If you have been following me you have certainly heard me saying “Numbers don’t lie, but they are so easy to misrepresent“.
What follows is a real case study that better than any other words describes what the above quote really means.
More importantly though, it shows how looking at the data from different angles can reveal new scenarios and new ways to fix an issue, boosting more revenue and driving more (direct) bookings.
Ready? Let’s go!
Booking Window at first sight.
It usually takes 10-15 minutes to get to know where the drop happens.
In fact, after a general check of the performance, I start digging in by dimensions, specifically:
- Length of Stay
- Booking Window
In other words, I take each of these 3 dimensions and use other dimensions as filters, so that I can see what’s the combination of dimensions that suffers low performance.
I know, it may sound too much theory. So let me get more practical with the real example I wanted to show you.
This report shows, for the booking engine, the performance by Booking Window – time that elapses between booking date and arrival date.
I usually start looking at Booking Window ranges: for instance, a BW Range 1-5 means all those searches that have been conducted 1 up to 5 days prior the selected arrival date.
By default, this report is sorted by Sessions, meaning the one range that had the highest number of searches on top, clearly because on top we find the vast majority of our users, thus potential revenue.
In a nutshell, the report says that most users search 1 up to 10 days prior their arrival.
The performance are quite good. Especially BW 6-10 with more than 15% conversion rate.
However, here is why using other dimensions as filters becomes of vital importance, though.
The same report, but filtering in mobile devices only.
From >15% conversion to less than 3%.
When you experience such a drop, there is always a reason. And that reason always stands in your distribution.
Too often times I’ve seen this and the pattern is always the same: someone (OTAs) is behind this low result.
Let’s have a look.
Ctrip, Expedia, Agoda.
Low mobile performance? Check Ctrip, Expedia and Agoda.
For sure, one of them, at least, is undercutting your rates.
Why CTrip, Expedia and Agoda?
- simple as that, they are 3 out of the 4 biggest OTAs in the market, worldwide.
- they are the 3 biggest OTAs that collect the payment on hotels’ behalf.
In other words, customers pay the OTAs upfront, at the time of booking, whilst hotels get paid by the OTA at a later stage.
This last point is the reason why, for example, I don’t consider Booking.com the root cause of an issue like this.
B barely collects payments upfront, whilst the other guys have an easy life when it then comes to reduce their own margins to cover the cut over your rates.
Let’s have a look at a couple of them.
Mobile device, 6-10 prior the selected arrival date.
When it comes to mobile, there’s another variable we should consider: mobile sites vs. mobile apps. I’ll explain more about this topic in a bit.
Let’s start with the mobile site of CTrip.
Booking Window 6-10
Just a little note: prices are in Thai Baht, because I am physically in Thailand, thus certain sites automatically apply the respective currency.
Besides the price, on top there’s a strong call-to-action that invites me to download their mobile app to get some special travel deals.
Ok, let’s do it.
The price already dropped.
Nothing change but the fact that we are now on the app, compared to the previous search.
Furthermore, another call-to-action that invites to sign in or up, in order to get 30% off.
“Sure, I want that”:
Third search using an OTA that is supposed to be offering the exact same thing… 3rd different price, cheaper and cheaper!
In order to compare apples with apples, let’s see what the final price after taxes we are being charged:
Ultimately, let’s compare it with the direct price through the booking engine:
As opposed to BW 6-10, our report showed instead good figures for searches conducted 1-5 days prior the selected arrival date.
Booking Window 1-5
Let’s see then, how Trip.com behaves with searches that are a bit closer to the selected arrival date: Booking window 1-5.
Same steps, same approach, as if we were comparing apples with apples.
Besides the different starting price, due to the new shopped dates, everything’s just like the previous search.
Note, in fact, the main CTA on top that invites to download their mobile app for better deals.
Let’s keep following the same way:
Going down the exact same path, aren’t we?
Same call-to-action with up to 30% better deals if we sign up/in. Ok, let’s:
Wait… where’s my cheaper deal?!?
What I believe Trip.com is doing above, is simply a different strategy: no cheaper deal, but better room type.
In other words, an upgrade.
In fact, the room we shopped in the previous search (Deluxe Room) now has been replaced with an upper room category: Crystal Club Deluxe Room.
Naturally, we might tend to think that this is because Deluxe Room is no longer available for these dates, right?
Wrong, because it is indeed available:
Deluxe Room is not even close to be out of inventory, but for whatever reason Trip.com makes it cost almost 3 times as much as it should be.
I personally have visibility into this hotel’s rooms and rates, for each day. That rate (THB 14386) is totally out of the blue.
It is not clear to me what the strategy here is.
Besides, this strategy doesn’t seem to be working much in Trip.com’s favor, as apparently prospects are more interested in a cheaper deal, rather than a better room.
In fact, let’s see what the final total bottom price is on Trip.com:
…as opposed to the direct rate, meaning the bottom total price prospects can find on the booking engine of the hotel:
Due to different room types, the booking engine now remains the most convenient and competitive channel.
Just like our RevANALYTICS report says.
… is quite the same-old-same-old; something I mentioned many times before, when referring to other OTAs behaving this same way.
We don’t need to prove every single case the OTAs undercut our rates, it’d be impossible, other than insane.
Nor can we even think of a technical solution.
This is everything but technical. This is pure diplomacy.
Collect some screenshots, send them over to your Account or Market manager, in this case of Trip.com, eventually follow up a few times till you get a feedback.
Then, you’ll tell me what the feedback is (I don’t want to ruin the surprise ?).
Besides, you might to do this a few times. And yes, I’m aware, it’s quite annoying as it’s all manual job. But, believe me, it’s worth it.
Trip.com is not the only one though. Would you really expect Expedia to be innocent?
Expedia is to transparency like Italians are to efficiency.
Next episode though, part #2 soon to come.
Stay tuned ?