Channel managers are the unquestionable heroes of vacation rental management in our era for they save property managers from the evil of manually updating availability calendars and rates on the many different channels and help safeguard against the disaster of overbookings or incorrect rate parity caused by human error. The more channels you work with, the more visibility your rentals get, so there is no way vacation rental managers can expand their visibility and reach new markets without adopting a balanced multi-channel marketing strategy and listing their properties on various channels and vacation rental websites. Therefore, using the best channel manager software is non-negotiable for managing vacation rentals effectively and optimising revenue.
A channel manager is an online cloud-based solution which keeps your inventory and rates and availability up-to-date, automatically synchronises your rental calendars, and manages your bookings from a centralised hub with no need to install any software on your computers.
All the channel managers in the market claim to be the best channel manager software ever, but there is no one solution for all vacation rentals and serviced apartments. Therefore, you must choose your channel manager according to your business’s specific needs.
Looking for the best channel manager software for your vacation rental business and not sure how to select the right one? Follow the steps below:
1. Identify Your Needs and Expectations
Before choosing the best channel manager software for your short term rental business, you have to identify your needs and goals. The size and the number of your properties are the most crucial factors to identify the level of complexity and the features you require.
The more rentals you have and the more scattered across different locations they are, the higher the level of automation and personalisation you will need. Define your main weak points and choose the channel manager that can best address them and automate as much of the workload as possible.
2. Decide on the Budget and Payment Conditions
How much are you willing or can you afford to pay for “the best channel manager software?” Don’t let the price of different software providers deceive you. The most expensive solutions are not necessarily the best channel manager software or the cheapest ones the worst. Nevertheless, many software providers charge you more for offering extra functionality, so you should make your final decision on the benefits of the software for your business rather than its price.
What payment methods do you prefer for your channel manager software? Some channel managers are commission-based and charge you per bookings, while others are channel-based and have a fee for each extra OTA, and some are property-based or have a monthly or annual subscription model.
Does the channel manager you choose have a setup cost? Does it have some fixed and hidden costs such as training and support fees? Do you have to pay upfront? What are the partnership termination conditions? Do they have any free trials or money-back guarantee?
3. Conduct a Comprehensive Research
Before investing in channel management software, hoteliers and vacation rental managers must do a reasonable amount of research to choose the best channel manager software tailored for the particular requirements of their business. There are some general basic features that every good channel manager solution must offer. Treat the following features as a checklist to narrow down your list of options:
Channel Manager Distribution List
There is a wide range of great online travel agencies (OTAs) and property listing sites to choose from, which can give your vacation rentals or serviced apartments great visibility; however, you need to find the ones that work best for your business. Jot down the list of your target vacation rental websites. Then check the channel managers’ websites and take a close look at the list of OTAs to make sure they integrate with a great variety of OTAs and work with all of the booking sites that you prefer.
Level of Automation
A channel manager software’s job is to save property managers from the mundane time-consuming task of updating rates manually and preventing double-bookings caused by delayed updates and human errors. Thus, the best channel manager software is the one that offers a high level of automation with real-time adjustment of availability and rates. In addition, to offer a high level of automation, a channel manager must be able to integrate with other automation solutions such as dynamic pricing software to handle smart pricing quickly and easily.
A channel manager communicates with booking platforms in two ways; some use iCal file format to transfer calendar data and manage vacation rental reservations, while others communicate through API integrations.
Most OTAs do not pull iCal updates more than a few times a day, and this increases the risk of receiving double bookings. Besides, iCals are not able to synchronise rates between channel managers and listing platforms, so the rates need to be updated manually on the target site each time a change takes place on the central reservation system. On the other hand, API connections allow for both rates and availability to be sent in real-time ensuring your rates are pushed out as soon as you make a change and guarantee rate parity.
Reports and Analytics
Good channel managers collect and maintain reservation data across all channels and allow you to track the revenue flow of your rentals across different OTAs. With the help of these reports, you can find out about the operation of each OTA and make commission evaluations or end partnerships that aren’t working well.
Ease of Use
Is the channel manager you are going to choose user-friendly? Does it need staff training? Is it multi-lingual and offers automated currency conversions? Is it compatible with your existing PMS? Is it mobile-friendly so that you can work with it on the move?
The channel manager software you choose must provide great customer service and be committed to supporting you and your staff members with the onboarding and ongoing training or when you run into a problem or have technical issues with a responsive accessible 24/7 expert support team. They must make their website easier for you to use and always be readily available to help you out.
4. Keep Your Software Up-to-date
The short term rental industry changes at an extremely high speed, so as a smart rental manager, don’t stick to one channel manager for ages and do research, read customer reviews and request demos to find novel solutions to update your channel manager based on your new challenges and requirements from time to time.
As your business grows, your needs and expectations change as well. As a result, you should compare the features and integrations, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of different providers to be able to work with the most up-to-date channel manager software in the market.
Zeevou’s Channel Manager…
- can help you manage all sorts of properties from B&Bs, cottages, apartments and vacation homes to hotel rooms.
- will address your needs and expectations by releasing new features every month.
- will allow you to join Partner Host Forums where vacation rental managers share their comments and ideas about the new features and are involved in software development priorities through consultation.
- has a unit-based commission which can be paid yearly or monthly. The more units you have, the cheaper it becomes per unit. (Even the Annual Package can be paid on a monthly basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
- offers a bulk discount for the Annual Patron Plan.
- lets you cancel monthly packages anytime you need to with a simple 30 days’ notice.
- allows you to get a full refund within the first month if you decide Zeevou is not the right solution for you.
- integrates with more than 200 channels. Check the list of the OTAs Zeevou connects to and find your preferred websites.
- uses two-way API connections and pushes rates & availability in real time.
- is user-friendly and based on the requirements of vacation rental manager, dealing with multiple properties in different locations.
- integrates with PriceLabs, a smart dynamic pricing solution to give you the best rates possible and update channel rates by pushing automated prices.
- integrates with BeyondPricing, the world’s leading revenue management software for vacation rental owners and managers which offers dynamic pricing through hyper-local analytics to maximise revenue growth.
- has a dedicated and friendly support team available every single day to enable you to take control of the software yourselves.
- is delighted to be featured in HotelMinder’s list as one of the best vacation rental management systems of 2020.
- was shortlisted for the Best Channel Manager category at the Shortyz 2020 and was selected as the winner.