I love seeing the hospitality industry evolve as technology and consumer expectations change. Predicting what is coming is part of the work that I do with my team. We are constantly looking at what technologies are coming into the market, and also how they might affect the way consumers interact with your businesses.
This episode examines more changes that are coming, so listen up!
Imagine staying at a Hotel, B&B, or STR, and you have such a good night’s sleep, that you want to buy the mattress. Imagine falling in love with the smell and texture of the soap and wanting to have some at home. Imagine using a bath bomb and wanting to recreate the experience for someone else. Instead of asking the property owner where it’s from and tracking it down, Minoan Experience is bridging the consumer gap and lets you order the product by scanning a QR code. Then it’s delivered to your home in a few days.
The possibilities are endless and we are just at the beginning of the journey – so get on board.
In this episode of Marc Hostovsky, Founder of Minoan and I go into some deep shop talk about this new retail concept filling a gap in the eCommerce space. We talk about Marc’s innovative “Native Retail” concept, which makes it easy for consumers to natively purchase products they have tried and loved during hospitality experiences. Such as buying the towel used in a boutique hotel room you are staying at.
Marc is a self-proclaimed boutique geek and is passionate about the future of retail. After spending nearly 6 years working at Jet.com and then Walmart (acquired Jet.com), he quickly realized that the best product experiences don’t happen on screens or shelves, they happen in real moments of use “in the wild”. Marc founded Minoan to help hosts create, and capitalize on, rich moments in their homes, save money on everything they need to buy, and spend a fraction of the time on the unsexy things that come along with ordering (tracking, routing, logistics, etc.)
This was one of the most enlightening podcast interviews I’ve ever had the privilege of doing. Please have a listen!
Bart: Hello and welcome back to The Accommodation Show. We help accommodation owners like you get the knowledge and skills that you need to grow your business, improve your guest experience and increase your profitability.
Okay everybody, welcome back to The Accommodation Show. This week I am joined by a fabulous guest called Marc Hostovsky from Minoan. Welcome to the show.
Marc: Great to be here. Thanks, Bart.
Bart: It is nice to have you on the show. I’m excited about today’s topic because we will be talking about how to furnish your Airbnb or short-term rental property like a pro and you are one of the people that has been delving into this space and developed an awesome tech tool to help with this. So today’s topic I’m really pumped for we haven’t done it before. But before you’re going I’d love you to introduce yourself. Let everybody know a little about your history in the tech space and in the hospitality space. And what you guys do in the industry now.
Marc: Yeah, so little about myself. I was an early employee at a company called jet.com, which was an E-commerce marketplace based in the New York area. Within launching the business it went from $0 in revenue to doing $80 million a month in revenue within 10 months. Founders sold that business to Walmart. I took over about a $400 million business at Walmart and spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of retail both the E-commerce side, thinking about the digital experiences in the store side thinking the aisles, and the modular. And yeah, long story short I realized pretty quickly that the best product experiences don’t actually happen on screens. The way they do in E-commerce. They don’t happen on shelves and aisles. In stores, you know the way they would in a Walmart or Target or any store the best product experiences happen in real life in real moments of use.
It’s much better to sleep on a mattress for a couple of nights and see how you feel when you wake up than it is to scroll through pictures of one on your phone and read other people’s reviews. Or to walk into a mattress store and lie on one for two seconds with a salesperson leaning over you. So that’s what sort of inspired us to start Minoan, which we call a native retail platform. And what we’re really passionate about is creating those sorts of moments, those real-life moments, and making sure that the people who are creating these moments like hosts and hospitality professionals are getting credit for the value of those moments. And you get credit for those moments by paying way less for all the stuff you’re bringing in. Whether it’s mattresses, decor, soaps, shampoos, cookware, furniture, and making money when a guest comes to your property uses a product and it’s so inspired that they want to buy it. And so that’s what we do at Manal and connecting those two things and we’ve been at it for about a year and a half now.
