Hoteliers all over the world are working hard to get ahead of OTAs on the Direct Booking battlefield. Some of them succeed, some of them do not.
Russian legendary writer, Leo Tolstoy, says in his famous Anna Karenina that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” If we drew an analogy to our subject here, I believe that we will find that while hotels which are successful with Direct Bookings share many similarities, the ones who fail – can fail from many different reasons.
Therefore, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to the most common mistakes that keep hoteliers from having a sustainable and independent online direct bookings channel.
Your hotel website isn’t compatible with mobile web browsers:
While more than 50% of the total worldwide traffic comes from mobile devices, it is unacceptable to have a website that is not “Mobile First.”
The Mobile First approaches appeared in 2011 and started as a popular trend among UI/UX professional communities. As you may realize from its name, this approach means that designers and developers will be designing and coding mobile websites/experiences before they will design and code its desktop versions.
What does it mean for hotels?
A – Always check, test, and QA your mobile websites.
B – All new pages, content, media that you want to add to your site has to be first optimized for the mobile view.
C – Marketing communication on social media, online ads creative should all be designed for users that will be consuming it via their mobile devices.
D – Online booking flow must be perfect for the mobile experience.
Do not neglect mobile – Do mobile first!
Slow webpage loading time:
Did you now that an online consumers survey from 2012 claims that “40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” Amazing, isn’t it?
Well, guess what, it is 2018 now. So imagine how vital it is today for your hotel’s site to be as fast as possible.
What does it mean for hoteliers?
First of all, you have to test your website’s speed regularly.
Google has a fantastic and free tool for that (check out other amazing 26 Free online tools for hoteliers). What I like the most about this tool is that it will not only tell you your site’s loading time, but it will also analyze for you how many of your website visitors may leave your site due to slow loading time, and also advise you how you can fix that.
So go ahead and test your mobile site’s loading speed. You can start with your home page, but make sure to also test other web pages that are more deeply into your online booking flow.
You don’t have high-quality rooms & hotel amenities photos:
Visual content is one of the most critical factors for any eCommerce success.
A recent study shows that 78% of online buyers consider online product/service images to be an essential element in their purchasing decision.
The average seasoned traveler will visit 38 booking sites on average before booking. One of these 38 is your hotel website. If you fail to deliver a visual experience of staying at your hotel, the guest will probably choose another hotel.
You can debate the number of images you should have, where and how to present them on the website, or how to share hotel images on social media, but there is absolutely no debate that each hotel website should have high-quality photos of the hotel.
What hoteliers should do:
Hire professional freelance photographers for a gig, and produce high standard HD photos of at least: Rooms, view from rooms, the lobby, the guestroom, restaurant(s), exterior area, the pool, and don’t forget the local attractions in close proximity to the hotel.
You don’t have enough guest reviews:
Now that we have established the important of images, let’s take a look at the single most powerful factor of online persuasion – Word of mouth.
Guest reviews have an enormous impact on the booking decision. TripAdvisor’s survey finds that 96% of online users find reviews important when looking to make an online booking. Not only that, but the average traveler needs to read 6-12 reviews to make a decision.
Obviously, reviews will only help if they are honest and positive. But if they are honest and positive, they can turn to a magic pen that will help you kill it on social media and drive lots of curious travelers to your hotel’s site.
What should hoteliers do?
Make sure that your hotel’s website has a reviews section/plug-in. You can easily broadcast your TripAdvisor reviews on your site with a TripAdvisor widget.
Keep track of reviews, and respond to each negative review to show that you care.
Take advantage of positive reviews and distribute them across social media.
Your Best Price Guarantee message isn’t communicated correctly:
This is a sort of a no-brainer. You can’t expect experienced online consumers who feel incredibly comfortable with booking on OTAs to change that behavior unless you can provide a better value for their money.
But only having the best price, or a better value for money isn’t enough. You also have to deliver that message in a way that will persuade your website visitor that booking direct is the best option.
As human beings, we like to learn. Learning is one of the most rewarding experiences there is. The moment we obtain new knowledge, our brain releases dopamine, which was discovered to play a role in humans’ motivation to start and finish tasks.
When prospective guests are visiting your hotel’s website, do everything that you can to help them learn that booking direct is the best option.
This is precisely the reason why we developed the BookingDirection price compare widget for hotel websites.
Our innovative price comparison tool encourages website visitors to book direct and helps you turn lookers into bookers.
Our clients see a 41% increase in direct booking on average.
What should hoteliers do?
Sign up right now to get a free demo of BookingDirection and see how it will affect your direct bookings conversion rate.
OTAs are outbidding your brand name on Google:
We’ve covered this issue several times, like in our The Ultimate 40-Day Plan to Reduce OTA Commissions and in our article on How to Drive Direct Bookings in 3 Steps.
In a nutshell, go to Google.com and search for your hotel name. If you see an advertisement by an OTA, it means that they are simply stealing away direct bookings from you.
When users search for your hotel brand name, they do it because they have already heard something about your hotel. Maybe they saw a post from you on Facebook, or perhaps an Instagram photo, or maybe one of their friends stayed at your hotel and recommended it to them. So they go on Google to search for your website, but end up on an OTA website. What a shame.
What can hoteliers do?
Run a paid search campaign with Google Ads. It won’t be expensive because you should only bid on your brand name. In this case, you can end up paying even just a few cents per click. Google’s algorithm will recognize your hotel website as the most relevant advert for your brand name keywords and you will easily conquer the 1st position.
For further reading about that, I’d recommend this article by Mirai.
You’re not running retargeting campaigns:
Retargeting campaigns are advertising campaigns that you can on Facebook/Google/YouTube/Twitter and only target people who have earlier visited your website.
When prospects visit your website the first time, they will most likely not book yet. The traveler’s journey towards booking is usually a lengthy process that can take around 45-60 days.
This means that hotels should continue the communication with the prospect even after he/she leaves the site because during the next few days/weeks the booking decision will be made.
Retargeting campaigns aren’t complicated to run, but they require a certain integration between your hotel’s website and advertising platform.
What should hoteliers do?
I’d recommend you explore the retargeting campaigns options in the largest ads platform and see what will be the most suitable option for you, and then start running the campaigns.
Currently, Facebook has the most custom retargeting campaigns option for hotels.
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