The heated discussion over the value of flash sales on sites like Groupon and Living Social indicates that this high profile marketing tool doesn’t work for all hotels. While not surprising that steep discounts can drive substantial room bookings, it comes at a high cost to hoteliers given the deep rate cuts and commissions for the flash sales services.
Research by TravelClick finds that almost 40% of hoteliers are disappointed with the results of their flash sale campaigns and plan not to use the tool again. Frequently mentioned reasons include not only giving up large portions of the booking revenue but also that the guests attracted are typically non-returning bargain-hunters.
Certainly, a flash sale can be a good way to fill a room that would otherwise go vacant. But hoteliers may be best served redoubling their efforts with tried and true marketing techniques that come at significantly less cost.
1. Check your images. Have you put your best foot forward in terms of the
photos of your hotel, both on your own site but also on OTA’s and other sales and marketing venues? Intent Media research has shown that providing multiple, compelling photos are one of the most
reliable ways to land bookings.
2. Review your search campaigns. Don’t simply monitor them: take time to avoid over spending, and also account for under-spending and seasonal changes in clicking and booking patterns. Focus in particular on terms that have either high clicks/low bookings or low clicks/high bookings, as well as terms that have seen significant swings in performance. Even relatively small investments of time can be critical to making sure you are getting your full share from this channel.
3. Boost your OTA performance. Take advantage of cost-per-click programs that are now offered by most OTA’s. While it may seem counterintuitive to market on an OTA beyond simply being listed, it’s now possible to do so in a very cost-effective fashion. For example, the Sponsored Search Network run by my company allows hoteliers to land the top search result on sites likes Orbitz and Travelocity and only pay when they get a click.
4. Embrace search engine optimization. For example, hire a copywriter to produce some content on the local attractions and activities in your area vs. just linking off to someone else’s site. A little content can go a long way, and copywriters are readily available on sites like Linkedin and eLance.
5. Find a call to action -- ideally something other than an amazingly steep discount on your room rate. It could be something you already do: if you have an airport shuttle, feature it in marketing copy. Or give away someone else’s margins: local attractions are often happy to give you deals you can pass on (which, unlike flash sales, don’t hurt your bottom line).
While Flash Sales may be seem like an easy way to drive bookings, make sure you have done all the other easy (but more profitable) stuff before you resort to such an expensive way to fill your rooms.