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 travelers becoming increasingly value driven.
Further research showed 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 analyzed what guests really value in a room – and will pay more to get. Then we wanted to make sure those features were highlighted in the right way, so that guests could find the perfect rooms for their stays 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 analyzes 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 analyzes guest reviews. This was trickier from a technical perspective because it deals with qualitative data where small differences in sentences can change the entire meaning. For example, “I used the kettle” compared to “I wanted a kettle.” But soon we were 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, not only at the features that could be listed but also at those 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 behavior.
The final result of collating and analyzing all this data meant we could provide some solid, practical insights for our partners to put into use.
Click.: What does this look like for partners?
Salzano: It’s actually fairly simple. Simply log in to 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 them—the room differentiation tool will recommend ways to make each room stand out.
These recommendations are divided into six categories:
- Room or unit amenity info 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
- Info about room or unit size that you’re missing
- Exclusive services you’re not currently showcasing
Of course it’s 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 because it’ll make sure more relevant rooms appear in their searches if they specify a feature.
When they get an upgrade offer for a higher-priced room, they’ll see specific info 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 more for features they really care about. In short, guests get better value and a better match for their needs.
Click.: Any tips to help partners make the most 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 descriptions is often the easiest aspect to deal with, but offering different pictures at least reassures the booker that they’re 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, because 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, then tells you exactly what to highlight for maximum impact