Bart: I can’t wait to explain to everyone all the intricacies of what we’ve just talked about because we’ve had a pre-chat before this and it took me a little bit of time to figure out how this all works in that experience and then the products and then the thing so I’m gonna break it down really quickly for everyone to so that if you are just tuning in you’re like, what are they going to talk about? As basically this. You can make more money from your room. And it doesn’t have to be a short-term rental we can be in a hotel, you can make more money from your hotel room. Through selling products that people are using. So beds, the furniture, you showed me before a little radio, cool little radiators so.
Marc: Shampoos robes appliances, mean we’re selling everything we’re selling cookware some people are going in and using cookware sets and saying I love this. You know Cook sets, said I want to buy it. We’ve had people buy everything from shower stools to hanging hooks for clothes to tea kettles to you think about it. If you’re furnishing a two-bedroom short-term rental from scratch, you need to buy 180 items. There’s a lot of stuff that you put in these spaces. And just like you were saying, I think being strategic and thoughtful about what products you pick and how you think about monetizing these products or potentially monetizing these projects can make a really big difference on the profitability of your unit overall.
Bart: And I’m gonna come back to this because I’m gonna equate this to a few things that are already happening in this retail space. So you’ve got that one side right, we’re going to become more profitable by being able to sell products that we’ve got within the experience that someone’s having with us. The other side of where Minoan sits, it’s to actually furnish the place like a pro as we were talking about, so sourcing the products and understand that there’s also a gap there. So I’m gonna quickly summarise this and let you take over. But with the sourcing part, if you don’t have a fantastic deal with your suppliers, then you need to listen to this episode because this is a moment of inflection for you where you’re gonna go, Oh, hold on a second. I need to get new beds every how often. I need to get new furniture but how often I’m scaling my business. I’m gonna need furniture for new units for my new hotel. How do I go about the procurement side of things where I do not have the scale to negotiate big deals, and this is where kind of Minoan fits in. So if we’re answering that question, how to furnish your place like a pro. Where do we start and what do we do? Apart from just going hey, just get your solution and thing but what’s the thing?
Marc: I think the first step quite simply is realizing the value that you bring to these suppliers and brands by featuring them in your property. I think too often, the relationship between your mattress supplier or linen supplier soap and shampoo supplier is that of a supplier and customer. The mattress company says I’m selling to you as a customer and I make money off of that sale. Well, what we really do is push brands to view these hospitality spaces not just as customers for them the profit off of but as actual marketing partners to help them reach even more customers. You know if you have a two bedroom, Airbnb that’s small even but let’s stick with that math. Assuming two turns a week and 70% occupancy, I think that gets you to about 300 people a year staying in this property. Brands, the suppliers the same suppliers you’re buying your mattresses from and all the stuff are spending tonnes of money on Facebook and Google to get in front of people digitally, to get an ad to get on an Instagram page. Sometimes $7 for a click digital impression lasts two seconds. So we’re like well if you’re paying $7 for that, what’s it worth for this person to have someone come in and sleep on your mattress two or three nights in a row.
And what is it worth to have 300 people do that? And so we take that math and we apply that will then this is the price they should take for that mattress, not this price. And so thinking about the first step is understanding the value that you bring to these brands. It’s a two-way relationship, not a one-way relationship. And also on having a little bit of context as to like, what are these suppliers trying to do? They’re trying to drive sales. They’re spending money to get in front of people and drive sales while you’re putting this product in front of people just inherently as part of your business. And so what we focus on is making sure that hosts are aware of this value, capitalize on the value so they get really really good discounts, and then collect commission checks if they do have people who come in and sleep on a mattress and want to buy it or use the kettle and love it or use an exercise bike and say I really liked this one a bike. So that’s what we’re focused on. But even if you’re not using Minoan, I would say be strategic about furnishing, think about the partners you’re bringing in, and be confident in the value that comes along with just creating those special moments between the people and products in your spaces because that’s not easy for these brands to come by.
Bart: I work well in different categories and it’s almost like you need to figure out where your pitches to each of those different brands or other suppliers, right. So really good examples. If we love the mattress example which I won’t go back to but let’s break it down into soaps right because I think that’s something that people can quite rapidly just get their heads around and cool. I get it so I know how to go and I know exactly what conversation to be had with the particular supplier. Can you take me through that?
