When it comes to brands, the serviced apartments industry is playing catch-up. While the likes of Marriott and Hilton stamped brand names on toiletries, towels and cookies, many serviced apartments and co-living companies hid behind the search bar of online travel agents (OTAs). As reputation and trust become increasingly important post-Covid, ‘Innovative Living’ companies must strengthen their brands to stand out.
Increasing importance of brand
Pre-coronavirus, too many companies relied on OTAs for bookings and left their brands untended. With the strength of Booking.com and Airbnb, who needs to spend money on branding, right? Wrong. The pandemic and subsequent plight of OTAs has made brand strength the litmus test for success: strong reputations will flourish, weak reputations will wilt.
As Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said: “trust is the new currency of our ‘new normal’”. Post-Covid, both business and leisure travellers will be risk-averse and book with companies that they know, value and trust. Having a solid, well-known brand is therefore crucial for serviced apartment companies to attract bookings.
In addition, branding and lending are interlinked. For those needing cash injections post-Covid, lenders prefer providing funds to strong brands as sound reputations are synonymous with high levels of service and consistent bookings.
How to strengthen your brand: presence
Brand and location will determine medium-term bookings and therefore brand presence is especially important for companies in secondary and tertiary markets. To avoid missing out on bookings, these smaller, localised companies must improve their online presence. I’m not talking about expensive adverts and social media campaigns either. The bare basics starts with your own website. Enabling direct bookings, filling your site with industry and specific keywords and repeating your name, address and contact information on multiple pages are the first steps to climbing the Google ladder and enabling prospects and agents to find properties in locations they are looking for.
How to strengthen your brand: messaging
Post-Covid, operators must use messaging to reassure customers and showcase their benefits. In particular, focus on:
- Your USP - Short term, swap ‘green-conscious’ or ‘stylish and sustainable’ for ‘safe, secure and convenient’. Highlight your socially-distanced units, minimal communal spaces and remote management.
- Cleanliness - Clean is queen. Show off your stringent hygiene standards, social distancing rules and deep cleaning practices.
- Professionalism - Show that you are taking post-lockdown seriously and you take their concerns seriously. Disseminate fresh content, communicate regularly and update protocols frequently.
- Support - Anxious customers ask more questions. Ensure you have a dedicated, accessible, real-person hotline and online FAQs to allay their concerns.
- Tone - It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. In times of crisis, it pays to be empathetic and serious. Humour is a risky game.
How to strengthen your brand: platform
According to Business2Community, “in the post-lockdown era, CRM will be the best branding tool with a massive outreach”. That’s certainly true for the serviced apartments and co-living industry. Scattergun approaches rarely work, but post-Covid the ability to crunch customer data and target potential guests will be crucial. What’s more, a good platform offers resources to easily reach customers, such as through multiple communication channels.
At res:harmonics, we know the strongest brands will pull in the most revenue. That’s why we not only offer a technology platform to boost growth, but our consultancy arm also provides bespoke advice to help serviced apartment companies improve their brand and maximise revenue.