GM’s eCommerce Checklist
1. Online Inventory
Make sure you have sufficient inventory allocated for all sales channels, especially on your site. Your independent and brand.com website is the most cost efficient tool for a hotel to receive reservations, as the hotel does not pay any fees when a customer books through these websites.
- Make a test reservations on the following main channels – hotel’s official website, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz – and any other channels that may be important to you every week. Use the same stay dates to check consistency between different channels.
- Check for Inventory, Rate Parity, Competition Rates, and Offers on these main channels.
2. Rate Parity
It is crucial to offer rate parity on all sales channels, including the hotel site, brand site, and third party travel channels. The hotel site should offer the best available rates all the time. Rate parity helps in gaining customer confidence and loyalty to book directly through hotel site or calling the hotel.
- Check Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, hotel site and brand site. Your site should have the lowest rates. You should offer parallel inventory and rate parity across all channels.
3. Check Online Competition
It is crucial to check how the hotel compares against its competition on different online channels.
- Check Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, and the Search Engines.
4. Online and Offline Tracking
Accurate tracking helps in analyzing what is working and what is not working.
- Online Tracking
- Check your website tracking. Check to see how many unique visitors, search engine referrals, page views, clicks on the booking engine page, and the total ROI produced through your website.
- Review reservations received through the booking engine, including booked packages, reservations received at different rate codes, plans, etc.
- Offline Tracking
- Track offline conversions against your online marketing tools such as website, PPC campaigns, email marketing campaigns, etc. Phone call tracking helps in knowing who is calling, main feeder markets/surfers for your hotel, call activity, and call conversion data. Call tracking also provides an excellent opportunity to identify what works and what does not work. Caller information can be used as sales leads.
- You can track how many phone calls are generated through your independent site, email marketing campaign, etc. on weekly basis. Listen to the calls and see how many phone calls are handled and converted.
- Check the following sites on a weekly basis for online reviews: Trip Advisor, Yahoo Travel, Travelocity, YouTube, and Expedia.
- Use link.milestoneinternet.com to check back links of competitive sites. Create a list of websites you will target to secure links from. Try to secure 2 to 3 incoming links on a weekly basis.
- Check if the manager’s special offers the best rates, local events, news, and time sensitive offers, etc.
- Collect Email Addresses of your current and potential customers by creating an opt-in program on your site and through offline collaterals. Divide your database based on the interests of your customers and then customize your messages.
- Develop Email Marketing Plan including yearly campaigns, promotion pieces and frequency of campaigns all at once. Review local events and reasons why people are visiting your location, and create an outline of what you will communicate through newsletters, time sensitive offers, e-cards, etc.
- Send Campaigns and Track Results – Once your email marketing plan and campaign are set, analysis and tracking of every campaign are very important and include click through rates, open rates, bounce back and analysis of complete ROI.
- Check and make sure that all the channels, including travel sites, the hotel site, and brand site all have good quality pictures.
- Research what people are searching for when visiting your area.
- Build special value offers including reasons why people are visiting your area, USP of the property, and things to do.
5. Checking Your Online Reputation
Reviews (Reputation Management) – Review what your customers are saying about your hotel on other sites such as Trip Advisor, Yahoo Travel and other opinion sites. It is crucial for the hotel to review what is posted online on a weekly basis.
6. Local Link Building
Work on securing relevant links pointing back to your site from other sites on a weekly basis. Qualitative incoming links to your site from local chambers of commerce, attractions, things to do, events, etc. help in gaining relevancy and ranking of your site on search engines.
7. Keeping Manager’s Specials Current
Fresh content helps you achieve high conversions and frequent indexing by Search Engines. Extend your best rates and time sensitive offers to increase occupancy during low demand periods. You can list local events and special rates on the manager’s special.
8. Email Marketing
Email Marketing is one of the most effective tools to communicate with your customers. It is also one of lowest cost marketing tools. Here are some steps you should take to capitalize on email marketing campaigns.
9. Website Pictures
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Make sure you have good quality pictures uploaded on your website. The hotel should also have the copyrights of all the pictures used on the site.
10. Enhanced Content
Make sure that your hotel site, GDS, and travel sites all have keyword-rich, enhanced content. Create specials and packages including local attractions and things to do. Packages, specials, and information pages help in converting lookers into bookers.
For a formatted version of the above GM’s e-Commerce Check List that can be used at your hotel to manage the e-commerce goals and programs, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting the check-list.
This article is written by Benu Aggarwal, founder and president of Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc.