Ms. Vereb

Revenue Management

How to Choose and Use the Right Hotel Data

Transformative Insights

By Francesca Vereb, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Hospitality Cloud, Cvent

Hotel Data and the Rise of Availability

In the past, hotel pricing was done manually. Prices created manually were typically influenced by gut instincts and anecdotal information that hotel staff had on hand - but very rarely were based solely on actual data. Because of this, hotel teams often over-charged (and left money on the table because the prices were too high for customers), or under-charged (missing out again).

Over recent years, many hotels have switched to using a revenue management system (RMS) to help make more of their pricing decisions based on data. Ideally, an RMS will project demand, predict how sensitive buyers will be to pricing, and then provide an optimal rate. The biggest challenge then becomes accurately and objectively projecting demand. It is becoming easier over time to estimate demands by incorporating data from search engines, social media platforms, and other business intelligence sources.

In the future, we can expect hotel technology and data to provide an even more complete look, as existing platforms become more robust and build stronger integrations with each other. Hotel technology and data are also becoming more specific about your successes, what is causing them, and how you are stacking up against your competitors in real time. Access to all of this lets hoteliers be more proactive and predictive in their marketing and sales efforts, instead of reacting to whatever trends they are observing in the moment.

Gathering Leisure Data

Leisure travelers tend to focus on different amenities and features than business travelers do, typically related to:

  • Price - Compared to business travelers, leisure travelers look at price earlier on in the process and weigh it more heavily in their decision. This makes sense, given that business travelers typically have a company footing the bill for their stay or can write off travel expenses as a tax deduction.
  • Recommendations - Leisure travelers tend to focus on recommendations from friends and family (specifically offline) more than business travelers do. Research from Google shows that 48% get travel planning tips from friends and family, compared to just 35% of business travelers.
  • Packages and Onsite Facilities - Leisure travelers are more likely to purchase travel packages and use more onsite facilities (especially those related to relaxing, like a pool or spa) than business travelers.

Of course, these are general industry-wide trends that can give you a place to start with your research. If, for example, you have website analytics that show leisure travelers tend to click away from your site after looking at your amenities or pricing pages, then that might mean your messaging and price points are not targeting the right users. Once you can see where you're losing people, you don't have to take drastic action. You can make simple changes to your property website like adding better photos of the facilities and amenities you do have, improving your overall website look and feel, and adding or changing your existing packages to draw in more leisure travelers. Working with analytics experts on your team or even recruiting third parties can help you pinpoint these quick fixes and easy wins.

Gathering Business Transient Data

The business travel sector has experienced explosive growth in recent years, providing hospitality professionals with a rich well of data to explore. Business transient data can be especially helpful when used in negotiations - in fact, your negotiations with this sector should be largely data-fueled.

For example, if you know that there tends to be a higher demand around a certain time of year (or even on a certain day of the week, as one data-set showed that transient demand has grown the most for Sundays), you can be a slightly more aggressive negotiator and show proof of high demand as justification for higher prices. On the other hand, if demand is historically low during a certain period, you can be less aggressive when negotiating and/or throw in booking bonuses to keep a client interested in your property vs. a competitor.

One takeaway that hoteliers can implement to improve their data collection is having an integrated business transient booking platform or a preferred travelers program. Programs like this make it much easier to track how specific buyers are booking, what their journey to booking is like (finding out about you through OTAs or going straight to your site), and give you more insight into this segment of the market as it relates to your property.

Gathering Group Business Data

Group business is an especially profitable area for many hoteliers, making up about 30% of the average hotel revenue. When targeting event planners and meeting professionals, competitive business intelligence will make it so much easier to distinguish yourself among other venues. Try the following tactics to determine which data sets to focus on depending on your group business goals:

  • Use seasonality to your advantage - market to planners according to the natural sourcing and sales cycle of meetings and events using property and industry-wide analytics.
  • Invest in tools that help you make data-supported decisions by benchmarking your sales and marketing success throughout the year.
  • Trust competitive data surrounding RFP share, response times, pricing, and more, so you're prepared for negotiations.

If you have a lead scoring tool, this is a great place to vet planners based on projected F&B, room night counts, and flexible dates, so that you can be more informed when building sales and marketing plans. At Cvent, we put a focus on providing hotels with this kind of data through our business intelligence platform, which include insights on group bookings for your specific property, as well as industry trends.

Turning Data into Transformative Insights

When it comes to using data to make decisions, start with a question based on your current priorities. Instead of jumping off from a raw data set, try a question like, "Which travel sector has the most lifetime value?" or "Where are we losing group business on planners' path to purchase?"

When taking action based on data, always make sure you're doing the smallest change possible first, and following up by tracking and testing their effects. You might find that one unexpected change gives you a surprising boost in booking rates, and you can iterate your marketing and sales strategies over time based on what you find both in your original data and with data-based experiments.

The above example about losing leisure travelers on your amenities page holds up here, too. You don't usually need to actually renovate your onsite amenities, you could test different versions of the page on your website and run an A/B tests. Then, you can repeat this process with every question you come up with (based on the results of your data, of course).

When considering the bigger picture of data and how it will affect your hotel business, there are three angles to explore:

  • Increased Specificity of Your Data - As technology develops and adapts to the industry, hotels will have more data on how visitors interact with websites and other marketing tactics - and where you're losing them in the booking process. Matching that data with A/B tests or incorporating it into your larger marketing strategy as a whole can generate increased ROI, without much extra effort.
  • Competitive Data - Not only can you see exactly where you're losing or gaining visitors in the booking process, but you can also see how those data points stack up against your competitors. If a competitor has a much larger top-of-funnel demand than you do, what does that indicate about your web presence and marketing efforts? Or if your demand is the same, but their conversion rates are higher, you can pinpoint user data directly to the drop-off point. Having insight on that level helps you turn reactive research into proactive targeting, leading the way for stronger sales and marketing plans.
  • Industry-Wide - Finding out that 94% of leisure travelers switch between devices while booking a trip can encourage you to test your website and booking process on multiple devices and browsers. It's also great incentive for capturing visitor information and their preferences. Even non-industry-specific data, like reports on what groups of people are using which social media platforms and how much time they spend on them, can be crucial to attracting the exact audience you're looking to convert.

When you are constructing your sales and marketing strategies, make sure that you're thinking about how each of these types of data can and should be considered. Your data and your competitors' data in tandem can be useful for course-correcting your sales and marketing strategies in the moment. Industry-wide data often is not as useful in the moment, but it can help with quarterly or yearly planning, as it points to larger trends that will affect your market.

Big data can seem overwhelming - but it doesn't have to be. It is all about fine-tuning your buyer's journey and finding small areas to improve the bigger picture. Take advantage of modern technology that Go in with a plan, know what to look for, and you are already ahead of the game. Good luck!

Francesca Vereb is the Sr. Director of Product Marketing for the Hospitality Cloud at Cvent. She is a strategic and data-driven product and marketing expert with an entrepreneurial streak and a passion for the convergence of strategy and execution excellence. She works across business units and at all levels of an organization to develop and grow B2B and B2C concepts and strategies. Ms. Vereb leads an international team responsible for evolving and executing the go-to-market strategy for Hospitality Cloud products. She works with Cvent's technology and sales teams on value proposition development, demand generation tactics, and sales enablement strategies and content development, with a focus on account-based marketing. Ms. Vereb can be contacted at 866-318-4358 or fvereb@cvent.com Please visit http://www.cvent.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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