Welcome to “Insider Perspectives”, an interview series featuring travel industry insiders and veterans.
Hoteliers face the common challenge of increasing direct bookings while fending off competitors trying to lure guests away.
To help your hotel stay on top of booking trends and increase conversions and revenue, we will host a webinar on July 18 with experts from leading hotel tech companies to share their insights and strategies.
Before our webinar, let’s get a glimpse into the professional and personal experiences of our panelist Adam Lamagna, Senior Digital Strategy Manager at Travel Tripper & Pegasus.
Tell us about your role at Travel Tripper & Pegasus. What’s the most interesting and enjoyable part of your job?
I am the Senior Digital Strategy Manager at Travel Tripper & Pegasus. I work with our web clients to help them maximize their revenue and conversions through digital initiatives including SEO, feature enhancement, adapting page layouts, and adding new content. I provide ongoing analysis and consulting with Revenue Managers, DOSMs, and GMs.
The most interesting part of my job is conducting in-depth data analyses on various types of properties, from big box hotels to national brands, to independent boutiques. The most enjoyable part of my job is when that analysis turns up some very critical information that I can relay to my clients to help them better serve the users who are viewing and transacting on their websites.
What are the top things that hotel marketers should keep in mind or look out for when creating or redesigning their websites?
When it comes to redesigning websites, I often advise my clients to remember that “you are not your users.”
A lot of hoteliers and hotel marketers have attachments to their websites that most users do not share, and that’s because the goal of the hotel marketer is oftentimes different from the goal of the hotel booker. The website needs to cater to users instead of hoteliers. For example, many hotel marketers believe that by putting every hotel initiative on the homepage or above the fold will cater to everyone that comes to the website. But, since websites have limited real estate, and most users have short attention spans, pushing too many initiatives can alienate the users.
When you redesign your hotel website, try to put yourself in the shoes of your most common user and realize the website is only a part of their journey. We need to keep things simple to avoid overwhelming users.
What are the common challenges hotel marketers and revenue managers face when it comes to driving traffic and converting users on their websites?
There are several parts to this answer:
The first is Google. Over the last year, Google has done a lot with the hospitality industry. Currently, we’re seeing drops in organic clicks year over year for many hotels because Google is giving users everything they need to make decisions about booking right in the SERPs (search engine results pages). If a user searches for a branded keyword (i.e. “hotel name + city”), they’re able to see the location, photos, and reviews of the hotel as well as comparing different sourced pricing without ever going to a single website. Thus, it’s imperative for hotels to be in the metasearch panels and always offer the same-as-lowest or lower price in order to keep organic users clicking into their direct website or booking engine (which still doesn’t guarantee a booking).
The second part is that the internet grows exceptionally fast in content. Close to 3,000 blog posts are published every single minute on the World Wide Web. Think about that over the course of an hour, a day, a month: if hotels aren’t keeping up with that growth, and not adding new pages or content to their sites, then, unfortunately, they start to drown in it. Being online means hotels need to play a balanced game of giving users valuable content while maximizing their visibility within the playing field that Google has set up.
The final part to this answer is that once users land on a website homepage, hotels need to offer their best deal or value or rate in some kind of “call-out” right up front, while keeping their sites easily navigable and adding in cross-sell sections right below the fold to cater to different users.
What are some KPIs hotel marketers should focus on in order to track and measure the success of their hotel websites?
I look at several primary and secondary KPIs to gauge my clients’ websites. However, it’s not really about a specific metric going up or down, but how I move through the data in order to get an accurate picture of the hotel’s growth and current standing.
First, I’ll make sure to compare year-over-year data. There are too many fluctuations attributed to seasonality, citywide, and other miscellaneous items to compare month-over-month metrics unless I’m looking for something specific like pre/post stats on a feature enhancement. When there is no year-over-year data, I’ll communicate seasonal expectations and common baselines to my client.
I spend a lot of my time in Google Analytics, so I’ll make sure to compare overall traffic, conversion rates, transactions, and revenue YOY in a certain order. When I check overall revenue, I want to see if this has gone up or down YOY. If it has gone down, then I’ll check to see if transactions are also down. If transactions have gone up (but revenue went down), then that’s most likely due to a shift in ADR or LOS. If it’s the inverse, then it’s most likely because the hotel is pushing a higher ADR.
If both transactions and revenue are down YOY, then I’ll compare that with traffic. If traffic is also down, then I’ll drill down to see if this is channel specific (Organic, Direct, Paid, Referral, etc.) or if this is all channels. If it’s all channels, then most likely there’s been a market shift or there are price parity issues that we need to look into.
I will also dive into different dimensions (attributes of data) within the metrics (quantitative data) to get better insights into a hotel’s performance to hopefully make some good recommendations:
- Looking at the Device category in Channel Grouping could tell us that we need to add a mobile rate plan to the website. Diving in even further and looking at mobile-only traffic in the context of the hour of the day could tell us the best time to apply a mobile DPR (dynamic pricing rule) to convert more users.
- Looking at the City dimension within the All Pages report could help us with which offers to put up for drive markets or if we should consider adding new languages to the website.
- Or looking at All Traffic in context of Age will tell us which demographic is converting the most, and give us some ideas on what offers might convert other age groups (AARP, Family Discounts, etc.)
Two separate metrics I look at the most are in relation to user paths called Behavior Flow and Funnel Conversion Rate.
- Behavior Flow will tell me how users are moving through the website so I can look for specific bottlenecks.
