Back-to-the-Future-6

Times of classic retro US motels are over. G6 is actively reshaping its properties to attract younger more advanced customers. And so far G6 owns the economy segment. 

2015 was very successful for the company resulting in 26% growth and 1300 active locations. This year ambitious goals stretch all the way down to South America. Debut of Estudio 6 in Mexico is one of the huge steps to take over the market south of the border. 

Motel 6 and Studio 6 are franchise businesses that accommodate roughly 30M travelers a year.

But did G6 do everything to stay ahead of the game in the long run? 

Well, yes and no. 

Yes, they have renovated 75% of their properties and now they look up-to-date. Yes, they have redesigned their website with the help of fancy Code and Theory agency, but the website is still a basic cliche. Yes, they have released their custom hotel management system (G6ROW) that does a lot of great stuff, but does it do enough to leave competition behind for good? 

To stay on top of the segment G6 needs to keep:

—Signing more franchise agreements

—Constantly improving customer acquisition and retention

G6ROW and website are good tools to make it all happen. But they need to be upgraded. Again. And new tools have to be introduced. 

What’s wrong with G6ROW

G6ROW is a tool for property managers. One of the first issues you see after watching the demo is that it’s a very limited tool focused on what’s happening NOW with your properties and what your competition is doing with their rates, so you could adjust yours. Very good.

Although, to make it a more valuable tool it needs to be able to:

——Predict demand and rates correlation (like Wall Street analytical tools).

Real-time is not good enough. All your competitors have the same data you have in real-time. All they need is a technology to scrape competitive rates and display them to operator. This can be easily done. Prediction is the key to winning. How can you predict demand? Well, there are two methods that have to be applied simultaneously: 

—you have to create demand. 

—you have to analyze all competitive rates of this particular week and month within the period of the last 5 years with correlation to economy level, gas prices and GDP. Of course it’s a very broad explanation and “how to” post will follow one day.

——Analyze customers and beyond.

This critical tool is not represented in G6 CRM at all. I looked up competitive hotel CRM systems and all of those do pretty much the same thing about “getting to know your customers”: they fill out gigantic forms with customer name, phone number, email, etc. So you could spam them later with non-sense newsletters and “hot offers”. It’s not what we need at all in we want to sell more rooms and gain strong loyalty. 

G6ROW has to make use the open social SDK world we live in today and really get to know its customers by matching their motel profiles against their social media profiles, tagging them on great photos engaging their social activity that would allow G6’s social profiles to reach out to millions of their single guests’ friends and followers on all different platforms. To sell more rooms. To gain loyalty.

Here’s a good action flow

—I book a room in Motel 6 Santa Barbara

—Upgraded G6ROW captures my first and last name and finds my profile on FB and Instagram. 

—Motel 6 SB Facebook page hits like on a random pictures I have in public access. I get notifications and it feels a little more personal now. 

—Then Motel 6 SB Facebook page posts a beautiful photo of Motel 6 at sunset in Santa Barbara (exact location where I’m staying now) and tags me on that picture expressing how grateful Motel 6 SB is to have me as their guest tonight and how happy they are that I help them develop new reincarnated US economy motel spirit (this alone could become a social media cultural movement). There’s a “Like Motel 6 SB” button on that picture. 

—I see another notification and add it to my timeline and “like” the page, because it feels personal and the picture is beautiful. I want my friends to see it, find out I’m traveling now and get inspired to support the idea.

—My 1766 friends see me tagged somewhere and check out the picture. 251 hit “Like” and 50 go to Motel 6 FB page and “Like” it too. 

—Now 51 individuals (50 + me) will be receiving personal updates and invites with offers and valuable content and will convert to Motel or Studio 6 customers when travel time comes. 

Managing such action flow is easy, because every Motel 6 property will have its own social kit (Facebook page, Instagram page, etc.) and can either manually do all of the above or switch to “Auto” mode to let main Motel 6 script post content that will be automatically distributed across all properties segregated by location.

Tags, user names, offers and messages will be customized based on particular property automatically. 

What’s wrong with the motel6.com?

A lot. 

Yes, it’s created with mobile in mind. Does it help? Meh.. 

Motel6 is still ranked #63,000 in global traffic search and Super8 (one of the closest competitors) is half-way closer to the top at #37,584

Why? Because all people use Booking.com, Expedia and Kayak. 

Why is Super8 higher ranked anyway? 

Let’s take a look at what I see when I visit each website.

#Motel6 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 6.36.12 PM

What do I learn from this page?

—Motel6 has a new look. Great. 

—Nothing’s moving. It’s 2016. You’ve just had an overhaul of your website. Why is everything so boring and static?

—There’s no content. Everything is organized with “tunnel vision”to sell you a room. 

—Boxes on the bottom scream 2008 and provide little value. All those messages could have been incorporated in a beautifully crafted ongoing video footage that turns on once I land on the page.. c’mon we all saw this before, right

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 6.37.52 PM

This side menu is a catastrophe design wise. It’s gigantic, like I’m looking at it on an enormous iPad. It’s lonely: 40% of the whole menu layer is busy and 60% is just blinding white space. 

