The topic of online travel agencies (OTAs) has been widely discussed lately, and it’s really no surprise. While they undoubtedly help hotels to boost bookings – at what cost does this come? Well, 20 per cent or more to be precise, which is the commission that they charge on each booking.
OTAs are a great way to fill up the last remaining rooms at your hotel, but you certainly don’t want to be relying on them. So, this means that in 2016 you need to boost your own online booking conversions. Hotel marketers are now increasingly investing in digital advertising campaigns to drive traffic directly to their sites. While attracting more unique monthly visitors is a necessary step for hotels looking to increase direct online bookings, the average abandonment rate for hotel websites is a whopping 77 percent. Needless to say, there’s too much traffic that just isn’t converting. While making a sale to every website visitor is entirely unrealistic, abandonment rates this high are certainly not a good thing.
Did you know that even the smallest marketing improvements geared towards increasing conversions can have substantial impacts on profit? You need to think about what you can do to decrease the number of users who are leaving your site without purchasing and to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns to re-engage abandoned visitors. Okay, so first things first – why are customers abandoning before booking? Do you have hidden costs or admin fees?There’s nothing worse for a customer than going all the way through the booking process to find an extra £25 ‘administration’ added on at the last minute. This will almost certainly make them think twice. They will then go to an OTA to make the booking and you’ll lose 20 per cent to commission.
With this in mind, you’ll find it much better to be upfront about the cost from the start. Also, have you thought about using re-engagement messages? On average, a re-engagement message can recover 15 per cent of bookings. All you need to do is have a message set to automatically appear when a visitor has been on one page for a certain period of time, tries to close the browser window, or takes another action that signals pending abandonment. You can probably do even better than this with the right message.
For some people, saying that you’re sorry to see them go might prompt them to reconsider. But you can do more than that. Sweeten the deal. Draw them in with an added amenity like a free breakfast or bottle of wine. You might be surprised how often this can work. Or not – free food and drink is a very persuasive tool. Even by doing these things, some people will still abandon booking. So you now need to consider how you can get those customers back. If your hotel isn’t doing email re-engagement campaigns then you’re leaving a lot of business in the market for your competitors to pick up.
Email remarketing remains an incredibly effective marketing channel for offering exclusive hotel deals to lost customers. According to ehotelier, up to 61 per cent of customers open a follow-up email from hotels, and the click-to-book rating is a staggering 42 per cent. Again, you need to focus on what will really make the customer think again about booking – discount. You want to fill your rooms, because empty rooms don’t make any money, but you don’t want to sell them all through OTAs and lose 20 per cent. Well, a free breakfast or a couple of drinks are much cheaper. You could even offer the customer a percentage discount to book or a discount if they extend their stay. Not only does this mean you lose less profit, but it gives you the opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with that customer, meaning that they’re much more likely to book with you again.
As the hospitality industry become even more tech and digitally savvy, you need to make sure that you really keep on your toes when it comes to marketing campaigns. It’s no longer good enough to let your marketing tick over because the strategy seems to work. To really succeed in 2016 and win business, you need to always be looking for ways to ensure that the customers has a truly great online experience. You need to find a way to connect with them and give them an offer they can’t refuse.Take charge this year and really take your success to new heights.