Global Distribution Strategies: Cracking the Code

Want to crack the code and develop effective global distribution strategies? Know that most of the time, simpler is better for everyone involved, from the manager to the customer.

 

Cracked Code #1: Rating Games

Let’s start with how to define your hotel’s rate codes. Many hotels with their own independent central reservation systems (CRS) develop their own “language” to assign special rates to certain customer segments (military, business, weekend, mid-week, special holiday rates, and more).

 

The problem arises when you input your hotel’s unique rate codes into whatever global distribution system (GDS) you use. If your hotel’s rate codes don’t match up with the codes the GDS uses for the same customer segment, your hotel won’t appear when an online travel agent (OTA) uses those criteria to look for rooms.

 

Happily, all you have to do is ask for a list of your GDS’s rate codes and—just as important—descriptions of what each code means. Once these codes align, you won’t miss out on any opportunities to sell a stay.

 

Cracked Code #2: Digital Footprints

If one of your global distribution strategies is to appeal to a customer who appreciates high-quality facilities, amenities, and service, don’t settle for less than high-quality digital images. This goes for the entire scope of the hotel’s online presence, from web site to GDS presence to social media interfaces.

 

Tip: For your hotel’s public face, it’s worth it to invest in the services of a professional photographer. Also consider that what you think is your hotel’s “best face” may not be what the customer finds the most appealing. Think about what types of customers book a stay at different times of the year, whether it’s vacationing families in the summer or business retreat customers in the colder months. Think about what’s important to those customers, and rotate your online images accordingly.

 

Tip: Monitor what pictures your customers post online in places like TripAdvisor and Facebook. If they’re great photos, interact with customers by thanking them and inviting them back. If it shows a flaw in your maintenance program, interact by thanking the customer for calling your attention to the problem, and deal with it promptly. Then post an “after” picture of your own!

 

Cracked Code #3: Global Distribution Strategies—PPC Spotlights

Similarly, your hotel’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising strategy should evolve with the seasonal ups and downs of your target customer base. PPC is an excellent opportunity to gain equal visibility with competing hotels while spotlighting what’s unique about your particular facility and what you can offer that other hotels don’t.

 

Tip: If you’re serious about PPC advertising, don’t run just one campaign at a time, or even just two or three. Dip all your advertising toes in the water at once! Running up to ten PPC campaigns at a time allows you to more easily monitor which keywords are performing well (that is, translating into bookings), allowing you to tweak or eliminate those that aren’t. Experimentation is your friend, and particularly suited to this type of advertising.

 

Tip: Monitoring your hotel PPC campaigns doesn’t mean logging in once a month. It requires touching base much more often, such as on a daily basis during peak travel season.

 

Cracked Code #4: Think Global, Act Local

Getting customers through the door means more than casting your online advertising net far and wide. Look closer to home, and think about attracting local customers.

 

Tip: Think about what your hotel has to offer the community. The same chef that wows wedding reception guests and business meeting attendees can draw local customers to the hotel restaurant. Hotels situated near a major sports or concert venue can offer area residents a room package in conjunction with a special event.

 

The online world is constantly changing. Make sure your global distribution strategies are evolving with it. For expert advice, contact us today.

Global Distribution Strategies: Directing Traffic

Managing all your global distribution channels can make you feel like a traffic cop at a busy intersection. No matter how vigorously you wave your arms, some channels just aren’t going to follow directions. To keep from standing by helplessly as your global distribution strategies go the wrong way down a one-way street, stick to a few simple rules.

Rule #1: Go Where Your Customers Are

Is your target customer a Facebook fanatic or a Conde Nast connoisseur? A Fodor’s foodie or a TripAdvisor top reviewer? Wherever they gather, that’s where you should be to experience the conversation. Learn what they want, need, and expect from a hotel stay. Learn what they’re saying about your hotel—and your competition. You can “lurk” to just listen in, or interact by responding to positive and negative reviews and posting useful travel information on the forums. Be very careful not to appear like you’re there to sell; instead, give general and timely travel tips, which are much appreciated. For example, someone who’s never traveled to your region might like to know what to pack for the weather conditions or receive a heads-up about construction projects that could impact their travel plans.

Rule #2: Work with OTAs

Many hotels may turn their noses up at online travel agents as a channel with little profit potential. However, they’re often a great way to get your hotel’s name in front of potential customers who don’t tend to be brand loyal.

Rule #3: Change with the Times

The content requirements for online distribution channels are constantly changing, so periodically review each site to make sure you’re meeting those requirements. Otherwise, your hotel could quickly lose visibility.

Rule #4: ‘Click’ with the Customer

Remember to keep your hotel’s main web site as simple to navigate as possible, especially for the ever-growing smart phone customer. A customer should be able to book a room in as few clicks or taps as possible, and a smart phone customer would like the same array of tools available as a traditional PC customer.

Rule #5: Pick Your Booking Channels Carefully

Channels that direct customers back to your branded web site are always preferable, though some sites like Facebook are evolving to the point a customer can make a reservation directly from a business’s page. A rapidly growing “traffic cop” is Google Hotel Finder. It’s worth your time to check into how it works and how to get your hotel listed.

Rule #6: Consider Same-Day Bookings

Finally, don’t overlook the possibility of offering last-minute, same-day deals via mobile platforms. Many hotel managers shy away from these because they fear underselling to customers who aren’t in their target market. However, done correctly, this can be a way to attract new customers and cement the brand loyalty of existing customers.

For more tips on managing your global distribution strategies, contact SmarteHotels.com.