Marc: Like how we talk to the supplier and how we would encourage them.
Bart: Well yeah, how guys talk to the supplier of soaps and then how that idea would then translate to I mean, we’re talking like a hotel, right like hotel is going through a lot of this. So a lot of product and a lot of exposure, right? So you’ve got scale. That’s what I’m getting at with with with soap. It’s the easiest one to just show that thing. So I’m running a hotel, I’m running a property manager coming up with 1000 doors, and I can choose whichever supplier I want. And we’re trying to reframe that conversation. How would we go about reframing the conversation with the supplier?
Marc: Yeah, the first thing you could do if you’re doing a little bit of homework here is you could look at that supplier and search them on Google and see if they come up in a PLA product listing ad or text ad on Google. If yes, they’re spending money on Google to get in front of people to try and get in front of people which is something you can clearly do. And think about it. Getting someone to use soap and shampoo in the shower where it’s designed to be used is much more valuable than throwing an ad in front of somebody for a little bit online. So if they’re advertising already, then when you’re having a conversation with them, you can say listen, we’re gonna have a lot of people using this soap and shampoo. We know that you’re spending money on advertising to get in front of people, we can get you in front of people. What we can do is have an elegant way to let our guests know that they’re using your specific soap and shampoo. So we’ll make that in the retail world that’s a branded impression means like, we will let them know like, Oh, this is actually public. It’s open shampoo.
We’re gonna make that clear to them. And we’ll have a way where if guests really like the soap and shampoo, they can scan a code and buy it really easily. So we’re gonna make it easy for our guests to actually buy your products and drive retail sales back to you in exchange for that, which is very valuable. You’ve said this is your price. We need to pay this price. Because we’re going to help you drive more sales in the future. This isn’t just transactional. It’s not just us buying soap from you. It’s us help you get this soap used by thousands. Maybe it’s a hotel depending on the room count 1000s 10s of 1000s of people a year. What is that price? What do you click on Google? Do the math. That’s how I would encourage anyone to approach the conversation. And when we approach these conversations, we do it very scientifically. So we’ll look at the CPCs we’ll look at the CPMs we’ll look at the category we’ll talk about we’ve all this research about haptics and proprioception and how valuable it is for that brand to get people, using a feeling product like all the things they care about conversion, willingness to pay brand recall, it goes to the roof. These are like the perfect moments.
That’s what you want. I mean getting someone to use if it’s open shampoo, getting someone to actually use your soap and shampoo in the shower. That’s like impossible. That’s the dream state. And it’s impossible for them to do. You can’t do that in a store. You can’t do that on a website. And so we really hammer this message of like, this is great. This is where you should be. So they’re like how do I get there? How do I get there like well, you use us and we get the help to you get there, but the price needs to be very, very good? That’s the only way we’ll work with you. And I think we have our own system and platform that makes it easy for hosts to do this, especially if you’re managing a complex business or there’s a lot going on but you don’t have to use us. I mean, whether or not you’re using Minoan, you are creating these moments. Those moments are valuable for connecting the full loop and really showing the brand the value of the impressions and stuff that they’re used to seeing. You do need a little bit of technology. I mean, that’s what we’ve created. But the reality is just on that pitch alone and your own scrappy way of integrating the products, that should entitle you to better, better savings. We’re just trying to make it easier.
Bart: I just love it so much. This is kind of like for me a mic drop moment. We leave the room and we’re done. The episode is over. Because I can promise you Marc that there are a lot of people that have never thought about this opportunity in this particular way. And they’ve never really maybe appreciated because they’re their hospitality business right? They’re dealing with guests and OTAs and everything else. Then they’re not thinking about the power of the product that they actually have and the power of associating an experience with a particular product. And if you’re in marketing and branding and that sort of thing you understand this very, very well. You know, how do we get this product in people’s hands that’s why they go and you know, you go into the train station, they’ll give out lots of stuff for free so you try it you give it a go and then hopefully start to get hooked but you’re you’ve got such a better product and particularly if you’ve got a particular kind of brand and I keep talking about the brand within short term rentals. You have got to get your branding, right because it just unlocks the door to more customers and these kinds of opportunities. Because you’ve got a brand that aligns with their brand.
