It’s time for hoteliers to make direct bookings the dominant revenue source for their properties. But where to begin? We’ll show you.
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It’s time for hoteliers to make direct bookings the dominant revenue source for their properties. But where to begin? We’ll show you.
Brandon: Welcome everybody to this latest webinar by Cloudbeds, 8 ways to dominate your direct bookings. My name is Brandon Dennis, I am the VP of Marketing here at Cloudbeds and I’m joined by Alex Gaggioli, our Marketing Coordinator.
Brandon: He is here to help with the panel today. During this webinar I’m wanting it to be fairly open, so if any of you guys have questions, comments, let us know. There should be a little button towards the bottom or top of your screen that says Q&A. Feel free to just pop that open and type any question you have during the webinar and Alex will make sure to interject on your behalf. Then at the very end we’ll have a short Q&A session where we’ll go through even more of your questions and comments.
As always many thanks to everyone who worked on this presentation, I did some of the writing and Alex put the deck together and our designer Ricks Anderson [SP] made it look beautiful. So, thanks everybody who was involved. All right, let’s get into it. Hoteliers are always wanting to increase their slice of the pie for obvious reasons, more revenue, makes a lot of opportunities happen, opens a lot of doors and makes the business that much more likely to stick around in the future.
One of the interesting things about direct bookings is that you don’t pay a lot of commissions, you don’t have to pay OTAs, you don’t have to pay commissions to other vendors, you actually get to keep a greater percentage of the bookings that goes through your booking engine, which is of course why you’re all here today. Everybody understands the direct bookings are the most profitable types of bookings. We’re going to focus on 8 ways to optimize the way you collect bookings and encourage guests to book directly with you instead of with a competitor of course or an online travel agency or somewhere else where you are going to have to pay a commission or where you won’t be able to take full advantage of that booking.
Number one, the most important one which is something i intend to harp on fairly frequently here at Cloudbeds is, use a commission-free booking engine. A direct booking isn’t a true direct booking if you are using a four commission booking engine. Now, it used to be that it was really hard to create booking engines. Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, you’d have a software and possibly even a hardware manufacturer come to your hotel and try to sell you a $10, $15, $20 thousand piece of hardware and software which you’ll be able to use to process payments or take bookings or whatever. Even when we were doing web designing in the early thousands and you needed a direct booking experience on your website it would cost two to three thousand dollars to get a custom booking engine handmade for your website and often times it wasn’t very sophisticated. It was just a simple contact form.
A lot of these companies would charge a commission on every single reservation that went through your booking engine as a way to keep your costs down. They will give you a choice that would say, “Okay, yeah you can pay $10,000 to make this for you or I get 20% of every single reservation that goes through your booking engine.” Now, that it’s 2015 going on to 2016 the rules have changed. There is a lot of wonderful hotel marketing and management software out there that’s completely commission free.
In this age I think and feel there’s absolutely no reason to be using a four-commission booking engine. A lot of booking engine makers will say, “Well, you need to pay commissions on your booking engine because we invest in a lot of things like security and constant updates.” And all of that is true and yet what is also true is that many of the commission-free booking engines out there do the exact same thing. They also frequently update them. They also invest in security to make sure that your payments are processed as securely so on and so forth.
In my opinion, there’s no need to be paying commissions for every single reservation that goes through your booking engine. They should all be commission-free and that’s really on the way to have a true direct booking. There are many options out there, of course, ours is called My Bookings and of course, I think ours is the best but even if you don’t use my bookings there are lots of commission-free booking engines out there that you can use. Some of them have a monthly fee, some of them are really low cost and you can just go up and do a little bit of research and probably get something installed on your website in a very short amount of time. Moral of step one is make sure that every single booking that passes through your website, that passes through your hands is commission-free. You don’t want to be paying any more commissions than you absolutely have to.
Number two is mobile bookings. Recent data shows that 45% of hotel websites are not mobile-optimized. This is a travel state. 2015, we’ve had the mobile revolution growing out for many years now. Since 2013 is when it really started to take off and to have 45% of all hotel websites not mobile-optimized is a great bummer because you’re going to be getting a lot of bookings from mobile devices. Let’s see if the stat is here. Yeah, so a recent article predict that by 2018, 38% of all travel booked will be booked from mobile devices. This is people going on Google and doing research for the trip. This is people going on to online travel agencies and doing research for the trip. People are going mobile and they are using their mobile devices to book travel.
