The holiday rental industry looks very different today than it did only a few short years ago, and it’s no secret that the online world and changes within the marketing mix have played a massive part in its exponential growth.
With the changing needs of consumers, their behaviour and interaction online – not to mention brand loyalty becoming a thing of the past – we have cultivated what At Home Around The World defines as the ‘sharing economy’. As a result, the lines drawn between consumer and seller have become increasingly blurred, and the holiday rental industry in particular has become saturated with choice.
With a wealth of listings through online travel agencies such as Booking.com, to marketplaces such as Airbnb and HomeAway, how can independent holiday property owners and rental agencies stand out from the crowd, and ensure that their marketing efforts aren’t a waste of money?
Invest in Needs-Based Solutions
The travel industry is in a constant state of flux, but one thing is for certain – holidaymakers and travellers are becoming much more dependent on rental properties in the place of hotels to satisfy their specific travel or amenity needs. Travel insights provided by HomeAway in 2018 highlighted that the holiday rental industry is becoming much more driven by customer expectations, and that rental properties are now much more appealing to travellers that have been ‘historically underserved’ by hotels.
So, as the holiday rental industry looks set to experience further growth, it is imperative that holiday property owners and managers now consider marketing their properties as a solution to consumer needs, as opposed to the ‘means to an end’ traditional method of marketing to the masses, as adopted by the hotel industry for many years.
Business travellers in particular will look for amenities that will meet their specific work/travel criteria. This will most often include free, quality wifi, a workspace (e.g. a desk or table), and in some cases room service. As well as this, when it comes to communication or touch-points with a property owner or agency, business travellers will often require fast response times, secure cancellation terms, plus flexible check-in and check-out times to fit around meetings and business activity.
With the rise of shorter-term rental solutions, naturally brings with it the rise of lower-cost solutions – now increasingly common within the holiday rental industry. The need for short-term, low-cost, high-value solutions is driven by a much younger generation of holidaymakers and travellers. Not as affluent as the older generation, these travellers are seeking the same great travel experience and value, but for less time and money, and expectations can include everything from a well-stocked fridge to allowing pets within the property – even the little things can go a long way.
- Never underestimate the needs of a variety of different travellers; highlight the amenities or additional extras that your property offers to show value.
- Short-term booking opportunities could be more profitable than you think, consider how you could embed this into your offering.
Embrace the Customer Journey
Industry-change experts McKinsey highlighted through research that the customer journey for finding and booking holiday accommodation online takes place across a range of devices, with an average of 45 separate touch points – including search engines and websites. The research and comparison of key aspects of these journeys also highlighted that 31% of accommodation searches began on search engines, so it’s more important than ever to ensure your website is relevant and up-to-date, as well as credible in the eyes of consumers and search engines.
With that in mind, with Google now predominantly using the mobile version of a website to determine the quality of content, relevancy and ultimately, pagerank, it is imperative that your website not only meets the needs of those consumer touchpoints, but is also responsive across a range of devices; specifically mobile.
As an independent property owner or rental agency, it’s important to appeal to a wide range of consumers, and there are many effective ways of getting your property to appeal to the right consumer.
But it’s not just online responsiveness that can benefit your business or brand, it’s also how responsive you are offline. Embracing different touchpoints with consumers can come in a multitude of forms. Whether you are guiding them towards reviews, responding to requests or providing useful information on the area – maintaining great communication throughout is a must.
- Use Google Search Console to check whether your existing website is responsive, if not, consider re-developing to enhance the customer journey.
- Review the information on your website and marketing material and consider whether it adds value to the user. Is it descriptive enough of the amenities? Are you giving them that extra insight into the area? Do you have enough images and are they of a good enough quality?
- Be attuned to what consumers want and need, actively seek feedback and act upon key information that could improve your business – use social media channels, and be responsive to consumers interacting with you.
Privacy and security are significant issues for online brands across a wide-range of industries, however, the issue is much more pertinent within the holiday rental industry then perhaps any other. Trust is key at every step of researching, booking and paying for a holiday, and consumers are much more vigilant and aware of website security breaches and will actively seek reassurance that a booking website is safe and capable of securely handling their data.
The key to success in the holiday rental industry is to be as flexible and attuned to consumer needs as much as possible. With industry growth comes great responsibility, and while the new benchmark is to be providing the best amenities and online experience possible, the two most critical factors in the buying process are consumer trust and confidence. Whether you earn it online – through your website or social media – or offline through word of mouth and direct contact, earn trust from your target customers, and you too, can experience business growth and gain a competitive edge.
- Update and invest in making your website as secure as possible or ensure that the third party website you use is secure with an https:// address.
- Emphasise that you are a legitimate provider by being part of a recognised and secure online payment system, for example, and provide customer reviews too.
Those who adapt early to verification and approval will find themselves ahead of the curve, and reaping the benefits of improved traveller confidence and trust. By becoming a member of ABTA, ATOL or I-PRAC, you are proving to your potential customers that you are invested in their safety and enjoyment – which is the best marketing investment you will ever make.
Don’t let your other marketing efforts go to waste. Find out more about how I-PRAC are leading the way in building trust between short-term holiday property owners and travellers by visiting our about page, or take a look at our membership page to find out how to become an I-PRAC approved member.