10 distribution solutions every hotel needs
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In August Fastbooking published an extensive guide and infographic to help hotels selecting the right distribution solutions according to their specific needs.
The guide was an unexpected success and it made us realize how difficult it must be for hoteliers today to choose their partners wisely, as travel has become a very complex and crowded ecosystem over the last few years.
In this article, Fastbooking explores the ten key distribution solutions every hotel needs in order to stay competitive and properly market its products.
#1: Official website
Getting a proper hotel website is, still, the best thing you can do to improve your marketing strategy. When we use the adjective “proper” we refer to websites that are designed to primarily to convert.
It is a widely accepted myth that hotel websites should be as informative as possible and show every minute aspect of the property, but the truth is that the main objective of a hotel website is simply to transform visitors into guests.
That’s why choosing the right agency is crucial: a fully customized website is likely the best choice for big properties, while small budget hotels can opt for pre-designed inexpensive themes.
Whatever the choice, it’s important to look for some key factors: ease of use of CMS, emotional impact fo the design, source code optimized for SEO and frictionless mobile design user experience.
#2: Booking engine
When choosing a booking engine, keep in mind that it is where the real action (read: transaction) is, so UX is the most important factor.
The booking path should be as frictionless as possible and that the “Look and Feel” of the booking engine has to be consistent with the website design.
Page load time is another key factor as, according to several studies, hotels lose up to 20% of potential conversion for any second the booking engine takes to load.
#3: Channel manager
Channel Managers have no impact on final conversion, as the users never actually interact with them, but they’re indispensable to distribute room inventory and rates amongst OTAs and direct channels.
Hotels should make sure that all the OTAs they work with have a certified connection with the channel manager chosen. Often other systems need to be connected as well (PMS, CRS, etc.), so it’s important not to overlook this aspect.
Low latency in inventory and rates update is crucial to avoid rate disparity between channels, that’s why this should be checked before getting any engagement with a provider.
#4: SEO & SEA
The “death” of SEO in hotel marketing is another common myth that has been circulating for years. Truth is that it is still crucial to the success of any strategy.
At Fastbooking we have measured that 48% of the bookings coming from search are a direct result of a proper SEO strategy, so fresh content, proper heading structure and a clean website code are essential in order to properly rank for relevant keywords.
Hotels should always make sure that their websites are updated with latest search engines requirements.
Search Engine Advertising is a great way to reach users not accessible with SEO alone, but it can be expensive, so having clear KPIs in mind when working on a SEA strategy is extremely important to avoid disappointing ROI.
Make sure to hire a Google Certified Premier Partner agency with specific experience in hospitality and, if possible, knowledge of your local market.
#5: Metasearch ads
Metasearch engines play a crucial role in the guest booking journey today, just think about the fact that, according to SimilarWeb, up to 30 percent of Booking.com traffic comes from them.
Having a solid metasearch ad strategy is important, even though it is easy to lose control of the spending when it comes to this kind of advertising, mainly due to the huge volume of traffic these aggregators gained over the years.
Most metasearch engines offer both CPA and CPC models, so each hotel should choose one or the other according to its real potential. As a general rule, hotels with low ADR and small room inventory stock have better results with CPA model and vice versa.
Even though almost all booking engine nowadays come with native metasearch connection, there are advertising platforms that allow you to manage all your metasearch ads on a single extranet.
#6: Revenue management software
Revenue management software came a long way: even small properties who cannot afford to hire a revenue manager can now get automatic rate suggestions with a simple click.
Bigger properties with proper revenue management departments, on the other hand, can get the best out of the software in terms of granular data analysis and forecasting.
As per booking engines, PMSs and channel managers, revenue management software should have high connectivity with all hotel software, in order to correctly aggregate fragmented data into easily interpretable information.
A lot has been said and written about the importance of a good reputation and its direct correlation to revenue increase, so a proper reputation management tool comes in handy to easily manage all the hotel mentions around the web and run sentiment analysis with just a few clicks.
It’s critical to make sure that the software chosen aggregates all the review sites and social media on which the hotel has the highest volume of comments, in order to have properly aggregated data from multiple sources.
#8: CRM and email marketing
Customer Relationship Managers are usually used only by medium/big size hotels and chains, as small independent hotels rarely will be able to use them to their full potential.
Again, connectivity is the key element to look for when choosing a CRS in order to automatize as many triggers as possible.
Email Marketing is an easy and inexpensive way to get more brand visibility. MailChimp is usually sufficient for most small properties, while bigger hotels may want a proper CRM integration and be guided by a specialized agency.
#9: Social media
It goes without saying that all hotels should be active on social media. Smaller ones can stick to basic strategies (posting a couple of times a week, replying to users messages and reviews, post boosting), but larger properties need to have a proper professional figure dealing with social media.
As social media provide very granular tools in order to advertise to highly targeted audiences too, the help of a specialized agency is highly recommended.
#10: Marketing widgets
Over the years hotel websites evolved from static pages to real “hubs” where hotels can connect price checkers, chats and chatbots to guide the potential guests through the whole booking journey and increase conversion.
These tools are relatively easy to implement and not very expensive, so virtually any hotel can benefit from them. Flexibility in development and design customization are key elements when choosing a partner, in order to make the whole booking experience as smooth as possible.
Every hotel is different in size, star rating, location, and style, but the tools needed in order to sell and distribute rooms are pretty much the same for everyone. On the other hand, every hotel has specific needs, expectations, and budgets, so it’s important to ask the right questions when choosing the solutions that better fits one need.