Why Developing Your Distribution Strategy Matters for your Hotel

What's happening to your conversion rate?Hey, hotel folks. Do you hate your channel “partners?” Do you feel like they “force” you to sign agreements you don’t want to?

If so, you’re not alone.

And, that’s a shame.

Because most channel partners (OTA’s, traditional travel agents, group and meeting planners, etc.) are actually good folks trying to help place business in your hotel.

No, seriously.

Now, it’s not to say that every market manager from every OTA treats every hotel like they treat their best friends. But, usually, these folks’ success depends upon having enough inventory in their market to meet a wide array of guest needs.

And that need represents your opportunity to negotiate favorable terms. The challenge, of course, is that many hotels lack a cohesive distribution strategy. Instead of understanding their best customers and taking the steps to diversify the sources of those best customers — in particular, placing an emphasis on those guests delivered via direct channels — hotels often sign myriad agreements and pay the most attention to the channels delivering the most business. Some channel partners recognize this dependence and push for terms that both increase their profit (and, to be fair, what business wouldn’t?), while simultaneously increasing their hotel partners’ dependence on the channel.

So don’t do that.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But there are ways to break the cycle. And that’s the point of my latest Travel Tuesday post over on Tim Peter Thinks: “How to Take Charge of Your Distribution Strategy.” Give it a read if get a minute.

If you need help developing your hotel’s distribution strategy (or some other part of your digital marketing), give me a call at 201-305-0055.

And if you’re interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going—as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries—register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes in the marketplace, including:

The Benefits of Upselling

Want to make more money from your customers? Here’s a frequently overlooked tip: Ask them for more. That’s the essential premise behind a new white paper I’ve written in conjunction with HSMAI and Nor1 called, “When More is More: Upselling as a Sales and Marketing Tactic.”

Upselling involves more than just asking, of course. The real keys involve understanding the value of your offering to customers and making the right offer at the right time. While technology plays a key role in executing most effectively, so does having the right people, culture, and insights about your customers. Check out the write-up over on Thinks, if you get a moment.

And if you’re interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going — as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World” here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes, including:

Do Guests Search for Travel in Maps? Why They Will Now

Google maps flight search smallAlex Kremer on Tnooz highlighted the addition of flight prices to Google Maps earlier this week. To put it mildly, it’s a really big deal. A game-changer. For reals. I explain why in my Travel Tuesday post, “4 Reasons Why Google Metasearch in Maps Matters (Travel Tuesday)”.

One argument against this enhancement suggests people don’t search for travel on map services at all, so what makes this a big deal? Well, as I note in the post,

“I think it’s certainly true that people don’t search for flights on Google Maps. At least prior to today, why would they?

But once early adopters begin to gain the advantages metasearch has long promised, why wouldn’t savvy travelers search for flights on Google Maps? “

You can read the whole post here.

Interested in learning more about travel marketing and where it’s going — as well as lessons that apply to a host of other industries? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World” here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of these changes, including:

What Voice-Powered Search Will Do For Travel Marketing

Changes in searchThe drive market (i.e., folks traveling by car with no reservations booked) has long represented the holy grail for travel marketers, an almost mythical creation, promising fabulous rewards if only someone could figure out how to reach it.

Not that no one’s tried. Obviously, outdoor media has dominated the push for drive market travelers. But the returns from print and outdoor have proved mixed and attribution almost impossible (and, yes, there is some correlation there).

But, there’s hope on the horizon. Search is changing in a big way. And with those changes comes the opportunity to reach drive market travelers — as well as loads of other folks, too.

You can read all about this development in this week’s Thinks Travel Tuesday post: What Watson, Xbox, and Google Are Telling You Right Now. Check it out if you get the chance.

You can also register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web, including:

Facebook Hires Head of Travel – Lee McCabe | buuteeq

This isn’t news any longer, but it’s still worth noting that Facebook recently hired former Expedia exec Lee McCabe as its head of travel. As noted during the recent HSMAI Chief Digital Officer Roundtable, Facebook — and other players such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon — don’t have a significant presence in the online travel space… yet. But given the size of the online travel space (~ $120B in 2012, roughly 35% of all e-commerce), it’s no wonder Facebook has started to take notice.

Skift offers this insight from McCabe:

“A big part of the role is helping our travel partners reach existing objectives by connecting, engaging, and influencing consumers on the Facebook platform,” McCabe says. “We’re already doing that by identifying the right solutions for travel, such as Custom Audiences, Facebook Exchange and Offers. So far, our partners that have the most clear objectives and focus on core solutions are seeing the most success.”

How big is Facebook in your marketing plans this year? Does their attention to the space cause you to look at them more closely? I’d love to hear what you think.

What Google’s Flight Explorer Tells Us About the State of Travel Search

No sooner did I mention that Google will be able to explore lots of innovation and opportunity now that they’re free of regulatory investigation, than the company introduces its new Flight Explorer feature.

Google Flight Explorer screenshot

Just put in where you’re looking to go (the feature “auto-magically” determines your starting airport) and how long you’re willing to travel and the feature will show you the best flight options (best defined as cheapest) available to you.

At present, it looks like all the inventory is coming from the individual airlines, which they must love. Of course, the OTA’s probably won’t be happy. But it’s a fascinating move from Big G and one worth watching as we move forward.

Clearly, Google thinks this is an underserved way consumers want to search. I think they’re right—I’d have killed for this a couple of weeks ago while trying to plan an inexpensive getaway for my family. Google’s now free of the (immediate) threat of government involvement in their day-to-day product direction, which means this likely isn’t the last enhancement of this kind we can expect to see. While this one looks good for suppliers and competition for intermediaries, that won’t necessarily remain true for any future enhancements. I’d stay tuned on this front if I were you.

I’ll be exploring and explaining what features such as these mean for your business in the Biznology webinar I’m conducting January 15th: “It’s All E-commerce: How the Local, Social, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline”. We’ve still got some space, so register today and learn more about how all channels tie together in the social, local, mobile web.

IAB Study on Travel and Media

The IAB has an interesting study outlining trends among travelers and their media use. Some of the key findings?

  • Travel is their top “big ticket” purchase. 23% of Americans are planning vacation travel in the next six months, making the category the top “big ticket” item they plan to purchase in the period
  • Internet use almost equal with TV. On weekdays, internet weekly reach among intended travelers approaches parity with TV (91% internet vs. 95% TV)
  • Media use grows when they’re ready to travel. Soon-to-be travelers are more likely to surf the internet (91% vs. 82%), listen to radio (77% vs. 69%), and read magazines (61% vs. 51%) and newspapers (58% vs. 50%) than the general population
  • Heavy use of email. They are far more likely to send and read emails than the average American (94% vs. 83%)
  • And of mobile phone apps. Their rates of app usage is much greater than the average American The six most popular categories more than those in the general population:
    • Games (70% travel intenders vs. 66% general population)
    • Weather (69% travel intenders vs. 57% general population)
    • Entertainment (60% travel intenders vs. 54% general population)
    • Social Networking (58% travel intenders vs. 52% general population)
    • Radio (45% travel intenders vs. 39% general population)
    • Travel (53% travel intenders vs. 38% general population)

You can retrieve the whole study from the IAB here [PDF link].