The competition is tough and it’s time for rapid innovation. All Hotel businesses need to be on their toes to ensure that they maintain their profitability. Promoting direct Booking is definitely one of the most important steps towards sustained profitability of the hotels. So, here we present some of the hotel website best practices to increase a hotel’s direct bookings.
Are you losing money on paying commission to online travel agencies?
In the age of reduced profit margins, it has become crucial for your hotel business to get direct customer business. Thus, hotel websites play a crucial role in attracting customers. It is crucial to boost your hotel website’s conversion rate.
In this article, we also tackle the issue of booking abandonment while providing actionable tips to reduce booking abandonment from your hotel website. This will improve the hotel website conversion rate.
Best Ways to increase a Hotel’s direct bookings
Direct Bookings have never received more attention than it has received in the past few years.
So, here’s the question we answer in this post- how to increase direct bookings for hotels?
Travel agencies were used to running the booking business for decades now in lieu of good commission.
However, technology is now available easily and cost-effectively and thus the focus to have the remaining pie of profit through increasing direct bookings.
So, how do you do it in the best possible manner?
This is what we will look further in this article.
1. Invest in a Mobile website to increase hotel bookings directly
Investing in a website and most importantly the mobile website is crucial in the current age.
Most of the customers in the travel industry are mobile now.
This is even truer if you consider travel enthusiasts from the developing countries.
Investing in a website will not only help you in improving the Hotel brand, but it will also provide your hospitality business returning customers.
A lot of research has already proved a poor mobile site may even lead to customer never returning to your money website.
You reap what you sow.
In order to have the best hotel website conversion rate, you must have a stellar design of your website.
Your website must ooze out the brand image of your hotel business.
Also, most of the travellers of today are looking to book through mobile devices.
It is thus extremely important to ensure a good and fast mobile website.
This is probably the most important practice to increase a hotel’s direct bookings.
Moreover, it is also one of the most important Revenue Management strategies for hotel Business as well.
There are several other benefits as well.
2. Simplify your Hotel Website – Use images for improved conversion rate
How many times have you checked a hotel, started to book it and then decided to look for the cheaper price?
Similarly, with Airline, you think of booking the flight before you decide to check a coupon deal on another website.
Booking Abandonment rate in the hospitality and travel industry is humongous and thus simplifying the website can be a gamechanger to gain more direct bookings to your hotel’s website.
So, a drop in booking abandonment means a rise in revenue and thus the profits.
US Navy devised a design mantra that has become so popular that almost all of Fortune 500 companies try to implement it in their digital strategy.
The design mantra is famously known as the ‘KISS” principle which is an acronym for ‘Keep it simple stupid’.
According to several experts, each extra click adds to 10% in booking abandonment.
So, invest in making the booking process simpler and shorter.
The more time people need to book on your website, the greater the chance of booking abandonment.
Same is true for added layers of complexity on your website.
It is also important to use the correct images. Images engage people. The right image can communicate the message to your visitors in a more clear way. This leads to an increased hotel website conversion rate.
In fact, images are better than words at most of the times and help in simplifying and improving the hotel website.
Lots of hotel websites increase website conversion rate using images through one or more out of the below means.
- Photos of real customers
- Testimonials in images
- Images that targets the emotions of targeted customer segment
- Displaying service level and culture through images
- Comprehensive display of the hotel infrastructure using images help in increasing website conversion rate
- Using images of couples and kids to stir emotions of prospective clients improves conversion rate and direct bookings
and there are a lot of other techniques to use images as a perfect tool to improve the hotel website’s conversion rate.
In today’s connected world, images display the right emotions and help customers simulate the travel even before they plan to travel.
3. Make the Hotel Website engaging with storytelling and Reviews
Sales cycle research provides a lot of reasons for why people abandon the cart in the retail sector. The story is somewhat similar in the hospitality industry.
Give people what they love.
Here’s a question. Why do people travel or stay at hotels?
It’s not just a vacation or a need to go somewhere. It’s more about the experience and memories.
It is thus important for every visitor of your website to get ample opportunities to create good memories.
More reviews and associated stories help the customer connect better and in the process, the booking abandonment is decreased.
According to research by ‘Search EngineLand’, 88% of customers today trust online reviews just like personal recommendations. The number is increasing every year.
Thus, to reduce booking abandonment, try to invoke emotions by great videos, reviews and other storytelling techniques that can engage visitors of your website.
4. Run E-mail campaigns to increase a Hotel’s Direct bookings
Now, this again is a crucial strategy to grow your hotel’s direct bookings.
It is important to let your customers know that you offer more and better service through your website. This will help you increase direct bookings.
