Kigo Blog

Personalised Content- Getting More From Your Marketing

Different Guests; Different Content.

Want to get the most out of the content you send? Reach more of your guests and see a better return on investment from the things that you spend time and money to create? A way that every vacation rental manager can start doing this is by offering more personalised, more specific content to their customers through their email marketing and social media. This means content created with only a certain section of your customers or leads in mind. As you will have experienced, you can’t please everybody all of the time with your content anyway, so this approach is designed to split your audience first, and then just send the content that is most suited to them.To look at the statistics, 78% of guests prefer content personalisation and 54% find personalised ads more engaging. Your guests are not all the same, and your content needs to reflect this.

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A practical suggestion for how to do this is create content that is not always designed to be as broad as possible. Create marketing campaigns that are specifically aimed at certain sections of your customers. To do this, you will have to split your guests into content categories. You can base these categories on whatever criteria you choose; location, demographic, age, booking history, your reward programme. The choice is yours. For example, you may have hesitated over posting about the new ski location you have added because 70% of your revenue comes from summer beach resorts and this wouldn’t be of interest to most of your guests. If you can split your guests into groups that have booked ski holidays with you or expressed an interest in on your site then you can create emails, blog posts, or other content and make sure it is being sent to the people that want to read it.

Before clicking and engaging with content people like to know why they are receiving it. For most email marketing this answer is simple – you expressed an interest in a business and now you are receiving more information about it So, how can you go about making it more personal?

Dividing your guests by the services they use and then tailoring the content you provide gives you a better chance of reaching interested leads. To use the example of people that have booked ski holidays in the past again, why not address this? Start your email with reference to the fact that they have booked ski resorts with you before and now you have a great new property that you think they will be interested in. Imagine receiving an email that was personalised and sent to you because of specific interests you have, rather than just having signed up to a mailing list that distributes all the content that a company produces. You are going to see better numbers and better engagement.

 And a great thing about personalised content is that you can use all of your older content as you find out more things about your guests. If every article, every post you create has a strong, useful message for your customers then it can be used again and sent your customers that fit into the category it was created for. You may have content that was created a year ago that is perfect for your new customers but your older customers do not need to receive, splitting your mailings will interest new customers and stop your current customers receiving information that they don’t need.

One of the main reasons people cite for unsubscribing or unfollowing from social media is because of ‘Bursting’. Bursting is where a company sends a big cluster of updates across every platform and then nothing. This means that there is a high frequency of contact in a short time with only limited relevance to certain customers.Personalised content means that the people receiving your email are the people that will want to read it, giving you not just better numbers from your marketing but more bookings from these clicks and shares.

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PVO : Finding the Fridge For The VR Industry

We are simple creatures. The more we see things, the more likely we are to use them. The problem is how to get your product in front of the people that want to see it? When you have a website, social media platforms and adverts, it might feel as if you are doing everything you can to get your product out there. But perhaps there is a cerebral side-step than can be done. Vacation rental managers can try lateral thinking and product view optimisation to see if it is possible to revolutionise their exposure.

A long time ago, astute marketers found out that the fridge is opened twice as often as cupboards. Anything in the fridge is going to be seen more. The trickle-down effect of this is that it is used more, and eventually bought more. So, how did these marketers get their products in front of their customers twice as often? With just three words of copy: ‘Refrigerate after opening’.

This was an inspired moment that cost nothing, did not change the product or increase the advertising. It just put the product in the most prominent position possible.

Brands and businesses that make it into common consciousness do not do so by accident. They conduct meticulous research into eye line trajectory and product placement. The characters on children’s cereal may seem harmless, but their eyes are designed to meet those of children. Eye contact from these characters increased trust by 16% so the eyes are angled down 9.6 degrees to create with eye contact with the children in the aisles. These techniques are not just reserved for impressionable children. Adult cereal is placed higher and the eyes on these boxes stare straight out.

This technique is called product view optimisation (PVO). It is all about increasing the amount of times your product is seen and the effectiveness of these views. So how do you apply this process to vacation rentals? Where is the fridge for our industry? Should you develop a company mascot with hypnotic snake eyes?

They'rrrrrreee Great! Perhaps not.

