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A Cloudbeds’ Review By Someone Who Has Actually Used It

cloudbeds-review

When asked if I could help rebrand a budget motel, imposter syndrome crept up quickly, but I swept aside the feeling, and it ended up being one of my favorite projects to date. One of our primary goals was to help the client create a functional website, consolidate multiple booking channels, and accurately portray the motel’s “budget-friendly” status. To accomplish it all, we chose Cloudbeds and there were pros and cons to our choice.

Building a Website With Cloudbeds | 9/10

Cloudbeds is a channel manager, booking engine, and PMS, but also a web builder.

Like so many of the eCommerce platforms we review, you don’t have to build your website on Cloudbeds. Cloudbeds itself mentions that you can also use WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. However, if you’re going to use Cloudbeds’ hospitality management suite, building a website on their platform will save you a lot of time.

Building a Website: Start With a Template

Cloudbeds is a full-service software solution. When you sign-up and pay for the site (we will discuss pricing later), they assign a website designer. Our website designer, Astrid, was fabulous. She was easy to communicate with, creative, responsive, and an all-around rockstar, which was a theme when working with Cloudbeds. Cloudbeds seems to have a knack for finding and hiring stellar talent.

Your website designer will start by asking you to fill out a comprehensive intake form that covers everything from your desired template to SEO information.

Regarding templates, Cloudbeds has several that you can choose from and you can view them all here. All their templates are mobile-friendly and completely customizable. You can change colors, fonts, layouts, insert widgets, or even insert pre-made sections. If you want a quick look at some of the widgets and sections available, you can watch my video below.

Finally, I’ll add that communicating with Astrid was made even easier thanks to Cloudbeds’ built-in comment feature. When working on the site, you can add comments that will go directly to your website designer anywhere on the page. You simply click “add a comment,” click where you want the comment to go, and hit submit.

There is one con to using Cloudbeds to build your website, and that’s that it can’t be separated from their management software. If you stop using their service, they will remove your website from the web.

“One thing to note is that Cloudbeds Websites integrates with Cloudbeds’ booking engine and channel manager, so you have to use the entire platform together.” (Source)

SEO | 8/10

As mentioned, all of Cloudbeds’ themes are responsive. You can hit preview to view the website on different sized devices when working on your site. Cloudbeds even offers the ability to make edits while viewing the mobile version of the website, which makes it easy to create a mobile-friendly experience—a critical component of SEO.

cloudbeds responsive preview of the website on a mobile device

Second, we can’t talk about SEO without talking about website speed, and here things go downhill as Cloudbeds is pretty slow.

Gatlinburg View Lodge, for example, is built on Cloudbeds and though their homepage looks fairly basic, it’s a large page (6.2MB). The size of the website and other factors mean that its mobile performance on Google PageSpeed is 33. Not good, especially considering that it takes 15.3 seconds to interact with the site.

To rule out the possibility that the poor speed was a theme issue, I found another Cloudbeds website: Mindo River. Mindo also ranked poorly on Google PageSpeed Insights, with 28 on mobile and 54 on desktop.

Beyond that, Cloudbeds does cover all of the SEO basics. Each page can be set as indexed or no index, you can track user data by connecting Google Analytics, use a custom domain, manage redirects, create a blog, and you can set a custom page title, page description, and add keywords.

cloudbeds SEO review that shows all of their available options

Finally, Cloudbeds has a partnership with Google Hotel Search, which helps boost rankings and makes it easy for people to find you and book with you directly. They also offer Facebook pixels to help drive more traffic to your website.

Cloudbeds PMS and Channel Management | 8.5/10

When working with Cloudbeds, you will work with the website designer, as mentioned above, and an onboarding manager. The onboarding manager is responsible for helping you properly set up the backend. Their service is needed as there’s a lot of data to populate and a bit of a learning curve to boot. Our onboarding manager, LeResa, helped keep us on track. She was bright, energetic, and knowledgeable.

Some of the data you will work to enter are for direct bookings and some are for channel management. Once set up, Cloudbeds distributes this data to Booking.com, Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Trivago, Hotels.com, VRBO, Travelocity, Priceline, and more. In fact, they claim you can connect to 300+ booking channels, allowing you to seamlessly manage rates and availability.

*Note that distribution is not automatic. You will need to create an account with each of the channels you plan to use and connect them using the dashboard before any data is sent.*

  • Connects to 300+ Booking Channels
  • Direct API Connection
  • Cloudbeds Does Not Charge Additional Commission on Bookings
  • Synchronize Content and Images on Select Channels (Airbnb, Dorms.com, etc.)
  • Metasearch Advertising Integration
  • Ability to Manage Multiple Properties from One Account
  • Supports Multiple Users and Custom User Roles
  • Option to Send All Rooms or a Limited Number of Rooms to OTAs

Messaging Aggregation

My client’s property is a motel, and he moved to Cloudbeds to get more direct bookings. However, before the migration, he primarily advertised on VRBO and Airbnb, creating a sort of hybrid business model. His plan was to continue using vacation rental-focused platforms like Airbnb or VRBO, but he found one gap in using Cloudbeds to assist: Cloudbeds isn’t a messaging aggregator.

While you will be able to message your booked guests via the platform, inquiries will have to be managed using each individual channel. For clients like mine who manage dozens of rooms, consolidating pre-booking communication is just as important as consolidating post-booking communication.

The only workaround offered by Cloudbeds is via their API integrations. I called every single partner on their list and found that Akia and Whistle, though not perfect, were the best options for messaging aggregation.

