Hotel website conversion is key to any direct booking strategy.
This article originally appeared on Tambourine.
There’s a good chance you’re killing the conversion rate of your hotel website.
Right now, potential guests are bouncing off your hotel website as you read this.
What good are your brilliant marketing strategies if you can’t hold onto the customers’ attention once they get there?
Your hotel product is not to blame.
Most likely, there are holes that need to be taken care of on your hotel website.
Make these fixes and watch your conversions increase.
Hack 1: Use Dynamic Personalization
Too many hotel websites use sliding graphics to showcase different messages, amenities and promotions. If the first screen isn’t right for the visitor… maybe the next one will be!
Unfortunately, it turns out that sliders kill conversion rates. Instead, we recommend using simple dynamic personalization to deliver the right message/promo to each visitor.
An example of dynamic personalization welcoming past direct bookers with their previous date search.
• By using campaign tracking codes to identify various inbound traffic sources, you can customize the messaging of your homepage to be more relevant to your visitors. For example, if you are promoting an in-state resident sale, you can dynamically set your home page to detect website visitors from your state and display that promo first.
• You can prevent abandonment to OTAs by dynamically showing gated/loyalty rates (see example above) to users who are automatically identified as consumers who have used your direct booking engine.
• When a guest from London visits your website and moves into the booking engine, your website can automatically pass the user’s location and localize room rates in the booking engine to the guest’s native currency (i.e. instead of charging $100 USD for a room, you could charge 100 British Pounds, which is worth $1.32).
Hack 2: Keep Offers Consistent
Using promos across all your digital channels to drive traffic is nothing new, but if you don’t keep the offer consistent throughout the purchase journey, you are causing dissonance and inhibiting your direct hotel website conversion rate.
This is especially critical when guests expect to see the promo they clicked on reflected in the pricing inside your hotel booking engine. If an offer disappears during the booking engine conversion process, visitors can lose confidence in their purchase and abandon their checkout.
Here’s a great example from Couples Resorts showing a 7th Night Free promo on their Specials page, then carried forward all the way through into the booking environment:
The jump between your website to your booking engine is a dangerous place. If the transition isn’t seamless, it’s notorious for causing people to ditch their reservations. One thing to blame for the abandoned reservations: Mismatched online experiences.
The best booking engines are the ones that go unnoticed by the guest. If you transfer guests to a booking engine with a different design, different colors, different fonts than that of the website, it will cause guests to feel uneasy about moving forward. Even the smallest of differences can be jarring to the customer and will slowly chip away at the trust that you worked so hard to establish. So, keep things consistent to boost both customer trust and conversion rates.
Hack 3: Keep Messaging Consistent
Sure, setting rates and keeping content consistent across the vast array of digital channels can get overwhelming. But maintaining STORY parity is vital to your hotel’s bottom line.
Smart hotel marketers also know that their USP (unique selling proposition) has to be consistent across all brand touchpoints and channels. If consumers see your property described as “urban chic” in one place and “a traditional business hotel” in another… dissonance occurs, causing erosion and attrition.
People are often distracted and impatient when they’re shopping for travel online. They’re eager to find information that gives them confidence in their purchase decisions. In the early days of the web, researchers at the Xerox PARC laboratory in Palo Alto defined this as “information scent.”
According to the conversion gurus at Unbounce, people follow visual and information clues that help them find what they’re looking for. If they lose the scent, they’ll abandon the trail. If the information scent is strong, they’ll keep going. The question is: How consistent is the information your hotel provides across all your digital channels?
Hack 4: Offer Live Chat
Smart customer service can give you a serious bump in bookings. A recent study found that 62 percent of online customers are more likely to make a purchase if you offer live customer support.
Let’s be real:
Most of the people who visit your website will have questions. Don’t assume they will read every word on your website to find the answer. They want answers now. And offering them instant responses and open dialogue will make them more confident in booking. Online chat is even more important within your booking environment itself. Up to 98 percent of guests looking for availability on a hotel website will end up NOT BOOKING. Invest a few dollars a month in online chat to reduce attrition and guide your most valuable prospects to booking.