Now, it’s one thing to have a mobile optimized website. It’s extremely important as we all know. We’ve been talking about it for years and I am sure you’ve been to webinars on mobile optimization. But what some hoteliers tend to forget is that their booking engine needs to be mobile optimized too. Some people will get around this by having a simple contact form but as I have talked about in the past and as we all know, a simple contact form isn’t enough. A contact form doesn’t talk with your general manager, it doesn’t update your OTAs, it doesn’t update your property management system, it doesn’t communicate with global distribution system. It delays response time because you have to wait for the email to arrive and then you got to kind of feel like responding to the emails, contact forms are not enough. They are not sufficient and your guests expect more. We need bookings engines. But we also need mobile optimized booking engines.
When somebody comes to your office, if you have a beautiful mobile experience but then you cut the book now button and they get your booking engine and the sheet flies off the page. You know the text is really small. They’ve got to pinch and zoom to get to a feel and type with two fingers and others get flayed out this way and the logo covers the phone number and suddenly you are just going crazy thinking why am I booking from this website, I’ll just go to Expedia because they’re mobile optimized. So you need a mobile optimized booking engine, something that is mobile responsive, or at least a booking engine that was built for small screen sizes. It’s going to make it much easier for your guests to insert their information and then book directly with you. So commission-free booking engine, yes but equally is important a mobile optimized booking engine to take advantage of mobile bookings.
All right, this one seems a little counterintuitive but this is due to what’s called the billboard effect. We’ve talked about the billboard effect here a lot at Cloudbeds because it’s a fascinating principle and it’s really important. Step three is to list some of inventory online on travel agencies, right. Here we’re talking about reducing the amount of commissions that you have to pay and then we are suggesting that you list your inventory on online travel agencies, how does that make sense? Well, here is the thing. The billboard effect is a phenomenon that was discovered by a Cornell University study which showed that properties that list their inventory on online travel agencies like Expedia tended to get between a 5% and 25% uplift in direct bookings. They tried to figure out exactly why this was. Why does listing your inventory on an online travel agency increase your direct bookings? Increase the bookings made on your website?
What they discovered is that…and this actually agrees with a great study that Google did back in 2013. What they discovered is that when a guest is booking travel, they visit 38 other websites over the course of their experience. They not only go to the online travel agency, but they go to Google and they go to hotel websites and they will go to Pinterest and they’ll go to social media and they’ll go to Lonely Planet and they will browse forms. They go to 38 on average, 38 separate websites when booking travel. The workflow goes like this, I’m planning a trip to Barbados and so I go to Expedia or Priceline and I type in hotels in Barbados, your hotel pops up but I want to know a little bit more. So I open up a tab on…another tab on my browser and I go to Google and I type in the name of your property. Your website pops up, I click on it, suddenly I went from an online travel agency to your website to learn a bit more about your property. I’m on your website, I’m browsing photos of your property in Barbados and checking out all of your different rooms and your deals and I might become a direct conversion.
What this study showed is that due to the billboard effect people are going to be hitting your website more if you list your inventory on online travel agencies and if your website presence is a compelling one, you can turn those visitors into direct bookers instead of them going back to the online travel agency and booking there. That’s why we say on step number three, list a little bit of your inventory on online travel agencies to take advantage of the billboard effect.
The next thing to think about is maneuvering parity agreements. You can do this with targeted discounts. So rate parity is something we’re all familiar with. It’s that unfortunate thing that often we have to sign. It’s an agreement we have to sign when we list our inventory on certain known travel agencies agreeing to not share publicly available prices that are more competitive than the ones we share on the online travel agency. Now, rate parity is no longer in vogue. There are many online travel agencies that are giving it up and no longer asking for it. But there are some online travel agencies that are still forcing us to sign rate parity agreements before we can list our inventory on them. It becomes important that whatever deals and discounts that we make publicly available on our website that they are staying true to parity agreements.
Before you craft any packages deals, Adams or whatever, you take a look at any rate parity agreement that you’ve signed to make sure that you’re not violating anything. But once you’ve done that then you can take advantage of your website and your direct marketing list to create very interesting, very compelling targeted discounts to people who have stated your property before, to people who have consumed content on your website before, to people who have visited your website from online travel agencies before, and you can do this by collecting their information using targeting pixels, using sign-up forms, subscription forms. We’re going to be getting into that little bit when we talk about content.
