Aimed at properties across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (North America, you get your turn next week - and Asia, stay tuned!), the Masterclass brought hoteliers together to learn about everything from mobile booking experiences to the new Google Analytics 4. We’ll be releasing plenty of content from the Masterclass over the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled - but we thought we’d kick things off with a roundup of the themes that resonated most over the course of the week.
Historic data isn’t that helpful right now - so test, test, test.
From the outset of the Masterclass, we were keen to foster an environment in which hoteliers felt comfortable to share not only what worked for them this year, but also where they tried something and failed. After all, this year has been uncharted territory for all of us: the most successful hoteliers have been the ones who stayed flexible and didn’t hesitate to try a new approach.
YOTEL’s Joe Pettigrew is certainly an advocate of that attitude. In a Q&A with Charlie Osmond, distribution expert Joe explained the iterative testing process his team has been employing this year to respond to rapidly-changing demand.
“A lot of the typical data analysis we would run is just not helpful right now (for predicting demand),” Joe shared. “So we’re looking at how we can completely optimize for the demand we know we have right now. We ask ourselves questions like ‘how can I get more of that demand direct? More cheaply? What kind of rooms can I sell, and what are the most profitable rates?’
We ask ourselves questions like ‘how can I get more of that demand direct? More cheaply? What kind of rooms can I sell, and what are the most profitable rates?’- Joe Pettigrew, YOTEL
“Lots of hoteliers will be used to doing some form of A/B testing on their website. But hardly any apply the same principle to their channel management. Now’s the time to start. What happens to your conversion rate if you change this image or that text on Booking.com? On Expedia? On TripAdvisor? We run regular sprints of testing not just on our own site, but on every channel we use. Our philosophy is to be the best in our comp set on each channel, to maximize the share of demand we’re winning from each channel.”
Flexibility and iteration were themes echoed by our other speakers too. In our opening session on capturing demand from your domestic market, The Set Hotels’s Brian Gore explained how his organization had adjusted its approach to strategy and budget-setting as we approach 2021:
“We took advantage of the ‘downtime’ we got when the hotels were closed to re-evaluate our approach to marketing investment next year. For starters, we’re not doing a full 12-month forecast for the year. We’re just looking at Q1 and Q2. There’s no sense forecasting the full year when everything is liable to change so quickly.
“We feel fairly confident that we’ll get back up to ‘normal’ levels of marketing spend relatively quickly next year - but the way we’re approaching it is to spend a small amount, see what the results are, then invest at scale. For example, we’ve been dipping our toe in the water for our PPC spend, investing small amounts at a time. As soon as we see meaningful results, we’ll start investing heavily again.”
As soon as we see meaningful results from PPC, we’ll start investing heavily again.- Brian Gore, The Set Hotels
Advice on iterative testing came up repeatedly elsewhere in the Masterclass too, from Laura Rogers’s session on conducting a UX audit of your mobile website to Carole Hauser of Hotel Belvedere showcasing the various marketing initiatives her family hotel had tried over the summer (and their varying results). Stay tuned to the Content Hub for more resources to use at your property over the coming weeks.
If you weren’t already, now is the time to focus on mobile.
COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of mobile as a searching and booking platform - and all the signs point towards this being a trend that’s here to stay. If you do just one thing ahead of the return of global travel demand, it should be an audit of your mobile experience.
“Our mobile share of traffic has absolutely gone through the roof,” revealed Joe Pettigrew. “We’re working right now on a brand new website to launch in the next couple of months, which will be better set up to serve that demand. COVID was definitely had a wake-up call that showed us our mobile experience was not good enough.”
Our mobile share of traffic has absolutely gone through the roof.- Joe Pettigrew, YOTEL
Lucky for hoteliers at the Masterclass, Triptease’s Laura Rogers was on hand to provide an in-depth guide to both qualitative and quantitative testing of your mobile website. As Senior Product Manager for our Targeted Messages product, Laura’s done more thinking than most about the components of a high-performing mobile conversion funnel.
“To sum it up, the simpler the booking process, the less likely you are to lose potential guests before they book,” Laura explained. “Your mobile website needs to take visitors on a journey, providing just enough detail to give them the information they need without overwhelming them or creating areas of friction.
“Examples of small improvements you can make that will make a big difference include: ‘expand to see more’ buttons to hide bulky chunks of text; prices stacked on top of each other on the same side of the screen with plenty of white space (this makes it easier for the visitor to visually compare); all primary actions accessible from the right-hand-side of the screen.”
Your mobile website needs to take visitors on a journey, providing just enough detail to give them the information they need without overwhelming them or creating areas of friction.- Laura Rogers, Triptease
If you want more resources on mobile best practice, there’s still time to join us at next week’s Masterclass where Laura will take you through her research and you can receive live feedback on your mobile booking experience from another hotelier. You can register for that here.
Take the time to upskill for 2021.
Finally, one session that certainly got everyone talking at the Masterclass was Barbara Pezzi’s crash course on ‘how to become a Google Analytics super-user’. A GA expert since its launch 15 years ago, Barbara brought her copious industry experience to bear on the topic of how hoteliers can get the most out of their analytics.
“There is a tendency across the hotel industry to ‘report’ rather than ‘act’ on our data,” explained Barbara. “If you don’t understand a piece of data, if you can’t use it, then you shouldn’t be tracking it.”
Barbara’s session contained dozens of actionable suggestions for how to customize your reporting so it’s specific to the needs of your hotel - so if better tracking and decision-making is on your list for 2021, it’s well worth registering for the Masterclass next week (Barbara will be speaking on Wednesday 9th).
With a small amount of work upfront, you can start making significant improvements to your understanding of your potential guests (and better able to respond quickly to crisis situations in future).
“The number-one thing every hotelier should do is sit down and map out a digital marketing measurement model for their website. Ask yourself, why does my website exist? Chances are, the answer is not ‘for pageviews’. So why is that your main KPI?
Ask yourself, why does my website exist? Chances are, the answer is not ‘for pageviews’. So why is that your main KPI?- Barbara Pezzi, Google Analytics expert
“A number (like pageviews) is just a number. On its own there’s very little you can do with it. For the numbers to start being useful and actionable, we need to add context.”
You can register for Barbara’s live session next week here - or keep an eye on your inbox for more resources on Google Analytics over the coming weeks.