Hotel customers are smarter than ever. They know how to bargain and, especially if they are reaching you through a third-party website, they’re most likely only considering your bottom rung product. While some may call them cheap or frugal, another factor in this equation may be that your booking platform isn’t encouraging these guests in the right way to consider your higher tier rooms and suites.
Hence, properly understanding this modern dynamic can you help to guide you in adapting your sales and marketing materials to convince this seemingly parsimonious audience to spend more with your hotel. The best place to demonstrate how you should proceed is in how you upsell your top tier rooms product to guests.
The first customer behavior to understand here is the predisposition to book the cheapest room available. Besides having the lowest rate, the key issue with these bookings is that this product line will likely result in the least rewarding guest experience because such guestrooms cannot properly express the full merits of the hotel (or they may have a few egregious flaws such as proximity to noisy public areas or awkward configurations).
Thus, not only do you have a monetary rationale in trying to upsell, but a defensive one in that your reputation is at stake.
Indeed, there are many hotels that have a policy of giving out complimentary upgrades when occupancy will allow so as to avoid bottom-seeking guests who reserve the cheapest room then complain online that the experience didn’t live up to what was advertised. Given the democratizing format of online travel websites, a negative review from someone who stays in the cheapest room is just as damaging as one from an individual who stays in your presidential suite.
Your first job thus is to control the narrative of how your rooms are presented to avoid any disconnect between expectations and reality. This means modifying all pre-booking channels – that is, your website, OTAs, third-party channel operators – so that guests are immediately aware of all of the advantages of your higher tier products.
Even then this may not be enough. How are you going to continue the post-reservation conversation to try and upsell them? By the time guests arrive onsite, it’s too late to upsell them because such frugal guests don’t like being put on the spot.
Luckily, there are now a few platforms that can help to automate this part of the process by offering guests a portal through which to explore all your rooms then let them select individual rooms for an incremental fee (similar to airlines) or upgrade to one in a better class.
As seeing is believing, you need a visual platform so guests can peruse your product range with their eyes – think fully stocked photo galleries, floor plans with specific features earmarked, 360-degree images, virtual tours, panoramic shots of the views or links to positive videos from past guests. Increasing your usage of rich media will promote more time spent interacting with your product, meaning that said customers will have more opportunities to view as well as understand the benefits of your higher tier rooms.
Not only are the younger, more frugal guests more discerning when it comes to channel comparisons, but they also want experiences that they can brag about online. Upselling post-booking means playing into this ‘badge seeking behaviour’ by expressing how various aspects of your top tier guestrooms will contribute to this everything-must-be-posted-online mentality. What specific features make your rooms unique? Do you have any cool furniture or artwork? Are the views from the balcony Instagram-worthy?
These are the sorts of questions you must ask yourself and all other senior managers you work with moving forward. The modern sense of traveler frugality isn’t going away, nor are any of the billion-user social networks. You must adapt by finding ways to connect with and convince this emergent customer type to try your more expensive rooms, first and foremost by prompting them with a platform that allows them to better see how stunning your best rooms are.