But the nice thing about these targeted discounts is that rate parity often doesn’t apply to contacts that you have in your own direct marketing databases. This can include people who have subscribed to you by email or people who have subscribed to by social media. So even if you decide to have a really steep discount but you don’t promote it on your website, you can still give that discount to people in your direct marketing databases like email subscribers and social media. So do bear that in mind.
There’s a good example. This is Pineapple Hotel here in Seattle, it’s a small independent group of large really nice luxury hotels called the Pineapple Group, and what they’ve got is the perfect Pineapple price. They say, “We’ve got the lowest price ever out there on our website.” And they promote it really well. They said that if you can find a price that’s better than the one that they promote on their website, then they’ll give you a $50 back if you stay at their property. These guys are really aggressive. They’re all about increasing their direct online reservations and they are advertising it all over the website. This is something we need to be doing on our properties as well. We need to be letting people know that our websites are the very best places ever to book travel. And once guests start to realize this, the more guests see this, the more direct bookings we’re going to be getting.
Number five is content marketing. This is a hard one because it’s not easy to do and you don’t see the benefit of it for months and sometimes years into the future. It’s also a huge investment because it’s an investment of your time and it’s an investment of your labor and your intuition and the knowledge that you’ve accrued over the years about your property and your area and your location. But it’s really important because it inspires guests to book their travel. When they get to your website, they’re going to be really bored if they just see a spreadsheet of all of your rates on the homepage. They’re going to want photos, they’re going to want stories, they’re going to want descriptions, they’re going to want something that inspires them to book with you. When they’re on their website, they’re giving you an opportunity to put them in your shoes. They want to be able to see what you see everyday. If you are in a very beautiful tropical locale, they are going to see out of your office window. They want to see the view that they’re going to wake up to every single morning.
They want to know some of the local gossip and they want to hear about some of the amazing things that are in your location. And this is what we need to give them on our websites. We need to create websites that are inspiring travel and producing constant content that ropes people into your website from search engines and inspires them to book now. This is partially a search engine optimization strategy and it’s partially a social media strategy and it’s partially an email strategy. It’s a whole lot of stuff. So what you need to do when coming up with content to market is put yourself in the shoes of your guest. What is it that brings them to your location. What is that the brings them to your property to begin with. Are the majority of people that come to your property fishermen? That’s the way it was with my grandfather.
My grandfather owned a bed and breakfast in Alaska for years and years and years. It was called Alaskan Hospitality and his bed and breakfast was right on this river and 90% of everybody who came were there to fish for salmon. And so that was the content that he marketed. He…this was before the internet, so he didn’t have a website, I am just playing my age, but he had pamphlets made and he had mailers that he would send around and postcards to thank people for their stay and all sorts of stuff. He was still producing content it just came out in a different form. This is something that we need to do for our properties as well. If we’re in Alaska fishery place or if we’re are at a tropical place or if we’re a cabin in the middle of the redwoods, we need to understand why people are coming to our properties. Are people coming to our properties so that they can go on a hike through the redwood forests. They want to see trees that regular tourists want to see. Well that’s some of the content that we can produce.
Local maps. How to guide. Best place to visit guides. These are some of the pieces of content we can produce. Once we’ve established what our brand is and what our niche is, we can start producing content and then once we’ve produced content we can market that content via email and social media. Sharing all of this content on social media is a great way to grow your social media subscribers. Having social media links on your website is another great way to get people to follow you on social media. Having blogs and subscription forms where people can still give you their email addresses even if they don’t become guests is a great way to grow your marketing database. And then you can send them future content that you produce and future deals and discounts that you create.
The point is that when it comes to content marketing, when you start out it’s really small and it’s really tough. You don’t have a lot of email addresses. You might have some of the email addresses of customers and guests who have stayed with you in the past and that’s a great place to start. But it takes a long time to build up this marketing empire that you’re creating from scratch. It’s unrealistic to expect a great bounty the moment you sent your first email, the moment you publish your first blog post, the moment you launch your website. Instead this is a long-term investment and a long-term commitment. But if you invest in your content marketing, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. You can make your website the best place for people to go. Not just a book travel to your location but to find interesting useful information about your location which coincidentally will inspire them to book travel to go to your location. So content
marketing is extremely important, difficult to do but one of the best ways you can increase your direct reservations.
