution channels. Our proposition to them is: global exposure, multi-currency, multi-brand and multi-payment methods. Our technology investments deal with the growing complexity in how consumers book, giving our hotels a way of tapping into that -and that’s a consumer trend, not an OTA trend, or Expedia trend. Consumers want to book across multiple devices and because these times are changing, they also want a (their own) local experience when they book, not one that is foreign to them.
For instance, the Chinese consumer wants to book in Mandarin and pay via Ali Pay if possible. Their concerns are about safety, historic sites etc. Customers from Scandinavian countries tend to be much more OTA savvy. It is important to know how to address each type of consumer traveller.
Read the full interview at: eHotelier