For most hotel and hospitality executives and travel professionals, travel reviews site TripAdvisor is synonymous with incremental traffic to your business as well as a barometer of your organizational health.
Up until last month, if you had a lodging facility, then there were only two lead-generating avenues taking place on TripAdvisor. The first one, and less likely to happen, was a click-through from your profile to your website, and the second one was via travel consolidators such as Hotels.com, Expedia, and others.
Because consolidators had the ability to display pricing up-front, more often than not consumers opted to click and purchase through their website. In an effort to level the playing field and provide individual properties, regardless of size, with additional flexibility as far as lead origination, TripAdvisor recently introduced TripConnect.
What Is TripConnect?
TripConnect is a tool to allow hotels and other lodging properties to display their prices and release inventory directly to TripAdvisor. TripConnect puts the hotelier in full, real-time control of pricing and inventory and displays the property’s direct pricing in a prominent location, allowing the shopper to compare side by side against travel consolidators.
(Check out: “8 Terrific TripAdvisor Tips for Businesses”)
Additionally, the platform gives additional exposure to hotels by showing their listing when a shopper conducts a “by city” search. The tool has dynamic capabilities, allowing the hotelier to upsell and adjust pricing based on booking trends. The payment format is similar to Google Ads, allowing hoteliers to budget in a pay-per-click format and making conversion tracking and campaign validation both easy and accurate.
Why It Matters to Large Properties: Revenue managers of large properties have to constantly deal with forecasting issues, room blocks released at the very last minute, and inventory about to expire. After all, the goal of every revenue and reservations manager is to put heads in beds, maximizing the per-room revenue up to the very last minute. Having the added flexibility to be able to push your own inventory to millions of shoppers simply makes sense.
Why It Matters to Small Properties: A great number of small properties, boutique hotels, bed-and-breakfast facilities, and non-chain lodging may not be releasing their inventory to consolidators. This means shoppers are forced to click on their website to even get an idea as to pricing. For smaller properties, TripConnect provides a fair chance to play with the big dogs and offer consumers non-traditional alternatives to lodging.
How to Make the Most of TripConnect
When it comes to dynamic inventory management, the key is to be a hands-on, real-time manager regarding both inventory and pricing. TripConnect has a number of tools to help you track booking behaviors, and you need to spend time understanding market trends.
In addition to hands-on management, it is extremely important to manage your TripConnect budget closely to begin to understand your cost per transaction and compare it against other sales channels, including consolidators. In many instances, your click cost will be significantly cheaper than selling your inventory through Orbitz, Trivago, Expedia, Getaroom, and other travel consolidators.
How to Activate TripConnect
TripConnect can be activated in tandem with your business listing or as a stand-alone feature. To activate your TripConnect profile, you will need to visit this page. Currently, TripConnect is only available for lodging. If you are not an innkeeper or hotelier, then consider exploring the TripAdvisor Book Now option. To be able to interface with the tool, your in-house reservations must be managed with one of the following booking engines:
Here are the steps in detail:
- When you visit the TripConnect landing page, you will see a box that allows you to run a query for your business. Upon locating your business, you will be asked if you have a business listing and if your internal-reservation software is listed among the vendors above.
- If your provider is not listed, then there is no point at this time in going forward. Although the path does give you the option to enter your reservation-system vendor, it is most likely to create a list of potential partners for the future. Regardless, if your booking engine is not listed, then you are out of luck, at least for the time being.
- If your reservations software is part of TripConnect, then you will automatically receive confirmation and access to the interface that will allow you to put real-time bids that will allow shoppers to see your pricing when conducting searches on TripAdvisor.
How and When to Manage TripConnect
One of the first things you need to know about TripConnect is that you cannot schedule campaigns in advance. The functionality of the interface only allows for campaigns to be either on or completed. No other statuses exist.
For this reason, TripConnect is an ideal tool to release inventory that you could not otherwise distribute using other channels that allow more flexibility on how you turn inventory on and off.
How Does the Bidding and Display Process Work?
If you are partnering with travel consolidators, then your TripConnect bid will put your listing against their pricing. When bidding, the interface will provide you with indicators to let you know if you are bidding sufficiently to be listed among the top three listings.
When your property shows among the top three results, it will include a special designation as “official site.” It is also possible to see a designation that reads “book directly on TripAdvisor.” This basically means that you or another hotel partner are participating in TripConnect instant booking.
A few things to remember:
- Consider bidding for top of list. TripConnect will give you an automated suggestion as far as pricing to push you to the top.
- Keep a close eye on your campaign, as other participants may outbid you. If someone outbids you and you still get clicks, your cost per click will be based on your maximum bid.
- For last-minute bookings, consider placing a bid that is specific to mobile searches.
There are a few things you need to consider before jumping on TripConnect. If you already have business relationships with travel consolidators such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Trivago, Orbitz, Getaroom, and others, then it is possible that you might have signed a contract that hinders your pricing flexibility for online options. Before you go in and enter a lower price than what a partner has posted, take a second to look at your contract. Breach of contract is a serious violation and one that could get your property in a lot of trouble.
Another consideration is the need for real-time, hands-on management. Because campaigns cannot be loaded ahead of time, setting up a last-minute offer in an attempt to manage inventory excess may require that your revenue-management team is on duty after hours.
Finally, it is extremely important that you test the tool and refine your campaign strategy before allocating too much of your marketing budget to purchasing clicks through this tool. This is particularly important if your property is struggling as far as star ratings and popularity scores on TripAdvisor.
In short, consumers are likely to click, but not so much to book, if your online reputation at the time of the campaign appears to be weak. If this is your situation why not begin managing, monitoring and growing your online reputation with the aim of eventually being able to use all the available paid and free marketing tools to expand your guest portfolio.