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HSMAI | Attribute Based Selling: What are the possibilities? By Caryl Helsel

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March 16, 2023
Sales & Marketing
Caryl Helsel

Every traveler’s intent is different. Each person has their own unique purpose. Whether it’s a family vacation, a couples’ getaway or a bleisure trip (business combined with leisure), at the end of the day it’s all about the guest.


Today’s guest demands the ability to search and book a hotel in the simplest way possible. They also want to easily customize their reservation with items they consider to be of value for their travel purpose. However, as e-commerce, retailing and other industries have evolved, the way hotels sell their guest rooms hasn’t.

The hotel guestroom is still sold and typically monetized using an antiquated method. Some properties offer upsell or add-on functionality, but more often than not a feature of a hotel guest room starts as a guest request based on availability. What if hotels could sell beyond the traditional guestroom and transform into a true e-commerce model – capitalizing on guestroom attributes that drive incremental revenue, a better, more personalized guest experience and the ability to differentiate against competitors?
 

What Is Attribute Based Selling?

This concept is known as attribute-based selling (ABS). It allows hotels to sell every room feature independently of one another. Rather than selling by room type or room category, a hotel can declassify its inventory and allow guests to pick and choose the features they find most valuable. ABS has been implemented successfully in other industries, however, it’s still a relatively new and evolving concept in hospitality.
 
Take, for example, building a new car for online purchase. A consumer can customize the features they want – some are standard, but others are features they want and consider important to customize the car from its original factory build-out. These usually come at an additional expense to the consumer.

ABS lets consumers select important room features, such as location on a higher or lower floor, bedding types, room size, views, and book experiences to create the customized stay of a lifetime. Hotels can configure all of these based on the guest’s desires, sellable room attributes, and available unique experiences.

Gauging Attribute Based Selling’s Potential

An ABS model offers endless possibilities. Not only does it empower the customer to create the experience they expect, it also builds new opportunity for previously unrealized revenue such as:

Driving higher room rates:

In an ABS model, pricing each room independently– according to its features – lets hotels move from selling a few different price points to generating dozens of price points per day. Every guest room attribute has a cost associated to it; therefore, a hotel could potentially generate a higher room rate for a traditional room compared to a higher room type if a guest were to add more attributes.
 

Accurately predict what the consumer wants using AI:

Too many choices can create a sense of confusion and frustration. It’s important that we try to automate or accurately predict what the consumer wants. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. AI is one of the most exciting trends in hospitality. Integrating it into a hotel’s ABS model can help anticipate what’s most important to the guest and streamline the entire booking process.
 

Target different guest segments:

Categorizing guests based on their booking patterns and travel habits allows a hotel to better target guest segments. This helps hotels understand and cater to that particular segment’s unique needs and identify effective pricing strategies. ABS offers hotel marketers a variety of options for positioning to a diverse set of guests. Even if they’re selling the same room, they can now target different guests based on different room features.
 

Increase direct bookings:

ABS might never be a model for selling through an online travel agency (OTA) or channels, though it may be feasible via the global distribution system (GDS) as it directly shops the central reservation system (CRS). This could offer a huge advantage for a hotel’s direct channels as travelers are willing to pay for guaranteed attributes that other channels are unable to offer.
 

Drive higher ancillary and experiential revenues:

An ABS model offers limitless possibilities to increase ancillary revenues by selling both room attributes as well as experiences. A guest can fully customize their experience and book it in one itinerary. Taking ABS a step further, hotels can ultimately choose to decouple their rooms from a sale altogether and easily sell their pillows, custom scented candles, or active wear from the spa – all from an e-commerce site that has evolved past hotel bookings.

Gaps with Attribute Based Selling

While any hotel can begin the process by defining all of its attributes, actually implementing it in the hotel technology systems continues to present challenges. For example, the hotel’s central reservation system (CRS) might be ready but the property management system (PMS) and revenue management system (RMS) might need to evolve to properly price and execute the customizations.

The required technology integrations and customizations can take significant time to implement. A good place to start would be to install an attribute-aware CRS or PMS. But you don’t have to have the entire organization ready to make the ABS switch to implement it. Some systems are already beginning to test new models to see what’s important for the consumer.

Dynamic room assignments are one of the most challenging and hardest to design components. To properly implement ABS, a hotel must turn over room assignments to the system so it can do the shuffling – it’s impossible to do it manually. One of the biggest selling points for future hotel technology systems is performing dynamic room assignments. This also has a significant potential impact on revenue.

Training the front desk and reservation team on the attributes and guaranteeing them is essential. They’ll need to develop a new way to tell guests that their specific attributes are guaranteed for their arrival. Fortunately, customer training isn’t necessary as they’re already attuned to ABS through other industries.
 

The Future Is Bright

Hotels now have a unique opportunity to look at their inventory, experiences and retail products to see what they can do to meet guests’ needs (like guaranteeing rooms away from the elevator, confirming an experience prior to arrival, or purchasing that scented candle you can’t get anywhere else). Reviewing call center document data from customer voice can help understand what attributes guests are already requesting.

ABS is a way to compete on products and should be on every hotelier’s radar. The traditional ways we price and sell might not be as competitive in the future. ABS testing during low occupancy will allow hotels to see exactly what travelers value and how much they’re willing to pay for it.

It’s time for hoteliers to think differently about the value of hotel room attributes, retail products and a customized guest experience. The time has come. What steps will you take to prepare?


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