 The idea behind PVO is that people will see your product at times when they are not actively looking for it. You have to consider your product as something that people want, but don’t know that they want it at that time. Product view optimisation is basically similar to the principles of SEO. You put your business in the position where most people are likely to see it. SEO lets your business sit at the very top of online searches. PVO puts your business in front of people in the offline world.

An example of how non-traditional marketing and PVO could be used for vacation rentals is to sign up your property as a film or TV location. This means that production companies will hire your property to film in. It could be for adverts, educational shorts or even blockbuster films. What this does is three-fold. Firstly, it brings you revenue from the production company that will not be as seasonal as your regular guests. Secondly, it puts your property in front of thousands of people that may never see your normal advertising. Whilst this is not advertising, it puts your product in a prominent position. Companies pay exorbitant amounts to place their products into popular culture. Finally, you then have the option to market your property as a location from whatever it was in. Holidays based around visiting the locations of TV programs like Game Of Thrones or films like Lord Of The Rings have soared in the last decade. Imagine how many people would see your property, and then the boost in bookings you would have if people could stay at one of the locations from a major part of popular culture!

This is just one example of alternative marketing and PVO. It can require lateral thinking to develop an innovative and original way to implement PVO but having vacation rentals being seen and being noticed offline, as well as online will be of great help to the growth of the industry and your business.

Have you considered any other strategies to get your properties and your business seen by the mass market?

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Interactive Maps: A Quick Way To Arrive At More Bookings

Today’s blog is all about a quick feature that you can add to your site today that will help you convert more visitors to your site into bookings. This is the simple addition of an interactive map on your website. An interactive map is one that shows the local area as normal, but that you can add the location of your property and places that your guests might be interested in. From there you can see the proximity, read reviews and check the distances and times between attractions all whilst keeping customers on your site.

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 If you guest selects a property you can feature the location on an interactive map on the page for that property. As well as showing the property that has been selected, your interactive map can also show the locations of other available properties in the area. So, if the property is booked people on your site can choose available properties that are closest to their original desired location. You can even have the price of the properties on the map, and photos with a short description when your guests hover over the points on the map. This prevents people from leaving your site to start a new search based on the area they want to stay. Rather than having to search through the pages for different vacation rentals on your site, or possibly leaving your site, they move on to the next best property in just one click.

 A map that shows all the properties in the area can then be distilled to a map showing just the selected property. This would then feature highlights of the local area. Local restaurants, museums and bars can all have pins that lead straight through to reviews, their own websites and contact information. The same goes for tourist attractions. An interactive map can then show the best routes to get around these attractions either by walking, driving or on public transport. You can then have blog posts about the places on your map. Showing your knowledge and passion about your local area will bring this to life and engage the people that come to your site. You’re turning your site into a complete and definitive resource for people looking to book a holiday. You already have your property listings set up, but now you have all the information that people need to make the leap from research and comparison to an actual booking.

 We’ve spoken before about how a good vacation rental website not only provides all of the information that your guests will want to know, but taps into the anticipation of the holiday that they are planning. You should show your guests what they can do when staying in your property. Show the local knowledge you have amassed and give them an insight into the area they are hoping to stay in. You are allowing people to visualise their holiday, making it more real, and leading to more bookings from first-time visitors to your site.

Using tools like Google Street View and reading reviews can all help this but being able to see everything on the same page, whilst they are considering their booking means you are in a great position to convert that visitor into a booking right there and then. Showing your local knowledge and your commitment to ensuring every guest’s enjoyment of your property helps to show that yours is a business that can be trusted.

And, if you are using a Kigo website template, you can simply add your properties and the attractions in your local area to the back office and they will automatically be added to your interactive map. It is one of those smaller features that helps professional and innovative hosts stay ahead of the competition. Click here to find out more about this feature.

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What Does The ‘Sharing Economy’ Mean to You?

How This Catch-All Term Could Be Damaging Your Business

It’s a term that gets used a lot these days. Newspapers love it, politicians are discussing it, and as a vacation rental owner some people consider you a part of it. But do you consider yourself as part of the ‘Sharing Economy’? Or is yours just another business that simply sells space to the public at a profit? Could describing all vacation rentals as part of this sharing economy, be not just inaccurate, but damaging to the future development of the industry of dedicated hosts?

