With so much search traffic and reservations for hotel operators now being sourced online, it makes sound business sense to integrate your online booking engine into a corporate website to grow direct bookings.
Operators can make a significant impact to their bottom line by increasing the proportion of reservations they receive through their own direct booking channel. But it would seem many independent properties are underinvesting and undervaluing the impact that a direct booking strategy can have on business.
An integrated hotel booking engine provides a fuller guest profile, an opportunity to earn higher revenue and ultimately reduce an operators cost of sales by lowering any third party or OTAs (Online Travel Agents) sales commissions.
Customers that book direct tend to be less motivated by price and are more open to be engaged with extra service benefits and added value features that a guest who books through a third party would not receive.
As an operator by controlling the booking system you also have the ability to directly offer upgrades and upsell guests to drive incremental revenue in a tactical way.
A hotel website is the ideal platform to engage directly with visitors because it yields the lowest cost of customer acquisition and provides a direct channel of communication to customers, rather than relying on the limited communication opportunities offered by the OTA channels.
Plus, direct bookings help operators to exert more control over your hotel’s brand as you interact directly with guests before, during and after their stay with you.
As an independent operator it would be great of course to only have direct bookings - but operators should strive to balance direct business along with reservations from the third party channels to make sure they have the right mix of business.
Increasing direct bookings might seem like a huge challenge, especially if in the past you have relied so much on third party channels. But the truth is that little tweaks here and there can make a big difference.
Below we list some actionable tips to improve your booking engine conversion rates:
Reduce booking friction
Make sure you are consistent across all channels on how you name your products or rates, so that when visitors to your site or OTA’s compare prices they can do it “apples to apples”.
Whether the guest is booking online or direct via the phone, booking friction can negatively impact the overall customer experience.
At any point of contact with a prospective guest, staff need to be informed and trained on how to answer questions or provide recommendations. As an alternative a corporate website can fulfill this need if the content provided is up to date and interesting.
For online channels, when an operator integrates the online booking tool it needs to be easy to use, with a simple process to follow for inputting check-in and check-out dates, as well as having a secure payment system integrated.
Turning "lookers into bookers" - keep it simple
Avoid having an infinite scroll of never ending rooms and rates displayed on your website. The idea is to make the process to find and understand room details and rates as easily as possible - too much choice or too many options can be confusing and put off a customer, who may look to book somewhere else.
Most operators would agree that a customer review can hold a lot of influence on how a prospective guest makes their final 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 travellers won’t book a hotel until they have read reviews because they believe it helps them pick the right hotel
So, as hotel operators we need to be encouraging guests to make reviews and have a procedure on how to respond to reviews whether they be good or bad.
Treat your customers well and get to know them
Happy customers tell 4 to 6 people about their experience. So that’s a major way to influence positive word of mouth about your property or brand.
Most guests appreciate a genuine approach from hotel staff at the right time and in an appropriate setting.
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 any requests or questions.
It is also important to keep in perspective that the attitude of the customer is dictated to some extent by the type of property that they are staying at.
A customer booking a stay at a beach resort has different expectations compared to a guest staying at an airport hotel looking to catch a flight. So, you need to keep in perspective what the customer's expectations are and how you can meet and exceed them.
According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.
Provide exclusive offers
Hotels can provide added value offers exclusively for guests that book direct such as last minute room upgrades, dining discounts or maybe spa treatments.
An integrated web booking engine
Happybooking can help you increase direct, commission-free hotel bookings with our online booking engine. A mobile friendly, 100% cloud based platform that seamlessly integrates with your website.
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.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Your hotel website, by using great content, can play a critical role in attracting visitors through search traffic, 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, attracting and keeping visitors engaged enough to what to learn more about your property.
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. And content should be written with a “human” reader in mind, and not focus on the technicalities of search engine spiders and bots.
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.
- Load quickly.
- Provide compelling content and imagery to reinforce a feeling of trust and authority in what you say.
- Have messaging that can incentivise visitors to “act in the moment” rather than delay a purchase.
- Allow visitors to quickly browse rates and special offers.
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 sets out to help you with 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 and can be found at https://kennedy.marketing/
Photo by Grant Lemons on Unsplash