The Mixology of Keeping Things Simple
Without water or ice. Not chilled. It’s the purest, simplest way of serving a drink. Simple does not suggest a plain or uncomplicated end product, though. The delivery is simple, but the drink is complex with the nuance of an aged Scotch or thoughtfully crafted Vodka. The same is true for vacation rental marketing. The best way to execute a successful marketing plan is the simplest. However, straightforward, efficient execution doesn’t necessarily mean the plan is short on strategy. Building the most effective routes to reach the greatest number of new guests, while employing partnerships and technology to make the execution as efficient as possible.
As an example, some PMCs will opt only to distribute to one channel, the one they perceive as most productive. Expedia is often the default. However, managing the Expedia extranet on its own requires significant effort. Let’s look at the basic Expedia requirements:
- For Expedia, representative-level listings are the standard. For every property, inventory will be input as 1 BR, 1BA downtown condo or 2 BR, 2 BA beachfront condo. (This is as opposed to listing the units individually, also called key-level).
- Expedia offers the Traveler Preference Program, where travelers determine whether to pay via the merchant model or the agency model. A PMC’s accounting processes may look different depending on which option is selected. (aka Pay Now/ Pay Later model)
- Finally, adjusting content seasonally or changing rates to stay in line with competition requires manual extranet updates, across all representative-level listings, across all properties managed.
Take into consideration that there are at least 20 other valuable OTA channels serving a wide variety of different audiences, which may be more appropriate to the inventory. The difference between exposure on one channel, such as Expedia, and visibility across many channels can be the difference between a reach of 25 million visitors per month and a reach of well over 140 million, and that’s just from the top 8 OTAs.
- Booking.com = 40M monthly visitors
- Expedia = 25M monthly visitors
- Priceline = 20M monthly visitors
- Hotels.com = 16M monthly visitors
- Travelocity = 14M monthly visitors
- Orbitz = 11M+ monthly visitors
- HomeAway = 8M monthly visitors
- Airbnb = 6M monthly visitors
HomeAway and Airbnb are the most basic of examples. Though these outlets may not reach as many eyes as Expedia, clearly they are among the most targeted outlets for vacation rental marketing. However, to add them into the mix without proper distribution technology requires managing two additional extranets, which increases the effort and time spent by a valuable staff member two-fold, possibly more.
Each of these extranets requires key-level listings, where every unit has a unique listing. As such, the process of updating rates and images becomes substantially more complicated. HomeAway and Airbnb both feature a pay-per-booking model with varying commission rates, as opposed to the wholesale merchant model of many OTAs. Therefore, accounting processes must be adjusted yet again.
When considering manual distribution and vacation rental marketing across even a few channels, it quickly becomes impossible to manage. Not only is the content overwhelming, but to also have to deal with the market managers, manage occupancy gaps, avoid overbookings, all while maintaining consistency in accounting and guest reservation data.
But how does it make sense for a PMC to choose Expedia over HomeAway? Or to choose Airbnb over Booking.com? Visibility doesn’t have to be pitted against targeted outreach.
With the right technology partner, a complicated cocktail can suddenly be served up neat, with a side of additional benefits. Technology that integrates with your PMS and distributes across a wide range of channels offers:
- Greater inventory control
- Optimized revenue management capabilities
- Automated competitive rate changes
- The ability to react in real time
- One stop for all content changes
- Mobile management capabilities
What all of these benefits amount to is increased revenue, since key employees are now free to handle more valuable tasks. Enjoy increased profitability as a result of rate and occupancy management, and increased conversions due to better placements on OTAs (because up-to-date content and regular inventory availability increase rankings.)
With mobile research now ubiquitous, travelers are doing their travel planning during many short web visits scattered across days or weeks. OTAs continue to be the most visited travel sites, and the average hotel shopper makes 12 visits to OTAs in the same month of booking—but not necessarily the same OTA and not necessarily booking on an OTA site. Visibility across a broad range of channel means travelers see your property or PMC brand over and over during their research. They begin to recognize your rentals and read your guest reviews, and the chances they will book increase substantially every time they run across your listings.
Some may ask, doesn’t a Bourbon that’s worth ordering neat cost more? Sometimes. However, the cost shouldn’t be considered without looking at the value of the time and ingredients invested in the bottle. When vacation rental marketing is served “neat”—that is, with appropriate technology—a higher volume of new guests and more profitable reservations will offset the cost of distribution.