Online Brand Management: Revenue Management's Increasing Role

By Christian Koestler President & CEO, Lixto, Inc. | July 15, 2012

The value of word of mouth and personal referrals has always been "gold-standard" material in the lodging industry. This is particularly true now that the practice of checking, evaluating and analyzing guest reviews and rankings of lodging properties before making reservations is almost de rigueur for savvy consumers in today's web-centric world.

Prospective guests rely more and more on others' input, feedback and comments. The Internet-driven communications of today assure that this data moves quickly and deeply throughout a prospect's information network, and becomes a major factor in the prospect's decision- making.

In fact, hotels have fostered this phenomenon of shared information through the incorporation of online guest feedback mechanisms into their web sites and reservation systems. Suddenly, through the ratings, rankings and reviews that tightly couple to reservations systems and revenue management strategy, consumers are actively participating in the actual creation and shaping of the hotel's brand.

When consumers can significantly affect a brand in this way, through commenting and sharing their personal experiences, "brand management" becomes a broader, more encompassing function. Even five years ago, revenue and general management might have been able to afford ignoring online "chatter" about their property. Now, as prospective guests rely more and more on others' input, feedback and comments, doing so is the equivalent of ignoring a major component of revenue management. It also is ignoring a significant challenge, and opportunity, to be intricately involved in brand management.

Ten to fifteen years ago, technology was the fuel for the evolution of the revenue manager's function away from basic inventory management and toward the more strategic role it plays today. Now, an increasing role in online brand management is the next step in the evolution of the revenue management function.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.