With such a large proportion of business and leisure travel researched and booked online now, it is critical that your property has an impactful online presence.
By 2020 the travel industry will have the highest percentage of online payments in relation to all sales than any other industry.
Some 44 percent of travel sales and bookings are expected to occur online through either desktop or mobile devices during the next five years, according to data from Euromonitor International.
With so much traffic and reservations being sourced for hotel operators online, a corporate website needs to be leveraged by integrating an online booking engine to increase direct bookings.
An online hotel booking engine enables guests to book directly through your website, an option that delivers a fuller guest profile, an opportunity to earn higher revenue and ultimately reduce your cost of sales if you have less third party commissions to pay.
Customers that book direct are typically less motivated purely by price and are open to build loyalty through service and added value features. As an operator by controlling the booking system you also have the ability to directly offer upgrades and potentially upsell guests to drive incremental revenue.
Independent property owners can now no longer ignore the need for an integrated online booking engine to sell more direct room nights.
How can you generate more direct bookings?
As end consumers there is a common buying mentality, where we want to feel like we are getting the best possible deal. For hotel operators many guests believe if they form a direct relationship and cut out “the middle man” there is more likelihood that they’ll get a better rate.
A hotel website is the ideal platform to do this. It yields the lowest cost of customer acquisition because of the direct interaction and an integrated online booking engine provides a source of direct bookings that can replace having to rely on the OTAs (Online Travel agents).
By receiving a direct online reservation, there is the financial benefit of no commission, and as an operator you are able to engage directly with the guest rather than rely on limited opportunities controlled by OTA’s.
Plus, direct bookings help you to build and control your hotel’s brand as you interact and engage with your guests directly before, during and after their stay with you.
By integrating your product pages with your booking engine, it is less likely that a visitor will jump off your website in order to make a booking for example on an OTA site.
As an independent operator it would be great of course to have the majority of bookings come direct - but in today’s marketplace it makes sense to balance direct business along with reservations from the third party OTA channels.
You are able to manage and spread the risk by sourcing reservations from multiple channels, keep costs down and “turn the tap on” for OTA business when slower market conditions dictate it.
If hoteliers turn off the OTA channel totally, then there is the risk that your hotel would miss out on the exposure offered by these sites, as guests use them for research purposes as well as making bookings.
So how can you increase direct bookings?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Your hotel website plays a critical role in attracting visitors interested in staying at your property.
So, you should always integrate SEO into your conversion activities to ensure your website can be found organically, and those visitors that do arrive, are to a greater extent better qualified and ready to buy.
SEO is about increasing the visibility of your website and helping you to attract and keep visitors engaged and interested in what they read and experience.
SEO forces you to optimise how your website is seen by search engines and visitors. It helps you to organise your content and map out the flows of visitors when they land on your website to keep conversion as high as possible.
According to Trivago, around 50% of all online bookers use metasearch to find their ideal hotel, and this trend is set to grow. Metasearch engines help travellers make an informed choice by allowing them to compare prices across different sources.
Your hotel website needs to have:
• An easy-to-navigate flow to the pages and above all be attractive and user-friendly.
• Be mobile-responsive.
• Not take too long a time to load.
• Provide content and imagery to reinforce a feeling of trust and authority in what you say.
An integrated web booking engine
Integrating a web booking engine into your brand website enables your website visitors to view the availability of rooms in real-time.
Happybooking can help you increase direct, commission-free hotel bookings with our online booking engine. A mobile friendly, cloud based platform that seamlessly integrates with any website to manage all the functions you need.
Happybooking has fully integrated modules and provides features that support you no matter the size of your business. We can provide automated payment solutions, custom integrations to POS (Point of Sale) systems, seamless channel management integrations with access to 100+ booking channels including GDS connectivity and much more.
Plus, an online booking engine linked to your website provides data for you to analyse and build insights on your guests; from how they book, the device they use, where they are from, etc.
Invest in staff training
A consistent goal for staff training should be on learning how to listen to customers, maintain customer satisfaction and deal with complaints.
It is important then to develop appropriate management procedures and processes that staff are trained on to help deal with various customer situations.
By creating a dialogue with customers, operators can map what they are good at and where are the weak spots that they need to address to have the most impact on a positive guest experience. This type of information should be shared at staff meetings and integrated into training sessions, and at the management level for implementing policy and procedures.
How to turn "lookers into bookers"
Most of us would agree that a customer review can hold a lot influence on how a guest makes a buying decision, and there’s plenty of research to support that especially when it comes to booking a hotel room.
A recent TripAdvisor® study revealed that more than half of travelers won’t book a hotel until they have read reviews because they believe it helps them pick the right hotel.
While collecting feedback can be challenging, it does help to determine priority areas for improvement in your property.
According a study from TrustYou the link between reviews and hotel conversion rates and pricing shows travellers are almost four times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores when the prices are the same, and 76 percent are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores.
It’s clear that online reviews play an important part in a guest’s decision making process when choosing where to stay, so as hotel operators we need to be accumulating and responding to these reviews and making them readily available online.
Reviews are also a free way to assess how your property is performing. They highlight what’s going well and where improvements can be made.
Treat your customers well and get to know them
Happy customers tell 4 to 6 people about their experience. So that’s a way to significantly influence positive word of mouth.
Most guests appreciate a genuine approach and having contact with somebody who can represent the business and make decisions. It is always a nice touch if your staff can address guests by name, remembering to tell them their name at appropriate times.
The path to customer satisfaction can start with a simple smile but when you greet a customer, there has to be more depth to how you engage, listen and react to their requests.
It is also important to keep in perspective that the attitude of the customer will be dependent to some extent on the type of property that they are staying.
A customer booking a stay at a beach side resort has different expectations of a guest experience compared for example to a guest staying at an airport hotel. So, you need to get in perspective what the customer's expectations are and how you meet and exceed them.
According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.
Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.
Don’t ignore your OTA guests
Even though a guest may have booked via an OTA, you can convert them into a direct guest for their next reservation.
Explain the benefits they would get if they book with you directly during their next stay. Offer them incentives like discounts and added value features that direct bookers exclusively receive.
Additionally, don’t forget if you have permission to email them and keep them up to date with special offers and news.
Happybooking have always focused on creating a user-friendly property management system based in the cloud that can help property owners improve their revenue performance with a direct booking engine, generate more profit by lowering commission costs and reducing admin time. So take a quick tour to see how it works - click here.
Happybooking is first and foremost a property management system. That means they help you with the boring admin and automate tedious tasks giving you more time to focus on your guests. On average HappyBooking customers can get back up to 10 hours per week – think what you could do with that extra time!
Our guest blogger is John Kennedy. John is a hospitality consultant, dedicated to helping increase profits through marketing, revenue management and efficient operations. www.kennedyandersson.com
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