Guess what you’ve hit the Nirvana. And not only are you offering their products, but you’re also leveraging those opportunities to then go and sell it back. Now. I know that the Minoans got the technical solution to offer. Yeah, let’s go into that sort of the second stage of packaging it up and you said you will offer the so and then your package it up elegantly. Can you explain what that part means in the practical sense?
Marc: Yeah. So I think the integration of that experience and the shopability in the space is an important part of what we just talked about in that negotiation. It’s like the quid pro quo with the brand to get better pricing and there are a few things that do that. You need to be conscious of. One is you don’t want to NASCAR the spaced meaning you don’t want to have price tags hanging from things like you want it to be elegant. I mean we use these powder-coated elegant, no cards that will set like this. We spent a lot of time designing. Yeah, well I do. I do. I end up talking to a lot of hosts in hotels so it’s good to have
Bart: and if you’re listening to it, then make sure you jump on YouTube and you’ll see exactly
Marc: Thinking about the entry point for the guests and making sure it’s like present but not overwhelming. It’s not like we’re trying to sell you stuff. It’s just like, hey, there’s a lot of cool stuff. You should take a look around. And if you want to buy a great make it easy, but if not no worries, we’re not in your face. That’s really important. The second thing sorry, getting to what you’re initially asked is thinking about the service and delivery experience of that product specifically. And again, you can do this on your own like there are boutique hotels that before we worked with them they were doing this on their own like they were packaging stuff and shipping it to hosts and if there’s a customer service issue, you know, they were like okay dealing with the return or Okay, let me check where that is.
It’s just a lot of work. And I don’t think it’s like there are so many other things that you have to deal with as a host or hospitality professional, particularly with guests that dealing with the operations is not something typically that a hotel or a host really has the time to do but it is important and make sure that it’s delivered properly. What we do is we work directly with the brands. We make sure that we’re working with them on customer service on delivery on routing, the confirmation email, like we’re making sure that ordering a product from your property is as smooth as clean, as easy as elegant as ordering from like a Nordstrom or any brand, any retail specialist that delivers a really strong experience. And so that’s a gap that we try to use technology and scale because we can do that a lot to go across a lot of different properties to help with.
Bart: Yeah, I like presenting an elegantly I think is really a key part of that, that pitch in that proposition that and I encourage anyone that’s kind of thinking of approaching a supplier and figuring out what to say, just rewind the episode, take the words out of Mark’s mouth prior to town. We’ve actually got the show notes so you’ll have to get a verbatim. This is exactly what you say. Use your own words, figure out a structure and a strategy to have this conversation. And the pack Genie elegant experience for what you guys have suggested is put it in a QR code have a nice little stand not to be of service to someone but not overbearing a byproduct. I’m here to have a great experience not to buy your crap in your Airbnb, right? You know, I don’t need to buy more. But if I’m enjoying a product, I want to know where it’s come from, and how I can get it. Maybe I’ll even get a discount by buying a direct that sort of thing. So as long as it’s sort of that branding and marketing part and really understanding how to integrate it correctly, but also showing that value food and supplies. Great. That’s that’s perfect. It’s exactly how we think as well.
Marc: Yeah, you want to present it. There are lots of different ways to do this, right. Like, you know, Marriott sells the stuff in their room. It’s actually a pretty decent business for them. I think there are a lot of things they leave to be desired. It’s like a card that you might miss or you might see that says a bunch of stuff and it has prices. And I think it’s like if you like this you can call the front desk or something like that. So you can do that. I think if I was consulting them, I would say one to be a digital experience. People are digital savvy. They’re used to exploring these products online with do it there. Two, why have someone called the front desk that’s enough friction where someone’s like, I don’t know if I like it that much. Why make it really easy. And don’t lead with price we do not leave with a price on our so when we build shops for our partners the first landing page just shows the products because it’s not about if you show a price and dollar signs like, buy it.
