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etouches: New Tech to Source Better Venue Deals [Review]

By EventMB Studio Team

The etouches strategic sourcing solution enables event planners to book venues and negotiate better deals, faster. Here is our review.

etouches: New Tech to Source Better Venue Deals [Review]

etouches Strategic Venue Sourcing Solution: What Is It?

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etouches is a well-loved brand within the event industry, established in 2008. etouches offer a complete event management platform, with a suite of modules for event managers. Click here for a review of the wider etouches software. This review however focuses specifically on their new venue sourcing solution, which is available with all packages and as a standalone product.

The etouches venue sourcing solution is different to other online venue finding tools and eRFPs (electronic Request for Proposals) as it can be used for the whole booking process from researching and filtering venues, issuing RFPs, comparing the proposals, shortlisting suitable properties, tracking communications, negotiating better deals and greater savings, analyzing the offers, right through to confirming the booking and signing final contracts.

Let’s consider some of the ways it can help.  

The Main Categories of Features Are:

Source Venues to Match Specific Criteria. Results-oriented sourcing platform with access to 225,000 venues worldwide and a high response rate, via an ad-free search engine.

Interactive Bid Summary. All bids are presented in a comprehensive summary that calculates costs and savings automatically for easy comparison between venues.

Big Data. Analyze past bookings, rates paid, concessions offered and other enquiries colleagues have with the venues.

Easy Negotiations. The etouches’ Negotiation Tracker™ handles all the changes and communications and gives instant access to the entire bid history. See at a glance the best deals and compare preferred dates to alternatives offered to find the best option.

Review

Venue sourcing is one area of event planning that hasn’t moved with the times and is still often a manual and time-sapping process. However with the etouches strategic venue sourcing and booking technology it no longer needs to be that way - finally technology is making an impact and offering innovation in this area. If you have used other online RFP products do not let that put you off trying out this tool. The functionality and end-to-end process offered here is very different to those products only focused on online RFPs, which is actually only a small part of the total venue finding and booking process.

Response Rates

Other online RFPs can often have a disappointing response rate and be loathed by busy venues, but this system boasts a 91.4% hotel response rate - the best in the industry. This is because it makes the process smoother and easier for the venue as well as the meeting planner. There is also a specialized service team of former meeting and sales executives that track each quotation request to ensure that a response is delivered within the deadline specified.

9 hours 13 minutes is the current average response rate, which is amazing as response times are creeping up and a taking a week or more to hear back from venues in certain cases is not unheard of. These numbers speak for themselves.

Venue Database

The system gives access to 225,000 venues worldwide. The venue data is licensed from the Northstar Travel Group - the same data that powers Google Maps and AOL. Currently only hotel venues are listed, however non hotel venues will be added to the system from around Q2 2017, although this will be for the US only.

Other eRFPs have ads, featured properties or they refuse to list venues unless they pay a fee to be included or pay for leads that come through. The etouches system is completely ad free and transparent to ensure that you can view all of the options available.

Finding Venues that Match Your Criteria

Through the system you can search for venues that meet your specific criteria, apply smart filters, view locations on a map and create a list of properties you are interested in. A detailed RFP can be issued to each of them with specific information about your agenda, break out spaces, accommodation requirements, dates, flexibility and other special requests.

You can request concessions or even set standard company concessions applicable to all enquiries such as free WiFi in guest rooms, 1 suite upgrade per 30 rooms, etc. Other tools can be limiting in terms of the amount of information you can give, but this system welcomes detailed information to encourage more precise quotes. 

You can link your company global calendar so you can see events by department and company events overall. If you have any flexibility in terms of dates this can be useful to have sight of everything in one place and avoid clashes, whilst assessing the possible savings if you can consider alternative dates.

If you are booking a large event which requires accommodation across a number of hotels the system can even suggest how the room list should be split and enable you to change the hotel rooms requested from different properties.

Negotiation and Cost Savings

etouches venue sourcing solution keeps track of all the communications back and forth. It aggregates bids in an interactive summary that automatically manages updates and calculates costs and savings to make it easy to compare offers. You can see the entire bid history and ask venues to rebid if necessary. You can approach additional venues if you decide you need further options and drag and drop the hotels to show your order of preference. Planners can dismiss the venues that haven’t made the grade and hide these from the results to focus on those that are in the running.  

As well as getting a better deal, it can also cut down on the planner's time and the overall booking process. Then, if bookings are confirmed quicker it can mean more events can be accommodated throughout the year.

You can change the currency shown and calculate the anticipated taxes and charges that will be added. The system captures comprehensive meeting data, from negotiations to in-depth spend and savings, and gives visibility of all meeting activity across the organization.

