I come across hotel professionals everyday who keep complaining that OTA’s are bringing in more and more business and direct bookings are continually declining. I’m glad that these professionals are looking at relevant data and coming to various conclusions. However what makes me want to pull my hair out is why they are not focusing on the user experience.
There are several examples of hotels with a great marketing campaign but a terrible website experience; others with a fantastic website but terrible booking engine experience and so forth. When I say user experience, I am specifically referring to the end-to-end experience for a potential guest. Various departments need to work in sync in order to ensure there is a flow from one step to the next.
To see where you stand, take out your smartphone and start by searching for your hotel. We live in a mobile-first world now -45% of total website traffic is attributed to mobile visitors! (Source: Sabre International). The user experience must be checked on the smartphone first (or tablet) before you transition over to a desktop.
1. Optimise your online presence
Your brand.com website should be visible immediately without scrolling down. If not, I question whether you are really trying to get direct bookings or not – quite amusing that I search for you and other sites (primarily OTA’s) are inviting me to their websites and hence costing you so much more. Get on top for paid & organic search!
2. Optimise your speed
47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions (Source: Google Internal). DID YOU KNOW you can just search ‘Google Page Speed Insights’ where you can enter your brand.com and see your score out of a 100 for FREE. If you scored less than 85 (which is over 90% of the websites in this region), you need to make changes fast! Please note Google is kind enough to give you (also FREE) what needs to be done to improve your speed.
3. Offer exclusive packages
Website Exclusive Offers are a great lure for potential customers to book directly from your website. These offers can include unique rates or packages that are unavailable anywhere else. You could even offer special promotions. It is important to advertise these exclusive packages to increase awareness and to ensure that customers visit your website.
4. Improve the pages where decisions are made
A study was conducted by Sabre Hospitality Solutions for several hotels around the world to determine on which page booking decisions were being made (ie the page from which the guest is going from brand.com to the booking engine). The breakdown is as follows:
- Homepage: 55%
- Special Offers: 18%
- Photo Gallery: 18%
- Accommodation: 9%
Based on the data above, go to each of these pages and check the user experience, as well as, ensure there is an easy call-to-action to go to the booking engine from these pages.
5. Ensure your booking engine is responsive
You have a responsive website so you should in theory have a responsive booking engine too. Gone are the days of having a separate desktop & mobile booking engines. If you do not have a responsive booking engine, that means you are not ready for tablets nor phablets (hybrid between tablets and phones) which essentially means you are not ready for today’s traveler.
In conclusion, the answers to many of your problems around direct bookings can be solved today. So stop wondering about the future and fix the present!
About the author
Saahil Mehta is the Managing Director of Resnet World, a company that provides online presence and e-distribution services to partner hotels across the globe. He works with hotels to maximize revenue and profitability through increased online presence and e-distribution with the focus on driving direct bookings. ResNet world is a global partner of Sabre Hospitality Solutions, a leading travel technology provider worldwide.