(From left to right) Bob Cusack, Suzi Cusack, Mary Beth Albertini (newcomer), and Brianne (Pope) Murphy – the TruPlace booth squad at the VRMA International Conference in New Orleans, LA.
Observations from the Exhibit Hall Floor and Beyond
This is my inaugural blog post with TruPlace. I joined the company’s marketing department a week prior to VRMA International Conference 2019. Jetting off to New Orleans on week two was not a bad way to start a new job in a new industry (for me). I came to VR from cable, where I’ve attended my share of conferences over the years. I’m guessing that I may have been the brand-newest member attending the VRMA conference, among a record-setting 2,000 attendees. More than one person I met remarked that I’d be “drinking from the firehose!”, which was ideal because I was thirsty for knowledge. And VRMA 2019 did not disappoint.
I thought I’d share a perspective through a set of fresh eyes and ears that were there to absorb information and learn as much as possible. My approach was that of a journalist – to observe and ask questions that would answer the “who, what, where, why and how” about the Vacation Rental Management industry.
These shoes were made for walking all over the VRMA International Conference. The TruPlace booth squad could be easily identified by our red Converse sneakers.
Three days spent on the exhibit hall floor, attending keynotes, general and breakout sessions, and flitting about a multitude of parties was unquestionably the best initiation one could hope for.
Following are some of my decidedly industry-newbie takeaways:
The industry is changing. Fast. New players have emerged in the past year while some have scaled up or down in market share, and still, others have appeared in a new iteration under a different brand umbrella. This seems especially so among the technology partners. And there is no indication that the tides of change will soon cease. So, we all ought to buckle up and enjoy (or endure) the ride.
Our guests appreciate the rich experience the TruPlace interactive floor plans and photos provide. Even more exciting, our reservation agents love that they are spending less time on calls describing the layout of the property, which frees them up to take more calls and book more reservations.
– Russell Whitt, Pinnacle Lodging
Property managers book more nights faster and at higher rates
We couldn’t be more proud to hear about experiences like Pinnacle Lodging’s. For them and more than 300 other property managers, delivering ROI multiple times over is what drives the TruPlace team every day for all of our visual marketing tools. In fact, a 2014 study we conducted with VRM Intel found that property managers with our flagship visuals filled 18% more nights, booked 22 days faster, and earned 55% higher rates.
In the years since, competition in the vacation rental industry has only grown fiercer, compressing margins to razor-thin levels. The ability to fill more nights faster and generate higher rates is no longer optional; Today, it can make or break your business.
This ever-critical need has kept TruPlace sharply focused on creating what works, which means delivering what your guests want and need. “It seems the industry is changing so much and yet some very basic principles remain the same,” said Suzi Cusack, TruPlace’s founder and president. “The guest/consumer behavior still drives the decisions we should be making today.”
Guests want speed, ease, and accuracy
Our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour is a direct result of guest behavior changes in recent years along with the rise of virtual tours. Virtual tours are undoubtedly eye-catching, so we’ve made sure ours are of top image quality, ease of use, and value to our clients. Still, we have found ourselves asking Is it absolutely necessary for guests to have to walk through a house, click by click, to find the answers to their critical questions? Do they need a 360o look at a hallway or laundry room? Time (and the end-user) will tell whether virtual tours become essential in vacation rental marketing.
For now, what we have found is that guests want a quick, easy, appealing, and accurate way to explore a property. This makes sense when guests are looking at an average of 19 properties before making a choice, as Phocuswright found. With that in mind, our new Hybrid Floor Plan tour combines the convenience and ease of 2D with the engaging immersion of 3D. Our signature smart-touch layout tool with beautiful photos guests love now has added TruFusion 3D spins in the rooms where 360o matters most, like kitchens and backyards. This saves property managers the cost of a full virtual tour while still giving guests the quick, quality inside look they want.
As VRMs know, guests often need to understand a property’s layout before they have the confidence to book it. Many call in to ask these very questions of reservation agents. But by providing this information in an online listing with the right balance of convenience and detail, floor plan tours can save your agents an average of 8 minutes per pre-booking call.
Homeowners want to know you’re invested in their success
Property managers can also see a return in their inventory growth and retention when they invest strategically in powerful listing visuals. Homeowners want to know you’re committed to their property’s success and providing their listing with a Hybrid Floor Plan Tour demonstrates exactly that. Often of equal or greater importance, homeowners want to know their property is well taken care of. As we outline in the operations article, field staff including maintenance technicians and housekeepers use these visuals as training manuals, staging guides, item catalogs, and other tools that make it easier, faster, and more cost-effective to handle everything vacation rental guests throw a property’s way.
Hybrid Floor Plan Tours start at just $328, not including volume discounts for property managers. Contact us today for a custom quote.
When TruPlace set out 16 years ago to create a floor plan tool, our focus was on guest use and marketing. It didn’t take long for our vacation rental manager clients to share with us additional ways they were using our signature product in their internal operations. These added benefits have since become a valued part of our product development in today’s vacation rental climate of ever-shrinking margins where every operational minute count. We made sure our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour took this to heart. The resulting combination of our signature 2D floor plans and professional photos with strategically placed 3D spins delivers instant returns not just in better booking conversions but in time and cost savings for back-of-the-house teams.
And as any experienced vacation rental manager will tell you, better operations lead to happier guests, which in turn generate more five-star reviews and repeat bookings over the long term. Homeowners, too, value efficient and effective operations when deciding to contract or renew with a property manager. Here are four surprising ways our new tour will help streamline your operations for immediate and long-term benefits.
Shorter Call Times for Reservations
Vacation rental managers who have been using our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours or even our signature floor plans may not be as surprised by this one. Reservationists spend an average of eight minutes per pre-booking call answering questions about a property and its surroundings. Hybrid Floor Plan Tours help significantly cut down or eliminate this time by giving guests answers to their common layout questions, things like “Which bedrooms are on which floors?” and other information they need to have the confidence to book. This saves your reservationists’ valuable call time to focus on conversions and other guest service needs.
Quicker Response and Reduced Property Visits for Maintenance and Repairs
We have heard from countless property managers how their maintenance teams use floor plan tours to help triage issues without a separate trip to a property. Technicians and other staff use floor plans and images to pinpoint where problems are occurring or to identify parts or equipment they’ll need to bring to the property. The addition of 3D spins in our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tours lets staff investigate in even greater detail in the areas repair needs are reported most, like living rooms and kitchens.
Faster Orientation and Quick Reference Guides for Housekeeping and Inspecting
Similarly, we’ve heard from many clients about how their housekeeping teams use floor plan tours as training tools and property standards references for cleanliness, inventory, and staging. This is made even more detailed and thorough with 360o images in the most critical property spaces. Orientation is quick and easy for new cleaners and new properties, as is identifying specific replacement items when guests call for extras or backups.
Easier Insurance Claim Submissions
We hope no homeowner or property manager has to submit an insurance claim, but when they do, our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours make the process faster and less painful. Floor plans with image tags serve as a ready-made catalog for insurance adjusters of a property’s pre-claim state. Coincidentally, our strategically located 360o spins provide even more detailed coverage of areas likely to have more expensive claims, such as decks with pools or hot tubs.
What are other surprising ways your teams have used Hybrid Floor Plan Tours? Let us know in the comments below!