Booking a holiday or even just a couple of nights’ stay at a hotel for business purposes is a big thing for many people; it can represent a lot of money spent or even the need to find the perfect place to rest their head on a dream break. Consumers famously spend a lot of time researching and planning their trips, visiting different sites and carefully comparing potential purchases, so getting them as far as the booking engine is the ideal for hotel owners and marketers.
However, this is the point at which the experience must be flawless for would-be guests. It is frustrating for property owners if they get as far as taking out their credit card, only to abandon the reservation process for one reason or another. In many cases, this occurs because there is something not quite right with the design of the checkout pages. So, with this in mind, what can those in the hospitality industry do to ensure they have the best booking engine for hotels?Here are our top five tips.
1. Great, user-friendly design If you’re trying to book or buy something, you need the website to be completely clear and easy to use. This is no different with hotels, so check that the layout is logical and doesn’t involve any distracting extras that could trip up would-be guests. In a recent survey, Sale Cycle discovered that 13 per cent of travellers had abandoned a reservation because the booking process was too long or complicated, so don’t risk this.
2. Allowing final checks As we mentioned above, booking a break is a big thing and travellers want to be able to double-check they have entered the right details before they commit to spending their money. Have they definitely entered the correct check-in dates? Are they absolutely sure they booked a double room and not a twin? Having a review screen before the final ‘book now’ button is really reassuring for would-be guests and can be helpful for hotel staff because it reduces the amount of time they need to spend altering mistakes in bookings. Also, ensure customers can go one step back at all times, rather than having to begin the entire process again if they have made a mistake.
3. Complete transparency Comparing prices for holidays is now commonplace among travellers, so you need to ensure your booking engine clearly displays your rates and any other charges that might be incurred straight away. If you put costs several pages in and appear to hide them, it can make you look untrustworthy. Even if you know a certain room costs a premium price, be upfront about it; many people are willing to pay higher rates for hotels, but they don’t want to feel as though they are being duped into it.
4. Attractive booking pages Although you do need your booking engine interface to be clear, that doesn’t mean it has to be completely sparse. Let your guests get excited about their upcoming stay and reassure them they wouldn’t be better off with your competitors by adding pictures of your lovely rooms, snapshots of the restaurant and vistas of the views from the windows as they go along.
5. Relevant information at all times This can be a tricky one as it’s tempting for hotel owners to want to provide as much information to guests as they can, but don’t bombard them with irrelevant details. This may mean altering your text and content at different times of year. For instance, if your guests are making a booking in the depths of winter, they don’t need to hear about the wonderful beach and outdoor pool opening times – but they might want to know about ski supply shops and hiking routes. Doing this will make your guests feel as though you’re going the extra mile for them and providing a personalised service. Implementing this advice should ensure your hotel booking engine stands up to scrutiny and doesn’t cause high levels of abandonment to what should otherwise be easy bookings.
However, as a final word on the matter, do make sure you frequently test your website by making dummy reservations. In many cases, hotel owners have experienced decreasing numbers of guests and then gone on to discover there is a fault in their checkout process or that it’s not user-friendly, which easily explained their problem. Carrying out testing can alert you to problems before they start to become an issue and then begin to leach money from your revenues.
So, take a look at your website as soon as you can. Is the final port of call for would-be guests looking the best it possibly can? If not, try some of our top tips and get it up to scratch. It could make a big difference to your bottom line.