In this article, we recap the third presentation from our Digital Marketing Summit for Hoteliers, “Winning the Hotel Booking.” The Booking phase is perhaps the most important phase of the travel shopping journey for hotels, but a growing number of bookings are being made through OTA sites. In 2016, OTA bookings made up 41% of all hotel bookings in the US, 69% in Europe and 64% in Asia Pacific.
These are big numbers, and getting bigger every year. During our Summit, Joey Egan from Leonardo, and David Chestler from SiteMinder shared their insights on how to win back more direct bookings from the OTAs.
Best Practices for a High Performing Website
– Joey Egan, Leonardo
Your hotel is likely represented in many different places online. Travel shoppers can find you via OTAs, GDS’s, organic search, review sites, and even social media. But your most important digital asset by far is your hotel website.
Many hoteliers spend a great deal of time, money and effort creating the perfect website, but while having a pretty website is nice, it should not be the goal. The goal for your hotel’s website should be to convert bookings. This is accomplished by having a great user experience; a website that is easy to use, answers travel shoppers’ questions and simplifies the booking process.
Joey provided 5 best practice tips for a high performing website:
1. Give Travel Shoppers What They Want
Provide travel shoppers with the information they want to see. This is pretty straightforward but is often overlooked. Tailor your content to your target audience, and answer the 4 questions that all travel shoppers have.
- What makes your hotel different from other options?
- What do your rooms look like?
- What kind of deal can they get?
- What do other people think of your hotel?
2. Use Visual Storytelling to Create an Emotional Connection
People are naturally drawn to visuals. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and have better recall of images. Visuals also help create an emotional connection, and emotion has been proven to drive purchase intent. Travel shoppers are not just looking for information on your website, but crave short bursts of snackable information like tweets or snaps, that convey who you are, and what you offer to guests.
3. Provide Social Proof
Social proof is independent 3rd party feedback like reviews, ratings, certifications, awards or evidence that others are booking at your hotel. Social proof builds trust in your hotel and most travel shoppers won’t book a hotel without first reading reviews. They are going to search out this information whether you like it or not, so include it directly on your website to ensure they don’t leave.
4. Make It Easy to Book
81% of online travel bookings are abandoned each year. This equates to $1.78 billion in lost bookings. The key to reduce booking abandonment is to optimize your checkout process. Have a clear “book now” button that directs guests to your booking engine. Make it easy to complete the booking and only ask for the information you need. Studies have found that you will lose 10% of bookings for each additional field that you include in the booking form.
5. Mobile is a Must
The last, but perhaps, most important best practice is that your hotel website needs to be optimized for mobile. It’s predicted that by the end of 2016, 52% of online travel bookings will be made on mobile. So, to put it plainly, if you don’t have a mobile optimized website you are losing bookings – and will continue to do so.
Winning The Hotel Booking
– David Chestler, SiteMinder
While a high-performance website is the backbone of your marketing efforts, you also need to be present across many different channels to reach travel shoppers. But how did the travel industry evolve into multi-platform distribution system we see today?
The history of booking travel has been a slow and steady evolution from when a guest simply walked into a hotel and requested a room. Guests can now instantly search for thousands of accommodation options online. We’ve moved from a period where travel shoppers consulted experts (i.e. travel agents), to now being the expert themselves.
This shifting balance of power has moved us from a consumer economy, to a user economy. The user, or travel shopper, dictates not only what hotel they will book, but how they will book and can even create their own content in the form of reviews and social media.
This user economy has led to a multi-platform based system for hotel bookings. Hotels no longer choose where their rooms are being sold, the travel shopper does. That means you need to be present where they are online – desktop, tablet and social media – or you will lose out on the booking.
You Can Work With OTAs and Drive Direct
OTAs are continuing to grow in terms of market share. It is predicted that by 2017, OTAs will have a 52% share of gross bookings. While that might sound scary, it doesn’t help your hotel to take a protectionist attitude. You can work with OTAs and still drive direct bookings.
They key is being found by travel shoppers; you need to be where the demand is. If travel shoppers are looking on OTAs then you need to have a presence on OTAs. If they are looking on Facebook then you need to have a presence on Facebook. Once travel shoppers have found your property you can work at getting them to book direct by having a great, high-converting hotel website.
For more insights from Joey and David on how to win more direct bookings, watch their presentations on-demand.