Attracting more direct bookings as an independent hotel has been at the top of most of the wish list for several years now. And with the OTA’s & meta-search sites having grown into huge and necessary beasts with enormous customer bases, there still remains an opportunity to attract bookings through a brands website.
In this post, we are going to look at 5 elements that can be implemented in a short space of time that will increase the number of conversions and conversion rate of your direct bookings.
Are you running brand term PPC campaigns? No? Search for your hotel’s name and see who appears first. We can say with a high degree of certainty that it will almost always be one of the OTA’s – and most likely that ad will be delivered by Booking.com. They understand that a large number of customers who are ready to book will search for a hotel by its name. They will typically bid on your hotels brand terms to siphon traffic away from your site and onto theirs. The solution is simple. Create campaigns on both the Google & Bing advertising networks. The investment required is not as much as you think. A very modest budget of £10 a day, for example, will help to drive customers who are ready to book to your website.
Reviews are the cornerstone of any business who have an online presence. This is especially true of the hotel industry where TripAdvisor has become the number 1 part of the hotel & holiday booking process. Reviews can be gained across all OTA sites as well as Google, Facebook, Bing and Press websites. Make sure you are displaying links to these sites so that new & existing customers can see your ratings. With reviews playing such a large part of the booking journey, it makes sense to keep your excellent reviews in front of the customer as they move through your website. Need more reviews? Simply email your guests who have recently stayed to review their stay.
It’s no wonder that websites like booking.com and Amazon have invested millions into their checkout process through research and development. Having a seamless booking process on all devices is crucial in today’s modern tech world. The majority of independent hotels utilise a third party booking system that handles booking well. But all of these systems allow for some form of personalisation and updates. Check that the booking process is easy for your customers. Go through the process yourself and create a list of things you would like to see as a customer. Your checkout process should be updated and tested like any other page on your website.
We see this scenario far too many times. Hotels that have excellent reviews, are located in a stunning setting and is well deserving of its 4-5* rating, but it has a website that makes it look more like a 1* property. In 2017 we are still seeing websites that aren’t mobile friendly and haven’t been updated with recent imagery and information. This doesn’t mean that every hotel property needs to go and spend £10K, £20K, even £30K on a new website, but if your current website doesn’t reflect the quality of your property, you will be losing a huge amount of potential customers. Showcase your property with large, high-quality imagery and up-to-date room info that will give visitors no reason to leave and head off to websites like Booking.com and Expedia.
Increasing direct bookings through your own website is a crucial strategy that needs to work alongside the OTA’s. It shouldn’t be seen as a channel that should replace the OTA’s. The sheer volume and scale of their operations mean they will continue to play an integral part in customer bookings for years to come. There is, however, the opportunity to increase the percentage of bookings that can arrive on your own site before they head off to the likes of booking.com et al.