Here is an example of some content marketing by Ace Hotel and Four Seasons Resorts. They have been taking photographs of some things in their area. I don’t know if this photograph, may be Alex can tell us, I don’t know if this is a photograph of their property or if it’s just a location nearby but it’s crooky and it’s interesting. It appeared on their Instagram feed or on their Facebook page. When people see it they go, “Oh I wonder what that is, oh that’s interesting.”
Then you have got a Pinterest board for the Four Seasons Hotel and they’re collecting photographs of all of the wonderful things that are associated with their property, whether it’s romantic ideas, gourmet food, things to see. The thing about this is that images as we all know tell a thousand words. But people make a decision about whether or not they like your property within 0.5 milliseconds of hitting your website. That’s extremely short amount of time and it’s certainly too short for them to read any words. Which means that they’re
looking at your images. If you haven’t invested in professional photography, you’re underselling your property.
I know that it’s a big investment, it might cost 500, a 1,000 maybe 2,000 dollars to get a professional photographer out to your property to shoot photos of the exterior, photos of the grounds, photos of the interiors, photos of your desk but photography sells your property and you’ve got to get the photography as part of your content right. Once you have your photography right you can make your website a much richer experience. It gives you content to share on social media and via email. Photography is exceptionally important because it’s the thing that inspires guests to book.
Next step, use your driven design. This is what we like to call information architecture and this is about website design. I won’t get too technical but it’s very basic principle that’s easier to understand. The way it goes is like this, the internet’s been around for 15, 20 years or so and people have been trained during this time to expect certain things in specific places. They’ve been trained to expect a call to action button like Book Now in the top left hand corner of their screen. They expect now to go to a hotel website and the first thing they see is beautiful photography. They expect to see your phone number on the homepage or at least on a contact page. They expect to see a gallery of all of your rooms and a gallery of all of your photos. There are many parts of hotel website design that we need to make sure that we get correct to optimize the way people browse and consume information on your website and to optimize our ability to turn those visitors into bookers. Because that ultimately is the point of a website.
A website is not an expression of our own personal interests, it’s not an extension of our personalities. It’s a conversion engine. It has one goal, to turn a visitor into a booker, to turn a visitor into a real live warm body at the foot of your door to your property whose is going to stay there for one night, two nights, a week who knows. That means that whatever design that we produce that it’s been tested that it’s been created by people who are not only web professionals but by people who have years of experience in hospitality and understand exactly what guests need and that actually functions. This goes into response of design as well, so we talked a little bit earlier about how things need to be mobile optimized, that’s extremely important.
But even if people are browsing on desktops, there are certain font sizes you need to catch, there are certain color schemes that work best, there are certain ways that you can highlight photography. So making sure that whatever web design partner that you choose is an expert in this and that really knows what they’re doing. That you nail the information architecture, those are all really important facets to making sure that you’ve got user-driven design on your website.
And as we said earlier big beautiful photos are huge part of this not only the guests make a decision about whether or not they are going to stay at your property within 0.5 milliseconds but people just love looking at beautiful photos. That’s what they like to spend their time. It’s a huge time sink. One of the metrics that people will look at on websites to gauge whether or not a website is healthy or not is on how long people stay on a page. If people are on a page for two or three seconds and then move away, that’s called a bounce. That’s really bad thing, you don’t want people to bounce. You want people to stay on the page and consume your content, to read your blog posts, to look at your maps, to look at your photos. The longer they’re there the more they immerse themselves in your little world and the more likely they are to book travel from your website. Don’t produce inferior sub-par photos. You must invest in really professional photography.
If you don’t have a budget for professional photography, it’s better to go out there with your iPhone. Give it to your nephew, give it to your son and say, “Maestro, make some photos for me.” That’s better than nothing. It’s better than the same photos that you’ve been using for the past 20 years, that you took on a disposable camera from Walmart. Updating your photography is an extremely important part of this.
