The $ 550 bn hospitality industry isn't just one of the world's fastest growing industry but also the one that is fighting the fiercest battle to strike the right balance between direct hotel bookings & Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs). Achieving the right distribution mix across various channels is one of the goals, irrespective of the size of the hotel, independent hotels or boutique hotels or for that matter branded hotels. But honestly speaking, the more direct bookings, the better it is.
Of course, the 10 action points that I'll be highlighting in this blog may not be the only trends to increase direct hotel bookings, however, these can surely help you in developing your direct booking strategy that can turn your website into a booking magnet. These top 10 ways start with paying details to existing solutions that you may already have like Booking Engine or the hotel website; to implementing Artificial Intelligence for round the clock support or smart conversion cards with clear call-to-action (CTA).
If you planning to adopt any of the mentioned strategies, then the time to act is now.
#1 A responsive Hotel Website
Do you know that nearly 70% of the hotel website traffic comes from mobile devices resulting over 40% of the total volume of sale? No wonder that a mobile-friendly hotel website is utmost priority of over 2/3rd hoteliers across the world. While building a responsive website is easy nowadays, but what most of them forget to focus on is great user experience. In fact, it can be attributable to the success of the major OTAs.
#2 Give your guests' a frictionless experience
Ok, the truth is the OTAs today command nearly 70% of hotel bookings, however, as per Google, over 50% of these customers do land up on your website. Now that is an opportunity. Now the point that interests me the most is that you haven't spent a dime to get traffic to your website. Now that they are on your website, a frictionless experience can lead to higher bookings. Say, for example, implementing a hotel chatbot that can handle customer queries round the clock will help visitors get their answers instantly leading to more direct bookings.
#3 "Book Now" call-to-action can't be just ignored
As hoteliers, we try hard to drive direct traffic on to our website, but having done that not converting these visitors to bookers is a lost opportunity. I'm sure "Book Now" is definitely a button that you might want to highlight, however, using conversion cards effectively can act as a catalyst in driving more direct bookings. For example, exit intent cards, pop-ups to highlight your current offers or a price comparison widget to showcase how you are priced better vis-s-vis the OTAs can capture customers attention.
#4 Nudging your visitors to create a sense of fear
Nudging is not something new. In fact, OTAs and e-commerce companies have effectively used nudging to their benefit. Nudging creates a sense of fear of missing out amongst the onlookers and impacts your direct booking significantly. Nudge/FOMO messages can inform the visitors "how many are trying to book at the very moment" or "how many booked in the last 24 hrs". A lot of our clients have seen an immediate spike to the tune of 60%.
#5 A Search Engine Optimized Website
Search Engine Optimization or popularly known as "SEO" is more than just keywords on your hotel website. It is about driving quantity and quality traffic organically through search engine results by adopting a series of practices. While it does include adopting the right keywords but it doesn't limit itself to just that. Factors such as Page Level Ranking, Domain Authority, Backlinks, Social metrics and the likes in totality affect your SEO.
#6 Converting Social Media Page into a Booking Engine
Did you know that 25% of the travelers are millennial travelers who are one of the most active age group across popular social channels like Facebook or Instagram? Well yes, they are and are definitely influencing the buying behaviour of others. Adding booking button on facebook definitely creates opportunities to drive more direct bookings.
#7 Maintaining unified pricing across all distributed channel
Yes, Rate Parity is important for hoteliers and is much needed today than ever before. While I do agree that all channels may not be having the same amount of impact on your hotel's revenue, however, we tend to ignore the fact if the prices are equal across all channels, then every channel has an equal probability to drive booking which definitely includes your hotel booking engine. Rate Parity Engine is a must for any hotelier today, period.
#8 Time to recover lost booking or revenue
Even a perfect marketing campaign needs help to ensure direct bookings. However, in reality, hotels lose 3/4th of their customers earned at the time of booking. While a lot of this is definitely unavoidable but some can be handled in smarter ways. Like adding a cart recovery option to your existing booking engine, such as including Trilyo to Cloudbeds or any other booking engine, can help you recover close to 8% of your lost revenue. Now that's interesting, isn't it? Ask your guests the reason behind abandoning their cart, analyse their feedback and act on it fast to ensure a better booking experience for future travelers.
#9 Listing your hotel on Metasearch
Hotel metasearch is gaining huge popularity. Do you know that Google is driving 65% of bookings routed through metasearch engines? The ease of access to hotels across multiple OTAs with a price comparison is the primary driving force. With a Pay-per-click (PPC) model, metasearch engines are creating a level playing field for all including hotels & OTAs. Ranking high on these searches can hugely improve your direct bookings.
#10 Reward returning customers for being loyal
Well, we all love loyal customers and why shouldn't we. They cost literally nothing to acquire and generate a huge lifetime value. With special offerings only to loyal customers, can encourage guests to book directly with your hotel.
So there you go, a quick little playbook that can help you increase your direct hotel bookings in 2019.
Well now that you know what you've to do in 2019, time to act on those points. Schedule a demo with one of our direct booking experts and find out the right tools that suit your hotel.