It creates a feeling of lack of content, a semi-finished product, poor architecture. 

And then it’s the quality of navigation. Why do I need to sign in or sign up? No reason. Why did you use this ugly “+” symbol TWICE? Why in the world did you place “Find reservation” into this hidden side menu? Isn’t it important? And Reservation phone line written in a smaller font? Oh wait. You probably couldn’t find a way to fit it in one line. Disastrous. 

And to top it off there are some recommended properties. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 6.38.08 PM

Am I looking for an outdoor travel experience? Will I have to stay outside? Why are you showing me these ugly facades with awfully integrated Google reviews? I think G6 needs to ask Code&Theory for a refund, because there’s more theory than code in their sloppy work.

Main reason why I hate these 3 boxes? Ignoring everything else (there’s a ton of everything else) none of the offers would help me decide where I wanna stay tonight. Instead, I want to scroll down or leave. So I left.. 

..to check what Super8 has to offer. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 6.36.38 PM

Right off the bat. Even though there’s not much movement either, the design is much nicer and great attention to details is felt all around. They’re selling me a shit hole room using “expensive” marketing approach. That’s a great strategy. But Super8 is even smarter than that. 

What do you see here? 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 6.36.49 PM

Deals! Offers! Rewards! Color! Asymmetry! Great quality photos! Value!!!

Their website is like a fancy fridge loaded with delicious stuff. Different kinds of stuff. And they promote their app here too. Did Motel6 have an app? I have no idea. Let me check. 

2 minutes later.

Yes, they do. But I don’t wanna post its screens here. They’re too bad. What’s worse than a bad app design? Bad customer experience. So I’ll post this screenshot, cause it matters: 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.12.15 PM

OK, now. 

We’ve figured out that Super8 has a much better website + app. Super8 is higher in global traffic ranking (meaning that every second person looking for a motel will likely land on Super8’s website vs Motel6’s). Super8 is amazing at promoting value through its numerous deals vs Motel6 focusing on selling you room asap. 

And that’s why the winner of of this head2head is: 

MOTEL6. 

It’s obvious. 

I rarely stay in motels, but I had to stay in Super8 El Paso in Texas a few months ago. Did I like my stay? Hell no. I hated it! 

The room was old and greasy, smelled like old people and entire property looked like some post-apocalyptical jail. I felt relieved when I escaped that place at dawn.

Last year I had to spend a few nights in Motel6 San Rafael in California. I loved the room and service. I didn’t like parking situation and pet area with fake plastic grass. But overall my experience was great. I didn’t feel like itching afterwards and I left with a smile on my face. 

Will Motel6 win this battle every time? No, unless people at G6 realize that upgraded rooms will not do the trick in the long run. They need serious software upgrades and overall business and marketing modifications. 

Just to name a few of the obvious issues Motel6 needs to be working on:

——Make room selling process proactive vs keeping it reactive. 

——Make travelers use their branded platforms (website and apps) vs using aggregators (Booking.com and Co) where G6 is forced to compete with a handful of strong fighters. 

——Get to know their customers and develop personal relationships with them.

——Analyze tech arsenal G6 has right now and create a better roadmap for the next 3-5 years. 

——Become more creative:

(x)  G6 media platforms (website and app) need to provide users with content outside of their field of interest to increase user retention (like these guys do: http://www.travelandleisure.com/)

(x)  Rates could be potentially lowered if G6 had loyalty agreements with restaurants surrounding their properties. Customers will have to eat anyway. So why not offer them to pay $30/night vs $45/night if they choose to dine at any of the listed partner places? If they dine therethey pay $30 and partnering restaurant will kick back the remaining $15 to G6. If customer decides to eat elsewhere and doesn’t redeem his loyalty offer through G6’s mobile app at any of the partnering places, he will be charged full amount at checkout. 

(x)  Motel6 already used Tom Bodett for its commercials in the past. Great, let’s create our own celebrity personality that will start a movement engaging younger generation. This movement will promote green energy, travel and freedom (all Motel6 values btw). There will be a prize in the end (let’s say a car or something). People will have to download the app, join the movement, check out and snap a photo at Motel6 every other day while they’re visiting 49 continental states of US as part of their big road trip collecting points and rewards every day. There will be no losers. Such campaign will be echoing across the country for years. 

(x)  Chat bots and open Siri SDK has to be a priority for any B2C business today. Is it for G6? I don’t know, but I highly doubt. 

There’s really an endless list of things that G6 must consider if they wanna stay ahead of the game forever. But the main point is this. 

Times have changed and so have travelers. Upgraded rooms is a great, but very anticipated move. It won’t work in the long run. Because everything is moving faster and faster every day. And to use this momentum in your favor you need to look beyond classic customer values. New era of travel products is already here. Build your legacy. 

June, 2016. Plano, TX

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