BEST MATCH on HomeAway

Recently there has been an enormous amount of debate about Best Match on HomeAway. This includes sites such as VRBO and OwnersDirect.

The HomeAway explanation is that there are many criteria for this, however it has come to light that owners and managers who pay a subscription and do allow a GSF to be taken, by activating “Request to Book” now see their properties listed behind those many many miles or Km away. GSF takes precedent over location search!

If you are guest, you may well find the best properties at the bottom of the list!

A whole report has been generated as an example on Google Docs and we have reproduced it here aswell: The original may be found on this link: http://goo.gl/VdsU63

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“HOPELESS MATCH” & WHY YOUR ENQUIRIES DRIED UP or

WHY GUESTS CAN’T FIND A FULL SELECTION OF HOMES!

REMEMBER THIS?

Sharples

Since 2014 a lot has changed and we have seen BEST MATCH introduced, which has seen travellers fees become a very important part of the HomeAway money machine.

Best Match  is quoted by HomeAway on their website:

https://www.homeaway.co.uk/lp/building-for-the-future/best-match-performance/what-is-it

#1 way to be successful in best match is to enable online booking for all listings and to increase the number of onsite bookings you make. If we don’t have visibility into your booking activity, we can’t factor that advantage into your listing performance with best match.  For integrated property managers, this means ensuring any bookings that happen outside of the HomeAway checkout process are reported through the booking update service.

So let’s address Best Match. This should in theory be based on what a guest wants, right?  The criteria is not rocket science:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Great accommodation
  • Reviews
  • Location
  • Amenities

Maybe all our guests are unique and they search first by amenities and then price and then decide to fly to Egypt. Or perhaps they decide to go to somewhere like Shaldon, because it has childhood memories, they feel safer at home, can drive and the pound is weak or their friends said it’s fabulous. It would seem reasonable to assume they would then search by location/town/village.

Location is therefore the primary search requirement only followed by “is there any accommodation for that period, for the number of people”  and price, but even this can be flexible (hence show the calendars as it’s a visual opportunity).

This is not just common sense, it’s a fact.

Google the world’s pre-eminent search engine agrees. Check out this article commissioned by them:

https://storage.googleapis.com/think/docs/2014-travelers-road-to-decision_research_studies.pdf

To save you time we have added a visual from the report! Your starter for ten:  

Which is the most important search term shown below as decreed by Google?

words

DO HOMEAWAY DISAGREE?

No they don’t. Not at least on the marketing materials, just on the websites and where it really counts! The first element of best match: “location”. Speaking with “forked tongues” is perhaps a way to portray this deception.

best-Match

They even emphasize how important location is on your actual listing:

competition

WHY YOUR ENQUIRIES DROPPED!

HomeAway disagrees with Google and this is why enquiries are dropping and OwnersDirect sees such bad reviews. Check out Trustpilot to see how badly this has been received.

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.ownersdirect.co.uk

owners-direct

If a person were to perform a search on Owners Direct (OD) for example,  for a holiday home in a particular location, you would expect to see the rentals available in this location first, that makes logical sense, right? Whether this is instant book, online 24hr bookable or a paid subscription.

TEST IT YOURSELF

Here is an example. head off to OwnersDirect.co.uk and search for Shaldon (Devon, UK).

You searched for “Shaldon”, so  a guest  would expect to see “Shaldon” rentals. However, what we’re now seeing (especially on HomeAway websites) are other rentals from other destinations being pushed ahead of these “Shaldon” rentals..  

Both the guests and the managing companies/owners are being misled.

As an example this is one of our locations, the aforementioned “Shaldon”:-

https://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/rentals/united-kingdom/shaldon/r20531

Shaldon, is a small fishing town/village, it doesn’t have more than 100 rentals in total in the entire town, yet Owner’s Direct are showing a massive 521 properties available in total.

In the maps shown by Owner’s Direct, you can see rentals from anywhere within the visible viewport of the map. This is despite my very specific search for Shaldon. Owner’s Direct shows 50 rentals per page, and only a very small selection of the rentals shown on the results are even from Shaldon.

The areas specified below are the areas covered by their “Best Match”. Location seems to be irrelevant for the vast majority of properties on offer.

map1

To give you an idea of how poorly this is handled, this is the actual area of Shaldon (See below image). I’ve had to zoom in so you can actually see the boundaries of Shaldon so the map’

My calculations show this as being about 2.12 km², which is over 100 times LESS that the actual size of the results that Owner’s Direct are deciding to show from.

map2

What is worse is that all these first listed properties (17 from Shaldon and just across the river, plus the next 330) show these icons:

24hrs

Scrolling through the listings this gets extended to Sidmouth and Brixham, now we are talking hours away, certainly not Shaldon and comprise these 330 properties.  The search map viewport changes, and moves, which takes our guests further away from Shaldon.

map3

Somewhere on page 7 we begin to see some real Shaldon properties again (about 12).

These of course are not “Online Bookable” but paid for in advance subscriptions. These listings are relegated to the bottom of the pile which is not even relevant to that location anymore as potential guests have left as they cannot find enough properties and those who want to call or email and have a discussion are completely out of luck.  

All of these icons then change to:

no-24hr

No 24hr iconography or confidence booster!

A POOR SOLUTION FOR GUESTS

  1. If a guest wants to stay in Shaldon and the Online Bookable ones are not free, properties miles away still show first.  OD may make some more money by suggesting that other properties are available, but guests who want Shaldon will go elsewhere to search and reduces the OD brand and loyalty and loses traffic for all.  We can see this as bookings from more distinct location sites are on the rise as are phone calls and direct enquiries.
  2. Best Match is held up as the panacea for guests. The locality is the primary concern as we have shown for most people on holiday  and this has been deliberately manipulated. This is also very poor service to those who still pay to see their home shown in a specific location.  We would expect to see them at the bottom of the Shaldon list but not the sub-region list and those many many miles away. taking money for this cannot be a moral stance.

I cannot see this has not been explained in any detail and is in reality deceptive for guest and owners alike.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THIS?

The only solution if you wish to use HomeAway and see some semblance of business is to comply and use their dreadful “Best Match”, 24hr booking and subject guests to service fees.  In reality Best Match is no more than a term used to offer up best income opportunity for HomeAway by taking service fees. The higher the value the higher the fee and we haven’t even looked at that yet!

Obviously don’t pay for any listings on Owners Direct unless you can take payments via the site and card details can be entered. The guest then pays the service fee and unless you can organise third party integrations and external payment solutions, you will need to adopt their payment system. This also comes with its own challenges and fees.

BEST MATCH ONLY WORKS FOR GUEST SERVICE FEES.

If subscriptions are on offer then OwnersDirect should have the decency to at least offer them to guests or let owners know that their properties will not see the light of day.

A massive percentage of guests still want to enquire, deal direct, make phone calls and not book through HomeAway sites and pay these extra fees.  Booking direct also seems to be shown as dangerous and owners and managers are not trustworthy. They are trustworthy enough to pay HomeAway however.

This is their shareholders business and they can do as they see fit of course. It may have been a poorly handled journey and deceptive across many transition points. Top executives have left, the evidence of the actual direction and processes is on youtube lectures and the light at the end of the tunnel was actually a train heading your way.

The question now remains. Who will win the online booking battle? Also the market is now wide open for a more hybrid model to hoover up the discontented of which there are millions.

IN A NUTSHELL

Best Match only applies if a Guest Service Fee is applied. Somebody forgot to add that to their marketing materials, training manuals and tell the support staff!

GUESTS:

Please just search far and wide and read the first page of this site for advice on getting the best deal!