The internet is a fantastic resource for booking and researching holidays, whether you’re simply daydreaming about your favourite destination or getting ready to whip out that credit card and make a reservation.
Indeed, some 148 million travel bookings are now made online each year and holidaymakers spend hours browsing YouTube, vlogs and other online resources to create the perfect trip.For hotel owners, it means they now have a massive pool of potential business at their disposal. No longer are they confined to word of mouth bookings or reservations generated via magazine ads; as long as they come up early in Google search results, guests can book with them from all over the globe. A key part of allowing them to do this is the hotel booking engine, which converts looking into booking and generates revenue directly for the hotel. It will also provide an impression to would-be guests about the hotel brand and what they might experience if they book a stay.
It is unfortunate, then, that this final stage of the reservations process is the part that often suffers from poor design and being overlooked by marketers. Very basic and ancient-looking booking engine pages are still commonplace even in the 21st century – and considering that users are likely to close that window and go elsewhere at the first sign of any issues, this could mean a lot of potential revenue being lost. Travellers may go to third party websites such as online travel agents or simply to competitors whose booking engines are up to date – but either way, it means hotel owners and marketers are shooting themselves in the foot.This need not be the case, however.
Today, technological evolution has means that some excellent booking engines are available that create a seamless digital experience for guests and help to present a more positive image for hotel brands. They are now a shop window at the final stage of persuasion as much as simply a tool to finish off the job. So, if you’re keen to update your booking engine or even implement a brand new one to attract direct bookings from all over the world, what features should you be looking for? Here are a few ideas that would-be guests are sure to be seeking out as they browse for their next holiday accommodation. Easy navigation If you’re the designer of something, it can be easy to look at what you think you see as opposed to what’s actually there.
That’s why it’s important to put yourself in your guests’ shoes, who might not be especially technologically savvy, and ensure that they can easily find room options, rates and buttons to take them through to the next stage.Regular calls to action When someone makes a snap decision to book a room based on what they see on your website, you need to be able to capitalise on that by presenting them with a call to action button – something that says ‘book now’ or similar. If you don’t and you make it difficult to find among all your other website text, then the moment could pass and the would-be guest may decide they’re not too bothered about reserving a room after all. With modern booking engine functionality, you should be able to ensure the button moves down each page as the person scrolls without being too intrusive.
Neat presentation if you’ve made a lot of effort in making your website look aesthetically pleasing, then don’t ruin it by having a cluttered, haphazard booking engine page. You should still have nice photos and graphics and ensure the information is concise and easy to read.You can also use tools like overlays and drop-down sliders to hide information until the user needs it, as these will cut down on clutter yet still present all the details the person needs to make their decision.This stage is important, as presenting too many options can actually result in ‘action paralysis’ by overwhelming the decision-making process. A quick and easy process Some hotel booking engines force users to click through page after page of options before finally allowing them to make their reservation and it’s likely that this results in a high rate of abandonment.
Don’t make this mistake with yours – keep the whole thing as simple as you can and only collect the detail you really need. You can check how easy a booking engine is to use by posing as a guest and counting the number of mouse clicks you have to make and pages you need to navigate. If it’s too many, simplification is necessary. Optimisation for mobiles According to Statisticbrain, 65 per cent of same-day hotel reservations alone are now made from a smartphone and an ever-increasing number of people are using such devices to make advance bookings too. That means you need to ensure your hotel booking engine can be easily accessed by phones and tablets and won’t bring up error pages or miss out vital text. Again, if errors do occur, your users are likely to bounce back off your site and go elsewhere.
Check out our archived articles if you need more information on responsive design for mobiles. Potential to up sell Although we mentioned that your booking engine needs to be as simple as possible, that doesn’t mean you can’t slip in a few discreet up sell options that might really appeal to your guests, such as an evening meal for a special rate on their first night. Keep them unobtrusive though, as your main aim is to sell the room and you don’t want to appear as though you’re doing the hard sell on your customers. Picking the right booking engine can make a huge difference to the efficiency of your site and on your bottom line, since every small detail can influence guests and persuade them to press that ‘confirm’ button (or not).A well-designed set of pages that are easy to use and look great should ensure you achieve that ultimate goal of boosting your direct bookings, so why not give yours an overhaul?