ONYX Hospitality Group success story – combining upselling with CRM

The best of CRM and upselling, combined

As ardent users of both Cendyn’s eInsight CRM and Oaky’s digital upsell platform, ONYX Hospitality Group were a natural choice to pilot the integration between the two. The integration of both platforms enables Oaky upselling within Cendyn’s eInsight ecosystem, allowing hoteliers to send Oaky emails via Cendyn’s platform, seamlessly incorporating their upsell initiative into their pre-existing email sequences.

Chetan Patel VP Digital & CRM at ONYX Hospitality Group

ONYX Hospitality Group was founded to power the success and ongoing growth of the Amari, Shama, OZO and Saffron Collection hotels across the Asia Pacific region. They are a leading hotel management company with an open and approachable executive team and a commitment to hotel innovation and technology.

ONYX Hospitality Group operates on a high level, identifying advantages for their hotels across their portfolio and putting in the work to enhance essential systems – from marketing and communications through to revenue management.

ONYX immediately saw the greater potential of Oaky as a way to understand their guests and their behaviour more accurately. Alongside the well-oiled Cendyn eInsight CRM that Kittisak oversees, they identified the additional data points that the upsell journey provides as valuable feedback that could enable full-blown CRM personalisation.

“Oaky is not just an upsell tool. The whole journey’s data points actually provide information on that particular profile of guest. This feedback allows you to embark on a full-blown CRM personalisation. We’ve always seen Oaky as a complementary system to our CRM, but with the new Oaky Cendyn integration, we are truly able to enrich our knowledge on spending behaviour with the end goal of creating an ultra-personalised guest journey.”
– Kittisak Eh Chuei , Director, CRM at ONYX Hospitality Group


“The uptake in our upsell offers has been steadily increasing, which is a testament to the fact that guests are appreciating the opportunity to customise their stay beforehand.” Chetan Patel

In addition to championing the big-picture benefits of Oaky, ONYX has more than succeeded in generating incremental revenue with their upselling initiatives.

Maintaining a healthy ROI of over 8x across all properties in their portfolio, their best performing non-city hotel, Amari Havodda Maldives, used Oaky to earn an average of $53.29 in incremental revenue per email sent. This hotel also happens to bring in impressive email open rates and click through, with 83.57% and 71.07% respectively.

Their best performing city hotel, Amari Watergate Bangkok, performed exceptionally well in terms of room upgrades, with upwards of USD 20k earned in incremental revenue through room upgrades presented to guests via pre-stay emails in the second half of 2019.


8 x
average ROI
83.57 %
email open rate
incremental revenue per email sent (Amari Havodda)
$20 K
room upgrade revenue Q3 +Q4 2019 (Amari Watergate Bangkok)

After pausing upselling initiatives along with temporary closure during the pandemic’s first wave, certain ONYX hotels have hit the ground running upon reopening.

On top of ONYX Hospitality Group’s out-of-the-box thinking with their approach to upselling, their hotels have also enjoyed the straightforward benefits of providing guests what they want, when they want it and how they want it.


Optimised front desk upselling

Chetan, an advocate of both front desk and pre-stay upselling, feels that a finely tuned combination of the two should be practised. The personal rapport obtained through front desk interactions is vital and there is value in identifying, in real time, opportunities to make each guest’s stay better than expected.

He sees the advantages of pre-stay upselling as manifold too. It allows guests time and space to make their decision, while displaying a wide range of activities, services and upgrades to stir their imagination. An added advantage is that guests are able to confer with their family members. They’re less likely to shoo away a potentially interesting offer if they can make decisions in the way they normally would: mulling it over, getting the thoughts of others and giving themselves time to imagine the experience.

In Chetan’s words: “Before Oaky, we trained front office staff on upselling, giving them a cut of upselling revenue. This proved to be less than ideal because some of our hotels have 500 rooms to manage, so the front desk is busy. There’s a small window of time for check-in and an even shorter period in which to make a decision. Usually one person from a party handles check-in, so there’s the added disadvantage of them having to make a decision on their own, without time to consult the rest. Oaky allows them to make decisions with their families beforehand, showing the full selection of upsell opportunities to them. Providing them with this choice earlier means you don’t have to rely solely on opportunities that arise within the short duration of check in.”

Managing the upsell programme across a high volume of rooms

It goes without saying that the larger the hotel, the higher the need for operational prowess. As with most things done at scale, automated processes are essential. Chetan believes that pre-stay upselling allows hotels to cast their net further. If certain offers are converting at a given rate, why not apply this conversion rate across all your booked rooms, increasing the total spend per stay across the board?

