Booking.com’s Director of Product for Room Selection and Retention, Fabrizio Salzano, shares how his team’s latest project – the room differentiation tool – is using data science to offer big benefits for partners and guests.
Click.: What is the room differentiation tool and how did it come about?
Salzano: It all started with a single insight – the majority of guests book the cheapest room type. This is unsurprising given that price continues to be a significant factor in customers’ decision making, with travellers becoming increasingly value driven.
Further research showed that this wasn’t just about saving money, but was often because the guests couldn’t tell the difference between the cheapest rooms and more expensive ones. Without a clear reason why they should spend more, they simply didn’t.
So we decided to make the differences in inventory clear. We analysed what guests really value in a room – and will pay more to get. Then we wanted to make sure that those features were highlighted in the right way, so that guests could find the perfect rooms for their stay, and partners could benefit from an uplift in booking value.
Click.: How does it all work behind the scenes?
Salzano: The tool effectively aggregates and analyses multiple data sources.
It starts by looking at existing descriptions across a property’s rooms to see how they differ, and if anything seems to be missing.
Next, it analyses guest reviews. This was trickier from a technical perspective as it’s dealing with qualitative data where small differences in sentences can change the entire meaning. For instance, “I used the kettle” compared to “I wanted a kettle”. But we were soon able to get all of the feedback data into a usable format and include those insights too.
Then the last step was looking platform-wide at not only the features that could be listed, but the ones worth listing. Our analysis showed that, for all the different features available, there were only 20 or so – including room size, private bathroom and balcony – that consistently had an impact on booking behaviour.
The final result of collating and analysing all this data meant we could provide some solid, practical insights for our partners to put to use.
Click.: What does this look like for partners?
Salzano: It’s actually fairly simple. Simply log into the extranet, click ‘Opportunities’ and you’ll see the Room Differentiation Tool listed.
If the partner has two or more different room types – even if they charge the same price for the rooms – the room differentiation tool will make recommendations for how they can make each room stand out.
These recommendations are divided into six categories:
- Room or unit amenity information that you’re missing
- The most popular amenities on our platform
- Amenities you offer that you’re not displaying photos of
- Suggestions for improving your photos
- Information about room or unit size that you’re missing
- Exclusive services you’re not currently showcasing
It’s of course then up to our partners which of these recommendations they act on, but the potential benefits are a higher average daily rate, increased ratio of higher-priced rooms, higher occupancy and freeing up base rooms for volume segments.
Click.: And what about guests – how does it work for them?
Salzano: The first change is it increases the odds of them finding all the rooms that meet their specific requirements, as it’ll make sure more of the relevant rooms appear in their searches if they specify a feature.
Then when they get an upgrade offer for a higher-priced room, they’ll see specific information about what makes that option different – and worth the extra money.
We’ve seen differentiated rooms convert better than non-differentiated rooms, with guests happy to pay a little bit more for features that they really care about. In short, guests get better value and a better match for their needs.
Click.: Any tips to help partners get the most out of the tool?
Salzano: My main tip would be to look at your existing listing with the mindset of a prospective guest. What are they seeing? What’s missing?
Then use the room differentiation tool – what’s changed? What’s stayed the same? Doing this can be a powerful way to get into the mindset of what makes a room stand out.
It’s also a useful exercise to really consider the pictures you’re using. Updating the descriptions is often the easier aspect to deal with, but offering different pictures at least reassures the booker that they are getting something different for their money.
- The majority of guests book the cheapest room – often because they can’t tell the difference between the cheapest and more expensive options
- We’ve seen differentiated rooms convert more than non-differentiated rooms, as people know what they’re paying for – and are happy to do so
- The Room Differentiation Tool makes it easy to help your rooms stand out by using data from a number of sources, the tool tells you exactly what to highlight for maximum impact