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Don't get left behind with Evan Dolgow
Episode 3030th January 2023 • Direct Booking Success Podcast • Jenn Boyles
00:00:00 00:45:42

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Today's podcast is with Evan Dolgow from We chat about staying ahead of the curve in the ever-changing digital world. Evan compares direct booking to e-commerce and tells us what we can learn from giant e-commerce platforms. He also emphasises the importance of understanding your ideal guest and their booking journey and how taking the time to do so can provide immense value for your vacation rental business. 

We talk about:

  • Booking a stay online is a form of e-commerce
  • How to layout your website for more clicks
  • The importance of understanding your guest's needs
  • Utilising insights in Google Analytics 4
  • The metrics to track
  • Doing more of what your guests want
  • Why direct bookings are most important now
  • Creating a roadmap to stay ahead of trends
  • Showing trust on your website
  • Stay open to new ideas and experiment with AI
  • What direct booking success means to Evan

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Ep# 30 - Don't get left behind with Evan Dolgow

Jenn: Hello and welcome to the Direct Booking Success Podcast. Today I'm speaking with Evan Dogow from Adaptive. Okay. So imagine if your business could have the property recommendation power of Airbnb, the search result matching power of Google, and the product recommendation power of Amazon.

Isn't that super exciting? We are going to get into this today, and I am so excited to have you with me today. Evan, thank you for coming on the podcast.

Evan: Thank you, Jenn, for having me. I appreciate it. Oh,

Jenn: it's just such a pleasure. Can we start by you telling us a bit about

Evan: You? Sure, sure.

Absolutely. And it's a pleasure to talk to any audience that wants to hear about technology. So I'm excited for today. My background is in real estate development as well as hospitality. And, over the last year and a half or so, has moved over towards the, I guess, technology consulting world as well.

So you can see me as bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

Jenn: Yeah. That's great. That is great. So let's start with direct bookings. Okay. It's the title of my podcast, my Whole World Direct Booking Success, and I know why they're so important. But could you tell us from your perspective why you think direct bookings are so essential these

Evan: days?

Yeah, absolutely. And, not just important, but also there's a sense of urgency around driving more direct bookings today. So, I see direct bookings as a way to have long-term autonomy. A lot of the time I like to look at our sister industry, e-commerce, and I want to see what they go through because the vacation rental world is inevitably going to go through that as well.

So when you look back, let's call it three or four years, Amazon had 70 or 80% of all transactions. So it took a lot of work to drive direct-to-consumer business. So all these individual businesses had to list their products on Amazon or one of the other 500 platforms, and anyone that bought the product from the platform.

You are the platform's customer, not the actual company's customer. But in the last three or four years, there's this company called Shopify, which has essentially democratised all those great technologies and swung the pendulum back into the hands of small businesses. And now Amazon is shuttering its warehouses; it’s closing its doors on a lot of them.

It's stopping the expansion. Because small business has swung back the pendulum effectively, they’re, they're driving that direct-to-consumer business. So, I think it's important because when the platforms have all the power, they can do anything. And we hear daily, Airbnb flagging a property, flagging a a vacation rental manager, and for over a month, they won't give them a reason why and they won't put their property back online.

And that's a month’s loss of revenue. So on top of the inability to collect adequate guest data, I think that's gonna hinder a lot of the manager's ability to, I guess, control their destiny in the long run. So driving direct bookings is very important and we can dive deeper into why it's essential to do now.

Jenn: Yeah, and I love the comparisons you make with e-commerce because, it's like they're just a few years ahead of our industry. Doesn’t it feel that?

Evan: Yeah, and it's essentially the same. Direct bookings are a form of e-commerce. Instead of the package arriving at your front door, the guest arrives at your front door, but the process of purchasing is the same.

And we've been trained by Amazon. We've been trained by Google to start clicking around, clicking, clicking, and eventually, we'll find the products we want. So I think that instead of reinventing the wheel, direct bookings need to copy and paste precisely what the E-commerce world has.

Jenn: Okay, so give us some ideas. What can we steal from e-commerce?

Evan: Yeah, so the best thing to do is to look at Amazon as well as OTAs. And when you look at their websites, you're going to see that they have a flow to them, and that's just become the natural flow of, I guess, a product search or a property.

So when you go to an OTA, or you go to an excellent direct booking website, the flow should be as follows. At the very top of the page, you should have a search bar where the guest can put a time and date, and essentially the highest intent guest will be able to get to the properties they want immediately.

