Best Practices For Securing More Direct Bookings and Return Guests
This is a guest post by Emily Smart, Managing Director of Let Smart, a short-term rental property management company based in Adelaide, Australia.
Direct bookings are a very realistic and profitable strategy for property management companies to utilize during COVID-19, as they support return customers and higher consumer confidence in your brand.
In order to navigate this pandemic, professional hosts are relying on additional tools, rather than only relying on third-party booking channels, in an effort to diversify their marketing strategy and secure more profit sans external fees. Case in point, Guesty reported seeing a 150% uptick in the use of their Direct Booking Website tool this year.
As we look towards recovery and the start of the new year, let’s dive into some of the best practices for securing more direct bookings and incentivizing return guests.
Setting Up Your Branded Booking Website
The first step in your direct booking strategy is to create a branded website. There are many website builder tools available, so look for the one that best supports your business needs. I recommend checking with your property management software first, as most PMS systems will offer their users the ability to create customizable websites. Note that Guesty actually offers this free of charge to users.
When setting up your site, make sure to showcase a comprehensive catalogue of your portfolio, from photos and descriptions of your listings to prices and available dates. And utilize a reliable payment processor so that you can easily – and directly – collect accommodation charges, track transactions and send invoices.
Branded websites will help you secure return guests, as those who have stayed with you will be familiar with your offering. While, you can also receive return guests via other sites such as OTAs, lessening third-party channel fees can be ideal by getting guests who have previously stayed with you, to book directly should they choose to return.
Market Your Listings Accordingly
From a marketing perspective, it is much more cost effective to capture a return guest than it is a general cold inquiry. So the more streamlined you can make your marketing efforts, the better and more profitable it will be for you.
You should not feel like your listing has to be a jaw-droppingly gorgeous property to entice return guests. Low to mid-range properties are in fact, often better suited to returning clients, because those who return to the same location regularly, are often travelling for work or visiting local family. Therefore, for these types of travellers, location, price and comfort are top of mind over luxury items.
Another marketing tactic to help you stand out is highlighting unique property offerings, such as being pet-friendly or handicap accessible.
Offer Personalized Quotes and Discounts
We’ve found that the ability to send quotes via email and/or over the phone is also very important. This particularly helps to target those demographics who don’t always like to book online, and therefore don’t use sites like Airbnb. It might be hard to believe, but there are still plenty of people out there who don’t even have an email address, let alone an Airbnb account!
You should also think about sending your past guests offers or discounts after each stay to incentivize them to book with you again. You could also throw in extra perks, such as complimentary late check out or a gift on arrival.
It’s important to be aware that time is a big factor in developing return guests. The longer your listings have been accepting bookings, the more time there has been to build up a return customer base. There will only be a certain percentage of your guests who could potentially become return guests, so it won’t happen immediately.
Perfect Every Step Of Your Guests’ Journey
Talk to your guests and develop a relationship with them. Automated responses are beneficial, and can definitely be used to streamline your repetitive tasks. However, personalised and timely contact with guests to reply to queries and needs, either by message or phone, is where you can shine, particularly when it really counts.
Guests who keep coming back don’t just do it because they love a property, it’s because they enjoyed themselves and felt comfortable. From the pre-arrival correspondence to the ease of check-in and check-out, it should all be a seamless and pleasant experience.
If you’re in need of additional assistance here (perhaps you’re operating with a leaner team at the moment), check with your PMS to see what services they offer when it comes to guest communication. Guesty, for example, offers Off Hours correspondance, taking over for your team after work hours and on holidays.
Rely On Tech For Smooth Operations
In order to operate all aspects of your direct booking strategy – from creating a personalized website and offering customized discounts to replying to guest inquiries around the clock – property management companies can rely on technology to automate as many tasks as possible, saving them time and ultimately boosting their bottom line.
For more information on managing your short-term rental business amid the new normal, visit Guesty’s Coronavirus Infocenter.