Thursday, 20 December 2012

Best Book Direct - Flash Sales Without Exposing Yourself!



Alongside the OTA's Flash Sales have been the second biggest dilemma in 2012 - they provide volume but at what cost? Exposing hotels to downward price, reduced value, compromised service and often disappointed guests. How can you use the good and eradicate the bad? Flash Sales are Best when Booked Direct of course!

The principle concept behind flash sales is nothing novel or revolutionary it's just the delivery mechanism that has allowed them to flourish so prominently.

The idea of selling (often distressed or dated) products and services at a reduced cost for a limited period of time is the basis for all good promotional activity.

The window of opportunity to buy must be short -emphasising the need for immediacy of purchase - and the availability of product needs to be limited - scarce offers sell quicker!.

The difficult with Flash Sales promotions is that they have become the preferred method of sale for too many hotels across the UK with the clear net impact of brand erosion, reduction in loyalty, movement away from direct sales, increased telephone handling costs and a massive reduction in the contribution from the room sale itself through the punitive commissions and charges.

Are they to be avoided at all costs? No is the simple answer but they should be used sparingly, VERY sparingly, and be very controlled in the inventory and pricing used.

However price and date lead promotions have their place.

Take the key concept of the flash sale, use it on your own website, your own distribution channels and your own marketing using your own DIRECT booking engine and you can make a Flash sale stack up pretty well.

To highlight this we've used an example this week from Mar Hall Resort near Glasgow using Bookassist Web Booking Engine to drive business to a specific January offer on Junior Suites. They have previously used multiple third party channels to promote their product with varying costs associated but earlier this week decided they would try a January Flash Sale via their own website, mailing lists and social media channels using their own booking engine Bookassist.

Email Campaign

As we've highlighted before it is essential that you gather your guest data whenever and wherever you can. The lower cost of repeat business against new has always been recognised and with specific time based promotions being sent directly to the target market who already know you, your campaign is going to have an infinitely greater chance of conversion.

The email campaign on the right was put together by the hotel, the package loaded up into the booking engine, availability updated and rate changed.

The mailshot went out at 12 Noon with details on the offer, the restrictions and a direct link to the Booking Page for the offer.

The Booking Landing Page

The landing page can be all important for the guest booking. If you don't take the time to land them properly they may just bounce off! Literally! Taking them to your home page is just laziness and they will be less likely to click through all the dates, choice of rooms and offers available.

Landing them on the booking page is an improvement but still leaves the potential guest searching for the offer you have sent them. Still lost conversion here.

Best practice should land the guest right on the offer's booking page itself. it saves guest time, it leads to less confusion and it undoubtedly leads to higher conversion.

Bookassist provide deep links directly to specific groups of offers, packages or even specific date driven offers such as Mar Hall's to the left.

When the guest's curiosity was engaged by the mailshot they were then clicking directly to the point of purchase. It is not rocket science or complicated marketing theory here! You are simply making it easier for the potential customer to move through that old flow from Awareness, Interest, Action and Desire. Simple stuff really.

So Does it Work?

Ask Mar Hall! Revenue Manager Sharon Mullen outlines the results.

"We put the email together with our marketing company at the beginning of the week and contacted Bookassist to ensure that we were maximising the promotional activity. The specific package was then given a price group which allowed our marketing company to link directly to the booking page from the mail itself.
The email went out at twelve o'clock and in the first three hours it generated more than £11,000 in January Room Sales for a single package! The great thing about it was that we didn't have to man up phones as we would for an external promotion as the bookings were being made using live availability and being confirmed online.
The cost of sale was minimal and the return on investment superb and they were OUR customer booking direct!
At nearly £20,000 in total, the bookings using Bookassist over the twenty four hour period have exceeded our expectations and the process in doing it ensures that we will repeat the direct links for future golf breaks, spa packages and special events. It just makes sense to ease the booking process for the guest and Bookassist Booking Engine allowed us to do that perfectly."

Logistics?

It is not difficult and here would be a typical process.
  • Identify the package - you may have already done something similar externally.
  • Add the new package (it needed be heavily discounted) into your Bookassist Admin area
  • Open up availability and apply the rate for the period of the offer
  • Bookassist will provide a direct booking link or promo code for your guests to use
  • Decide whether to make the offer public (on your website) or private (available only to those with the link or promo code - great for loyalty!)
  • Use the direct booking  link in your emails, your website and your social media campaigns
  • Promote the direct link through tourism partners websites such as destination sites, golf clubs or attractions. Consider creating a package with them?
Things To Do Today
  • Consider how gathering email addresses from your customers is to your business
  • Look at your quieter periods for the next three months or even next autumn and plan your DIRECT online promotions. Aim to become less reliant on heavy discounted/high cost external promos
  • Contact Bookassist for more advice on how to create specific promotional deals and direct links
  • If you're not using Bookassist call 01292 521404 to find out more about the award winning solution to your booking problems

Downloads, Links and Reference

Download the PDF guide to Bookassist Facebook Apps
Find out how Bookassist could help your conversion - Read More

The Best Book Direct series is being produced in conjunction with the on-line marketing team at Plan B and the award winning Bookassist Booking Engine
Email or call 01292 521404.
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