But that's only a fraction of all web visitors. Most of them are just doing research. They're looking at who you are, scoping you out. So right under the search bar for those guests who are not as high intent and still want to click around. Have property recommendations, whether featured properties or random properties, have three to six property recommendations, and allow the guest to connect through your website.

The idea is, is that we do research by clicking, and reading is quite difficult to get a web visitor to do so by having these chunky word blocks about us sections on your home. Very, very ineffective. as you go down on the page below the featured properties, I would have a sort by amenity section, and I would keep having more options to click.

So the idea is that every time they click, they get deeper into your booking funnel and find properties they like through the same process, they go on Amazon and find products they like. So the idea here is to have as many things to click as possible. And then, one other important section is on each property listing page at the bottom of the page after they've gone through all the details, the amenities and reviews at the bottom of the page.

Have another set of three to six properties to click on, saying, recommended more or more properties similar to this, or more properties recommended for you. Identical to that Amazon language that we see. The idea is that you never want a guest to hit a dead end on your website. You always want something more to click.

So by having all the properties on the bottom of the page, on the homepage, and on the blog page, just put properties to click everywhere. And the idea is, is that they're going to get into this booking loop and eventually find what they.

Jenn: So a couple of things that you said there. one was about, you know when we have these blocks of copy about us, and that you're saying that they don't help you have them so high up on the, on the homepage.

And I wanted to ask a bit about that because, from my side of things, I'm thinking that we want to have, build trust. And showing who we are on our website helps build that trust. So having something about us and not forgetting that the about us page is usually the second highest, you know, looked at, clicked through, or read the page on a website.

So how do you put those two things together?

Evan: Yes. So the About Us page is significant. Just don't put it on your homepage. So have that extra tab for the About Us section, meet the team, and our history. All those things are incredibly important, but allow the guests to go to the tab if they want.

Don't force it in front of them on the homepage with a, a content, with a, a word block that makes the, the, I guess the initial investigation more cloudy. You're, you're just, yeah. It's in many ways. Are you thinking

Jenn: it's like it slows them down from getting to the meat of the website?

Evan: Yeah, because when look at it like, when you're applying for a job, a recruiter or an executive only looks at your resume for six seconds.

So you have to follow a specific format because they're going to know what to look for in certain places. But you’re also going to put the juiciest information in particular areas. So same thing with a website. Balancing is so fast with social media, we've been trained to jump around and our instant gratification, attention, and attention span are significantly lower.

But you also have to consider that any guest searching is likely looking at 15 to 20 other websites over a week or two when booking a vacation. So the best thing you could do is get your properties in front of them because that's what they're essentially looking for. But, yes, they might like your business.

Yes, they might like your team and your story, but at the end of the day, do you have the property they want? And the only way you're going to do that is by showing them properties off the.

Jenn: Okay, got it. Now, this is great if you've got, you know, 15, 20 properties, but one about those owners and managers who have 1, 2, 3 properties because they don't have all of those to put on the homepage to get people to be clicking around.

How can we sort of take, or what can we take from e-commerce to help people with smaller businesses?

Evan: Yeah. And for those who are just growing their business, there's no reason to have a bunch of tabs at the top with 20 different pages. It’s best to all have it on the homepage.

As they scroll, they see everything, and they'll book then and there. So I would put all your properties on the homepage. Please don’t make them go to a separate tab to find them. Only make them go through the search process if you have three properties. So put it in front of them and let the guests decide.

Jenn: Okay. I like that. I do like that. I always say that we're, we live in a sort of, you know, for better or for worse, we live in an Airbnb world, and when we look at what they've done with property listings, everything is right there. So if you, yes, if you want more information, have them click through by any means through another page.

But by keeping everything on your homepage so that guests can make that decision and book, you should be able to book off your home.

Evan: Thousand per cent. And if you go on Airbnb booking Expedia, you're going to see no words. It's just going to be pretty pictures and properties to click on. And the idea is, so when you have Google Analytics, now, this is where it gets exciting.

You can follow and see where guests are clicking, where, what is working, and what is not. And you're also learning about each guest, each web visitor. So down the line, once you have started having 50, 60, 70 properties, you're going to have all this intent data that you've collected in your Google Analytics that can be used for executive decision-making on website construction, marketing, and remarketing.

So the more clicks you get on your website, the more passive data collection you're doing, which will be useful as you scale your business.

