Having been in the corporate world of Hotels & Tourism, internationally for nearly 20 years, I have been very close to the topic of driving and increasing direct bookings to a hotel website. Now that I have left the Hotel industry but working with clients in this field, I have the opportunity to review this ongoing Rate Parity and Direct Is Best battle from a different perspective.
The buzzwords remain OTAs and AirBnB… it’s not going to change for a while, but as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. Over the years, I have spoken at Industry Conferences and Round-Table events on this very topic, I have been on panels with representatives of leading OTAs and I am a very avid follower of news around this topic… the truth remains the same, OTAs have more budget than Hotels will ever have and Hotels are still fighting hard to prove to customers that Direct Is Best.
I have spent hours, probably years, pulling Data and presenting facts and retaliation options to multiple executive teams, hotel General Managers and Boards around the fight to win this Battle. The Hotelier advantage is you own the customer experience, end to end, from their dreaming and booking phase to staying at the hotel through to checking out, that is your only advantage over OTAs – optimise that!
The real truth is, travellers themselves are on an entirely transformative journey, they are very empowered, and they have a lot to contend with amongst a lot of “noise” and clutter.
Guests search, on average, 22 times before actually making a booking!
And to top it off… 40% of bookings do not occur in the first visit to the website… so you have to keep chasing those that are interested, as well as getting new customers.
I have my own theory around gaining a higher market share of direct bookings to your hotel website, here are some Tips I thought I would share with you.
As hoteliers, it is essential that we are well and truly embedded into the Guest Booking journey, I use a 3 step RoadMap to achieve this:
1. CREATE DEMAND:
Review your digital assets – It is critical that you maintain brand consistency to ensure you are continually delivering and staying true to your brand promise and to guarantee your guests are staying loyal. Are your digital assets on brand and consistent in messaging?
Look beyond the single transaction – work to design digital touchpoints with a full 360 degree view, end-to-end, rather than focusing on just the website – Is your site UX inspired because if you don’t have a design that engages people then they will simply ignore you. Be radically focused on the user, be agile, flexible and speedy when it comes to optimising digital assets.
What are your traffic drivers – Paid Search. Inspire & Drive Natural Search. Display Ads. Display Retargeting. Social Media Champions. Paid Facebook Ads. Facebook Retargeting. Direct Email – One size does not fit all – Personalisation is key so segment and behaviourally target your audience and new prospects.
2. CONVERT CUSTOMERS
How do you convert enquiries and interest? It’s more than the traditional Look to Book philosophy. Think about their user journeys and test these journeys, tap in to their Searching process at the right time and in the right way. It’s all a learning and optimising process.
Hooks To Book – What are your key assets to encourage guests to book direct. Highlight the rewards when booking direct – Points, Upgrades, Best rate guarantee, Incentive when they sign up on property “to hear more”.
Content strategy and delivery to drive direct traffic and bookings via other sources.
Optimise brand engagement – more importantly (because I am big on branding) are all of your digital assets representative of your brand – Are you telling the right story and conveying the right message? Everyone loves a good story and your digital assets and messaging through these channels, should reflect this.
WebChat capability – convert them whilst they are shopping around
3. OPTIMISE REVENUE
Rate Parity – We are all in it to make money so ensure your revenue teams are on top of this, you want guests to book with you rather than get a better rate elsewhere. It is important to keep spot checking rates!
Upsell and Value Add where you can – particularly using tools like Estandby by Nor1.
In closing, know what your guests are doing and learn from this, continually design your assets with purpose, agility and scalability and continue to optimise on the options, assets and guest experience that you have control over – stay on top of these basics and you will survive this battle.