The bid history enables you to see the impact of your negotiations in terms of the initial and final deal. This data is crucial in terms of proving your success and value to your clients and/or decision maker, who may not always fully realize the efforts involved in the venue sourcing process.

Venue Shortlist

If you have requested quotes manually from venues it can take hours cutting and pasting the different data and updates onto a spreadsheet or document to present it coherently to your meeting owner or client. Using the etouches venue sourcing technology it aggregates all bids and presents them as per your preferences. You can show or hide venues and data as you wish and ensure that it is simple to compare all of the best offers at a glance. The information can be shared via a private read-only link or can be exported into a PDF file or printed without having to worry about formatting issues.

It is possible to favorite your top venues and to write notes about venues which can be private for your reference only or visible publicly to other members of your team.

Contracting Venues

The etouches system doesn’t end with the shortlisting. It can be used for the whole process right through to requesting and signing the final contract - which can be uploaded via the portal. You can also easily keep the rest of your organization updated in terms of the status of the booking.

Features

Source Venues to Match Specific Criteria

  • Access to 225,000 venues worldwide
  • Excellent venue response rate
  • Ad-free search engine
  • Search and filter venues based on your specific criteria
  • Generate RFPs to be sent directly to selected vendors and venues
  • Include detailed information such as detailed agenda, concessions requested, room set up
  • Request venues, rates and rooms from the properties you are interested in
  • User-friendly RFP dashboard
  • Each property is qualified to assure it satisfies RFP requirements

Interactive Bid Summary

  • Receive complete bids – usually the same day
  • Negotiation Engine to capture all communication and bid updates in one place
  • Easily compare offers like-for-like
  • Keep track of changes along the way
  • Drag and drop into priority order to create rankings
  • Icons to identify venues that match your criteria, which do not have availability, alternative offers presented and which are shortlisted
  • Share a customized bid summary with decision makers via a private link or print or save a PDF of the data
  • No need to cut and paste updates onto spreadsheets to compare venues

Big Data

  • See enquiry and booking history
  • View past rates paid and concessions offered
  • Pick up on other bookings colleagues are progressing
  • Easy reporting with visualized data
  • Costs and savings automatically calculated to share with your manager/client

Easy Negotiations

  • Simplify the negotiation process
  • Streamline communications with multiple venues
  • Email templates which you can adapt requesting venues revisit elements of their quote or rebid
  • Negotiation Tracker™ handles all the changes, tracking communications and stores it in one place
  • Instant access to the entire bid history
  • See at a glance how each hotel stacks up against the others
  • Receive notifications of edits to the RFP request
  • Compare preferred dates to alternate ones to find the best value options
  • Clone your set-up to re-use it for similar events
  • Confirm the chosen venue and update on the portal so colleagues can see the progress status
  • Sign contracts via the portal
  • Integration with the etouches registration module to sync agenda and venue details without having to re enter data

Who Is It For?

This tool is for meeting planners of all levels. Anyone who books hotel venues including occasional planners, corporate planners, third-party/independent planners and TMC/MMC agencies will benefit from this solution.

Currently only hotel venues are listed, so if you prefer to work in unusual venues or do not require accommodation you will not get as much benefit from the tool, until they are added to the US in Q2.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Best practices are built into the platform to get completed bids faster and guarantee a high response rate
  • Helps manage the back-and-forth with both decision makers and venues and presents information in an easy to digest format
  • Centralizes meetings spend and savings data
  • Customer support team available 24/7 by chat, email, and phone

Cons

  • For best results, every meeting must go through the platform
  • Technology will not replace personal relationships with venues - you may still wish to talk and meet directly with properties
  • Only hotel venues are listed currently (non hotel venues expected to be added in Q2 for the US)
  • This platform shouldn’t be dismissed as just an eRFP tool as it offers much more functionality and works differently to other online venue finding tools you may have tried previously

Pricing and Plans

This solution is included within all packages and is available as a standalone, sourcing only product. Please contact etouches for a tailored quotation.

In Conclusion

If you book a lot of meetings this tool can help you to strike better deals with venues, save hours of work and get faster responses. Currently the venues are limited to hotel venues but with 225,000 properties listed worldwide you will be spoilt for choice. The etouches strategic venue sourcing solution has shaken up the venue booking process to give event planners the power and data to negotiate more effectively.

Disclaimer: Reviews are paid for placements. While Event Manager Blog receives a fee to extensively look at the tool and review it in detail, the content of the review is independent and by no means influenced by the company. If you have any questions please use the contact us section.

 

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EventMB Studio Team
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