The call to action is really another important part of this. And the reason I bring this up is because very frequently when I visit a hotelier’s website, I don’t know where to go to book. Often times the reservation link is just going to look like every other link in the top level navigation. It’s going to have the same font, it’s going to have the same color, it’s going to have the same background. I won’t realize that that’s where I go to book or maybe it’s buried in the photo or maybe it’s not linked to from the homepage at all and I have to kind of dig around the site to find it. We need to make it as easy as possible for a guest to book directly from your website. This means using the right language, language that says Book Now, Make a Reservation Now. There are a lot of ways to make a call to action. You see some examples on your screen right now and not all of these are good for hotels. Contact us, sign up now, that’s not good for hotels, that’s not good for bed and breakfasts or hostels. Book now, reservations, those are going to be some of the best called actions that you can use.
And then button style. Right, the Join Now in the middle of the screen with lot of sort of faded lavender and a semi glossy Web 2.0, some sort of Clipart font from Windows 98, no, that’s not what we want when it comes to call the actions. We need something bold but more importantly we need something very clear. Clarity is important when it comes to call to actions, when it comes to making sure that people know exactly where to go to book. This goes back into what we were talking about just a moment ago about information architecture and user group design. It’s a little technical but it’s all really important when it comes to making your website the best place on earth for people to book their travel.
All right, let’s talk a little bit about loyalty programs. There’s been a lot of research recently, I’ve read a lot of content recently that’s been talking about the pros and cons of loyalty programs. People seem to be fairly split. Some people say, “You know, I’ve tried loyalty programs in the past and they don’t really work for me and they don’t really work for my property and I don’t get a lot of people joining them and they’re just a waste time.” Whereas I’ve talked with other hoteliers, in particular one guy here in Seattle who works for a very large hotel and he says, “Our loyalty program gives us 15% to 20% of our yearly profits because we get so many people who are excited, who come to this area frequently and they only want to stay with us.”
My thinking on this is that it’s hard to do right but if done right, a loyalty program can really give you more direct bookings. A nice thing about loyalty program is that if people join your loyalty program, they can’t book anywhere else. They can’t join your loyalty program and then go to booking.com and say, “Oh yeah, I want that special deal that I can only get with their loyalty program.” No, they can only get it with you which means that you’re setting the prices and you’re not sharing it with anyone else. This is a great way to increase your direct reservations over time as your loyalty program subscribers grow.
And the nice thing about creating a loyalty program and getting people to subscribe into it or opt into it over time, is that what you’re doing is you’re creating a network of super guests who are brand loyal. These are guys who are going to be not only much more interested in staying with you frequently over time hence the nature of a loyalty program, but they’re also more likely to share your content on social media, subscribe to your blog, forward your emails to their friends and family.
Loyalty program subscribers are super guests, they’re highly engaged guests that not only can give you more direct reservations but can help increase the velocity by which your content spreads through the internet and through their social networks and through their friends which is going to increase the number of people on your website, and increase your grip reservation as a consequence.
Let’s talk a little bit about online reviews. They’re extremely powerful and it’s important to take a look at them now. As I said earlier, the average guest will visit 38 different websites when doing research on travel, when trying to book travel. A lot of those are going to be review sites. A lot of those are going to be Yelp and TripAdvisor, maybe YP.com. A number of different websites where they’re going to see other user reviews. They more than anything else a user review, reviews from past guests are going to be the deciding factor for a new guest. They’re going to be reading your reviews and they are going to be using those reviews to decide whether or not to stay at your property.
Now, this could significantly harm you or it could be an opportunity to help you. Let me talk about negative reviews in particular right now because reviews are scary. Having this…giving anyone in the world the power to say anything about your property without any repercussions is a very scary thing which has led to the lawsuits that Yelp has gone through, which has led to many people opting out of many of these online review places all together.
But the thing is you’ll never…due to the nature of the internet, you can never stop people from saying what they want to about you. So the best response is to simply respond. Respond to negative reviews whenever you see them. If you go to TripAdvisor and you go through your reviews you can create a business account on TripAdvisor as many of you I’m sure already have and you can claim your property and then respond to any and all reviews that are on your property as listing.
Now, the appropriate ways to respond to negative reviews is not with sarcasm or with anger. It’s also not with the sort of calm, I’m better than you attitude, well I’ll just give you what you’re asking for but this is really silly. It’s actually being very gracious, it’s being very apologetic. The reason that this is important is because when a guest who is trying to decide whether or not to stay at your property comes upon your reviews, you’d be surprised at how well they can detect online “trolls.” Because if somebody is coming to
your listing and they’re just saying, “Oh the pool was green and the food tasted like cardboard and the front desk staff was horrible and yada yada yada,” that tends to be the anger expressed by someone who’s just an online forum troll. And people tend to ignore those. But if you as the hotelier respond to that saying, “You know what, you’re a jerk and I’ve got an excellent hotel and you don’t know what you’re talking about, you can go to someplace warm with lots of fire,” then they’re going to think less of you as a hotelier. They’re going to think, “Wow this guy is not mastering his temper.”
