This weeks post is about exploring the growth opportunities for owners & managers by focusing on niche markets.
It’s becoming impossible to compete with OTAs at a global level and this article explores why niche markets are the potential answer.
If you’re interested in receiving data on niche markets and being involved in our future niche projects, please fill out this super short 4 point survey (click here if you can’t see the survey):
This week I had the fortunate experience of comparing a big brand’s enquiry generation compared to an organically top ranked site with no PPC spend.
The unnamed big brand giant created 160 semi-bookable enquiries, the managers site 50, despite thousands of visits. Conversions are a different matter, but with the advent of the credit card number entry the guest is partially-trapped and with so many sites being visited before action, the rules have changed.
Does PPC work?
The PPC of the OTA’s can now be directly correlated to their income. PPC prices, anecdotally, seem to be rising and conversions dropping, so perhaps it’s really time to think outside the generic listing box. If the 38 sites visited before booking a holiday are true, then that top slot gets harder still.
What is this telling us? Quite simply that spending your way to the top, accruing large inventory, investing in online conversions and confidence with trust messages does work. Hotels have seen it, product resellers have seen it on Amazon, now vacation rentals are in the funnel.
It’s a flooded market
Except this didn’t happen for Roomarama.com, Vacasol , Housetrip, Wimdu ($90m investment) after being acquired by 9Flats, Tansler with its strap line “Your Price, Their Place” (our review a year earlier) who suspended operations in April 2017
Why would this be? The answer is probably a combination of things relating to a major misunderstanding of the market, under spend on advertising, quality and location of inventory, brand strength, smart technology and a good head start.
We predicted many of these things over the last few years; the change from listing, to hybrid to instant book. The failures and the acquisitions. Vacation rentals are big money if taken from a high peak but simply subsistence for many on the plains.
So how do I get more bookings?
The question on everybody’s tongues is not just how can I communicate and engage my booking terms any longer. It’s how do I get bookings at all in such an overwhelmingly complicated and increasingly flooded market.
There are 3 answers to this:
- Follow every single rule an OTA issues. We won’t discuss décor, photography, amenities and all the vital basic elements anymore, or price or cancellation policies or damage deposits. Ensure you get great reviews and focus on service and a great experience for the guest. You will get bookings.
- Take the middle generic ground, be smart on OTA use and work toward some guests booking direct and certainly any that want to return and try to enforce your rules in the OTA maelstrom.
- Go it alone and do it all yourself, perhaps whilst weaning yourself off the OTA’s.
This last option really means education and being a jack of all trades and engaging a master of one for the most important parts such as photography.
Millions of words have been written on this subject and how to get your own brand out there and make a difference. All the basics as mentioned above need to be covered and as oversupply occurs the bar is being raised.
But a few trends we are witnessing:
- Hundreds of owners who have previously been successful renters are moving to managers to accommodate their stress or share in it
- Managers are also beginning to adopt the instant book, the less admin model
- Managers are acquiring each other daily to boost inventory and gain critical mass
- The OTA’s are all outbidding each other on search engines
- Machine learning is assisting their growth, pushing to more and faster booking processes
- Guests increasingly expect a seamless and secure booking process with ease of information access.
- Guests expect to be the one in control. Blame Amazon and the businesses who work tirelessly to add pressure to suppliers and keep buyer and seller distanced.
In the midst of all this, something is missing however and its human interaction and connectivity plus that deep level of knowledge that is hard to automate.
You can adopt nearly all the tools that the OTA’s use but this needs work and focus. There are plenty of booking management systems, payment solutions, automation tools, social distribution apps and much more coming.
These are important to run a business, but what is most important is getting the eyeballs and the conversion. You can worry about the admin afterwards.
What’s your USP?
What differentiates you, is you and your passion and knowledge. OTA’s may try to use chatbots and use AI to replace you, but its way out in the future and it currently serves to irritate only. Why does Airbnb use that soft, personal approach, with double reviews, owners stories, that worked so well. This will become diluted we expect as larger organisations join their club and increase inventory, perhaps squeezing out owners. There’s a thought.
What also differentiates you is that you are not alone.
From what we can see more and more people are using social media to band together and using technology to aggregate and contend with the heavyweights.
This is happening at a local level and will see regional and destination brands appearing, some will do well, others not so, it depends on the people who run it.
Local level means a “niche” as does pet or child-friendly, or exclusive designer properties or catering to the elderly or disabled, the surfers or the cyclists. OTA’s have an impossible task to accommodate these deep and often complex bookings and requirements for information. Select your market and drill down.
We have created a list of things you may consider to stimulate the mind and we would also like to know what could be a focus for you.
We would be interested to know what subject/niche that you can focus on to increase online visibility, drive people to engage and make your home(s) the one of choice above the others found in mass listings.
If you think, everybody is trawling through OTA websites reading what you have written, think again. If you want advice on a copy for your own site (and publish it there first) read this link. Unless handled this way it helps their SEO, not your opportunity.
Our research shows as you would expect that price, dates and photos rule the roost. You can’t change the location of your home, but this plays a big part on mapping and selection too. Mobile use is worse, it’s a matter of Tinder for Rentals and mainly idle research, not bookings.
If you have a niche, have you ensured that the first photo is stunning and assists in that niche or interest focus? There is no point in showing an empty kitchen if the property is ideal for families and kids or you show a lounge shot if you supply free kayaks.
Adopt an expertise if you don’t have one and broadcast it plus get together with others to do the same. You may be surprised what you can do.
Let’s gather data on growth opportunities for owners & managers. What niche markets are you focusing on?
Here’s a super short 4 point survey to help us understand the potential growth opportunities for niche markets for owners & managers.
Results will be shared with participants.
If you haven’t already, click here to participate in the 4 point survey.