Twenty years ago no-one could have predicted that Amazon, from its humble beginnings as an online bookstore, would explode in quite the way it has – now accounting for 5% of all US retail spend.
After several years of not making a profit, CEO Jeff Bezos is now worth $150 billion. With a 49% share of all US online commerce it’s only a matter of time before they are making more money than all their online competitors combined.
As a corollary, traditional stores such as Toys R Us didn’t adapt to Amazon and have withered away completely.
The growth of Uberization
Of course, Amazon largely makes its money in the provision of tangible goods.
What is striking about many other well-known online brands is that they don’t hold or ship any inventory at all. “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles, Facebook the world’s most popular media owner creates no content, Alibaba, the most valuable retailer has no inventory and Airbnb the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening” Tom Goodwin – TechCrunch, March 2015.
The process of Uberization has meant turning traditional business platforms on their head. At its heart it has involved providing the technological tools to match users and providers – often at a massive scale. With the proliferation of smart devices this process has exploded.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the travel industry with the growth of online travel agents (OTAs) – this is now the most popular option for the youth and student market for booking flights and hotels.
This is a relatively recent phenomenon – a survey by Wyse found that the number of information sources typically required to book a trip has increased from 3 in 2002 to 10.5 in 2017.
As they also note, a decade ago 70% of travel bookings were conducted in physical travel agents – much of this business has now shifted online.
Look to the future
Although the use of booking systems and OTAs is mainstream in the travel and hotel industries, venues have been largely slow in their adoption of online bookings in spite of the fact that the hotel industry have been selling meeting packages online for a few years now. It is a fair assumption that venues may be missing out on last minute and small bookings.
The emergent generation of young people is familiar with online booking and they are living their lives through a prism of social media.
When this generation gets older and in a position of influence, it is highly unlikely that these digital natives are going to have the inclination to spend time on the phone calling around to book an event when they are used to booking a whole holiday in a matter of seconds online.
While it is important to recognise that there is a place for conversation when booking a complex event, the venue market is ripe for an element of automation to appeal to a new generation of event bookers who want to book a small or late meeting. The industry needs to “morph and change” if it is to keep up with hotels and market disruptors such as Wework who now offer meeting spaces alongside their core offerings of office space and hot desks.
What’s available today?
A recent survey by Meetings Booker suggests that the average size meeting booked online consists of only eight attendees.
What’s more, the clear majority of meetings overall consist of under 20 attendees – 95% in fact.
Given that the majority of meetings consist of such small numbers, with very little complexity, it is obvious that the industry is ripe for the automation of booking these smaller meetings. These meetings lend themselves to online booking.
A further interesting statistic is that the lead times on online bookings are much shorter – often less than 14 days. Given the last-minute nature and prevalence of these last-minute meetings it would make sense to offer at least some room availability online if you want to take advantage of this demand.
It’s often a win-win for the booker as well as the venue as these online meetings tend to attract discounts of over 40% – reflecting the lower cost which automation brings. Doing it by hand takes on average 47 minutes! Time that could be spent on servicing larger more valuable meetings.
NFS have long kept an eye on the market and were one of the first software suppliers to spot this trend and offer online booking to venues.
As part of our Rendezvous Events venue management software the online portal offers a number of benefits:
- > 24/7 booking capability – never miss a sales opportunity
- > Online payments – easily process payments
- > Yield management – sell your inventory at the most advantageous price
Check out our video to find out more:
The internet is not going to go way and as Gary Vaynerchuk alludes to we are yet to reveal its full potential.
With so much potential to attract online business to your venue it would pay to adapt now than change later. The consumerisation of the meetings industry is a matter of if not when. Time to evolve.