Best offers, personalised and segmented, can be sent to customers through e-mail marketing.
This will bring maximum customers directly to the website and it helps the hotel get that extra attention which a travel website can never give you.
Most of the Top Travel websites would have your hotel business listed among a hundred other competitors.
Plus, the travel websites do the e-mail campaigns to your customers and at times drive them to more profitable competitors.
Thus, proper e-mail campaigns not only help you reclaim the customer but also ensures undivided attention from them.
E-mail marketing is one of the most important marketing tools in hotel and travel business.
There are a lot of other benefits of E-mail campaigns apart from driving Hotel’s direct bookings.
The key benefits are:
- Generating more leads
- Improving conversion rates
- Improving brand value
- Shorter sales cycles
And many more.
5. Use Follow up e-mailers (or automate it using machine learning)
This is an indirect method and a useful hotel direct booking improvement strategy.
While this practice doesn’t immediately increase direct bookings or reduce booking abandonment from hotel websites, it helps in bringing the customers back to complete the purchase at a later date.
So, indirectly it decreases the percentage of customer lost. After all, it is the revenue and customer lifetime value that we are after.
On the contrary, it can be one of the best things to have happened to your sales and marketing efforts in the next couple of months.
Moreover, booking abandonment e-mailers help us develop a one to one relationship with existing and potential customers.
It is important to keep the e-mailers to the point, personalised and interesting.
The whole process of these e-mailers is another complete article in itself. So, we will leave that for later.
6. Introduce/Improve Customer Loyalty Programmes
If you don’t have a loyalty programme for your hotel, it’s time you get one.
While it is not advisable not to give benefits to Online Travel Agencies.
However, customer loyalty programmes must be promoted heavily only on the direct company website.
Customer loyalty programmes in the hotel industry are extremely common for the top Hospitality Companies.
However, the commoditisation of technology has made it easier for all hotels’ to run their loyalty programmes without any fuss.
Customer loyalty programmes leave an impression in the mind of customers to come back and book from the Hotel website instead.
7. Optimise social media channels to accept Direct Bookings
Social media is one topic which is beaten to death on all blogs and websites.
So, we are not going to reinvent the wheel.
Most of the hospitality companies already take social media strategies quite seriously to drive sales.
A lot of social media tips for hotel profitability are already doing rounds on the world wide web and most of the smart hoteliers are already aware of the same.
So, keep it short and simple, why not give an opportunity to all customers book directly from social media channels.
Sponsoring content on social media channels is a good idea as well as it directs all the traffic to your channel or the money website.
So, it is crucial to optimise the social media website for sales and to increase a hotel’s direct bookings.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn can help a lot in attracting potential customers directly to your website or your reservations office.
8. Provide Special Discounts through website, texts and e-mails
It is important to retain customers. To increase direct bookings to your hotel, it is important that the sales and customer support engages existing customers while attracting new travellers.
So, e-mailing, texting or promoting discounts on the company website should be a key strategy.
Whatever works best should be given the top priority.
However, the promotions and discounts on your website earn you more.
So, how does it matter in terms of business as far as giving a discount on other travel agency websites to the one on the company website?
Well, you earn more by providing a discount on your own website and thus you can even afford are discounts.
Plus, there are a lot of other cascading benefits like customer loyalty, no attention lapse to competitors and better brand visibility.
9. Be transparent with Offers and Prices
We all hate fine prints. Don’t we?
There used to be a time when almost all hotels and travel agencies preferred taxes to be added on the checkout or payment page.
The trend is changing now and a cleaner and transparent booking regime have taken over some of the old practices.
It is even considered unethical to hide prices or facts in the fine prints or terms and conditions.
While transparency might not always be considered a virtue in this era of cut-throat competition, but it definitely helps retain customers.
Moreover, it can drastically reduce booking abandonment.
Also, if there are discount offers ongoing, it should be on the face while promoting a package.
It adds credibility to the website and people are more like to make a purchase on the websites that have least or no fine prints at all.
There are a lot of Tools to get more Direct bookings.
Technology in the hospitality and travel industry has made implementing the above strategies easy to increase a hotel’s direct booking.
Artificial intelligence and cloud computing have made it even easier for even smaller and standalone hotels to implement direct booking facilities of their website.
Most of the basic customer support and other related activities can also be managed by a small team with the use of the various hotel management software.
So, if you are interested to increase the hotel’s direct bookings or improve the website conversion rate of your hospitality organisation, it’s important to take the support of technology.
Use the strategies mentioned in this article along with the existing practices going on currently and see the difference in revenues and profitability.
So, work on design, experience, speed and beauty of your hotel website and stay awesome. We wish the very best for your organisation.