Hack 5: Fix Your Clunky Checkout
The faster a guest can get through the booking process, the higher your conversions. A long and complicated booking process can derail all of your efforts to get the guest across the finish line. Studies show that 28 percent of customers abandon their online purchases because they were frustrated with the long checkout. So, simplify, simplify, simplify. Take out irrelevant steps, mandatory sign-ups and upsell pages. Reduce the number of room types. Pare down as much as you can.
Also, sometimes the simple reason shoppers don’t complete a purchase is that their preferred credit card wasn’t accepted in your booking engine. Smart hotels offer multiple payment options, going beyond Amex, Visa and Mastercard to include as many forms of payment as possible, including third-party online payment services like PayPal. Some even take it a step further like Couples Resorts, who offer a “loveaway” payment plan.
Also, don’t forget to mention security clearly on your checkout page, otherwise you run a serious risk of abandonment. Customers need to feel confident that their payments will be handled securely. A statement of secure payment (or security badges) reassures your customers and could be the difference between a new guest and a lost sale.
Hack 6: Be Very Picky About Photography
Don’t shrug off hotel photography as simply pretty pictures. They carry far more influence than that: They convey your experience with a single glance. A study by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management found that travelers thoroughly inspect photography to see if your room rates match your experience. And, that photography has the potential to change a guest’s mind. So skip the old, dated, blurry photos and kill the cheesy stock images. Invest in a legit, professional hotel photographer with a compelling portfolio of previous work at similar properties.
Hack 7: Harvest Social Proof
Modern travelers, especially millennial and affluent guests, are highly driven by user-generated content. In fact, a recent marketing study found that UGC is 20 percent more influential than any other type of marketing when driving purchases among millennial shoppers. Leveraging your guests’ own images (especially images from Instagram) in your marketing materials not only shows authenticity, it brilliantly demonstrates ‘social proof.’
Also, potential guests turn to sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook and OTAs to research what others are saying about your property. Our advice: Beat them to it. Select and showcase some of your best reviews directly on your hotel homepage to amp up conversions. Scour through guest feedback for the most poignant reviews, skip those that are too generic or lack-luster. The idea is to add credibility with authentic guest feedback, as well as build excitement about what’s in store.
Hack 8: Automate Your Best Rate Guarantee
Having a Best Rate Guarantee badge on your website is no longer enough. Instead, smart hotel marketers now show 3rd party rates alongside their own direct rates, so that customers aren’t tempted to leave and compare prices on other sites. Widgets like TripTease make it easy for hoteliers to show rates form third parties… and (shameless plug) our very own booking engine takes the concept a step further by auto-matching third-party rates when direct rates are showing higher than third parties.
Booking engines, like Tambourine’s, can now auto-display third-party rates and auto-correct direct rates when they are out of parity.
Hack 9: Speed Things Up!
Attention spans online are at an all-time low.
If you want to turn lookers into bookers, every second counts. The ramifications of a slow hotel website are swift, and often permanent as well. About 25 percent of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load. Almost 50 percent will abandon if the site takes more than 10 seconds to load. Worse, once they leave, they will likely never come back. Today’s consumers expect immediacy online, so this is essential to your conversion rate.
Hack 10: Be Mobile-Friendly
Mobile bookings are up. According to eMarketer, by 2021, half of all digital travel sales will be made from smartphones or tablets. So, why aren’t your mobile bookings climbing, too? It’s not enough for your website to just ‘come up’ on a smartphone or tablet. Or, to merely offer a mobile version of your hotel website. Your hotel’s mobile experience has to match the expectations and habits of today’s consumers on-the-go. So, streamline the booking funnel. Design for one-hand navigation. Allow for alternate payments. Then, watch your mobile bookings rise.
Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit: www.Tambourine.com