We recently sat down with Mattia Zanella, Oaky’s Account Executive for the UK and the company’s representative at the Institute of Hospitality, to learn more about Oaky’s backstory, how they experienced 2020 and what’s in store for the future.
Why was Oaky created?
When you ask our three co-founders, Erik Tengen, Lars Jonker and Tako Paddenburg, each of them will tell you a slightly different story. After checking with them again, here’s what it boils down to: the three founders had the idea to create a review platform for the hotel tech market. But after thorough research and countless interviews with hoteliers and industry experts, it became clear that what hoteliers actually needed was a smart upselling platform. That’s how the idea for Oaky was born.
Today Oaky gives hotels an opportunity to offer ancillary services and room upgrades to their guests through personalised, automated email campaigns sent after the time of booking and before check-in. Now, every hotel guest can personalise their stay by choosing from a customised selection of upsell options and other offers.
Hoteliers can either come up with their own offers or create deals based on Oaky’s data on more than 8,000 upsell options active or recently active on the platform. In short, Oaky helps hotels offer creative services to the right guests at the right time based on similar precedents, which increases the chance of conversion.
Tell us a little more about how you help hospitality businesses.
The hospitality industry is made up of passionate and committed people, who share a desire to serve their guests and create a comfortable, memorable experience. At Oaky, we aim to serve these hoteliers – we’re committed to making them successful by building great digital guest experiences that help them generate more revenue while providing the best experience.
For guests, upselling has to be fun and useful at the same time. For hotels, upselling needs to be easy and hassle-free for the team. Taking both of these factors into account, here are the three chief ways in which we help our customers:
- Driving revenue: We help hotels tap new revenue streams they didn’t know they had.
- Increasing personalisation: Guests only see relevant upsell options, based on their profile. This is key in our digital era.
- Promoting automation: The front office team doesn’t always have the time for on-arrival upselling. Contactless service policies make that even more difficult. Oaky solves this problem by bringing a standardised, automated and straightforward way of upselling to the table.
What have you been doing to help your clients during the pandemic?
A big challenge for Oaky is emboldening hoteliers to try something new. Often, we’re so bound to guest satisfaction metrics that we’re afraid to take risks. Upselling a nicer room, breakfast and a transfer to the airport is a good start. But adding loyalty memberships, dining options, trips and experiences, charity deals, romantic packages and attribute-based room types, is a much better upsell proposition, for a myriad of reasons.
Coronavirus taught us that we need to be fast and brave. We can’t wait for the next quarter, the next renovation or the next guest to put a great upsell strategy in place. Our clients embraced this idea too and it’s been exciting to see them show more creativity now than ever before!
In terms of concrete support for the industry, we’re offering two things:
- Hotels can use Oaky completely risk-free. While Oaky’s upsell performance is likely to be lower now due to the circumstances, every bit of revenue helps in this downturn of demand. Therefore, we’ve taken all the financial risk out of the equation, so hoteliers can use Oaky to make the most of every booking they get.
- Over the past few months, we’ve gathered all the important information on upselling in our first online course.
It covers the four pillars of the guest experience, revenue management, the customer journey and hyper-personalisation. The best thing about it? It’s completely free.
How important will Oaky be in helping hospitality businesses survive 2021?
If we think that countries are just now starting to fight the virus consistently with the vaccines, we can expect hotels to have low occupancy for most of 2021. While leisure destinations will hopefully do good business in summer, a lot of city properties will struggle at least until the end of the summer. In a scenario like this, upselling becomes key for open properties. It’s the only way hoteliers can increase guest spend and get their facilities and higher room types booked.
Additionally, it seems that in many countries OTAs are the only channels generating business. Getting those guests to spend more on a commission-free upgrade or ancillary service has great value. Oaky is the only tool offering a platform that can help in this situation.
What is your business goal for 2021?
In 2021, we will continue to support the industry by helping as many hotels as possible to run a successful upsell program. It might sound crazy for a hotel to adopt new technology in these times, but in 2020 our commercial team developed a new business model that waives the financial risk and excludes the need for a pre-set budget. We also moved from an upfront payment to a monthly schedule in most of our contracts.
In our opinion, there is never a good reason not to do upselling. That’s why we’re working with our customers to find new ways of upselling their facilities and rooms especially since safety measures have forced hotels to shut down traditional promotion systems.
What trends caused by the pandemic are here to stay?
One of the major changes the pandemic brought was the need for socially distanced services. This forced many hoteliers for the first time, to embrace new technology like contactless guest communication, online check-in and check-out, etc. It also increased the guests’ acceptance of these contactless solutions which is a trend that’s here to stay.
Another thing we saw was that at times where travel temporarily picked up, e.g. during summer in Europe, guests were keener than ever on personalised, memorable experiences. They were so happy to travel again and wanted to make the absolute most of it. Hotels that used Oaky to allow guests to treat themselves by customising their stay and booking ancillary services saw increased guest spend and guest satisfaction. In the future, this will only continue to become more important.
This trend has also shown hoteliers that it’s important to shift from focusing primarily on room revenue to total revenue management which means including other departments more in their strategy moving forward.
For more thoughts on which trends emerged and are here to stay, check out Oaky co-founder Erik Tengen’s year in review post and video.
How differently has hospitality been impacted around the world?
The answer to this question could be endless… Companies like STR, Skift or Siteminder made a lot of data available in the past year which gave insights into markets around the world. In Oaky we saw national markets suffering and recovering at different times during 2020, while the same markets seem to all be suffering at the same time at the beginning of 2021. Low occupancy, closing-reopening-closing, furlough and negative cash flows has had the most dramatic impact.
From an upsell perspective, we were surprised to see that the average spend per guest has remained constant over time, despite the number of bookings obviously going down. This is a signal that upselling works because it solves real challenges for the customers and addresses many of their needs pre-stay as well as during the stay.
What’s your biggest success as a business?
It feels weird to speak about success in a year of crisis, but I’m happy we didn’t stop doing what we’re good at.
The product development team has released cutting-edge features such as the Deal Library and the award-winning Dynamic Room Upgrade feature (in partnership with OTA Insight) which received the Best Tech Provider Award by Skift Awards.
The connectivity team worked on an Oracle Cloud PMS certification and brought other key integrations with partners like hotelkit, Quicktext and HiJiffy to life to enable quick collaboration across all operations.
At the same time, contactless upselling became so important that Oaky was able to grow its customer portfolio by around 40%. This is something we’re extremely proud of.
What do you think makes the hospitality industry so special to work in?
Hospitality is an industry made by people for people. Since this pandemic started, we’ve heard messages along those lines more and more often. The speed of our lives and the high occupancies pre-Covid made some of us forget how deeply humanity is rooted in this industry and how only through humanity and excellent hosting we can get back in shape. This is what makes hospitality such a great industry. The feeling of serving others tends to be very fulfilling.
You’re an Institute of Hospitality Business Partner. Why did you decide to work with us?
We love being part of the educational journey that shapes the hoteliers of the future, not to mention contributing to improving the skills of hoteliers today. In order to do this, we’re looking to partner with organisations that are trusted by the countries and regions they do business in and are connected to the people working for and with hotels.
For us, becoming a partner of the Institute of Hospitality is about taking a break from theoretical tech applications to spend more time with real people. We want to discuss topics of immediate priority and relevance to the hospitality industry, so we can build a better future together. This is extremely important, especially in these challenging times. In IoH we found a partner that offers the alignment and support we need to accomplish these goals.