However if you respond with graciousness and say, “Well I’m so sorry that you had a bad stay, typically we have a blue pool and typically our food is really excellent but you know what, we want to make sure that this is right, we will reach out to you with a coupon for your stay, we’ll make sure to make this right for you.” Then the person who’s reading the review who never stayed at your properties is going to think wonders of you. They’re going to say, “Wow look how attentive this hotelier is. Wow, look how amazing this manager was at making sure that he went out of his way to be hospitable to this obvious forum troll.” And they’re going to think, these guys must be great people. This place must be a great place for me to stay. That’s the power of online negative reviews.
In my opinion, having negative reviews on your TripAdvisor profile or on your Expedia listing can sometimes be a greater benefit to you because it means people are going to your property and it gives you the opportunity to show your magnanimity, to show how gracious you are. It’s a great opportunity. So even negative reviews are a wonderful opportunity but you have to respond to them. Responding to negative reviews is exceptionally important.
Let’s take a look at some of the different places where you can go. There are a lot out there. One of the best ways to keep tabs of everything that’s going on is using the service called Google Alerts. I’m sure many of you have already subscribed to it but it’s a free service by Google. You can go to Google Alerts and say, “Okay, anytime anywhere on the internet where you detect the name, insert your hotel name here, please send me an email and send it to me as soon as it happens.” I do this at Cloudbeds for our company. Whenever anything in the world says the name Cloudbeds, I get an email so that I can immediately respond to it, I can immediately check it out.
This is what you should be doing with your property. The moment anybody makes an online review of your property you should know about it so that you can go online and respond to it. Another great tool for this is Mention, the little blue star icon in the bottom row. It’s not a free tool, it is a paid tool but they do a really good job of indexing not just search engine results but also social media. Google Alerts sometimes has a hard time indexing social media. Mention does a little bit better in my opinion at social media but they’re both really good tools to be using in conjunction with each other. It’s a great way to keep up to date, to keep tabs with how your brand is being used online.
And then of course some of the big players you need to keep aware of – TripAdvisor, Yelp, the Google listing for your property is also really important. Foursquare is semi important, it used to be more important back in 2011-2012, it sort of faded in terms of prominence but if you could check out your Foursquare listing make sure that the reviews are responded to and then of course all of the online travel agency listings you have because online travel agencies are usually the first place people go aside from Google to start their research for their trip. So make sure you have an administrator or business account on all of those OTAs that you can quickly and deafly respond to your online reviews. It’s very important.
Domination takes work. Ouch, oh look at that, right in the neck. No, this is…it’s a rough job and it takes a lot of time but it can be done. This is of course the famous fight between Holly and [inaudible 00:32:59] that took place not very long ago but this didn’t happen in a moment. Both of these amazing athletes took years and years and years of work before they got to the point where they could get into a ring and dominate each other and that’s the whole point of what we’re talking about here today. A lot of these steps, some of them are intuitive, some of them are obvious, some of them less so but what they share in common is they all take a whole lot of work. It’s definitely not something where you can just flip a switch and turn your business around or give your business greater velocity in 24 hours. They do take a lot of work but the time and dedication that you put into all of these will definitely help you dominate your direct bookings.
All right, well now it’s time for some Q&A’s. Alex, do you see any questions that viewers have been sharing with us today?
Alex: Yes hello, I have a question about loyalty program. Can we create a loyalty program from Cloudbeds so that prices and names are automated?
Brandon: That’s a really interesting question. The answer is no, we don’t have any software right now that allows you to specifically create a loyalty program. But with Cloudbeds we do make it very easy for you to collect all of the information that processes through your hands and even export it for use in other programs. So let’s say that you just wanted to make your loyalty program an email only loyalty program. We can take your information, we could use our integration platform to send it to MailChimp for example, if that’s what you’re using or [inaudible 00:34:38], any other number of email marketing clients and then that way your email databases are constantly kept up to date with whatever email platform you choose to use.