Jenn: And speaking of Google Analytics, I'm always telling people to make sure that they're looking at them at least once a month, you know so that they can see what people are, you know, the guests are looking at and clicking and, you know, you can make things better or, or double down on things that are working well.

What would you suggest that people are looking for in their Google analytics?

Evan: Let’s talk about Google Analytics for a second because, I think Google Analytics is going to be a skill necessary from here going forward. And, to start, if you have a website, you have Google Analytics, so make sure they’re connected and learn about it.

And you can do that at Google Analytics Academy. They call it a GA Academy, and it's about five or six hours long, a bunch of videos, and they'll essentially teach you the, but the 80, the 20 that you can use 80% of, te necessities for Google Analytics. So very important to learn about Google Analytics because everything online revolves around that.

What’s your feedback loop. That's, yor benchmarking. That's how you learn what's working, and what's not another essential factor if you already have Google Analytics. You have to move over to Google Analytics four. GA four. Mm-hmm. , the Google Universal is being deprecated, in about six months or so, and which means they're shutting it down entirely.

They want everyone to move to GA four. GA four. And

Jenn: is, does that; sorry to interrupt you, but does that have to do with cookies? Because I know. I'm in the UK and the EU. We've got, you know, these, every, every website has to have cookie notifications. But we're going away from that, aren't we? We should be saying what cookies are.

Cookies are what help websites track. Yes. And so we're going away from that. And is that where Google Analytics four is coming in?

Evan: So Google Analytics is really a reporting platform right now, and Google Analytics four, where they're moving you over,, is intended to be more interactive. For example, they have predictive audiences where if you have thousands of web visitors a month, Google will segment them for you and show you this audience has this much purchasing power.

This audience is worth this much. That way, you can start to make decisions based on who's looking at your website and so on. Okay. So GA four has intended to be more interactive than the traditional one.

Jenn: Got it. And we also should mention that Google Analytics is not just your website; it’s seeing people that have come from social media, people who've come from your email marketing, you know, it's seeing what they're coming in and what they're clicking on.


Evan: Yes. And, that's precisely it. And the idea is, that is your, your 360-degree view of what's going on in your store. So, if you look at your website as your digital storefront, then you have to understand what's working, and what's not, and Google Analytics gives you that 360-degree picture of who's coming into your store.

What are they looking at? What are they not looking at? Because you're going to want to get rid of the fluff and give them exactly what they want. And the way to figure that out is with Google Analytics. And, as you said, this is important because you can transfer all your data from your old Google Analytics to your GA four if you do it now if you wait another month or two.

There is a chance that it won't pass over, so.

Jenn: Oh? Oh, I didn't even know that. That's excellent news. Okay. That's a good tip there. We better get that. Yes. Yeah. So going back to Google Analytics and what we should look for, what sort of metrics should we be, be tracking and looking at every?

Evan: Yeah, so there's a few metrics to look at. At the highest level you want to look at, click-through rate on certain buttons on your website. So, for example, the book Now button, or the search bar, the, the recommended properties, the about a section. Every one of these buttons has a click-through rate, which essentially shows you, out of all your web visitors, how many actually clicked on that button.

For the buttons that are getting clicked on, great. I suggest strategizing how to make those even more front andcentrer, but the buttons are being neglected. Please get rid of them. It's just a distraction for a web visitor. So click-through rate allows you to start opening those doors and seeing what's working, and what's not.

Once you do that, the most important metric that is something that everyone should pay attention to is the revenue per user or visitor. And what that does is it takes all your web visitors, and all your bookings, and it starts to show you your average revenue per visitor from there.

Evan: That's a benchmark. So you can take, you can make specific changes to your website, change the flow of how things are working, and how your bookings look. And if as long as that revenue per visitor is going up, it means you're doing something right. But that's excellent feedback. So that’s an extremely important one.

And, between those two, you'll get a lot of the answers. So, you’re looking forward to it.

Jenn: Yeah, because it's feedback. You know, if you had a Yeah, Benjamin, and if you had a shop on, you know, if you had a shop in the mall or the high street, wherever you live, and people were coming in and say that they were always going to one section of the store and not to another area of the store, you would physically be able to see what they were doing.

And it's the same because you want to do more of what the guests want and what they're looking at.

Evan: Yeah, and it's it's a booking funnel. So at the, at the highest part of the funnel, you have, buyer enablement where they may see your brand on social media or they get a marketing email, but they're not your customer yet.

But then they click on that email, and now they come, now they're looking at your email, and they get, you get them to click on a specific property, and now they're on your website. So now they're coming lower into the funnel. Let's say they go to your website, and then they X out within 10 seconds. It’s important to understand what did we do wrong.

What could we have done better to get them to click on a property on the website to get multiple properties open on a website to press book now? And the idea is, is that if you can identify every stage of this booking funnel, then eventually you'll be able to, Overcome every hurdle at each step of the funnel. The funnel will run on, run passively eventually, once you figure out how to ma how to automate everything and, and essentially answer the questions before they're even asked.

Jenn: Yeah. And so that they, you, know what to do each month in your marketing. That will work so that people are coming into your audience and onto your website, and they're going to the places you want them to go to. And then hopefully book.

Evan: Yeah, and marketing is a great point to a place to start because most people do it.

And I think the metrics they’re using to gauge the marketing working can be a little bit shallow. And, what I mean by that is usually looked at from the lens of unsubscribes open rate and click-through rate. So those are the three primary metrics when it comes to email marketing.

Evan: The problem with all those metrics is email marketing. How about when they come to yours. What did they click on there? Did they book there? Did they look at a lot of pictures there? Did they come back multiple times over a week or two? So that's more important than seeing if, how many of your guests opened the email?

Yeah, so if I haven't analytics, you'll be able to follow the entire journey from the email marketing to the website and when they come back again and hopefully book

Jenn:, I, I argued with someone, well, not an idea, a disagreement, I'll say the other day, with someone who was like, I don't care about the the open rate.

And I'm like, well, hang on a second. Okay. So there are more critical metrics. Yes, but we need people to open the darn email. So if we don't have that headline that, interests them, they're not going to open it. So then we need a way of getting them to click on anything. So there's two, there areds there that, yes, it's not the most important metcriticalI think, it's important because we have to get them to open the email in the first place.

Now we're at the beginning of:

Evan: Yes. So, I'll tell you outright that I am horrible at predicting the future. Okay. , I'm not going to give you, I'm not going to give you any significant predictions, but I can give you some ingredients and tools that we can prepare for whatever is going to happen. Yeah. And, and in my opinion, direct bookings, are a priority Now, For a variety of reasons.

And let's start with the cookies that you mentioned before. Mm-hmm. . So cookies in Europe are already gone. GDPR cookies don't allow you to track. And what cookies are; it’s a small file that, when you go on a website, that file gets put on your device and then it tracks you across everything you do. It learns your behavior and sends it back to whoever placed the cookie.

lready gone in Europe. And by:

So if, if the government is going to make it more difficult to. Track certain things and look at certain data we had access to before. So you don't want to collect as much as you can now because it's only going to get harder starting in the next; it’s already starting. I know that in November of last year, they passed something, and they're passing more data protection in the United States every few months.

And, for those two reasons, and no, sorry. The third reason is that big technology is no longer playing nice. Mm-hmm. like

Jenn: apples, which I'm thinking?

Evan: Apple specifically. So you look at Apple; they’re no longer sharing data with any of there with their third-party vendors. So for a look at Facebook, for example, their stock is down 75% because they can't track all of us the way they were doing. After all, Apple said, Nope, now we're doing that.

You can't do that anymore.

Jenn: Yeah, they got everyone hooked on it, didn't they? They let everyone track their customers, and then they've just turned off that tap, haven't they? And they said, sorry, it's.

Evan: So Jenn, that is the fourth reason it's crucial because that's precisely what the OTAs are doing.

They're making it super easy to use Airbnb. They're trying to be super accommodating to all the users regarding who has the hosts. And, eventually, they're just going to shut the lights off and say, play our game, or don't play it at all. So for those four reasons, it's essential to have that direct booking site now to start learning how Google Analytics work and keep pushing the bar.

You're never going to get good at it unless you start. So now is the best time to start because in a year, it's going to be substantially harder to drive direct bookings without paying for those visitors, like pay per click. So I'd spend however they decide to do it.

Jenn: Mm-hmm. . Cause that's exactly what's gonna happen.

As people start turning off these taps and the tracking and the, and you know, being able to see people moving around and what they're, what they're making there, their booking journey in a sense. Once they start turning those off, it will come down to paid advertisement won.

Evan: Absolutely. That's the only way these companies make money.

And now it's gotten so competitive that advertising is only good when you can segment who you're looking for. Mm-hmm. , when you can, you can be precise about where the ad is reaching. Cause otherwise, you spend much money on ads, and they need to be more specific. So that is getting significantly more complex, and you're going to have to play all these games with, with each company, especially the OTAs.

So by having direct bookings in a robust natural booking system, You'll be able to control your own destiny. You can play their games when you want, but you're going to control most of your bookings. You're going to control your business. So that's why direct bookings are essential in the long.

Jenn: run. Yeah, well, you're speaking my language because obviously I'm a big direct booking, advocate.

I get furious when I see these gurus out there that are all about passive income, property get-rich quick schemes and Airbnb all the way. And it gets me worked up about it because, from what you've said, it makes so much so if you want future proof for your business, if you don't want it to be a hobby, if it's a hobby, fine.

You know, stick it on Airbnb and put your feet up. But if you want, Yeah,

Evan: I can give an example as to why it’s important. Sure. So when you buy a product on Amazon, the person you brought the product for still needs to get your name or email. It's all anonymised. Just like on Airbnb, you're not their customer because you're Amazon's customer.

Mm-hmm. Right now, with OTAs, they're playing a bit nicer. VRBO plays a little nicely. Airbnb could be nicer, but they still do a solid job. They will turn off f those features as they get more power. Right now, they're just trying; they’re in growth mode. They're trying to get more hosts, so when they shut those features off, It's going to be quite challenging to expand your business when you're at there, when you're at their grip.

When you're at there like they, you're at their decision-making power, and you want to be in your control. So,

Jenn: yeah. Yeah. And that's what it comes down to. It comes down to control, doesn't

Evan: it? It, really

Jenn: does. And if this is your business, you need to do everything in your power to make it a

Evan: success.

Also, let's say, for example, you have 15, or 20 properties and and, and three-quarters of those properties are booking great, but that last quarter could be doing better. They are having Google Analytics and seeing where they're dropping off, what they’re getting to, and maybe everyone's getting to a specific photo and then leaving.

That’s really good intel to bring back to your homeowner and say, we need new photos. It would be best if you did a renovation. It's good frontline insights that can lead to executive decision-making.

Jenn: Mm-hmm. . And it doesn't have to be complicated. You know, if you're, you know, for those listening that have one or two properties, this is their own family business.

I don't want you to be put off and think, oh, this sounds so technical. Because yes, there's some jargon and some tech involved, but you just take it slow, you know? Yeah. And like you said, Google Analytics, they'll teach you how to use it. Exactly. Yeah, so start slow and it's, it's getting that information to, for yourself, for your own business.

Jenn: It's getting that feedback; it’s getting the stats you can see month after month. And I know that so many people go about their business, right? And they don't stop and think and look back and look at what's going on to help them make that decision.

Evan: So the final point, with all of this, is that eventually, when you have a big enough business, when you have thousands of bookings every single year, and you're collecting all that guest data, That data is worth money.

That data carries residual value because that's guest intent data. You had guests; when did they look? What did they look at? How did they do there? What were their behaviours during their search process? What level of property did they book? And that is all logged and stored. And you can eventually connect it to your PMs, where you have even more information.

And from there, that's guest intent data. So these roll-up companies that are acquiring vacation rental managers, mm-hmm. Across the country, they're looking for these guest lists that have all this enriched data in there because they can give it to their advanced marketing and data team, and they can start to segment out their highest purchasing power guests.

Their, they’re, which guests have specific preferences and infin. And they can get repeat direct bookings at a meager cost because they have that rich guest intent data. Mm-hmm. . So the more data you collect, the more you have that transparency within Google Analytics, and the more your business will be worth as you scale

Jenn: up.

Yeah. So if you're ever thinking that you may sell your business one day, having that, you know, I must think in business to have that exit strategy. But a lot of people will start their business thinking. This is my business. It's my baby. I want it to grow. And I can't think past running it, but we, but you have to be smart about it and look to the future.

And if you ever want a chance of selling it to someone else, then that data, as you said, it's, it's, king. That data. You nailed it. . There you go. We could run the world—you and I. There we go. . So, any last tips we can take from e-commerce?

Evan: Yes. One of them, which I always push, is reviews.

I found that 90 per 95% of travellers use reviews before they book something. And 50% of travellers will not book a property with zero reviews. So, my good friend Christoph Salman has a company called r e. Y o o I do not work for them, but they are just a simple solution that has a significant impact.

Evan: And what they do is look at all your OTA relationships, scrape all the reviews from those websites, and then put it on your website. And the idea is, is that's what OTAs websites look like. That's what Amazon looks like. You look at the product, you look at the pictures, you look at the details, and you look at the reviews.

Follow that format when you have each of your listings. So, Reviews are incredibly important to have on your website. another one is mobile friendly. So I think 55% of Airbnb's bookings are mobile. That's the biggest trend, and unfortunately I think a lot of managers are not taking that seriously. And

Jenn: you can find out using Google Analytics.

When you're on there, you can see how many people, and I normally see a 60 40 split, 60% on mobile, you know, 40% on, on desktop or laptops. So using those analytics, that's those stats can help you realize how important these things are.

Evan: Yeah. And I bet if you look at a lot of the drop-offs and your website is not the best on mobile, most of those drop-offs are likely on mobile.

Yes. So that's a very low hanging fruit that you're able to capture if you, if, if you make that minor investment. And a lot of these companies like IC and D and Blue 10, they have pretty good mobile sites already. But, it should definitely be a priority for a lot of these businesses and. Final, final suggestion for a lot of these companies is that when you have only 1, 2, 3, 10 properties, trust is a major problem cuz they're gonna see you as a small time business and they're not gonna necessarily trust you with their private information.

fill-in forums that are from:

If something goes wrong, you're gonna have their back because you're insured up to a million dollars. So have those logos there that people see. subconsciously they're not gonna know what each logo is, but they see it on every other website they go on. How much more? So they should also see it on your website cuz they're gonna feel comfortable.

Oh, classic them. They're having, they have these logos showing that payment security is a priority. So between those three things is, is a huge step up for their direct booking website to start converting anonymous visitors.

Jenn: Yeah. Well, and don't make them, don't make your guest jump through hoops. Just get them to pay, get them to book.

You know, and then ask them the details afterwards. You know, what ages are your kids and why are you coming, and are you bringing your dog? And do that after. Just get them to actually book it, because any of those hoops that you put in front of a guest, they're gonna say, I'm gonna go look at some other properties

Evan: now.

Yeah. And, I think a lot of websites are now having like a why it's important to book direct and they'll, they'll give you like six or seven reasons on, on why they have to use OTAs. But booking direct is a priority, so please, if you book direct, we'll give you 10% off. so I think having an additional page like that as well, is helpful for a lot of these, uh, I guess more sophisticated web visitors.

I want to say, why should I book with you over. Like, Airbnb is gonna take care of me no matter what. They always deal with our claims. Like, why should I book with you? And Airbnb has been so great to me. So it's an uphill battle that they're, that VRMs are already fighting. And the more you definitely transparent, the better off you're gonna be.

Jenn: Give a discount, but also talk about how much better the communication's gonna be, you know, and what you can do physically, you know, about being there. It's your business, the, the, the, service you can

Evan: give. . Yeah. And you know, in Europe, which I find interesting, which is not so common in America, is that a lot of times businesses use WhatsApp to communicate with their guests mm-hmm.

before the stay. And I really enjoy that when I travel abroad to South America and Europe because it's sort of like your concierge at your fingertips. And you can ask questions, where should I eat dinner? Where, where, what activities should I do? And, having that WhatsApp channel. We'll get your visitors, your, your non-book visitors to book, because they're gonna be excited that, wow, this person is here to hold my hand along the entire way.

They're here to take care of me. And that's really what people want. They don't want unknowns. They don't want friction. No. They want a seamless process. So, no, you can something, I know Enzo Connect has a similar service, but if you can have that messaging service that you can communicate with your guests beforehand, that'll really, really drive, a lot of long-term value.


Jenn: Yeah. And showing those trust signals on your website. You know, like talking here about, you're about us, Paige, you know, talk about yourself, but also showing yourself to be that local expert. And I always say this, and I'm sure that the podcast listeners are sick of me saying this, but this is how we can compete with the OTAs.

They can't be the local. Because the properties are just commodities to them. You know, they're just the platform. But we ourselves can be that local expert in our area so that when our guests come, we know, you know, they know they can come to us with any questions that they have. Couldn't have said it better.

we're twins, you and I. So tell me about adaptive.

Evan: Sure. So, the company that I work with is called Adaptive, formerly Jarvis ml. And long story short, we're the X Google AI team that founded Google Ads Machine learning. So when you go on Google and you're just getting things and you're getting search results and ads that are tailored to, specifically to you, The way they do that, the way they personalize that is they have a machine learning engine, which essentially learns about all your behaviors, all your preferences, your affinities and your purchasing power, and then within a blink of an eye, it'll match the best search result to all of your characteristics.

So the team left Google about a year and a half ago because, They're like, Hey, this isn't fair that only big technology gets to have this capability. How do we democratize this for smaller businesses? So what adaptive does is it turns your website into that own ota a So when you have, for example, the, the recommended properties and the search results, and you have over 75 to a hundred properties, that's a lot of properties for one human brain to look at.

That's cognitive overload. That's a lot of friction. So how do you take the best properties for each web visitor? And show them the second they land on your page. a good example is that with exceptional stays, we actually powered their single property hero image on their homepage. What that does is it's a one property recommendation, but because you're getting very close to what they want, you're increasing their enthusiasm and you're likely even guessing what property they want.

That single property has booked many, many times too. But essentially you're, you're, you're reducing the friction by spoonfeeding each guest what they want to see and getting them to book faster. And then on the marketing side, marketing is tough because I, I actually have a sales email that. Don't like sales emails, neither do your guests.

Mm. And . And the reason I say that is because, All of these companies that are open rates are very low. Their unsubscribed rates are very high because it's just noise. Not every guest needs to see the same exact thing. A family of seven from Beverly Hills doesn't need to see the same thing as a small, as a, as a, as a elderly couple from Oklahoma.

They should both have their own unique booking journeys. So even within marketing, using your existing designs and templates, what adaptive does will serve specific properties to that specific guest, and every time they click on the website or in the email, The engine is going to learn more about them and then improve the next set of recommendations and the ideas like social media knows all about us.

Amazon knows all about us. The idea is that you will know all about your guests. That way you can personalize the entire digital experience from before the stay and after the stay, and

Jenn: beyond. And it's, you know, when I get something on my phone or whatever and it says, you know, can I, can this app track you, can this track you?

And I know, so people are like, oh, I don't want anybody to track me. I'm just gonna say no. I'm saying yes because I don't want to see. Ads for things that I'm not interested in. I really want to see things that are, I'm interested in. So I don't mind if you're tracking me, because then at least I get to see things that I'm interested in.

so let's, let's do as big a bit of a summary here. What we've been talking about. We've been talking about the, The, correlation between e-commerce and direct bookings and how Direct bookings is an E-commerce, isn't it? It's an e. It's a is a type of e-commerce. When you have, a couple of properties, there are things that you can sort of steal from e-commerce by looking at what Amazon does and what the OTAs do, and taking those to, To build your own direct booking platform for your smaller company now, at which we were talking about at the very beginning about, getting people to click, you know, getting them to click, click, click.

Jenn: And then I heard you say that I think 75 to a hundred properties, your brain can't handle that. So where is the, the optimum space? So if you're got 20 properties, would you still be, doing that sort of click through

Evan: strategy? Yes. So really it's about 75 properties that are just too much for the brain to handle.

Okay. even, even 75 is on the low end. but the idea is, is that if you have, let's say, 50, 20, 30 properties on your website, just make sure those properties are all viewable. There's no reason to show a certain amount of properties at one time here and there. Just have properties on every page of your website and recommend like those blocks that say recommended properties for you.

Use that Amazon language start showing. And once they get to the search page of all the properties, then they're gonna already have seen a bunch of them. They're gonna know what they're looking for and then they can filter and so on. Okay? But the idea is just if, if you have properties, put them front and center and allow the guest to.

Jenn: Okay. And then when you're sort of 75 and above, that's where this sort of predictive, machine learning can come into play and really, really help you tailor that experience to each guest on your website.

Evan: Yeah, and it's primarily for your team because every time a, a company doubles in size, they can't hire double the employees, they have to get leaner if they're gonna be more profitable, and your team can't really deal with hundreds of properties and all the data from tens of thousands of web visitors.

So with Adaptive, for example, We're the data scientists, machine learning engineer and deployment platform all in one for these advanced marketers. That way they can essentially have the superpowers of a team of 20, when really they're just a team of two. Mm-hmm. . So it's a way that once you hit that threshold, how do you become, how do you stay lean, but become more effective?

And that's where machine learning comes to play. I love it. I

Jenn: find it so exciting and so interesting, and I just know the way that the world is going. We're gonna see more and more of it. I already see it in my, in my, um, email program that I use. There is predictive, capabilities there so that I can have an email and then have parts of it tailored specifically to that person.

I'm sending it out now. Am I techy enough to use it yet? No. But I know it's there and it's exciting to know that that's sort of where we're going because then on the receivers, the person getting it, it's something that they, are more likely to click on.

Evan: Yeah. And then in, in reality, this has been used for the last five to 10 years.

So it's been here for a while and we just don't see it because mm-hmm. now just become the expectation. It's such a pleasure using Amazon or the OTAs because they just, they're, they're personalizing every little block of their website mm-hmm. and become that expectation that, when you go on a website, just immediately show me what I want.

Show me what I want. Yeah. So now finally in the last year or two, this technology has become available for smaller business. so it is slower to adoption, smaller business. But in reality, this has been adopted about five to 10 years ago and we've been using it without even realizing it.


Jenn: well think about how many times have you been on AM on Amazon, bought something and then ended up buying one or two more things, not because. Needed to, or that's why you were there, it's because they were shown to you and you went, oh yeah, I do need that, or, that looks really cool. It's happened to, to all of us, hasn't it?

Evan: Yeah. And if you wanna look, I guess a couple years down the line for vacation rentals, upselling is going to be huge. Mm-hmm. , for example, Mount is a company that's upselling all these different types of, like, whether it's a fishing rod or it's a Vespa. And then you have, I guess, the stay and play packages for golf courses and maybe local businesses.

And you have, I guess, there's a company that allows you to buy furniture. Different type things in the apartment. so all of these things are going to come to play in the next few years. So then not only are you gonna be recommending specific properties for each web visitor, but now you can recommend upsells, cross sells.

Mm-hmm. , yeah.

Jenn: Experiences, services.

Evan: Yep. That's added revenue in your pocket, but you have to do all of these foundational things. If in two years, when this comes with this, when this becomes a reality, you're gonna have to have the infrastructure set up in order to start adding on the cherry, on the cake.

Jenn: Yeah. And you don't wanna be left behind. That's another reason, you know. Yeah, you don't wanna be left behind, so get on it. Brilliant. Okay, so what I really want to know from everything we've spoken about today, I really want to know the answer to this question. What does direct booking success mean to you?

Evan: Long-term autonomy. . And I think it's so important because, when you look at Europe, Europe's history, they've already gone through the full cycle from startup to maturing businesses, to acquisitions, and then to mergers. They've already gone through that full cycle, and then all these big, these big private equity guys came in and just destroyed the industry.

To the point where all those property managers that sold out the first time started again, they launched their new companies and now they're doing it their way. They're not doing it the O t A way. They're not doing the private equity way. They're doing it the startup way. They're building the company that they want because they realize last time when they gave all of their information away, when they were playing nice with all these, these bullies, For lack of better words got screwed.

They got muscled around and they were forced to sell at discounts to what they should have been sold at. So now that Europe is starting over, they've learned their lesson. Unfortunately, in America, I do not think we've learned our lesson, cuz we have not gone through that cycle yet. We're not as mature of an industry as Europe is.

So direct bookings mean to me as long-term autonomy. Because when things start going south, when the bullies start to flex their muscles, you don't have to play their game. You don't have to succumb to them. And what that means is you're gonna be worth more because the more times you say no to them trying to buy you out, the more they're gonna offer you next time they come back.

And the only way to do that is not to allow them to, to choke. To choke off certain distribution channels or to muscle Year. The way you're gonna do that is by doing your own thing, at your own pace, at your own timeline, and they're gonna be forced to say, okay, we want you now, we'll pay the premium. So direct bookings mean to me long-term autonomy and more money in your pocket.

Brilliant. Evan,

Jenn: this has been amazing. It really has. I've been looking forward to this ever since we said we were gonna set it up. because it's an area that I'm so interested in, I just find it fascinating. and there's just so much to learn, so much new that is coming out. and I think this year ahead is gonna be really interesting.

and I'd love to see, I'd love a crystal ball, see what's, you know, coming up because I think it is just, it's fascinating. for those who would like to maybe connect with you, hear more about this, how can people get in

Evan: touch? Yep. I only social media I have is linked. So I'm the only Evan Dogow on the planet , and if you wanna talk, just send me a message.

I love talking. I'll give free advice. I, I've seen hundreds of websites, so if you're just starting up and you wanna sync for 15 minutes and you have some questions about something, Let's talk. I'm happy to help and if you are more advanced and you have hundreds of properties and you're looking how to improve, across the board and how to keep your team lean as you scale and double in size, we can talk about that as well.

So find me on LinkedIn, the only Evan Dogow in the world.

Jenn: Brilliant. I'll put those links in the show notes as well. Again, thank you so much.

Evan: Thanks, Jenn. This was awesome.