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The problem is that there is still a suspicion that the sharing economy is a fad, unlikely to escape from the ‘small time’ mentality. The businesses themselves have attracted huge investment and valuations, but the people providing the service are doing this on an amateur level. This is still a sense that by using services in the sharing economy you are taking a chance. You are entrusting a service to a person with no formal training, qualifications or requirements. This is not the case with vacation rentals. Professional owners and managers need to be dedicated and professional in order to survive.  Negative implications of being part of the sharing economy stem from the businesses being viewed by some as a cottage industry – less legitimate and regulated than established businesses. There is an implicit suggestion of being ‘small-time’.

 Is the sharing economy part of the problem that vacation rentals are having in the battle to emerge as a permanent business force? Should professional, full-time hosts be distancing themselves from the idea of the sharing economy and focusing on doing more to establish professional hosts as a sector of their own?

 Airbnb is one of the biggest businesses in the sharing economy and an important part of many hosts’ revenue. Whilst many hosts may use Airbnb to host their properties, more full-time vacation rental managers may not consider themselves to be part of the peer-to-peer economy. To many, sharing sites are just a good platform to host their properties and reach their guests. Their business models operate in a more traditional way, and whilst they can be similar, they are not just a newer version of existing sites like Airbnb that people may consider them to be.

 Speaking in a Fortune interview the CEO of HomeAway describes how vacation rentals do not necessarily fit into the sharing economy.

 To hear Sharples explain it, HomeAway [couldn’t be more different from sharing economy businesses]. His company caters to people wealthy enough to own a second home. The other guys are catering to scrappers who are so hard up they offer a room in their home to strangers.

HomeAway are also backing this up with a $100 million marketing budget that aims to define the difference between apartments that are part of the sharing economy and the exact service that HomeAway provide. And this is not a small site, HomeAway is a giant in the industry and it still feels the need to be even clearer about how their business operates.

But as well as having certain negative connotations, such as being unregulated and inconsistent, being considered part of this movement does have some advantages. There’s plenty of information about how the sharing economy benefits the people nearest the bottom of the economy and has less of an impact on the environment than traditional holiday accommodation. There is a sense that the sharing economy is the opposite of corporate big business and are more ethical in the way that they do business and how their business distributes money around the community.The paper titled: The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry explains further:

Clearly, there exist beneficial transactions enabled through the sharing economy… that provide positive utility, have no negative externalities, and thus manifest themselves as a net gain in social welfare.

Airbnb have also commissioned reports into their economic impact in nine cities and it is almost impossible to overstate the positive effect they have had on bringing vacation rentals into the public eye. They are one of the true success stories of the sharing economy and a vital portal for many full time vacation rental businesses, but is covering all vacation rentals with this term damaging the public image of some businesses that do not fit in it? As we have seen from HomeAway’s PR and new marketing campaign there are businesses that are separating themselves from the idea of the sharing economy.

And whilst there may be signs of division growing, all of this is good news. As the industry expands, businesses are now defining themselves in clear ways and not all of them fit in the popular example of the sharing economy. This is a sign that vacation rentals are becoming established as a permanent force, as different branches and brands separate from each other and are still strong enough to survive. Vacation rentals do not have to operate in the same way and businesses are starting to separate themselves from images that don’t describe them correctly.

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Part 2: Is Reviewing Your Guests a Recipe For Disaster?

This is part 2 of this post, click here to read part 1!
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If we look at the criteria or established and successful guides to hotels and restaurants such as Zagats or the Michelin board, they are uniform and measurable. The rating scale for Zagat is made up of 30 points and hundreds of reviews are used to create an average score that also comes with carefully curated and edited, insightful comments. The Michelin guide is the zenith of reviews and its system has an unparalleled focus on quality over quantity. A New Yorker article sheds some light on their clandestine process:

 Michelin has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain the anonymity of its inspectors. Many of the company’s top executives have never met an inspector; inspectors themselves are advised not to disclose their line of work, even to their parents (who might be tempted to boast about it); and, in all the years that it has been putting out the guide, Michelin has refused to allow its inspectors to speak to journalists. The inspectors write reports that are distilled, in annual “stars meetings” at the guide’s various national offices, into the ranking of three stars, two stars, or one star—or no stars. (Establishments that Michelin deems unworthy of a visit are not included in the guide)

As mentioned earlier, 70% of us trust Internet reviews, but when you understand the process of how the most trusted reviewing industry go about creating their reviews it seems untoward that every single guest has that much control over your reputation. Could the vacation rental industry benefit from the type of review analysis that these guides undertake before publishing?