Akia can send text messages to guests who book on Airbnb, Expedia, or booking.com. Within the text message, you can encourage your guest to chat with you over text instead of using your inbox, which the Akia rep told me works “pretty well.” This, of course, would only help you with booked guests on a limited number of platforms; it would not help you communicate with inquiries and it did not help my client with VRBO.

Whistle’s messaging system works with Expedia and Booking.com but not Airbnb. Neither solution worked for us. In the end, my client decided to stick with Hospitable.com. for messaging automation and consolidation as he found Cloudbeds’ options to be insufficient.

Accepting and Managing Reservations

One feature noted on several Cloudbeds’ reviews is how easy it is for the front desk to manage reservations.

When a guest arrives at your hotel, your team will locate the reservation using your PMS system (they can search by name or reservation ID) and confirm the reservation details. Cloudbeds allows guests to check-in online, but if they haven’t checked in before arriving, it’s simply a matter of completing registration, checking the guest’s ID, and collecting the payment. Via Cloudbeds, you can post a payment as a record, collect a cash payment, or charge a credit card. Finally, your front desk team can print an invoice or click to send it to the email address on file.

The reservation system is intuitive and requires minimal training and time. In fact, Cloudbeds University has a training document you can use that goes beyond teaching your team how to use Cloudbeds by also providing best practices and tips for guest experience and hospitality management.

cloudbeds-reservation

Rate Management and Payments| ?/10

I chose not to provide a rating on this category as I was not involved in setting up the payment system. As I can’t review the experience, I will simply hit on the highlights and facts. Cloudbeds’ payment system and rate management includes the following:

  • Channel-Specific Pricing
  • Rate Checker
  • Base Rate Adjustment
  • Revenue Management
  • Secure Payment Processing
  • Multi-Currency Support
  • Integration with Secure Payment Processors
  • Option to Add Taxes Including VAT, City, and Hotel
  • Ability to Add Fees (Cleaning, Resort, Parking, Etc.)

One thing to note is that you can set channel-specific pricing. For example, your pricing on Airbnb can be different than it is on VRBO. Second, you can add the Cloudbeds’ Rate Comparison Widget to your website. Using the widget, travelers can compare your pricing across multiple platforms with the intent of driving direct bookings. Third, you can increase or decrease your nightly rate and dispatch that adjustment to all your connected channel partners. Fourth, Cloudbeds partners with several well-known payment processors like Stripe, PayPal, and PayU. The processors they use adhere to PCI DSS Compliance and SCA guidelines.

Finally, one of the most exciting features is PIE (Pricing Intelligence Engine). PIE keeps tabs on your pricing and your competitors and lets you know when you need to adjust to stay competitive. It’s also intelligent enough to consider local data like events, holidays, demand, and other revenue opportunities. You can adjust rates manually or create rules and alerts to automatically adjust pricing when needed.

Booking Engine| 9.5/10

availability calendar

Cloudbeds booking engine data is populated using the backend dashboard and distributed using your website and social media accounts. It’s how you drive direct bookings and avoid paying the added commission charged by most OTAs.

When setting up Cloudbeds, you will have to create a property profile that describes the property’s features, amenities, and policies. You can customize your color scheme, add your logo, and add multiple languages and currencies, as well as manage room types. Adding room types is crucial as it affects your availability on your booking engine and distribution channels.

Accommodation types can include private rooms or shared rooms, but for the purposes of this review, we’re only going to look at private rooms.

The most challenging part of setting up room types is deciding how to organize them. While Cloudbeds allows you to choose how to organize rooms—luxury and comfort, bed type, or the number of beds in a room—your selection must match the configuration on the channels you use. To do this, you will need to organize your rooms by accommodation type and can’t create a type for each individual room. For example, my client decided to group his rooms by room type, but he did so knowing that reviews on specific platforms, like Airbnb, would be lumped together. This was a difficult decision for him as his rooms can vary considerably, even those of the same type.

With your room types in place, you will be asked to fill in accommodation details including:

  • Accommodation Title
  • Number of Units Available
  • Maximum Occupancy
  • Number of Adults and Children Included in Rate
  • Accommodation Descriptions
  • Accommodation Amenities (Bathrobes, Fans, Coffee Makers, Custom Amenities, etc.)
  • Features and Additional Images

Note that all of the options above will only show on mybookings; they will not be sent for channel distribution. Mybookings is Cloudbeds’ internet booking engine.

Finally, you can add as many room types as you want and create add-on fees, promotional codes, and rate plans like breakfast, newlywed packages, extended stay discounts, or early-bird discounts. Cloudbeds does a fantastic job of helping you find ways to drive bookings on your website.

Pricing and Final Thoughts | 8.75/10

Cloudbeds does not share its pricing online as it’s custom. However, in talking to a few Cloudbed users, I can confidently provide a ballpark estimate. If you choose to build a website with Cloudbeds, the cost is a one-time $300 fee. This price includes up to seven pages, hosting, access to a website designer, and your SSL certificate. Second, there is a monthly charge for the backend magic. The backend services will run from $400 to $800 per month, depending on your need and the size of your project. While pricey, the silver lining is that Cloudbeds does not require a contract, so you can cancel at any time. The not-so silver lining, as we’ve already discussed, is that you can’t keep your website if you choose to cancel the monthly service.

I feel as though I’ve merely scratched the surface of what Cloudbeds can do. Their marketplace allows connection with tons of third-party providers, and there are other direct features like housekeeping management that we just aren’t going to dive into today.

In the end, Cloudbeds has a few gaps, especially considering the high price tag. Still, I feel it’s a viable option for those in the hotel industry. That said, I am talking about traditional hoteliers. Currently, it is not the best option for property owners using vacation rental platforms. If you want to give Cloudbeds a spin, I encourage you to try the system for free by requesting a demo on cloudbeds.com.

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