Cheval Residences is an award-winning serviced apartment group, based in the UK and manages eight luxurious properties across London.
Located in the most sought-after postcodes across the capital, Cheval Residences believes in providing more than just a serviced apartment. As a brand which has championed the ‘personal touch’ with all guests, it has been imperative for Cheval Residences to continually look forward when it comes to understanding the latest trends and technology. At the same time, always evolving an understanding of guest preferences and habits. This led the group to think outside the box in how technology can help to deliver unique digital experiences that benefit both guest needs and the requirements of the growing business.
George Westwell, Director of Cheval Residences, explains why they chose to work with Avvio; “Cheval Residences’ partnership with Avvio launched at a time when the nature of how the serviced apartment sector was shifting, from a longer-stay offline model to a dynamically priced model with instant online availability for any length of stay. Although longer stays are still popular in some of our properties, the online component of our business mix has evolved from a ‘nice-to-have’ to an essential part of our strategy. From a positioning point of view, Cheval Residence is a product operating in the same space as 5-star luxury London hotels who we consider our direct competitors.”
Through a dynamic approach to digital channels and online marketing, the growth through the close working relationship with Avvio is impressive. Over a four year period, from the start of the partnership in 2014, revenue booked directly via the Cheval Residences’ website has grown by 977% – that’s almost a 10-fold increase from the first year of operation.
The group’s marketing strategy has evolved over time away from providing potential guests with a printed brochure, to one that is almost exclusively digital. Online availability, of course, means that customers can book at a time that’s convenient to them, but in fact demand has similarly increased for guests who still want to speak to someone at the property, so the group’s call centre is now available 365 days a year.
“The advent of digital also means we can speak to our target markets directly, without necessarily making use of intermediaries (agents/tour operators), and we can also be more responsive to peaks and troughs in demand by implementing flash sales or launching offers to address need periods,” as Robert Speirs, Cheval Residences’ Marketing Manager explains. “Digital growth has also changed the way we speak to our guests, interacting with them on social media and via the various review platforms before and after their stay with us – reputation management has become a 24-hour responsibility.
Guest experience is not just a buzzword for Cheval Residences, but an ethos, and digital solutions help to provide a more enhanced experience for guests, as Robert tells us; “a further innovation that we’re introducing in 2018 is a customer-facing app which will allow guests to speak directly to our front office team via the new app we’ve developed with Criton, or via an email or messaging service such as WhatsApp. Regardless of how guests choose to message us, we can liaise with them even while they are off-site and arrange a convenient resolution to their issue. The app includes geo-targeting functionality which means we can highlight specific messaging for guests in residence, or send them the latest offers to encourage them to book again with us.”
The serviced apartment sector is booming right now, but Robert and the team aren’t complacent and work hard to remain innovative and relevant to potential guests in such a busy environment. “Whilst some might assume that Airbnb and similar home-sharing platforms would represent a threat to Cheval, in fact we see it as an opportunity. Customers are looking for experiences not necessarily anchored around a traditional hotel stay, and the serviced apartment sector is very well placed to respond to this, particularly at the 5-star end where Cheval sits. We can offer exactly the same level of service and security as a 5-star hotel, but the added benefits of a ‘home away from home’ experience. The sector already has a respected system of accreditation which individual Airbnb properties cannot match. Having the Avvio booking engine means we can immediately talk to shoppers when they are searching for accommodation by optimising our online ads and dedicated landing pages, right through to the booking. The challenge is to cut through the digital noise, and this is where Avvio is helping us to bid selectively and intelligently by emphasising the unique selling points of each property.”
Cheval Residences’ new website goes live today and has been developed by Avvio’s creative team. Each of the Cheval Residences properties is unique in style, offering a choice of traditional Georgian-style décor all the way to ultra-modern properties. It was essential that this was reflected in the website design, which includes subtle nods to the style of each Residence in the portfolio with individual colours schemes. The revamped group and individual property sites also provide an upgraded responsive design to meet guest expectations; designed with the mobile experience in mind. It features more integration of Cheval Residences blog and social channels into the design including a live Instagram feed which is important when guests share their great in-stay experiences.
Ed Rogers is Avvio’s E-Commerce Manager who works hand-in-hand with the team at Cheval Residences, he says “we’re proud to be associated with such a renowned name in the industry – and it’s clear that Cheval never stands still! The group continually reviews all areas of the business and ensures change is pushed forward when it is to the benefit of the business, the people behind the brand and of course to their guests. We not only provide fantastic website design, our world-class AI booking engine Allora, but we also partner closely with Cheval to provide our digital marketing services including search and Metasearch, as well as paid-for social media campaigns.”
It’s not only Avvio’s technology that helps Cheval Residences grow their digital presence. Integrations between the booking engine and SiteMinder’s channel manager, and connected OTA platforms, means that online now accounts for 30% of bookings, up from virtually nothing when the partnership began.
Robert explains why this is the case “we know that many more customers who book with our call centre use the booking engine to check pricing and availability. This has greatly aided our distribution into markets we have not previously tapped, with direct bookings from over 100 countries. In order to better target specific markets, we have developed bespoke landing pages on our new-look website, such as the US market for example, and we support this with targeted pay-per-click (PPC) ads.”
A significant proportion of Cheval Residences’ guests are travellers from the Middle East, so we have developed Arabic PPC ads to speak to this market in their own language. We run regular paid-for social media campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, and these have resulted in incremental revenue.
Summing up his vision for the future of the group’s digital expansion, Robert says; “the future of Cheval Residences’ online efforts is anchored around the need to simplify the booking process, particularly on mobile, but also to allow guests to make an informed decision quickly. Our arrangement with Avvio is a long-term partnership rather than a one-off delivery of a software package, which is a much more effective way of working. The support provided with digital campaigns and market intelligence is also invaluable, and we look forward to a prosperous future working together.”