You may have wondered why it's been so quiet around here recently. We've been hard at work on a huge new feature: direct channel integration!
We've had two-way iCal sync and inquiry parsing for years, which provides the basic availability updates and inquiry quoting and auto response.
Direct channel integration has so much more potential: updating channels with rates, listing description, amenities, photos, receiving bookings with full financial and guest information, two way messaging with guests... and the list goes on from there.
In typical OwnerRez fashion, we evaluated the third party channel manager options and ended up developing our own direct channel sync engine which powers all of these integrations. There are four reasons we chose to build it ourselves instead of teaming up with a channel manager partner to save time:
- We directly control and are responsible for the integration with each channel. This means that we can deliver our trademark power and reliability rather than having to play telephone through a third party to get to the channel.
- Channel managers are EXPENSIVE! Some charge 3-5% of the gross booking total on top of the already large commissions that each channel charges. As vacation rental owners ourselves, we know how steep of a price that is. They justify it by saying, "just build it into your rates", but that means your booking volumes go down. Building direct integrations takes longer but lets us price on a simple per-property flat rate (see below).
- Many channels require a minimum of 5 properties to access any direct integration. For smaller folks, we've developed a channel bridge tool that links into the same channel sync engine but bypasses the 5 property limit.
- The promise of being on "hundreds" of channels rings hollow. The key is to be on the big 5 or 10 channels in your area and the rest are a distraction. More channels means more work and more things that can go wrong -- even with a channel manager you still end up running around doing little one-off fixes... and you end up being limited in pricing and policy decisions to what is supported by the lowest common denominator channel.
You've seen a lot of "coming soon" language on OwnerRez this year, and we recently centralized the direct and synced channels into a main Channels area. All of that is currently free while we're in beta. Synced channels (iCal and inquiry parsing) will always be included with the base OwnerRez subscription. As of 1 December, direct and channel bridge channel integrations will become a premium feature, which will cost $9.99/mo for the first two properties and $1/mo for each property after that.
Here's what the premium channels feature will include as of 1 December:
- Booking.com rates and availability push and booking and credit card processing integration
- TripAdvisor listing content (description, photos, amenities), rates and availability push, booking import, and inquiry import
- CanadaStays listing content, rates and availability push and booking import
- VRBO/HomeAway channel bridge booking download with full charges, payments, and guest contact info
- Airbnb channel bridge booking download with full charges, payments, and guest info
As a bonus for our customers, whether you've new or have been with us for years (those of you around since 2009, thanks for making this all possible!) we're waving the $9.99 fee for the first year for anyone who signs up by 1 December. You'll just pay a flat $1/mo per property for premium channels until December 2019.
We've got great plans for more channels and more channel related feature throughout the rest of the year and into 2019.
As vacation rental owners ourselves we're salivating over the possiblities and can't wait to get all of this stuff done! The current roadmap starts with booking.com content push, then into VRBO/HomeAway and Airbnb content push (both via channel bridge for everyone and direct integrations for 5+ property users). After that we'll branch out into additional channels like Expedia and Agoda, and then fully integrate seamless messaging through all sources (channel direct, SMS, email, phone, etc).