What we’re saying is here’s the stuff in the property. Here’s the tea kettle that you’re going to use here are the coffee beans that are been prepared for you. Here’s the mattress you’re gonna sleep on here’s the pillows, here are the linens here learn more about oh, if you like it, if you like a click one more time, click in then we bring up the price then we give you a little more product information. It’s about leading with. It’s like this stuff is here. We just want to give you information about it. This is the stuff Welcome to the home. Here’s the stuff on the home. You’ll remember some information about it. So, again, we are retail experts. So we think that you know, we sweat the details. We want to get the little stuff right and we also work with these properties that have incredibly high expectations. I mean some of our boutique hotels it’s like that over $1,000 a night in the offseason. So that’s I think, you know, best best best in class, I think by but you can also like if you just wanted to scrappily set something up and just make things shoppable you could go on commission junction and set up affiliate links. No, and that’ll, you could try and build a site where it links people off to a bunch of different Yeah, it goes to Crate and Barrel or it goes here.
Bart: There or you could just do it all as an Amazon shopping cart type thing or Amazon and put it all in there as well. They’ve got those sorts of solutions now, by all means, just to be super clear. I by no means whatsoever. I want to promote Amazon. It just happens to be a means to an end. I think that there are many solutions out there that are comparable, if not better, but I’m just saying that in terms of out sometimes with these sorts of things right? You go alright man No, and we know might not be the right fit because you might not be geographically located in the right place, right? We still want to give you guys value to be able to go and do these sorts of things.
Or it might not be the right solution for whatever but you want to be able to start to think this way. Because what that does is it proves the industry for everyone pushes us forward and changes that relationship. And it’s actually a better way it’s a win-win for the supplier. It’s a win-win for us as well because we’re improving the experience for everybody and that sort of thing. One thing that I want to ask you about Marc is we’ve started to explore it what’s that fine line between it being in improving the guest experience and being tacky?
Marc: That’s good I think that the way you the entry points into the experience not leading with the price. I’ll give you some pointers on stuff that we do that you guys could try and do on your own. You will not find on any of our cards or anything the word buy cards. None of these words are associated with retail, you will find words like explore, discover, and shop. Shop, is a much this is very subtle. Shop, is a much lighter word than buy shop is about browsing, seeing looking for inspiration. Buying is about a transaction. So you can think about the words that you’re using in to put this experience together. And the other thing I would say is try and make it native and comprehensive like try and have all the products on one site. Whether it’s a Shopify or if you are interested in using us you can use us that’s how we approach it but I think thinking about the words think about the presentation not leading with price because that’s what retailers do.
We’re in the experience economy we leave with the experience and the product will reveal the price later on if you like the product. So those are all little things that you can do and for us you know we’re trying to the nice thing about scale here is we could see this across hundreds 1000s 10s of 1000s of properties. And so we can do some testing to figure out like what’s the best product but the number one spot like is it the soap, the mattress? Is it the cookware and so these are all things that we’re really interested in testing? And seeing what works and then in our network we apply those changes across but for people not in our network, you know we can also share put the soap in there people love the soap and try and help us out.
Bart: So look I’m gonna start to wrap us up because there’s been a huge amount of value and I think that it’s kind of one-on-one, everybody’s appetite to sort of go and explore a bit more and figure out their own strategies and start thinking okay, so why did we title the episode as we did how to furnish your property like a pro. It’s because what we’re trying to do, it’d be a bit cheeking get you to think about things differently. And what the top people will be doing is thinking about the guest experience thinking about supplier relationships, not just thinking about do I need a double bed or a single bed? Do I need this kettle or that kettle? That’s all the detail, that doesn’t really matter. And that’s something that we can figure out and you can look and that sort of thing.
It’s all about exploring that supplier relationship and understanding that it’s a core part of your business that you can leverage to do a lot more with now. You can even you can do two sides of this equation. So there are three ways that you can go about it. And Marc correct me if I’m wrong. So one of the ways you can go about it is you can go and renegotiate your relationships with the current suppliers. You could find new suppliers and you can negotiate that particular part of the equation and even if you did that alone, that’s going to bring efficiency and savings to your property. On the other side of it, you could just set up an experience for people to be able to buy these products and you don’t have to have any relationship with the suppliers and that could be your first entry point into this world. And then the third solution is to try to get something out of the box comparable to what you guys do. You’ve done a lot of that work for everybody. And then you’ve got both sides of the equation but you can also still pick up one side of course the other side.
