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Channel managers are an essential pillar of every short-term rental property manager’s tech stack. They can help you save time, reduce manual mistakes and increase your occupancy and bookings. Let’s explore what a channel manager is, how it works and what it can do for your business!
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A partnership with Rentals United gives your business a fantastic opportunity to go to the next level by integrating to our vast network. With over 150,000 properties distributed through Rentals United today, our customer base covers 6 continents and includes Enterprise Property Managers, Real Estate Companies, B&Bs, and large “Hotel 2.0” Rental companies.Book a free consultation
One of the biggest benefits of using a channel manager is that it can save you a lot of time. In fact, Rentals United users have managed to save 5-50 hours a week!
By automating your channel distribution, you eliminate repetitive tasks that you’d otherwise have to do manually. For example, updating your calendars, pricing and property descriptions one-by-one on each platform you advertise on.
This leaves you enough time to focus on other aspects of your property management business - like growing your inventory or expanding to new markets.
Double bookings can be a nightmare – if you’ve ever had to cancel a guest booking, you’ll know that. But if you use channel management software, you’ll never have to worry about getting overbooked again.
Stable, two-way synchronisation is the key. With a channel manager, your availability gets instantly updated across all your sales channels every time you receive a reservation. This drastically diminishes your risk of overbookings.
Another advantage of channel managers is that they allow you to diversify your distribution.
They can give you access to distribution channels that you never considered getting listed on but fit your business perfectly. Rentals United, for instance, has 60+ channels to choose from!
Once you’ve improved your vacation rental marketing mix, you’ll be able to reach new audiences, gain more visibility and target niches that correspond with your rentals’ profile.
Ultimately, more eyes on your listings will lead to an increase in bookings, occupancy and revenue.
Some of the best-performing alternative channels out there don’t accept listings uploaded manually by property managers. If you want to advertise on them, you need to go through a channel manager.
Google, for example, works with a select number of tech partners - including Rentals United - who can get you listed. Right now, there’s no other way to have your listings appear directly in Google search results. This is worth considering because Google is a channel with huge potential.
First of all, it’s the biggest search engine in the world where millions of travellers search for accommodation every day. Secondly, it gives vacation rentals a chance to compete with hotels directly in search results. And thirdly, it’s still extremely underused by property managers, so you can be among the first to start getting bookings from Google!
These days, software is all about connectivity. Different platforms need to communicate with each other so that you can work efficiently with a seamlessly integrated tech stack.
Channel managers integrate with a variety of tools like PMSs, yield managers, housekeeping apps, etc.
When buying a channel manager, make sure it integrates with other vacation rental software you use. Or, if you haven’t built your tech stack yet and you’re looking to add new solutions to your toolbox in the future, check if the channel manager integrates with providers you’d consider working with.
As an example, Rentals United integrates with operational tools like HelloHere, Doinn and Wishbox, dynamic pricing tools like Beyond Pricing and PriceLabs, and over 50 property management systems.
We can’t stress this enough: reliable API connections are the heart of a successful channel management strategy.
When speaking with channel management providers, inquire if they have the most recent updates in place for each online travel agent they work with.
A good way to do this is by checking your preferred online booking site’s product update log for new features. Then, ask the channel management company whether their users have access to those features.
Channel managers should always strive to provide their clients with the best tools and resources on the market.
Buying a channel manager is a huge business decision and something that will impact your day-to-day life and your bottom line.
So, choose a provider that makes a constant effort to not only keep their connections up-to-date but offer extra help with business strategy, search engine optimisation in OTAs, revenue management, and more.
Does the company have account managers who can give you advice on which online distribution channels to get listed on?
Are they making an effort to keep adding new channels to their list of connections?
Will you receive guidance on how to optimise your listings so they rank higher on OTAs?
Does the channel manager have advanced pricing options that can help you fine-tune your revenue management?
These are all good questions to ask the provider you have your eye on!
You’ll know a good channel manager by the number of OTA badges they have. That is, how many online booking sites recognise them as trusted partners.
OTAs have strict criteria for the partners they choose to work with. Their endorsement is always a good indicator of a channel manager’s expertise and reliability.
Currently, Rentals United is the only vacation rental channel manager recommended by the four big OTAs: Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo/HomeAway and Tripadvisor.
When contracting a SaaS (software-as-a-service) provider like a channel manager, there’s usually an onboarding process that requires the investment of time and effort from your side.
This is necessary for you to get to know the software and all of its features, so you can get the most out of it when you’re using it on your own.
However, make sure that the onboarding process doesn’t take too long. The whole point of getting a channel manager is to save time. If it takes months just to learn how to use the tool, it’s probably not the best investment of your time or money.
At Rentals United, we like to get the onboarding done within three weeks. The process involves a 1-hour introductory call, a 30-minute follow-up call, a 30-minute wrap-up call and some homework in between. That’s it!
Once your channel manager is set up, you can start mastering your online distribution and increasing your bookings, with the peace of mind that your channels will always be in perfect sync.
Before you commit to a channel manager, make sure you understand how its pricing works.
Here’s what to look out for:
Is it a subscription service or a commission-based service?
Is there a setup fee?
Do you have to sign a long-term contract?
We recommend choosing a subscription service over a commission-based one so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying each month.
It’s also advisable to go with a provider who doesn’t require you to sign a long-term contract - just in case you need to cancel your plan for some reason.
A reasonable setup fee can be justified, but there are many providers out there who don’t require a setup fee and will still guide you through the onboarding process with the help of a dedicated specialist.
If you’re contracting a subscription service, it’s also good to double check what the pricing plan includes.
Here are some questions to ask:
Are all the tools the channel manager has included in the monthly fee or just the basics?
Are any external services that the channel manager integrates with included in the pricing, or do you have to contract them separately?
Are listing site commissions included in the pricing?
For example, at Rentals United, you don’t need to sign a long-term contract, there’s no setup fee, and our monthly fees include using our Channel Manager as well as all of our other tools: Guest Planner, Booking Engine, Guest Communication, Quality Checker, iCal Sync and Multi-Calendar.