Several times already at theBandBer we’ve reported first hand on accommodation owners’ experiences of Groupon and other daily deals sites. The consensus so far seems to be that flash sales can be useful when it comes to boosting your property’s profile, as long as you don’t expect to make any real money out of it.
None the less, the fact remains that many BandBers have always been wary of this kind of sales technique. And now it seems that their scepticism is fully justified. When it floated on the stock market in November 2011, Groupon was valued at $20 per share, but that valuation has now sunk as low as $2.60. More pertinently, it has also started to move away from its core business, instead using the huge customer database it has built up to sell “vacuum cleaners, mattresses and other overstock merchandise,” as Stephen Jones of Tnooz observes.
Many small business owners – BandBers included – have been experimenting with social media in recent years. Whether or not you believe in it as a sales/marketing tool, it’s hard to avoid hearing people talk about it. The names of the field’s biggest players (for now) – Facebook and Twitter – have become ubiquitous. “Social” is part of our modern culture, regardless of whether it’s going to make vast amounts money for anyone in the long term. Sometimes, a lucid, readable survey of the current state of play can be very useful. Miguel Helft at CNN Money provided just that, taking as his starting point the recent moment when Facebook’s value dropped below $20 a share.
We’ve had a very stimulating response, as always, to our guest post from Sally Taylor at the Torcroft Hotel in Devon, about her experience of running a Groupon Campaign. A whopping 93% of those who voted in our online poll said they wouldn’t consider selling through the flash sales site. They offered their opinions via theBandBer.com itself, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook (good to see social media bringing B&B folk together). Here’s a selection of their comments:
“We did a ‘very special’ offer last year via The Sunday Times (Sunday Nights promotion) and got a few bookings – most of these, like the guests you mentioned, just wanted as much as possible for as little as possible. We wouldn’t do that sort of offer again.”
‘Why did we decide to sign up with Groupon? To be perfectly honest, we decided that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. One of the problems facing the owners of small hotels and B & Bs is how to attract customers during these difficult economic times. Faced with the ongoing costs of running a business – mortgages, rates, utility bills and ongoing repairs, it’s not an option to sit the recession out and hope things will get better. The obvious option is to make your customer an offer they can’t refuse, but how does the small guesthouse compete with the big boys such as Premier Inn? The real challenge is how to get your offer out to potential guests when you don’t have a huge marketing budget that allows for primetime TV ads and pay for clicks campaigns to ensure you stay on the front page of Google. Once upon a time, B & B owners could put their property on a few internet holiday sites and sit and wait for the bookings to come in. No longer. The internet has changed beyond recognition in recent years, and marketing is now a highly sophisticated operation. Most owners of small hotels have to juggle cooking breakfast and making beds, with the business side of things. The Marketing Director is also the on-call plumber and bottle-washer.’
So, the Torcroft Hotel’s Groupon campaign is now over. But last week, I caught up with Neil & Sally Taylor to find out how it was going. When we spoke, they were four days into their great Groupon adventure.
Given these tough economic times, a lot of B&B-ers have been pondering the idea of using Groupon to boost sales. But what factors do you have to consider before signing up with them? We asked Neil and Sally Taylor, who own the Torcroft Hotel in Torquay and have just started a Groupon offer right now.
Over here at theBandBer we’re very interested in Groupon and what value it really offers to independent accommodation owners (you can read an interview with B&B owners who recently embarked on a Groupon campaign here).
Groupon made a lot of noise at its IPO last November ($12.8 billion valuation), but harsh reality seems to be catching up with it pretty fast. One of its main problems in the US seems to be refund liabilities on unused vouchers. This is particularly relevant in the travel sector.