Marc: Yeah, I think everyone should be doing it. In one way or another just to like, maybe try and summarise this in one sentence. We are all professionals in the experience economy. We know the experience economy very well. It’s what pays the bills. We feel very strongly that hospitality professionals also need to familiarise themselves with the attention economy. Because these companies that create attention and monetize attention, like Facebook and Facebook and Google, I mean, those are markets for attention. That’s what they do. They have a little bit of attention, or they have a lot of attention, but they have attention and they sell it and that’s how they make money and they’re printing 10s of billions of dollars in profit every quarter. You also have very valuable attention.
More than likely you just haven’t been thinking about your space in that way and monetizing it as effectively as you could and we would encourage you to start thinking about your space in that way and that unlocks. That sort of starts to unlock a flywheel. In a lot of ways, you can get better products and pay less for them. Better products help you justify higher ADRs help drive more profits and so great this is nice, why won’t you just think about this in that way. And obviously, we’re obsessed with this topic. We’re building technology for this topic.
So we would love to help people do this. It’s a free platform. I mean, we make our money off of the brand. Yeah, just giving margin. But you don’t have to. You don’t have to use this. You can do this on your own. If you would like to use us, you can go to minoanexperience.com and click the Join Us button. But I’m happy to talk to people even if they don’t if they want to do it on their own because I just think like people should be thinking about their business this way.
Bart: And isn’t this a perfect segue into the offer which we talked about just before we got going?
Marc: Yep. So, anyone who’s listening to this podcast, we’ve pulled together a special offer for listeners. So we’re going to have a link in the show notes. If you click on that link, we will automatically apply a $25 gift card to your cart when you sign up, so you can test us out to buy. We work with over 200 brands so you can test us out and buy soaps or shampoos or if you need to buy some outdoor furniture you need to buy a throw pillow there are tonnes of stuff that needs to be purchased you can give us a test
Bart: Thank you. Look, I want everyone to know that, you know, we’re in the startup world and these kinds of offers. It’s not that we’ve got millions of dollars trying to build this where, where help, they’re trying to come up with great ideas and to facilitate some great solutions for everyone. Mark is the kind of person that you could send an email to, and he will, especially if it’s a subject matter, say, Hey, have you thought about this or that and he will be more than willing to start to, to grow and to listen and to help people out there. So thank you so much for the offer. Marc. Thanks so much for your time and for coming on and sharing some absolute gold with everyone. The ideas are fantastic for me. I’m not going to go back into it. There are so many comparable things happening in the world right now in terms of the way that we market ourselves and brand ourselves.
That I think you hit the right lane at the right moment, the right time. So congratulations. And I’m really looking forward to sharing your journey and seeing you guys grow as a company and seeing where we can keep adding value to each other. So thanks very much.
Marc: Yeah, excited to come back hopefully with some learnings you know, we get as we get, do more and more of this stuff. We’ll have hopefully more tips and tricks for people to learn things for people to apply in their own properties.
Bart: Beautiful. Look, Mark, thanks again. And if you are listening to The Accommodation Show on the podcast, make sure you give us a like a follow. subscribe, and give us your reviews and your feedback if you’re watching on YouTube or any of those kinds of platforms. Then once again if you’ve got any comments if you’ve got questions, then I monitor it myself. Mark will jump in and out and answer questions as well. So please feel free to ask any questions as well. Once again in the show notes, you’ve got everything that you need to get yourself going if you want to get the Minoan experience. And Mark once again, thank you very much and have a fantastic rest of the day.
Marc: You as well.
Bart: Thanks, Bart. Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to the show. You can find us at theaccommodationshow.com where you can find all the show notes, and links to resources we have talked about in transcripts from the show. I really do appreciate you listening. And if you’d like to support the show, and please subscribe, leave a comment, share it with others.
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