11 min read
It’s about embracing flexibility on price and product in a dynamic hospitality market
Do you remember flipping through the many thoughtful kitchen and delightful living room designs of IKEA’s annual catalog? Well, the Swedish furniture giant did the seemingly unthinkable in December 2020.
The company announced the discontinuation of its product catalog.
The cancellation makes the 2021 digital version and final batch of paper copies the last ones anyone will ever see. The Ikea-katalogen (that’s Swedish) was an iconic publication with seven decades of printed glory.
If you’re asking yourself how IKEA closing the book on its catalog is relevant to dynamic pricing for hotels, we’ll get to that in a minute. First let’s explore the reason behind the nixing.
The reasons for IKEA ending its legacy marketing tool are simple:
The company also now reaches customers where they live with smaller urban stores and is turning the page on increasing online sales.
Moving beyond a legacy marketing product opens a new chapter for the furniture giant to make inroads in dynamic pricing. Embracing flexibility on price and product means it can:
Before we get to how hotels can learn from IKEA’s bold move, it’s crucial to understand the benefits associated with it.
Each year IKEA made a price promise to its customers.
That guarantee? Prices for its products would not increase while the catalog is valid. In other words, it tied the company’s online and in-store channels to a static nature.
Given that the company will not be tied to a catalog next year, the benefits of dynamic pricing can allow the company to:
And let’s be clear, nixing the catalog also reduces the marketing spend.
By 2004 it consumed 70% of its annual cost, according to a press release. What does the budget back on the books mean for their upcoming financial year?
IKEA can invest previously catalog-allocated marketing budget elsewhere. Specifically, it could:
Can you see where this is going?
What's certain is that hoteliers can take away at least several key lessons here.
Hoteliers should embrace flexibility, especially in leisure destinations.
It's about making a gradual change. One that reflects the fast-moving hospitality landscape and also values the product: inventory.
Flexibility means converting static parts of the business–fixed rates on your website and online channels–to dynamic elements.
Hoteliers who adopt dynamic pricing are more prepared to meet new challenges and seize opportunities. And ideally, they can meet them fast and in a real-time environment.
Of course, making this kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. And it shouldn’t.
Given that a hotel room is a perishable commodity:
Does this represent a fundamental shift for independent hotels? It can be the case for some, but there’s a myth to be busted.
IKEA has not lost any of its fans despite making the “emotional but rational decision” of ending the catalog. And the same goes for leisure destination hotels.
As the saying goes:
“A loyal customer books their return the minute they check out.”
And the loyal customer likely wants the same room again. The one with the balcony view and over-sized bath. Maybe even the very same breakfast table at the hotel’s restaurant.
The fear among leisure properties of missing out on frequent visitors or annoying regulars is unfounded. Why?
Because in all likelihood, loyal and frequent customers already rebooked with their favorite hotel.
Dynamic pricing in the hospitality industry aims to optimize for:
Updating fixed rates can have the potential to increase profitability and ensure hotels can react promptly to various external factors:
Fixed rates are those that stay the same irrespective of the above fluctuations. It’s still possible to find legacy static pricing strategies in some markets.
Fixed pricing models often include seasonal rates in leisure destinations. Prices don't change much unless there is an obvious need.
Such market segments can consist of:
Also, let’s not forget events like New Year's Eve and their impact on these segments. Hotels set higher rates because rooms will almost certainly get booked.
But hotels can still achieve more with dynamic room pricing by offering some inventory later for a higher price.
Such customers appear more in budget markets and lower-rated hotels. They react more to seeing price changes but respond well to deals and discount offers.
On the other hand, luxury hotel guests show less sensitivity, so it's possible to raise room rates without negatively affecting occupancy.
Therefore, it's worth remembering hotel pricing tailors to the following:
Keeping these in mind protects the overall hotel image and keeps customer perception harmonious.
And now for the final part, the next steps hotels can take. And an answer to the question:
Just like IKEA is not making a hard cut, with its catalog remaining available in conjunction with its E-Commerce strategy, hotels shouldn’t either.
Hotels can get started with dynamic pricing by starting small. Hoteliers who need a little peace of mind can test and experiment, and opting for gradual change as a more effective way to become accustomed to trying something new.
Without having to worry about things like:
Both of these arguments don’t have to hold water.
Hoteliers can try out dynamic strategies by working with cloud-based, professional software solutions to guide them.
On top of that, hoteliers have a great partner to rely on to answer questions, given the individual support many hotel tech providers offer.
Because testing dynamic pricing involves careful and thoughtful planning, one smart way hoteliers can go about it is:
One solution is for hotels to test flexible pricing by running an experiment on a small contingent of their inventory.
Experimenting in this way is useful as it’s about finding out if dynamic room rates make sense for the hotel and market.
By allocating a small portion of its inventory to test dynamic rates, hoteliers can see whether short term price adjustments relating to dynamic ones prove successful in raising RevPAR.
Flexible pricing can also shed new light on category yielding and the price relativity between them. Not just for cities, but leisure destinations too.
What’s the takeaway?
Hoteliers who get into dynamic room pricing can go a step further. It’s about taking steps toward embracing the idea of flexibility:
Running a pricing experiment part-time and evaluating results might not be quick. But the invested time is well spent overall. Why is that?
Because a professional market monitoring solution speeds up price finding.
The value is accessing real-time hotel rates in the respective market segment in a matter of seconds compared to the exhaustive, manual exercise of researching rates.
Take the first step toward dynamic pricing. Get in touch with our revenue management experts, who will be happy to help you get started.
We hope you found this article useful and could take away some helpful ideas to help you with your dynamic pricing strategy.
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