Websites that show reviews or allow you to compare certain products are incredibly popular. They have been used for some time by consumers, but the number of websites and their use is also growing in the business world. The same is true for the hospitality tech market. Almost weekly, I get calls from parties who are about to start the umpteenth site to collect and compare software for the hotel industry and I increasingly wonder about the value of those platforms. Do hoteliers actually use them? Do they feel these websites have added value?
These kinds of websites can be very useful to compare products and/or providers - I regularly use comparison sites myself - but it is always good to be on your guard. You should always ask yourself how impartial a website really is and what kind of revenue model the website has.
Roughly speaking, there are two variants in our market, each with its specific characteristics and pitfalls:
- marketplaces, usually offered by software suppliers themselves to show who they link to
- comparison sites, often started by independent consultants who want to help the hotel market but are also looking for a recurring business model for themselves.
The marketplaces can be compared to the App Store and Google Play, only they are not for consumers, but for business users. Well-known ones are Mews.com, Protel.com, Oracle.com and Apaleo.com. Nearly all of them are set up by hotel management system (PMS) providers. They are not independent and they make their own selection. It makes sense, then, that the selection and content are tailored to their interests and customer groups.
On their website, they show which software suppliers deliver products that fit with their basic product: specialist extensions and extra functionality can be added. For example, a channel manager programme to manage distribution via booking sites.
Plug & play? Well, no!
The provider of these kinds of marketplaces has its own software and creates a kind of ecosystem around it. There is nothing wrong with that, but be aware of who the ‘sender’ is. If you already have a PMS for your hotel and want to expand it (further), it’s useful to know which hospitality software specialists your provider works with and which products integrate best. But the list of presented software solutions does not cover everything that’s available in the world and says nothing about which is the best... for you.
And don’t think that, as with the apps for Apple and Android devices, it’s just a matter of plug & play. When added to a PMS system, the connections between the applications require a bit more. And as a hotelier, you will want to use the application according to your own insights and wishes. This requires customisation and therefore consultation between customer and supplier.
Inspired by Google
Comparison websites appear to be more objective. The parties behind them do not offer hotel software themselves. Some used to be consultants in the hospitality industry, while for others, operating these kinds of review sites is their core business.
But what determines which supplier comes first when you’ve typed in a keyword? These websites all took their inspiration from Google, which invented and perfected this business model…
As a platform, they claim to help hotel owners make the right choice. One gives a ranking based on its own analysis, the other uses user reviews. Well-known examples are HotelTechReport.com, Capterra.com and ExploreTECH.io. But, as mentioned above, new websites are launched almost every week.
Why do we still do it?
I have to admit that we use these sites too. You can hardly escape it. The Internet is an important channel for attracting the attention of potential customers. And to get high on the page, you have to provide reviews - real opinions, from real customers. And you have to continue to do so regularly.
If a lead appears - a lead being someone who has looked at the page with our profile - we receive a notification. For a fee, we also get details of that visitor. For me, this has never resulted in a new customer. I increasingly ask myself why we still do it... It costs a lot of time and money, but it doesn’t give much in return. What is the real value of these platforms?
They usually work with categories - PMS, channel management, payment automation - so that the site visitor can carry out a specific search. But in doing so, they do not do justice to the software products: every supplier has its own idea and interpretation of what, for example, channel management entails. It is difficult to compare these solutions. Moreover, you can’t claim that package A is the best package for all hotels. Hotels differ too much in terms of their hotel strategy, target group, contact with the guest, location, pricing and so on.
This means that you miss the actual relevance. In practice, these platforms are not able to make a perfect match between what you, as a hotelier, are looking for and the provider that is best able to give you what you need. I am therefore very curious to know whether hoteliers use these kinds of platforms. Do they use them for orientation or do they actually use them to buy?
They can certainly help you get ideas and the names of suppliers. But my advice would be to use these sites as a starting point and then carry on looking yourself. With a critical eye and with common sense. Be sure to talk to colleagues: from your region and in the same market segment. Or use LinkedIn... just ask about their positive (or less positive) experiences with software suppliers.
This will undoubtedly provide you with sufficient ammunition to approach a few suppliers and ask targeted questions. Tip: ask how their software works with other systems - and especially with your current system since that is the basis. If you buy the very best accounting package and the very best accounts receivable package, you will likely still have a lot of manual work to do if the two do not connect properly or completely. Linking is one thing, but it is even more important to know what the link entails: does the data go both ways and what is being sent? Believe me: you’d rather discover the importance of connectivity sooner rather than later.