- Funnel Conversion Rate specifically measures the progression a user goes through on the booking engine (it will need to be set up in Google Analytics). But I can see exactly where users who have engaged with the booking engine (which shows an intent to buy) have dropped off in the process (details pages, payment page, etc.). I check this YOY and MOM, if I notice any big discrepancies I’ll dive into the booking engine to see if there are any surprises (updated resort fees, taxes, changed offers, etc.)
The data will tell a story about the hotel’s performance, but there needs to be an understanding that hotel websites don’t operate in silos. They should work in conjunction with a hotel’s revenue management strategy and be an amplification of a hotel’s brand. So, every month I make sure that the Google Analytics revenue data aligns with the Booking Engine revenue data. Always give a 10% or less margin between those revenue figures to account for the differences in system settings and session parameters.
Once I know the revenue data matches, I’ll dive into my data progression to gauge the website health on Google Analytics and I’ll also dive into Interactive Reporting on the booking engine side to get more comparable data. The other piece is to make sure I’m always communicating with my clients on a two-way street. I’ll share my findings on analytics trends and behavior, and clients will share their vision and goals about the hotel. Together, we’ll find the right strategy to move forward.
What are the key questions that hotel marketers should ask their prospective vendors/agency before hiring them?
I’ve worked for a few agencies of varying sizes and disciplines that span across many industries. There are some universal things that can halt progress in client and vendor relationships.
The first is unrealistic expectations. Agencies should have well-drafted agreements that descriptively list the services they provide so clients understand what’s included and not included in their account. Some common points of contention mostly revolve around content, ADA Compliance, and hosting services. If a hotel is getting redesign quotes, make sure to ask vendors if they provide website copy, launch websites with ADA compliance, and do they provide hosting services. If these things are not discussed, they could derail projects and cost hotel marketers more time and money.
The second thing is innovation. It seems like many companies hire and fire creative agencies every other year because they aren’t satisfied with their current state. I believe much of this comes down to agencies not innovating fast enough. Any hotelier looking for a new vendor should ask what new product launches have come out in the last year and what’s currently in the pipeline for innovation. At Travel Tripper, we strive to continually launch new products and optimize websites by trying new things and measuring their success (or failure).
The third thing is trust. This can be a difficult thing to build when you’re looking for a new vendor, so it’s wise to see how much of an authority they are by reading the material they produce, viewing any case studies and asking to speak to current clients.
How do you keep up to date with the latest trends and best practices in hotel marketing and revenue management?
Well, for hotel trends and best practices, I always have my bookmarked Travel Tripper blog and Resource Center – one of the reasons I like working for TT is because we do a great job at keeping clients informed of new updates or trends. And I check out Skift.com because they have good research.
More importantly, I make sure to keep up to date with what’s going on in the strategy, design, and technology spaces by reading the following blogs:
These blogs keep me informed on what’s going on within the technology landscape and I find that it’s easier to get insight for my clients by leveraging trends and shifts happening within the broader digital space.
Other media sources like the NY Times and Wall Street Journal keep me apprised with the cultural and social issues of our time which can have a drastic impact on what’s happening in the hotel world.
A lot of us who work in the hospitality industry are passionate about traveling. So what’s on your bucket list for travel?
Yeah, bucket list (I actually have this written down):
- Paris – believe it or not, I’ve never been
- China – I’d love to go to Shang-hai, Beijing, and Hong Kong
- Alaska – they say this is the last frontier, but I still have Outer Space on my bucket list too 🙂
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I spent almost a month in Japan in March/April of 2018. I went with my best friend of 20 years and we traveled to over 12 different cities. We stood at the busiest crosswalk in Tokyo, walked through the lush flora of Kanazawa, scaled the Samurai castles in Nikko, overlooked the historic village of Shirakawa-go, snowboarded in Nagano, saw the cherry blossoms of Kyoto, rode the bullet train all the way to Fukuoka, traveled the Shinhotaka Ropeway to view the breathtaking Japan Alps, visited the welcoming city of Hiroshima, took the ferry to Miyajima, drank the best coffee of my life in Takayama, and topped the trip off with a 3-day hike of the Kumano Kodo, which weaves through the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Needless to say, it was the most amazing trip I’ve ever been on.
Do you have a side hustle or passion project outside of work? Or what are your hobbies?
Yes, I’m fortunate enough to do work that I love, but I love digital strategy so much that I actually produce and host a podcast called unSTRATEGIC where we explore the many disciplines, methodologies, and tactics of the web/tech/digital world. It’s mostly geared toward agency types like strategists, designers, account and project managers, or anyone just looking to learn more about digital strategy. But I put a lot of time and effort into producing quality episodes. It’s been a lot of fun and it seems to be helping some people out there.
I also love relaxing with my family, we have movie nights on Friday and usually do some fun stuff on the weekend. I also bought my first home last year, so I’m doing a lot of little side projects around the house. I built a work table and an enclosed garden recently. Working with my hands and spending time with the ones I love is the decompression time well-spent and needed, especially since I work in the fast-paced hospitality industry.
More About Adam:
Adam has over 8 years of experience in the agency space. Currently, as Senior Digital Strategy Manager at Travel Tripper & Pegasus, he helps hotels across North America and Europe increase conversions and maximizes direct revenue. His background consists of web and mobile strategy, experience design, project scope development, and website security. He also hosts a podcast series called unSTRATEGIC —The Podcast that Explores Digital Strategy available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.