Thursday, 30 August 2018

Simple Strategies to improve your Online Distribution

Guest post by Alex Bufton - Commercial Manager, Channel Partners at Guestline.

The distribution landscape changes on a daily basis and it is even more important to ensure you are always in the forefront of your customer’s mind – and preferred platform. Here are a few simple strategies, which could boost your performance and even open you up to new markets. Before we delve into new channels, let us look at the facts, which means a review of your current channel and business mix, as this the foundation on which to build your strategy to support your core objectives.
There are a plethora of examples and you all have different business models, however, some key questions are applicable no matter what your mix is: When did you last make a booking through a channel for a cheeky mini break? How was your booking experience? Here is the other million £ question: When did you last make a booking on your website? Hold that thought, as we will come back to it later.

Are you getting the most from your connected channels?
When I talk about channels, I mean both direct (your website’s booking engine) and other connected online channels. Let’s be honest – how often do you review the production statistics available to you either through Guestline’s tools for a consolidated view, or for a deeper analysis via the relevant Extranet? I’m sure this is always one of those tasks on a mental “To Do” list however it may always be moved to “tomorrow, first thing!” or “Next week I’ll have a clear schedule”. I fully understand, albeit the task should not actually take more than 15 minutes. Key indicators to look for are whether the channel is connected and whether you are receiving bookings, if you are getting business - what has been produced and what is the cancellation ratio? We see cancelation statistics by some channels of over 30%! Definitely, time to review your business if that is the case as even 20+% is high.

How can you improve those metrics?
Review your channel content as content really is King:

Rates, cancelation policies, room types. Could it be that you are too flexible?
Globally, hotels are increasing their restrictions in terms of cancelation deadlines of 24 hours prior to arrival policy for some rates, therefore offering a semi-flexible policy. Many properties have been offering a wider selection of non-refundable rates to attract bookers sooner and cutting their attrition factors too.

For Online channels – what page are you listed on and why?
Did you know you can improve your visibility by updating content and images? It also helps if your guests leave positive feedback. Your OTA’s always seek better tools and ways to improve the guests booking experience, which may also require an update of your content sometimes like adding new images, or tagging images. You can even setup automatic replies to everyday questions such as parking and bed configurations. These tools are designed to support you and save valuable time. Whether you want to drive additional OTA business or not, it’s still good practise to ensure your property is showcased to it’s very best as you want to convert lookers to bookers.

Now that you have looked into who is producing what business with you – have a look at where your guests come from and when they typically book. You may wish to start attracting business from different markets as you know they book earlier, they stay longer, spend more and are less likely to cancel. Trust me, you can look at this level of data as it is available – I’d encourage you to speak to your market managers. Of course you can run reports from your PMS to review this as you have a legal requirement to obtain the nationality of your guests too – if you’ve not ordered a copy of the Pink Book via VisitBritain, it’s full of great information on legislation to our industry.

There are different tools available to drive business from different markets, offer their China Point of Sale programme for instance, if that is a market you’re looking to attract. You have a number of tools available to attract business from other markets in exchange for increased commission via the extranets.

We’ve also added a number of new channels to help you increase your visibility and expand your client reach – please drop me a line if you’d like to talk in more detail but we can now offer connections to channels that you may have had to handle manually, some that are just emerging on the market. I’d be more than happy to share details with you – so yes, I am luring you to talk to me.

Maybe further down the line you’d like to foray into adding Meta-Search your channel mix therefore driving the cost of guest acquisition down. Trust me, we can introduce you to the “New Kid on the Block” and dispel some of the mystery. Albeit meta has been around for a while, it is constantly evolving and improving in my opinion. The benefit being that business is driven to your own website booking engine – hence my question earlier about the last time you booked on your own site. Now might be the time to review it, as we all know “Direct is always best”. And on that note, you should see what our new Direct Booking Module can do for you.

We are always eager to share best practise and useful hints & tips with you, and will continue to do so through a series of blogs and emails, as well as our Newsletter. Please always feel free to send me a message directly too, I would love to have a chat about your online distribution strategy and objectives to see what we can do together.

Wishing you continued success until the next time.



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