Preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Autohost
[Blog supplied by Autohost]
Worldwide: Whether you see it as the most wonderful time of the year or the beginning of month-long, holiday-induced mayhem, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner and as companies prepare for the chaos, shoppers are itching to get their hands on 2019’s hottest deals.
According to Adobe Analytics, in 2018, Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion in online sales and Cyber Monday broke online sales records with $7.9 billion. The unparalleled sales figures year over year present a huge opportunity for all kinds of companies to drive traffic to their products or services.
Nowadays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday go beyond retail and tech. In the hospitality industry, these days mark the start of one of the most important travel booking periods of the year. By preparing ahead of time, short-term rental operators can see increased exposure and higher visibility for their property listings.
But while this Red Tag season can bring in huge profits for savvy property managers, it can also bring major risks. To be successful with your holiday deals, you need to know the risks and take the necessary steps to manage them.
Setting up promotions
To make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you have to ensure your properties are accessible and visible to shoppers. Do this by optimising your listings and running promotions through the most popular online travel agencies (OTAs).
Before loading promotions, make sure your listings are optimised for maximum visibility. Depending on the OTA, your property will either have a page score or a content score. The better the score, the higher the visibility of your listing. To get your score closer to perfect, upload high-quality photos and update your amenity descriptions.
If you are listed on the major OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia, do not miss out on their Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns. These campaigns are promoted across all affiliate sites and shared with members through newsletters and emails. By taking advantage of their holiday campaigns, you’ will gain additional exposure for your property.
When setting up your promotions, cater to the dates with the highest online traffic. Stay in the loop, so you know which specific dates you should be targeting in your campaign.
Travel Tuesday is often forgotten in the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but experts deem it the best day to get deals on hotels, cruises and airlines. This year, it falls on the Tuesday following American Thanksgiving, so double check that the campaign you are joining runs until 3 December. If you are in a campaign that ends sooner, set up another promotion to cover that date. That way, you will remain competitive in your market.
Once setting up your promotions, reach out to past guests and potential bookers. If you are on social media, create a post to let everyone know what kind of deals you are offering.
Understanding the risks
Let us face the facts: with an influx of bookings comes an influx of risk, especially during the slow season when it is harder to get a handle on the type of guests booking your property.
With less demand and more competition, property managers slash prices hoping to encourage bookings, but low rates attract bad reservations. After all, the short-term rental slow season is riddled with fraudulent bookings and disobedient guests eager to get a sweet deal.
When reservations are few and far between, your team might be feeling more desperate to fill the gaps in your calendar. With this desperation comes more lapses in judgment, leading to an increased risk of fraudulent bookings.
Low prices and generous discounts make your four-to five-star accommodations accessible to bookers outside of your wheelhouse. During peak season, your rental might be unattainable for an 18-year-old looking to throw a party, but in the slow season, your $100/night suite becomes a viable option.
If you are typically catering to a higher clientele, decreasing your rates will change your target demographic. This is important to keep in mind for your guest screening process.
Managing the risks
The holiday booking season brings with it high risk and high reward. By opting into various campaigns, you can increase your visibility, gaining new exposure and filling the gaps in your calendar. But at the same time, this new exposure can lead to troublesome reservations.
To increase revenue while deterring risky guests, keep an eye on your pricing. Decide on a minimum price, and make sure your rates do not dip below it. That way, you are never selling below your comfort zone.
When offering discounts through your OTAs, consider adding booking restrictions. Pursue longer stays, where possible, and encourage reservations with a longer lead time.
When setting up your promotions, do not let your top-earning nights go for low-rates. Set up blackout dates on your promotions to prevent high-demand nights like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day from selling too low.
If you work with a channel manager, make sure to set mark-ups on your properties. This way, you are still getting the exposure from these generous deals without slipping below your minimum rate. Channel managers like Rentals United offer quick and easy ways to mark up your prices in bulk.
Throughout brief booking periods, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, have a member of your team monitor the promotions. By checking incoming reservations at the beginning of your booking period, you’ll be able to assess whether you should increase your mark-up or decrease your discount.
Protecting your business
While it is always important to have a process in place for guest screening, this is especially necessary when you are offering highly discounted rates. To make sure you do not host risky guests, amp up your security procedures throughout the booking and travel window of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
Beef up your security by making sure guests understand the house rules before finalising the reservation. Ensure guests are who they say they are by verifying their IDs and validating their credit cards. Lastly, have each guest sign a rental agreement and collect a security deposit. If you are still not 100 per cent sold on the reservation, get on the phone with the guest to either confirm or deny your suspicions.
If you are using a guest-screening software like Autohost, make sure your team knows how to assess each guest’s level of risk before moving forward with the reservation. Then as a backup, consider monitoring your properties with noise sensors from NoiseAware. That way, you will be alerted to any spike in volume, giving you the chance to deescalate the situation.
When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we often think of physical possessions, like computers, jewellery and clothing. But with more and more people spending money on experiences, travel opportunities are making their way into the spotlight.
As the short-term rental industry grows and evolves, it’s important for operators to make a splash in the holiday shopping season. Don’t let this Black Friday and Cyber Monday pass you by without optimising your short-term rental revenue—just make sure your properties are protected along the way.
For more information and to view the blog in full, visit the Autohost website here.