Optimizing Online Distribution

The ever changing distribution landscape can be challenging to maneuver. Costly connectivity solutions often result in some degree of manual management of varied channels, which is time consuming. The good news is that a hotel usually finds a way to get content, rates, and availability out to the customer in some way. The bad news is that, often, this information is not optimized for particular customers, which can result in a lost booking. Understanding more about which customers book what sites and delivering the content and availability optimally to them is critical to a hotels success at any distribution point.

Beware of the Dart Board Strategy

There is an endless number of distribution channels offered today. While some like GDS and Brand.com are straightforward, others, including CTrip.com, TabletHotels.com and OutTraveler.com may be more intriguing. At first glance, it may seem necessary to maximize your distribution in as many points as possible, whether geographically, based on customer demographics, or price oriented. However, each of these sites requires your content, rates, and availability. Depending on the connectivity options, loading all of this information accurately may be more difficult than it initially seems. One site that is fully connected, for instance, may not be able to handle more than 10 images or can only take a limited number of room products, while other sites may be able to accommodate more content but are fully manual. The combinations are limitless.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of bigger is better. Broad distribution often leads to costly connectivity with a low ROI. Hoteliers that choose channel managers solely for broader distribution often are unaware of the consequences this strategy brings to staff efficiency and brand positioning. Results can be underwhelming. Sending default availability and content to sites without spending the time to optimize them is typical because it is impossible to optimize every single channel, especially if you connect to many of them. The dart board strategy which means putting everything out there and hoping something sticks is a wasteful strategy.

The annual business plan should identify a revenue strategy with specific targets. Ideally, the next breakdown would identify where resources such as marketing, sales and distribution would be placed to affect the strategy. The hotel team would then determine how to obtain the customers needed to achieve that target. For instance, if the goal is to increase transient ADR by $X.XX year-over-year, the team should peg resources required to achieve this. Will you use marketing dollars for a BAR rate acquisition campaign, for instance, or will you go after a new set of affluent customers who book online?

Once the strategy is identified, find the key distribution targets and then set out an approach to optimize them.

Who Books my Site? Who Books on OTAs?

Usually your site would have analytics to help you understand the demographics of your customers and how they use Brand.com. While these are key statistics, you should always look to see what the customers are booking. Are they booking BAR rates or corporate rates? Weekdays or weekends? Are you seeing a lot of senior citizen rate bookings? Are your premium rooms being reserved in advance?

It can also be helpful to conduct a survey of your customers to better understand those demographics. For instance, while a hotel may not be receiving many senior citizen rates, you may find that there are still many of them who book on Brand.com under the BAR rate.

Similarly, you should learn which customers are booking on the OTAs. Often, the OTAs do not provide their marketing data to hoteliers, which would require that the hotel surveys every guest upon arrival, perhaps even providing an incentive to book Brand.com next time in return for their participation. Play offense and find out as much as you can about your customers and how they booked.

Read full article at:  Hotel Business Review