Yes, we highly integrate with many different marketing platforms out there but at the moment we don’t have any specific software solution set up for crafting your own loyalty program. But it’s an interesting idea. I have to take that to the table.
Alex: We have another question about dealing with rate parity and retargeting pixels and how retargeting pixels work on different websites.
Brandon: Sure, well. I’m not sure what the rules are in terms of retargeting pixels and their relation to rate parity. I’m going to plead the Fifth on that. When it comes to rate parity, I’m very hesitant to talk too much about it just for legal reasons because it has to do with the contract that you signed with the OTA. What I would do is I would look at the contract, try and find any loopholes that you can use to market your property directly. If you have a lawyer, talk with your lawyer about it, but aside from that retargeting pixels are fascinating. So the way our targeting pixel works is if you’re using an online advertising platform whether it’s Facebook, Google or other marketing platforms, you can install a little bit of code on your website and when a visitor hits your website that code installs into their browser. So that wherever they go on the internet that code is being triggered on the page that looks.
The reason this is important is because there are many ad services out there on many different websites from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal that are looking for those pixels on people’s browsers and if they detect one, then they will show your ad. So what you can do is you can install retargeting pixel on your website and then somebody from an online travel agency visits your website, hangs around for a couple of minutes and then leaves. But then what you can do is, you can go to Google AdWords and you can create a retargeting campaign that says anytime somebody triggers this retargeting pixel, show them this ad. It can be a big beautiful banner for your property. That ad will follow them around the internet to single website they go to where that website owner is using that particular ad network.
It’s a great way to keep your brand in the face of people who have shown interest in your property in the past. It can be very powerful, it can be a little expensive. So I’ll just take a look at how much it’s going to cost you. Take a look at your marketing budget and make the decision on whether or not using retargeting is a good marketing option for you.
Alex: Great. So those are the only two questions that we have so far. If there is any more that anyone has feel free to pop them into the Q&A box.
Brandon: Sounds good. Ladies and gentlemen thank you for coming and we’ll wait for just a moment more for any of the questions to come in, we covered a whole lot here. What I’m going to do is after this webinar ends, I am going to work on uploading this to our website and making sure that we’ve got a complimentary ebook with a lot of the information that came in this webinar that we’ll send to you so that you can download it, share it with your friends and family or coworkers or employees and you will be able to refer to it in the future.
Alex: We just got one question once…more of a statement than a question, but it says we could use a subscribers button where it asks us to subscribe, we could provide them promo, discount codes through email for direct bookings for our website and use it to our booking engine.
Brandon: You can definitely do that. We do that at Cloudbeds. There are a number of great ways to go about that. If you have a WordPress website for example, there’s a free plugin by the guys @wordpress called Jetpack and it comes with a subscription widget that you can put on your blog or on your website that allows you to collect email addresses and then you can email the entire list of email addresses.
Or let’s say you’re using MailChimp to manage your emails, you can create a new list in MailChimp and then just create an html embeddable sign up form and then you can place that anywhere you want on your website to collect email addresses from visitors who come to your website. It’s a great way. We do that here at Cloudbeds. We’ve got those sign up forms for all of our content from our webinars to our ebooks, to our blog subscribers. And when we’ve got a new piece of content to share like a new webinar that we’re scheduling or a new ebook that we’re scheduling, I’ll just go back to that list and email everybody and say, “Hey, we’ve got a new webinar, come check it out and make sure that you guys show up.”
So yeah, email marketing software is a great way to leverage the power of contact form so that you can get more subscribers to your marketing databases.
Brandon: Do we have any others?
Alex: We do not. Last call for question.
Brandon: Last call, drumroll. All right. Well, ladies and gentlemen thanks so much for coming to this week’s webinar, 8 ways to dominate your direct bookings. These are always a lot of fun to put together and we thank you so much for coming. We’re going to have an ebook version of this webinar ready for you, check your email either later today or tomorrow morning. We’ll have it for you. We’ll also have the replay up on our website in just a couple of hours. So stay tuned for that and be sure to pay attention to our next email. We’re going to have another webinar, we tend to do these every couple of weeks. So we’re going to have another webinar for you. It’s going to be just as fascinating I promise, so be sure to sign up for that one when the invitation comes. If that’s everything, thank you all so much for attending and we’ll see you next time.
Alex: Great. Thank you everybody.