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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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.