Three days that change the way you think about your business – that’s the goal of Navigate. And based on feedback from the inspiring keynotes, insightful breakouts, and collaborative networking, we’d say that mission was accomplished.
But with a variety of big announcements, ‘a-ha’ moments, community awards, (and a few libations), it’s easy to close the week and wonder, “What all did we cover here?!” Below, we recap the conference and spotlight a few relevant session takeaways.
NAVIS co-founder and CEO, Kyle Buehner kicked off the morning by sharing impressive community achievements. Notably, highlighting the $2.5 billion in reservations revenue that NAVIS clients generated in 2019 and the 42% call conversion rate. He profiled the success of three NAVIS clients including Adam Hartenberger, the Reservations Sales Manager at The Osthoff Resort, who is seeing a return of $200 in room revenue for every dollar invested in Navis Marketing Suite.
Joelle Poe, VP of Product Solutions at NAVIS, and her team reinforced values of simplicity and consistent data use. They teased upcoming user experience enhancements, data pipeline improvements, platform flexibility, and reporting and dashboarding enhancements.
The product lead for Marketing Suite, Brad Cason, and the Product team UX/UI Designer, Sean Alsobrooks, unveiled the brand-new Audience Builder, highlighting improvements like simplified logic statements, searchable drop-downs, and clean, fast, list building.
Speed was on display as Platform and Performance manager, Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd showcased some behind-the-scenes platform upgrades. She showed off Advanced Search, the data querying and calculation engine behind applications like Audience Builder. We learned that it queries a 300,000 contact list in one-quarter of a second….yeah, it’s fast.
Josh Zuniga, Product Manager for Reservation Sales Suite, introduced the reimagined Team Chat. Specifically, he shared channel creation improvements, optimized browser notifications, and other communication accelerators – like real-time typing visibility – to close feedback loops.
The presentation from the Product Team wrapped with the announcement that Shopping Cart Abandonment (SCA) is now available in general release. Josh presented the success of an initial eight-month SCA pilot program, noting that several clients reported impressive 30%-40% conversion rates generated from SCA leads. He also discussed the timeliness of the SCA solution given the astonishing 85% abandonment rates within the hospitality industry. He closed by adding that SCA is immediately available for those utilizing one of the five supported booking engines: Fuel, RezFusion, SynxisBE, TravelClick or SMS World NXT. And, additional booking engines were slated for future release.
In her opening keynote, Preferred Hotels & Resorts President Michelle Woodley detailed what actually makes “the best”, the best, in hospitality. She touched on departmental convergence and the importance of cross-pollinating, suggesting that success comes from constant synchronization.
She went on to share how maximizing technology and tools – no matter what you own – is essential. No tool, if used to 15% of its capacity, does any good. Later, she discussed “getting all your acronyms” on the same page; essentially, ensuring alignment with a CRM, PMS and other systems to deliver consistent messaging, maintain rate parity and reduce tension within distribution channels.
She compelled us to consider dynamic wholesale rates and central commission payments to improve travel agency bookings, too. Building a strong connection to local environments, whether through participation in community events or turning non-revenue producing areas (like extra lobby space) into revenue producers based on locals’ needs, was also discussed. Finally, Ms. Woodley highlighted the importance of interrogating your own bookings process to grow ADR.
She closed by challenging the audience to think about talent. Hospitality does a great job of training but struggles with retaining quality talent. Brands must educate prospects and staff on why the industry is a great place to start or build a career.
Off the main stage, the conversations continued in smaller, more intimate sessions. Here are a few highlights from the day one breakout sessions:
- In “Use Them When You Want To, Not Need To: How To Strategically Use OTAs”, attendees were reminded that OTAs can extend market reach and are a source of insight and analytics, but that they need to be managed diligently. Sure, they are expensive but deploying margin as a cost-of-acquisition may make sense. The overarching point: do you have focused and specific goals you would like to achieve with your market manager and OTAs?
- In “Holistic Revenue Management Strategies: What Vacation Rental Managers Can Learn From Hotel Revenue Experts,” panelists established how very few VRs have revenue management functions and encouraged this path to maturity. This includes everything from deeper segment analysis, managing owners, rate shopping hotels, understanding upgrade paths and taking nightly demand reports seriously.
- STR’s Bennjin Lao shared compelling data in the “Hotel Industry Performance Overview,” session highlighting trends around softening ADR, and offering insight into how construction and supply are affecting YTD RevPAR. Hit him up for any custom insight or reporting needs.
- In “Future-Proofing Your Business: How to Maintain Profitability When Demand Slips,” panelists cautioned against a race to the bottom of ADR. Instead, they challenged us to define what makes a guest truly loyal and capitalize on it. All advocated for creativity and even loosening the target customer definition. Another panelist pointed out the crucial importance of scrubbed forecasts during recession planning – noting that without a real picture of the future, risk planning is useless. All agreed: Recession is the time to experiment.
After a day of insight, new friends, and networking it was time for a well-earned break and a little infusion of local San Antonio culture. Navigate participants traded laptops, notepads, and name tags for cowboy hats, boots, and bolo ties and headed off-site to the Historic Don Strange Ranch for a truly authentic Texas experience.
At the ranch, attendees enjoyed authentic Texas-style barbecue, line dancing, armadillo racing, and the inaugural Navvie Awards. The Navvie awards recognized 12 winners across reservations sales, marketing, and revenue management in both the Hotel & Resorts and Vacation Rental categories.
Best-selling author & keynote speaker, Andrew Davis cranked up the energy and showed us the importance of creating inspiring moments for our guests. He called B.S. on linear buyer journeys and traditional marketing funnels and offered a new paradigm: the Loyalty Loop. From ‘moments of inspiration’ to ‘moments of commitment,’ he hammered home how experience-focused micro-moments compel buyers. “Forget selling rooms and rentals,” he said, “Sell experiences!”
Additional smaller, focused sessions rounded out the remainder of the afternoon. Here are few day two breakout highlights:
- In “What Questions To Ask When Building Your Hospitality Tech Stack,” panelists reinforced how guest experience is always our true north. They shared how tool evaluation begins with a question: what problem are we actually trying to solve? And because of data’s role in decision-making, they recommend starting with data aggregation and collection tools. From there, attendees were invited to look at how integrations impact user experiences. It’s your user and product experience after all.
- In “Product Spotlight: Data & Platform Services,” Leaders pulled back the curtain on NAVIS’s platform evolution. They discussed development philosophy and illuminated upcoming improvements in advanced search, single sign-on, survey reports and dashboarding, executive dashboards and API/data pipelines.
- In “CCPA Is In Effect: Key Components Toward Compliance,” Xavier Clark framed California’s Attorney General’s current thinking around CCPA and some practical takeaways for hoteliers as CCPA’s July 1st enforcement date approaches.
- In “‘Hey Google, Book Me A Room Tonight’: How Google Is Impacting Hospitality,” we learned about Google’s push into travel, the squeeze on OTAs, and three traffic weapons that hotels and VRs still wield (hint: Google can never beat you on personal touch.)
The closing session recapped the two-day conference and concluded with a raffle for some pretty impressive prizes including luggage, a Yeti cooler, gift cards, a remote-controlled drone, even a smokeless fire pit.
There you have it – some key takeaways from Navigate 2020. Hopefully, these jog your thinking and help you implement insights from your week. If you need help building a full 360-degree view of your guest, unifying systems, bolstering personalization and marketing or wrangling the data to reach your guests effectively, we’re here for you.
We look forward to seeing you next year at Navigate 2021 at Wild Dunes Resort in Charleston, South Carolina.