I am always interested and looking to see what the new trends and best practices are for Vacation Rental businesses related to technology. As we all know this has changed so much over the past 10 – 15 years that it is hard to keep up. Some of the obvious trends that are the new norms in the VR world are using social media as a platform to get your message out and get reviews back. Think Facebook, Twitter, Google, TripAdvisor/FlipKey, YouTube, etc. Also, what seems to have been around forever is the ability for guests to book online. When you think about this technology it is only about 15 years old. However, there are so many avenues a guest can go down. (directly on your website, OTA’s, Channel Managers, Individual Owner Sites, and the list goes on).
Because of the power guests have and the dependency that people have on their access to their social media platforms and the countless other online “addictions”; how businesses connect and keep this audience seems to be ever changing. That is why I wanted to highlight a couple of areas/trends that I feel are considerations when trying to differentiate and attract the following you need to survive.
Video is a must – I know that this using video to reach your audience is not something new and ground breaking. However, it really is a medium that you must consider if you have not already. Recent studies have shown that video is continuing to increase in popularity. HubSpot did a study in which they state that over half of the users (55%) in a survey say, “they consume an entire video compared to 29% for blogs and 33% for interactive articles”. It is then more likely for a consumer to go to the website associated with the video.
Subject Matter Experts (SME) – This was a new term for me that I noticed while considering this post. Traditionally in the vacation rental world reservationists fell into two categories; order takers or commissioned sales people. What is happening now though is that consumers are much more informed and have higher expectations for their “experience”. An SME is much more than an order taker and are not driven by sales goals to make reservations. Hiring people that are experts in your area or training your team to become experts in your properties, your business and area will offer much more to your guests. This relates to content you have on your site as well. People know when they are talking to someone that is not knowledgeable or are trying to sell them something. Offer the wonderful experience with local experts from the first conversation.
Consider Chat – Again not a new concept, but if you are not using this tool to directly connect with your potential clients you should consider it. There are a lot out there with different fee structures, but here are some of the principal areas that are advantages to having live chat:
- Chat offers real-time convenience to potential and existing clients.
- In the long run, you will save money.
- Agents can handle multiple chats at the same time
- Lowers wait time for guests calling into the call center as well as decreasing burden on call center.
- Low cost to implement and train staff
Make Your Customers Feel Special – Getting generic and mass generated marketing emails usually go straight into our trash. Even if the subject line is something of interest we don’t want to or have the time to read it. We all can smell a generic email or campaign. Being able to narrow your segments is now key to connecting with your clients. Having the right technology like Barefoot will allow you to create profiles for potential and existing guests that you will be able to create these segment specific campaigns.
Remote Employees – If there is someone that would be a terrific addition to your team don’t let the confines of requiring them to work in your office stop you from adding them on. Many responsibilities that are required in a reservation office do not require employees to be there. Obviously if you need people to greet guests when they pick up their keys they need to be there. However; making reservations, communicating with guests, vendors, owners etc., are just as easily done from a home office. Guests will not know the difference and creates a win-win for both the VR office as well as the employee.
Connect Rather than Sell – This concept for VR is a little more abstract. The sharing economy is here and the vacation rental industry is part of the sharing economy. An owner has a property and they are sharing it with strangers for a fee. Think Uber. So, try to take the approach and mindset that you are offering a channel for interested customers to find a home that they would like to stay in. The key is positioning yourself as the means for the potential guest to eventually choose and not to be salesy. This ties into previous points I made regarding being the Subject Matter Expert, offering a whole vacation experience, and offering a product that is segment specific.
Progress and technology never rests. This is obviously very true for the Vacation Rental Industry. The concepts and suggestions I have listed might be areas of benefit for your business. Each business is different and it is recommended that each Vacation Rental company take a closer look at the suggestions and be sure to find out what would work best for your business and team.