It’s an exciting time for hotel marketing, as new options in ad tech seem to come online every week. However, hotels need to make sure their own websites and booking engines can integrate with new solutions, and that they can publish rates and inventory in real time, before rushing into the latest tools on social media, or with metasearch, and retargeting partners. Dynamic marketing won’t work for hotels without live rates.
Consumers are sure to see new ad products soon, like Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel, TripAdvisor Sponsored Placements, and a forthcoming action button on travel brands’ Instagram pages that will let viewers book hotel stays. These marketing solutions will likely become an important part of a new customer journey that engages people on the digital channels they use most and leads them to a hotel’s direct channels for booking. To use these advertising channels to their full potential, hotels must avoid a bait and switch with room rates at all costs.
For example, if consumers click a retargeting ad or a promoted Facebook post advertising a low rate and then get redirected to a hotel’s booking engine and see a different rate, they’ll abandon the booking process nearly every time. It’s an easy way for a hotel to lose trust with its potential guests. That property might not ever win those guests back to its direct channels.
Live rates, updated in real time everywhere a hotel lists its inventory, are key to making a multi-channel distribution strategy work. The latest prices need to be reflected in every customer-facing ad any time a revenue manager changes rates, which a good manager does often to capitalize on demand for certain dates, room types, customer segments, or marketing channels. It requires a hotel’s website, booking engine, and revenue management system to be integrated through open APIs to new solutions like those from Facebook or TripAdvisor, just as they might be connected to the CRM or property management systems.
When done right, dynamic solutions with live rates can be a powerful way to reach potential guests higher up in the marketing funnel. These new ad products will only become more influential the more consumers turn to mobile booking and the more time they spend on social media. Hotels could possibly get some consumers to bypass OTAs or search engines completely. But they must provide a seamless, single-click experience to take shoppers from a promoted post on Instagram to a booking engine with the advertised stay dates and price, with no restrictions.
If consumers comparison shop and check a price they see on a Facebook ad versus an OTA listing, live rates on those newer products could help hotels promote the value of a hotel’s loyalty rates. If the social or retargeting ad clearly states that a lower price is a “special member rate,” it would still count as a fenced offer that doesn’t violate rate-parity agreements, and the upshot could be more signups to the loyalty program.
Finally, applying live rates to some of these new ad tech products could help hotels upsell ancillary-revenue categories and premium room types higher up in the funnel, at the point of booking. If that higher-level merchandising is achieved at booking, without having to rely on pre-stay emails or the sales skills of the front desk at the time of check-in, the operations staff can concentrate on service and the revenue managers could focus on aggressively yielding the rest of the hotel’s inventory.
Hotels should explore the new ad technologies offered by Facebook and others. Just as importantly, they should check to make sure those new solutions can connect via open APIs to execute live rates everywhere. If that’s not yet the case, insist on it with a hotel’s technology partners.
About the Author
Patrick Bosworth is CEO and a co-founder of Duetto, hospitality’s Revenue Strategy Platform, based in San Francisco.