 The other problem is that a 100% review rate means that the focal point shifts to pleasing everybody, as opposed to creating a product or service that is the best you can make it, but may not be to everyone’s taste. A blander, more universal palatable experience eventually emerges.Leading to the acceptance of everyone, but to the delight of nobody.

Is an abundance of reviews causing hotels or holiday accommodation to establish a culture of mediocrity that is rewarded by top reviews? This is not just a hark back to the ‘good old days’, there are real and measurable negative effects of implementing a two-way review system. A recent white paper called A First Look at Online Reputation on Airbnb, Where Every Stay is Above Average has elucidated the impact of a two-way reviewing system. One of the first points they mention is that,

Nearly 95% of Airbnb properties boast an average user-generated rating of either 4.5 or 5 stars (the maximum); virtually none have less than a 3.5 star rating. We contrast this with the ratings of approximately half a million hotels worldwide that we collected on TripAdvisor, where there is a much lower average rating of 3.8 stars

 The system of 2-way reviewing means that people are more disposed to reviewing favorably because all reviewers are subject to the same scrutiny. Reviews are also subject to more factors that distort the truth of them. There are 4 factors outlined in the review that demonstrate how online reviews can be altered by the nature of how the information is collected.
  
  • Herding behavior, whereby prior ratings subtly bias the evaluations of subsequent reviewers
  • Under-reporting of negative reviews, where reviewers fear retaliatory negative reviews on platforms that allow and encourage two-sided reviewing
  • Self-selection, where consumers who are a priori more likely to be satisfied with a product are also more likely to purchase and review it
  • Strategic manipulation of reviews, typically undertaken by firms who seek to artificially inflate their online reputations
  Despite these concerns, over 70% of consumers report that they trust online reviews.

 So, not only does a reciprocal review system skew the results, even the traditional mode of reviewing vacation rentals provides results that cannot be entirely trusted. We have created a system whereby reviews are unevenly weighted towards the positive. We encourage every guest to review but have not set uniform parameters for what exactly these reviews mean.

 Having face to face interactions, such as guests and hosts meeting, leaves us disposed to leave a positive review. Airbnb are implementing natural language processing software in order to filter out the true meaning from these ‘rose-tinted’ reviews. What this shows us is that not only are there issues with the way we are currently reviewing properties, but that a major site such as Airbnb consider it serious enough to be trying to tackle it.

 Would a system of 2-way reviews give you confidence in who you are renting to, or would make each party overly suspicious of anyone that falls under 4 or 5 stars for whatever reason? Surely any manager would like to know if a potential guest has been violent at a property before or caused damage? Increasing the safety would certainly be a positive effect, but would it not just constrain guest and host into a false bonhomie? Rictus grins never slipping, until it leads to a pleasantness attrition where both sides have the same capabilities to destroy each other via review rather than mentioning any issues either party may have at the time?

 It is the erosion of the human connection that causes concern, and even if this connection is based on dissatisfaction. It allows you to avoid confronting what you consider to be unacceptable, safe in the knowledge that you can exert your power on the situation via review, anonymous and protected. This removes the impetus to change.

 So, is it better that to operate in an industry that could be safer, but is more saccharine and sickly? Where niceties are forced out under the threat of a bad review? Or to operate where there is more chance, more variation? Where you don’t know what to expect from your guests but then there is mystery, discovery and what you experience is real? This is not to say that having a large number of reviews will not help your bookings and help your SEO rankings. You do still need numerous reviews. This is simply a comment on the effect that reviews could have on the industry and the possible problems of implementing a widespread two-way review system.

 Would it bother you if the impetus to forge a civil relationship is based on the fear of a negative review or do think that the derivation and motivation is not a concern when the result is a safer, more accountable and trustworthy industry?

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