Breaking through the barriers of an emerging genre ain’t easy.

By Maria Lynch | Corporate eCommerce Manager

Soundgarden’s release of Badmotorfinger in 1991 helped erupt the musical and cultural movement already abrew with seismic activity: grunge rock. The album was touted as a disruptor in a year defined by shoegaze and musical ambiance.

Fast forward to the grunge scene circa 1993. Eddie Vedder was in his heartstring-tugging prime with wistful jams like “Daughter,” while Nirvana was busy perpetuating weary, fatalist sounds (too soon?) on the release of In Utero.

By this time, Soundgarden was already prominent, but not so approachable, simply being too heavy for the average listener otherwise romanced by no-frills hits like “No Rain” and “Two Princes.” Because bands like Nirvana hit the mainstream first, their production was crisper, aged better and digested well.

Soundgarden was at a crossroads. They could release a less explosive, less hard-hitting LP to appease the masses or stay true to their gritty Seattle-grown roots.

Soundgarden was to grunge what eCommerce is to hospitality.

Time flies. Two years ago I was designing print ads and responding to Facebook reviews for an independent Four Diamond property. Now I manage an entire portfolio’s online presence, prowling for revenue generation across the digital space.

The need for a dedicated eCommerce Manager was already apparent in the hospitality industry a decade ago, as travel sales totaled $93.8 billion in online sales in 2007. The need became urgent when OTAs began claiming more real estate than brand.com and nobody was there to take ownership. With 57% of all travel reservations being made online, this was an expensive problem that could no longer be ignored.

In 2016, the hotel industry the eCommerce role was still in an awkward, pimply adolescence. A wise hotel management firm hired an eCommerce Manager to domesticate digital havoc. My first year on the job has been spent pinning down the right metrics to measure, nevertheless the means to achieve them, and brands have yet to light an intelligible path.

The inaugural hire of an eCommerce Manager within Twenty Four Seven Hotels was frazzling for all. What does the workflow look like? How do I interface with the property? How can I collaborate with Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, and even my own department, Revenue Strategy?

It became clear that this ain’t your mama’s hotel sales department, just like Soundgarden wasn’t the coffee shop alt rock that the early 90’s was pining for.

Making platinum hits out of B-sides…

By managing a portfolio of 20+ hotels, we also partner with five major brands, including the largest lodging company in the world. One might assume we’re swimming in slick platforms that integrate flawlessly and liaising with field specialists who can serve up bottomless insights.

The reality? We have a radically few number of quality tools to employ and even fewer labor hours to employ them.

This rings especially true for franchised and select service hotels – the B-sides, if you will – who aren’t blessed with the built-in support that their managed, full service or luxury counterparts do. The problem is that eCommerce Managers, often uprooted from Marketing and Web Design roles, are relentless perfectionists. We’re pining to dish out high-caliber work even when impaired with limited budgets and manpower.

In turn, we’re more likely to fall trap to analysis paralysis. One analogous to, say, Soundgarden’s circa 1993. The question eCommerce professionals should be asking is: Do we continue to rattle the rusty cage, or concede?

My advice: steal the rhythm while you can.

In the midst of composing Superunknown, Chris Cornell reached out for a cameo from a quirky street percussionist adored by Seattle passersby. Artis the Spoonman jumped at the opportunity and the rest was dinnerware-drumming history.

“Spoonman” was an open invite to witness the band’s musicianship and Chris Cornell’s raw vocals in a setting not so… serious. It complemented the entire Superunknown album well, actually being one of the heavier tracks compared to the balladry of “Black Hole Sun” and “The Day I Tried To Live.” It quickly rose to the Billboard charts, specifically as the band’s first single to do so.

Suddenly, this offshoot of grunge was doable for the everyday listener.

Industry-wide, eCommerce has the opportunity to conform to the traditions of hotel sales and the innovations of revenue management without losing momentum. The challenge is to sort through the disarray with faith that the tools, staffing and understanding will catch up. It may be confusing, it may be disrupting, but eCommerce is here to stay. My advice for hanging tight involves some realistic optimism with even more tough love.

No melody? No problem.

Found yourself in the trenches of the ever-changing (and still emerging) eCommerce industry? Or are you a corporate executive or owner considering the addition or expansion of an eCommerce department? It’s proving to be a tough gig, but the reality isn’t totally barren. There are several ways that eCommerce Managers can set themselves up for success and prepare for a future of robust resources.

The Problem: I’m lacking in software and platforms that help me do my job.
The Prescription The shiny, immersive tools your Revenue Managers use today didn’t exist when they started. Your Sales Managers had to walk uphill both ways to fill in their readerboards. Manual work might be treacherous and inefficient but it will tighten your intellectual grip and make you a better eCommerce Manager.

The Problem: Nobody understands what I do (or that I’m here).
The Prescription: Only you are to blame if you’re feeling Superunknown. Every above-property role should involve ongoing education and support, not only for on-property staff but also corporate peers.

The Problem: I’m not given any expectations.
The Prescription: Take advantage of the absence of SOPs by adapting to brand standards where necessary but experimenting everywhere else. eCommerce is so young, this might be O.K. – in fact, brands might ride the coattails of your success.

The Problem: I can’t accurately calculate my Customer Acquisition Costs.
The Prescription: As my kindergarten teacher would say, “do your best”. The benefits to portfolio management are having numbers to compare and levers to pull. Gather all the data you can and summarize it in ways that are digestible, for now.

The Problem: I’m competing with more established departments for budget.
The Prescription: Building a strategy amongst Sales, Marketing, Revenue Management and eCommerce should be a positive-sum game. All departments can benefit from the right tech buy, for example, or the revision of an outdated process.

As eCommerce Managers, we have the opportunity to design our departments as the industry continues to develop – or slap around your own set of spoons on stage, if you will. Hotel management companies that have already embraced this trend will be in a much better position as the industry grows, and their eCommerce Managers will thrive all the more for having stuck it out through the grunge phase.

About Maria Lynch
Maria joined the Twenty Four Seven Hotels team in early 2016 to manage the digital presence of each property as the Corporate eCommerce Manager.

Prior to Twenty Four Seven Hotels she was the Marketing Coordinator for The Grove Hotel in Boise, ID after graduating from The College of Idaho in 2014. She majored in Political Economy and triple-minored in Business, Mathematics, and Asian Studies.

Maria leverages her analytical and creative background to augment hotel visibility in the digital realm while keeping abreast of the ever-changing industry.

About Twenty Four Seven Hotels
Twenty Four Seven Hotels specializes in providing hotel management, investment and development for upscale brand select-service and lifestyle hotels segments in the Western U.S. We offer a full spectrum of services in Hospitality Management, Hotel Investment, Hotel Design & Construction and Hotel Asset Management.

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