TL; DR: Online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline have dominated the hotel reservations business of late, as hoteliers have largely avoided adopting new technologies or eCommerce strategies. Instead, many have conceded the field to gigantic tech companies while relying on outdated solutions like Excel to track room rates and availability. Duetto’s revenue strategy platform, however, organizes analytical data for hotel management teams while transforming the way hoteliers can price rooms on their own websites.
The Hotel del Coronado has been Southern California’s most iconic oceanfront resort since 1888, hosting everyone from presidents to royalty. Fairly recently, however, its revenue per available room slowly decreased over five consecutive years. The hotel’s management knew it needed to reverse the trend, so it turned to Duetto.
Using Duetto’s platform, the team built a strategy to segment the resort’s guests, optimize demand and price for different room types, and vary pricing based on seasonality and customer type. After rolling out the changes, the hotel experienced its best year ever.
Duetto Co-Founders Patrick Bosworth and Marco Benvenuti met while working at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas and eventually built a hotel room pricing algorithm and started competing with other vendors in the industry. Craig Weissman, a former Chief Technology Officer at Salesforce, saw the promise and wanted to lend his technical expertise to help the company scale.
Since then, the three Co-Founders have combined their experiences in both the hotel and technology industries to continue building the Duetto revenue strategy platform. As the hotel marketplace changes, the company’s tools deliver cutting-edge solutions to hoteliers who are tired of relying on outdated tools.
“We used our experience in technology and the hotel industry to build new and better solutions for some of the industry’s greatest distribution challenges,” Vice President of Marketing Eric Stoessel said. “Since launching our core GameChanger application, we’ve launched a second, third, and fourth product. Now, we’re an entire revenue strategy platform.”
How Shifting eCommerce Trends Challenge a Change-Resistant Industry
After 9/11, the demand for hotel rooms plummeted. In the aftermath, OTAs (online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline) experienced booming growth, according to Eric.
“They’re the hotel industry’s duopoly: massive marketing machines and technology giants that book a huge percentage of hotel business while charging a very healthy commission to hotel owners,” he said. “Because they don’t own any hotel rooms, they have no real risk.”
Now, other technology companies are starting to elbow into the tourism industry. Airbnb, Google, and Facebook have all started competing with traditional hotels, Eric said, adding that he heard Amazon is also looking to join the fray.
“The distribution landscape has changed so much,” he said.
If hotels can more effectively book guests themselves, however, they won’t have to share profits with the OTAs.
“The problem is that the OTAs have been far more innovative and responsive to consumer needs, while many hotels are using the same technologies and strategies they’ve been using since the 1990s,” Eric said. “That’s the challenge we’re facing. Our goal is simple: We want to provide hoteliers the applications they need to drive more direct business and to recapture the revenue they’ve lost to the OTAs.”
GameChanger: Why Duetto Is Different
Even though a lot of hotels are using outdated technology, Eric told us some hoteliers remain hesitant to adopt new innovations.
“Companies like Hilton and Marriott have invested tens of millions of dollars in tech they built in-house,” he said. “It’s custom-made, and change is never easy. Sometimes, we say our biggest competitor is Excel because so many revenue managers use that as their primary tool for what should be one of the hotel company’s most important functions.”
Duetto’s core application from the start, GameChanger is an on-demand revenue strategy and management tool that gives users clear and actionable insights into relevant data on room types, availability, demand, and other facets.
“We used GameChanger to coin a new way of pricing called Open Pricing,” Eric said. “It allows hoteliers to optimize prices based on demand across all segments, channels, and room types.”
Beyond using machine learning and predictive analytics to make hotel operations more efficient, GameChanger and the Revenue Strategy Platform unify all of the data into easy-to-use visualizations and interfaces.
“This allows the people behind the scenes, whether it’s the sales team, the marketing team, and the operation team, to share the same data in real time,” Eric said.
Increasing Conversions by Optimizing Travelers’ Booking Path
By using Duetto’s cloud-based platform, hotel management becomes more collaborative, informed, and strategic. Hotel revenue management technologies traditionally predict one or two rates for rooms and then factor in discounts — AAA members may get 10% off the standard rate, while loyalty rewards customers may receive a 15% discount. OTAs could see a 25% lower rate.
“Everything moves up and down in lockstep, even though basic economics tells you that the more price points you have, the more demand you’ll capture and the more revenue you’ll bring in,” Eric said.
By combining Duetto’s GameChanger and Playmaker applications, hoteliers can personalize both pricing and merchandising to bring a modern eCommerce experience to a hotel’s booking engine and drive more conversions.
“What we’re trying to do isn’t too different from what you might see when you visit Amazon,” he said. “They put all the products they know you want right on their homepage. They highlight great offers and make it incredibly easy to convert.”
Concentrating on the end-user experience, Playmaker serves up personalized offers, merchandise, and room-type sort order.
“If our system recognizes the guest, you’ll know what they did in the past and how they spent their money during previous stays,” Eric said. “If they booked a suite, then the first thing they’ll see when they visit your site is a suite. If they usually choose a certain price point, you’ll show them rooms that are at that price point. If a higher-level suite is available and you know you’re probably not going to sell it for that date, you can offer an enticing upgrade package that drives more revenue. It can even upsell with spa and resort amenities.”
Pleasing Hoteliers by Improving the Guest Experience
After recently closing an $80 million financing round, Duetto is poised for rapid expansion.
“Our platform is open and agnostic, and we’re excited to work with other technology companies in hospitality and beyond,” Eric said. “This funding will enable us to create new partnerships, functionalities, and products to help hoteliers become more efficient and profitable.”
Although Duetto sells its product to hotel companies, Eric told us the company is not just focused on the business customers — they’re also paying attention to their customers’ customers.
“Hospitality shouldn’t start at the front desk,” he said. “Hotels have a huge opportunity to provide an easier and more enticing booking experience. If a hotel’s guests have a good experience through the entire customer journey, they’ll be far more likely to convert, spend on property, and then become a loyal guest and return.”
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