Companies leading the pack globally for revenue growth are creating customer experiences based on data-driven insight. Research shows us that organisations that leverage customer behavioural insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin.
Over the last few years, more and more hospitality companies have turned to data and analytics to better anticipate and meet guest needs and preferences. The trend towards hyper-personalisation has exhibited prominent staying power across all touch points of the guest experience as guests continue to demand more from their travel experiences.
Of course, this shift towards a more personalised and insight-driven hospitality experience could not be accomplished with the help of actionable data and guest-centric technology. If personalisation and long-term guest loyalty are the destinations, data-driven technology represents the path hoteliers need to take.
Meetings and events business represent up to 60% of overall revenue for many hotels. Meetings alone generated 300 million room nights annually, representing nearly $50 billion of spending on accommodation. This makes data an integral piece of the operational puzzle for hoteliers, especially when we look at the group business segment, and long-term revenue management and optimisation. Using technology to unlock the full potential of data, hoteliers can better identify trends, personalise the guest experience, make predictions, remain responsive, make better decisions and anticipate demand. Not yet convinced? Let us break it down for you.
1. Investing in the Lifetime Value of Group and Event Business
As any hotelier knows, not all guests, groups or events are created equal. By this, we mean that each guest or group of guests represents a certain level of potential value to the hotel (whether that be through spend, social influence or long-term loyalty, for example). Some guests, of a transient nature, will simply check-in and check-out with limited demands, fuss and high-touch engagement with your property. Others, however, might spend hundreds or thousands on upgrades, dining, entertainment, treatments, and so on. These are the segment that, from a revenue perspective, represents more value to your hotel. Group and event business especially, unlike transient, represents often untapped revenue potential, as corporations and groups are continuously investing more into their meetings budgets and trips. While transient business consists of short-term stays, group business often demands more occupancy (with the potential of trip extension for bleisure travelers), venue space, custom packages for food and beverage, entertainment options and so much more.
Of course, it’s well known across the industry the booking process associated with group business has, until now, been largely convoluted and cumbersome. With credit to the frustrating nature of the mass, unqualified RFPs and manual communications, actively marketing venue space to high-value group business segments often seemed like an impossible feat for hotel sales teams. Moreover, as we know, manual processes don’t allow hoteliers to tap into the true potential of guest data. So, what’s changed now? Well, a lot of things.
By leveraging advanced sales and catering systems with digital group booking tools in place, hoteliers can enhance the sales process with data-backed insights and streamlined communications. This not only simplifies a previously fragmented practice, but the data collected from prospective planners and groups allows sales teams to invest their efforts in the business which represents the highest value to the hotel. Of course, this doesn’t mean those smaller bookings are left out of the equation — the convenient, comprehensive nature of real-time online bookings allows them to vet and secure the venue space they need with little manual intervention from sales staff. This creates a self-service environment, in which the booking process becomes truly efficient.
2. The Art of Personalisation
Personalisation is everything, across both transient and group business — especially when considering the younger, up-and-coming generation. According to Tom McGee at Forbes, “Millennials want a customer-centric experience in which they feel wanted and valued.” For hoteliers to establish this kind of relationship with prospective guests and group planners, they must employ careful use of customer data to personalise their events, group packages, communications and more. This may have been a lofty, near impossible task in the past — but now? It’s entirely within our reach.
Hoteliers need to take a holistic approach to enable a more tailored group and event experience with customised rates, on-demand proposals, upsell offers, and turnkey packages. By automating processes and gathering data, sales teams can aptly customise their marketing communications and offer in a way that not only makes guests feel valued and want to return (or inspires loyalty in planners) but also promotes increased ROI. Why? Because the modern planner doesn’t just expect personalisation — they demand it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to pay a premium for it.
3. Enhanced Group Rates Management
Running a successful hotel property isn’t just about filling rooms and establishing guest loyalty — hoteliers also have to ensure each room attracts the optimal price. This price varies according to seasonal peaks (high season) and lows (off season), as well as other factors such as time of year and local events. While group and event business represents an integral opportunity to continuously increase occupancy demand despite predicted, seasonal lows, revenue management for group business remains incredibly important.
Already a best practice for transient businesses, hoteliers can optimise sales and profits by investing in revenue management technology for groups. With this technology in place, hoteliers can not only better understand and advertise the best price point for each room, venue space and package, but can also advertise last-minute booking opportunities (with 3D virtual tours, instant RFPs, bookings, and online payments). This creates an insight-driven sales environment, in which hotels can feel confident that they are marketing their venue space to its full potential, any time of the year.
The long-awaited revamp of the group booking process may be a recent shift, but with the help of data-centric technology created with digitally savvy travellers and sales teams in mind, hotels are sure to finally reap the rewards of a thriving group business segment. With actionable insights, a seamless end-to-end booking process enhanced means of guest personalisation and optimised yield management, we can only expect to see more innovation and revenue potential within the group segment in 2019.
About the Author
Lauren Hall is the award-winning Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iVvy. Lauren is a passionate entrepreneur with more than 25 years’ business management experience at the Executive and Board level, successfully building multiple companies from startup to strategic and financial exit. With a background in programming, accounting and marketing, Lauren’s expertise spans manufacturing, retail, advertising and technology industries in both South Africa and Australia.
She co-founded iVvy in 2009, overseeing our growth to 1,000 clients in 13 countries and expansion to New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North America.
Ernst & Young recognised Lauren as a future global leader of the industry through the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Asia-Pacific program for 2016. Lauren won three International Silver Stevie Awards for Entrepreneur of the Year Globally 2016, Innovator of the Year 2016 and Entrepreneur of the Year Asia Pacific 2016 and recently was named Gold Coast Business Woman of the Year 2016.