“The main benefit is that the audience to upsell to is much wider. The more you can funnel through at a given conversion rate, the better. The Oaky dashboard also makes it easy to fine-tune details across various hotels as Oaky can target OTA guests as well”

Using knowledge of guest profiles where it counts

At ONYX, they know the value of understanding the profiles of guests that frequent each of their hotels. Their aim is to avoid superfluous or irrelevant communication wherever possible and show the right experiences to the right people. Their understanding of each hotel’s guest profile also allows them to adjust the way they approach communication. For instance in communication from Amari Watergate Bangkok, the hotel can afford to create urgency with their copy, since there is scarcity in availability. At Amari Havodda Maldives, on the other hand, an entirely separate approach is required. Guests have spent a lot of money to relax there, they don’t want pressure in any package.

Here’s where it gets interesting! In addition to optimising the total spend per stay, ONYX has identified opportunities for brand-building and community engagement in their Oaky offering. Chetan explains:

“When you talk upselling – people think about cross-selling services. For us, Oaky also displays our membership and loyalty programme. There’s zero cost to the customer, but displaying this free offer adds a lot of value to the hotel. It’s a great way to, for instance, get people to attend an event, which costs nothing to attend but may have costs attached, i.e. food and beverage. The results of these offers are intangible but very beneficial for the hotel. It’s community-building and branding.”

If you include free offers alongside your upsells, your pre-stay emails become more than an upselling push. It becomes a way to reinforce the idea that your hotel is presenting a range of options to enhance your stay – with or without a cost attached. What’s more: if guests are not interested in spending additional money on services or upgrades, you might still score a new loyalty member or attendees for an event.


A complementary system to CRM: building an ecosystem with your upselling initiative

ONYX is known for having it’s finger on the pulse when it comes to customer relationship management, or CRM, for which they use Cendyn’s eInsight platform. The hospitality group has a thriving loyalty programme, with some of their hotels attracting 85% of their guests to respective memberships. Before piloting the integration between Oaky and Cendyn, ONYX studied data gathered from Cendyn to personalise their communication and welcoming process as much as possible. Now, with the new integration, this process is much more streamlined.

In terms of segmentation, ONYX Hospitality Group’s focus for Spring 2021 remains largely domestic, and includes the following target groups:

  • Families (children/extended families with grandparents)
  • Solo weekenders (City/beach)
  • Thai couples
  • Expatriates

Chetan explains that in order to keep these guests engaged, they increased their email output six-fold, being strategic with targeting and relevancy so as not to irritate their mailing list and instigate unsubscriptions.

The ONYX team achieved this by not only personalising the content of their emails, but the rates of what they offered too. They did this by taking each guest’s RFM score into account, a metric that applies a value rating to a guest combining the timing of their last visit, their frequency of visiting and the money they spent. This strategic approach across their CRM initiative paid off, with open and click rates for their overall email communication doubling and direct bookings increasing three-fold.

These figures represent impressive results from the group’s entire email communication with guests over the last few months. It’s clear to see how upselling slots into this equation and benefits from the same strategies.

Chetan stresses the importance of reviewing and updating your segmentation and email strategy regularly, especially in the extraordinary circumstances that Covid-19 had brought upon us.

Thinking ahead to when demand begins to return, they have set their sights on the Silver generations, who will be the most likely to receive Covid-19 vaccinations the earliest. After this, they will be keeping their eye on vaccination rates around the world along with changing government regulation in their various hotels’ countries and adjusting their CRM and upsell strategies accordingly.

ONYX is already engaging the international markets to promote Amari Havodda Maldives – where the country is among the first to accept tourist with no quarantine requirements, and the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble this coming May, to promote hotels in Hong Kong to Singapore residents including the Visit Friends & Relatives segment between the two countries.

For ONYX, all the hard work and strategy that goes into creating meaningful upsell segments was carried out in the process of building their CRM initiative. In fact, their advanced approach to CRM and segmentation across their many successful properties made them the perfect choice to pilot the new integration between two key players in their tech stack: Oaky and Cendyn.

They agreed wholeheartedly, recognising that the Oaky Cendyn integration would allow them to slide extra monetisation directly into their clearly defined email sequences without ruffling any feathers. Read on for more details on how ONYX is reaping the combined benefits of Cendyn’s powerful data insights and Oaky’s personalised, low-barrier upselling.

As the pilot hotel chain for the Oaky Cendyn integration, ONYX Hospitality Group was the first to integrate their upselling emails into their CRM sequence from within Cendyn’s eInsight platform. According to Chetan, this not only boosts efficiency by cutting out the need to navigate two separate interfaces, but brings forth a wealth of opportunity surrounding upsell personalisation and thereby, effectiveness.


Creating dependencies for automation-driven results

An attribute that the integration brings is the ability to create dependencies between the actions of their guests and consequent communication from the hotel. The Campaign Journey from eInsight enables ONYX to map out customer behaviour across the duration of a particular intent or period, and allows ONYX to personalise each content or copy at a controlled timing to stimulate a desired action.

