You’re collecting your guest data – great! But do you have a guest data strategy?
Do you realize what exactly you need to know about your guests? And why do you need this information? We looked into the questions of hospitality guest data, main challenges, best practices and different ways to utilize it in your vacation rental or boutique hotel business.
The importance of guest data strategy in hospitality industry
Why do we need to know our guests? To serve them better, encourage them to return and book directly, as well as increase revenue per guest by offering right add-ons at the right time.
Own the relationship
With the restrictions applied to third-party data in recent years, the importance of direct data sources grew tremendously. Social media and search engines are underdelivering on reach and traffic, while keeping businesses’ followers and subscribers at their mercy. The same applies to online travel agency platforms. If these platforms for whatever reason decide to not favour or punish a business, this puts at risk the company’s connections with its communities.
By creating and managing a solid and proprietary database with contact information of your prospects and guests, you can safeguard the bond between your brand and your audience. Many marketers are talking about the idea of “building a house on a rented land” and how to avoid the risks it represents. Meaning to reduce the data dependency on social media, podcasts and search platforms, as well as OTAs for the short-term rental sector, and collect first-party data to own the relationship with your audience.
For hospitality businesses this can be achieved by building websites with their own booking engine or at least not being tied to the PMS website builder. The industry professionals should find effective ways to collect high-quality data throughout the customer journey and build their own database with clean data to directly communicate with their audience.
Provide a great guest experience, while increasing revenue
While having your guests’ contacts allows your sales team to generate bookings, with more details you can personalize their stay. Greeting the guests by their names is a first step, but offering personalized and curated services will directly drive more revenue to your business. For example, high-quality wifi and desk arrangements for business travelers, kids-friendly services for families, pet-friendly features for dog owners, etc.
Here we are using the analogy of guest experience being a vacation rental sales funnel. Meaning the way guests experience their stay at your property is what makes or breaks your next sell. This is where your marketing team can create tailored offers, curate add-ons, partner with local vendors, etc. You can get creative with ways to provide elevated customer experience, using the real time data you have about the people you are hosting. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for convenience, luxury, saved time. Knowing their needs and preferences you can offer upsells and cross-sells at the time when they really need and appreciate your offers.
How hotels handle guest data
Hospitality is built on meaningful relationships between guests and hosts or vacation operators.
The hotel industry uses different systems to collect and manage hight quality data about their customers. The common goal is to increase customer satisfaction and guest loyalty, identify business opportunities and make operational and distribution decisions.
Hotel operators collect basic booking information, contact information, historical data, customer behavior and preferences to build a robust data strategy. They use hotel’s pms, property management software, and CRM systems for customer data management. This provides valuable insight for targeted marketing campaigns, elevated guest experience, effective customer relationship management, etc.
How short-term rentals handle guest data
We have asked vacation rental managers to share their guest data practices, does and don’ts and plans for the next year. There are a couple of interesting findings:
1. 22.2% of property managers are not collecting guest data
While the percentage is relatively low, these are missed opportunities for repeat booking, a better guest experience and additional revenue. Hospitality businesses that are not owning their guest data are simply leaving money on the table.
2. More than a half (55%) of the vacation rental managers are collecting their guest data only from the person who made the booking.
These businesses are missing out on other guests visiting their property and could be increasing their reach by at least 50% by obtaining the data of other in-stay guests.
3. 22% obtain guest data by sending travelers between 3 and 5+ different links pre-arrival
Overwhelming guests with emails, links and messages is not a great experience. This could potentially create friction, frustrations and even cause bad reviews. It is important to create an easy two-way flow of information between you and your guests. A comprehensive guest portal, consolidating all information that guests need and collecting the data from them, creates a frictionless digital experience. The same experience consumers love and appreciate in digital retail, like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb.
The main data challenges in the vacation rental industry
More and more short-term rental operators realize the importance of guest data. While big companies appoint chief data officers to handle the data work, smaller businesses adopt common practices and learn to build a guest data strategy. Collecting contact details, asking questions, gathering other key points from reliable sources, such as documentation submitted at check-in, analyzing conversations. All these options rely on technology to be sustainable in busy vacation rental businesses. There are many tech solution, allowing property managers and hosts to collect guest information. Website forms, guest apps, third-party apps, Cloud mesh Wifi systems, PMSs – many pieces of software to navigate, learn and integrate.
Solving one challenge of obtaining data, leads to another. There is so much data that operators don’t know how to use it. Often times the information “sits” in different locations across the company’s tech stack but is not put to a good use. Operators don’t know how to access, extract and organize the valuable data or are just too busy to do it manually.
Data governance and technology
Companies lack data governance when they have it available in their systems. Most of the times, it is spread between different sources and systems. Big brands are using customer relationship management software to gather, store, process and apply data to make business decisions. Smaller businesses don’t have access to popular CRM solutions because of their complexity and costs. Also many CRM solutions can’t provide the level of customization unique hospitality businesses need to connect with their guests.
5 steps for a vacation rental guest data strategy to sell and serve better
1. Define your goals
What do you want?
- Vet people staying at your property?
- Being able to market to them in future?
- Personalize upsell offers?
- Improve the experience?
2. Identify your resources
What do you have?
- Do you have a team or tools to collect guest data?
- What kind of services and add-ons can you offer? Etc.
3. Decide what data do you need
- First Name and Last Name to personalize communication
- Email and or phone number to reach them directly
- Travel purpose, age, family status, etc – to tailor offers and timing
- Lifetime value – to know how much you can spend to bring them back
4. Create the process to collect the data you need
- Get past the gatekeepers like OTAs, Google, social platforms by having your own data collection process: lead magnets for prospects, check-in forms for guests, surveys for past guests.
- Extract information from your systems: how long did the guest stay, how much did they spend, what did they request, purchase, etc.
5. Manage the data you have
- Organize the data you have in a spreadsheet, CRM or any tool allowing you to analyze your findings and translate them in an actionable plan.
- Make data-driven decisions and implement changes according to the takeaways.
- You can then look at ways to automate this process using the right technology to support this endeavor.
Five types of data you should collect from your guests
1. Contact Details
First and last names, physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses – for personalizing communication and services.
Collect them during the check-in or verification stage.
2. Guest Demographics
Demographics such as nationality, age, gender, marital status, parental status as well as travel reason. This will help you create targeted messaging in your communication and offers.
A business traveler should receive different offers and messages than a guest on a solo or family trip.
3. Guest Preferences
Take note of your customers’ preferences at check-in or during their stay.
Preferences in amenities, meals, beverages, available activities, etc. This will help you to not just give them a good experience for their current stay but also attend them well in the future.
4. Usage and Historical Data
Collect information such as trip type, frequency of visit, and average spending on the trip. It will eventually help you plan out ideal promotions for specific guests, which will make them appreciate the effort.
5. Experiential Data
Store and utilize the feedback that you have received from prior surveys or the post-stay reviews of customers.
Three ways to utilize guest data to increase revenue
How does the right guest data strategy increase your vacation rental revenue? Here are different use cases for utilizing your guest data to increase revenue:
Upsells and cross-sells
Offer personalized add on services to increase revenue per guest and increase guest satisfaction
Targeted post-stay marketing
Get more return guests with personalized post-stay touch points and tailored offers to your guests
Knowing the potential value of the guests and their booking behavior, you can tailor the discounts to attract your best guests.
There are many more ways in which knowing your guests impacts your vacation rental revenue. It increases your guest satisfaction, drives better reviews, even helps create efficiencies in your business operations.