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How Online Reviews Drive Bookings: Part 3 of 4


Would you ever book a vacation without doing a little research? Probably not. If you’re like the 89% of global travelers who say that reviews are influential when choosing where to book, then you’ll know that reading guest reviews are a natural part of today’s travel shopping journey – but how exactly do these reviews drive bookings?

As my friend Adele Gutman Milne explained at our webinar on using reviews to drive bookings, it is so important to give travelers a good experience. The experience you give your guests will impact their reviews – and positive reviews means a higher chance of the travel shopper choosing your property.

The Importance of Opinions

So you know that reviews matter, but just how much? Consider these statistics from our recent webinar with TripAdvisor:

  • 96% of global hoteliers say that reviews are influential in generating bookings
  • Higher review scores on OTA sites allow hotels to charge more while maintaining the same occupancy rates
  • If prices are the same, users are 3.9 times more likely to book a stay at the property with higher review scores
  • 76% of customers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores

Travelers Pay More for Higher Reviews

We all know that sometimes what others say about you is so much more persuasive than what you say about yourself. That’s why properties who take the time to deliver on guests’ expectations can secure positive reviews, which correlates to increased bookings.

Overwhelmingly, people choose where they’re going to stay based on what others are saying – whether that’s by reading reviews on TripAdvisor or searching Twitter for vacation choices and pictures.

In fact, a recent study conducted by TrustYou, a global online reputation management company, found that given equal prices, travelers are 3.9 times more likely to choose a property with higher review scores.

Travelers aren’t shy to admit it, either – in the study, 76% of travelers surveyed said they’d pay an average of 5-9% more for a hotel with a 5% higher review score.

Want to increase bookings? Set the expectations before guests arrive so that they will write positive reviews once their stay is over.

I mentioned this in part two of this blog series, but the example is so effective (and simple) that it warrants mentioning it again! From reading reviews, Adele and her team realized that listing bed sizes online wasn’t effective in conveying what type of bed a guest can expect to have (and we all know how important it is to have a cozy bed to relax in at the end of a long day of NYC shopping).

They took that as an opportunity to improve their storytelling. They took pictures of staff posing in each different bed – another example of how a picture, combined with an appropriate description, can communicate the right message to your guests and set their expectations (leading to positive reviews down the road).

Reviews Alone Don’t Drive Bookings

Online reviews give travel shoppers the confidence to book, but reviews alone don’t drive bookings since lots of other factors are taken into consideration as well (such as the story you’re telling online). In fact, even the way you present reviews matters.

TrustYou also studied how travelers like to consume and understand reviews and found that summarized review content can be easier for travel shoppers to consume than full-text reviews. The study found, however, that a combination of the two – full-text reviews and summarized review content – makes travel shoppers more confident in making a booking.

Key takeaway? As we’ve said before, you need to give travel shoppers the content they want, on their own terms. Consider having reviews directly on your property website so travel shoppers don’t have to search for them.

Go a step further and choose certain positive reviews to feature on the homepage of your website and social media pages.

See how Howard Johnson Inn Gananoque 1000 Islands makes it easy for guests to leave reviews or read reviews without leaving their website.

How UGC Drives Bookings

A discussion about online reviews isn’t complete without mentioning user-generated content (UGC). If travelers want to understand your true, authentic story then they’ll turn to UGC (photos and videos taken by travelers and shared on social media) to find it. And just like online reviews, UGC builds confidence in the choice travel shoppers are about to make.

If you’re not already using UGC in your marketing strategy, the time to start is now. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to showcase new content about what makes your property unique and convey the people and story behind the property.

Considering today’s consumers (I’ll admit – myself included) place the most trust in word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family and online reviews (according to Nielsen’s 2013 Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages Report), it’s never been more important to use UGC to drive your business objectives.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Once a negative review is up the best thing that you can do as a hospitality professional is to respond to it. There is a prominent correlation between an average review rating and the number of management responses; in fact, 65% of properties that responded to their reviews had an average TripAdvisor score of 4.15 out of 5.

Like many hospitality professionals, Adele’s team takes the time to respond to positive and negative reviews – another way to show travel shoppers you care about the experience they have.

I wasn’t that surprised to learn from her that responding to both positive and negative reviews makes a huge impact on bookings (plus the latest research from TripAdvisor reveals that a property that provides management responses is 21% more likely to receive a booking inquiry).

In fact, that’s what Adele Gutman of The Library Hotel Collection explained during our webinar. She shared a story that really shows the importance of responding to negative guest feedback – and how it can help drive more bookings:

“We’ve had people say, I was going to book another hotel – actually I already did – but I just cancelled the other hotel and booked with you. Not because of the positive reviews but because of how you handled the negative reviews.”

 

Consider negative reviews as an opportunity to learn about areas of concern, providing specific guidance to the team on where improvements are needed. Then, incorporate the positive changes into your property’s story by showcasing the enhancements which emphasizes your commitment to guest satisfaction – placing those improvements front and center on the story you share on your website, mobile sites, social media networks and more.

 

I’ve heard countless stories from hospitality professionals about how reviews can drive bookings – yes, it requires constantly getting your staff to monitor, share and engage online but if the end result is more bookings and higher revenue, can we really afford not to do it?

If you want to learn more about how guest reviews can help drive bookings, I encourage you to watch the recording of our webinar or viewing the slides from the presentation featuring TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea and The Library Hotel Collection’s Adele Gutman.

This is part three in a four-part blog series exploring how to leverage the power of guest reviews and use it to increase your visual storytelling capabilities.


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