“With Cendyn, if a guest takes this specific action from my first email, then the system can be set up to send a follow-up email after two days with a different message. So let’s say I send an upselling email and the guest doesn’t click, I can then send a follow-up email which has been set up beforehand to send automatically. You can plan an entire series of these emails that will continue, tactfully, until you reach your desired effect.”

Maintaining control over email quality and frequency

On the topic of not overdoing it, Chetan also credits the integration as a way to ensure email frequency doesn’t get out of hand. Regardless of each email’s varying content, the guest will be unlikely to respond positively to incessant emails. Managing both email sequences from one platform allows hoteliers to have a clear overview of how much communication is being sent to guests over a given period of time.

John Seaton, Chief Revenue Officer at Cendyn, elaborates on the importance of balance: “An essential feature of CRMs is the ability to ensure that hotels don’t over-communicate. Cendyn’s CRM has this mechanism built in. This is especially important if you’re managing communication around more than one property and you don’t want to overcrowd communication as a brand.” Chetan adds that keeping a healthy mailing list is all about keeping close watch. “The moment subscriptions begin dipping somewhat, we know something is off – it’s either the frequency, the relevance of the timing of the message. If you keep an eye on all of those things, it’s easier to control the guest experience and avoid annoying them.”

Incorporating personalised upselling into Cendyn’s email sequence not only regulates overall email frequency to reduce unsubscriptions, but it creates a higher quality experience for the guest by integrating Oaky links into pre-designed templates that fit the other emails style and branding.

Translating in-depth data into upselling actions

The hotel chain also plans to use previous purchase data gathered from Cendyn in their upselling initiative. By studying customers past buying behaviour in various departments in their hotels, ONYX can identify which customers tend to spend more in the spa, in F&B outlets or on airport transfers. They can use this knowledge of spending habits to prioritise these offers to the guests that have demonstrated an interest in them before.

In short, the integration makes it possible for advanced data insights from Cendyn’s eInsight system to be easily converted into language that Oaky’s segmentation can recognise, resulting in upselling that is more targeted and relevant than ever before. In fact, Kittisak sees the segmentation feature in Oaky as another way to reinforce their understanding of their guests.

“The segmentation feature of Oaky is useful to avoid guesswork upselling to people who won’t buy into it and hoping for the best. But more than that, the performance of each segment provides valuable information on spending patterns that we plan to recycle after purchase, to induct valuable guests into our loyalty programme, to keep our staff informed if they become repeat visitors, and to retarget if appropriate. We don’t end on the purchase, we use that data to build a growing ecosystem.”

Maximum data security across all aspects of the integration

When using the Oaky Cendyn integration, the hotel or chain remains the data controller with Oaky and Cendyn acting as sub-processors of any data exchanged. They operate under a data processing agreement that stipulate data processing information and GDPR compliance. The integration is GDPR compliant from both ends, with the Subscription Centre within Cendyn controlling the permissions that guests have provided using clearly defined processes from regulatory bodies as well as the platform’s administrative system. In summary, any hotel guest whose data travels through the integration is fully protected.

Creating delight through personalisation

One concrete way ONYX Hospitality plans to use key data from their Cendyn CRM operations is to deliver birthday upsell deals to guests whose birthdays fall during their trip.

This type of upsell is a perfect example of personalised upselling that uses specific data to create delight and long-lasting positive associations– a feat made possible through the Oaky and Cendyn partnership.

Creative approaches to incremental revenue

More than anything, Chetan and Kittisak report that what has really changed with Oaky is their perception of what does or doesn’t have revenue-generating potential at their hotels.

“The flexibility of Oaky made us realise, there’s a lot more than room upgrades we can be upselling. We can increase the total spend per stay in any number of ways, like adding a cocktail session, or even a new wine at the bar to the platform. In fact, we can use Oaky to sell anything – every square foot of the hotel has this potential. With Oaky Cendyn integration, it is all about helping our guests maximise their stay experiences and building intimate memories. It really changed our mindset and made us look at our hotels in a new way.”

It is ONYX Hospitality Group’s aim to continue switching up their deals according to the time of year – experimenting with more products, more variations and seasonal updates. Describing a conversation he had with an executive from another APAC-based hotel chain, Chetan finishes:

“Most tools only allow you to reach people who have booked directly. They don’t have dynamic pricing, no segmentation or language options and barely any customer success team guidance. If you’re not using Oaky, you’re not really upselling.”

ONYX Hospitality Group


Starting out over 50 years ago, ONYX Hospitality Group now has over 50 properties in 7 countries, with another over 20 hotels in the immediate development pipeline. As a medium-sized regional chain based out of Thailand, ONYX Hospitality Group provides a collection of hotel brands including Amari, OZO and Shama, offering a portfolio of hotels, resorts and serviced apartments across key city and resort destinations across Asia. As a fast-growing collection of brands, ONYX Hospitality Group are motivated towards providing international grade hospitality experience for all their guests.

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