Paul Colston examines a revealing study of generational preferences
A study by cloud-based enterprise event management platform Cvent found that millennials in the US value a venue’s cost as most influential, while members of older generations value customer service when sourcing their next meeting location.
The most frequent question US hoteliers ask, according to Cvent’s Planner Sourcing Report, is: ‘What are planners’ sourcing behaviours?’ Understanding that is to learn how to convert more group business opportunities.
Cvent said one lesson learned from the results was that planners are clearly eager to help venues create a better sourcing relationship with them. “They want hoteliers to understand their side of the process because it ultimately makes their job easier,” the report introduction said.
The findings showed pricing remained the biggest factor when choosing a venue. Some of the headline responses included:
Nearly two-thirds of event planners prefer to keep their options open when sourcing
Over 40% of planners said that a 10% discount would convince them to switch from their first choice venue to their second
2% of planners indicated a hotel’s brand was a decision factor
Respondents were surprisingly flexible when selecting venues for their event. Only 1% of planners stated that they consistently turn to the same venue for their events. 36% of respondents stated that they do have preferred venues but are willing to consider alternatives. The majority of planners (63%) responded that they always begin their venue-sourcing process considering a number of venues.
Venue sourcing is often a multi-day process that involves multiple touch points between venues and planners. To stay relevant with planners, hotels need to continue to adopt technology and maintain an online presence. Some 38% of planners said they begin their venue sourcing by searching online and using sourcing tools, while another 29% said that they begin with search engines.
Interestingly, only 7% of planners said they were extremely certain of the kind of venue they were seeking.
In terms of influencing channels, 95% of planners indicated that peer recommendations are ‘highly’ or ‘somewhat’ influential. Online venue directories and venues’ sites also proved popular with 90% and 88% of planners reporting the respective channels as ‘highly’ or ‘somewhat’ influential.
Researching venues still remains a significant hurdle for planners with 24% of them indicating that it was the task that posed the most difficulty. The next most common pain point was compiling the responses (17%).
The survey also showed that decision-makers at event venues need to keep in mind the word ‘thoroughness’ when submitting their bid, with 42% saying this is the most common aspect planners feel hotels need to improve.
The second most common area where suppliers were found wanting was ‘speed’ (32%). And when asked what ultimately leads a planner to say ‘Yes’, 27% said venue cost was the most important factor determining their decision; 20% stated availability of preferred dates; 16% location of venue; and 14% the event space layout.
“It is clear from the survey findings that both the influx of millennial planners and advances in event planning processes and technologies are changing how hotels compete for lucrative group business”
Rise of millennials
Cvent’s survey of 800 meeting planners was also designed to understand the generational differences between meeting planners’ sourcing behaviours, as millennials rise in the meetings industry.
Millennial planners are generally flexible when sourcing a venue. The results uncovered that venue cost was the top reason why planners often switch locations. A 3-5% discount would convince up to 17% of millennials to choose their second choice over their first. Other top reasons millennial meeting planners switch venues included:
Customer service (22%)
Size and adequacy of space (20%)
Availability of dates (12%)
Bad experience with booking (10%)
“As the next generation of meeting planners rises, hotels and event venues need to better understand their behaviours to close more group business,” said Kevin Fliess, vice-president of product marketing at Cvent. “It is clear from the survey findings that both the influx of millennial planners and advances in event planning processes and technologies are changing how hotels compete for lucrative group business.”
Venue sourcing is often a multi-day process that involves various touch-points between the venue and planner.
Millennials were 37% less likely to source directly through a venue when compared to their older generation industry peers, indicating that the new generation of meeting planners value the convenience and simplicity of an event management platform during the process. This new digital generation prefers to source directly. 25% of millennial planners are more likely than older generations to report that negotiations are the most difficult part of sourcing a venue, indicating an aversion to one-on-one interactions and a preference for a transactional experience, while Generation X and Baby Boomers showed a much stronger willingness to negotiate.
… and social media
Millennial meeting planners were 50% more likely to say social media and blogs are highly influential when it comes to evaluating a venue compared to older generations.
These millennial planners rely on online reviews, ratings and opinions, compared to traditional media.
Finally, the survey gave planners the chance to voice their opinion about unique things venues did to win their business. Common themes involved price, customer service, communication, and attentiveness. Above, right, is one response reflecting planner sentiment about the venues they interact with.
Specifically, the question asked was: ‘In the past two years, what’s one unique thing a venue did that won your business during the RFP process?’ Of 842 planners surveyed by Cvent, 71% sourced meetings on behalf of their company, 17% were association planners, and 11% were third-party planners. 35-52 year olds represented the largest demographic of event planners with 43% of the surveyed audience. Millennial or Gen Y planners (18-34 year olds) were the second largest segment comprising 41% of respondents.