Posts

7 Reasons Why Your Hotel Fails With Direct Bookings

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.

Google loading speed tool 1

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.

hotel review shared on facebookhotel review shared on facebookhotels reviews shared on fb

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.

BookingDirection Preview

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.

Signup for Your Free Demo and to get Hotelier's Ultimate List of Online Tools


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.

Facebook retargeting

Google/YouTube retargeting

Twitter retargeting

Hooray!

You’ve reached the end of the blog post, so make sure you also get our exclusive bonus:

The ultimate list of free digital marketing tools that will help you generate more direct bookings!

Sign up below to get it to your email

Signup for Your Free Demo and to get Hotelier's Ultimate List of Online Tools


This is how hotels should use Facebook to grow direct bookings

Facebook is probably the greatest marketing platform for small & medium businesses such as hotels. It has many great marketing products and features such as: Facebook business pages, Facebook ads, Messenger, Groups, Marketplace, Dynamic travel ads, and more.

The technology plays a huge role, and a basic understanding of Facebook’s technology is required to conduct a successful marketing operation on Facebook. However, it is still much more important to understand what the hotel’s overall strategy should be on Facebook. When you understand what should be done, it’s much easier to figure out how to do that technically.

What I am constantly mentioning in my blog posts is that building a marketing funnel is something that will always pay its way to a positive ROI as a mid-term/long-term online strategy for SMBs.

Fortunately, Facebook marketing tools allow hotels to set up a marketing funnel pretty easily.

What you need is to understand the purpose of each of Facebook’s marketing tools, and the role they play within the funnel.

So let’s take a deep dive into the specialization of Facebook’s core marketing and advertising tools and show the way hotels should be using them to build their own independent and sustainable online direct bookings channel.

Facebook Pages

This is a hotel’s core web asset of its Facebook marketing operation. It is basically its ID from Facebook’s point of view on the business. Your hotel will be eligible for all of Facebook’s marketing tools only via its Facebook Business Page. The ads platform, messenger chatbots, retargeting, dynamic travel ads are all available for Facebook Business Page owners.

Besides the official requirement of having a Facebook Page to use other marketing products on Facebook, the business page is also the front of the hotel on Facebook and maybe on the internet in general.

The hotel’s Facebook page must transmit the core values of the hotel to its potential guests who visit the page. It has to have elements of an information desk with important phone numbers, full address and direction, description of the property/properties, amenities list, spectacular images of the pool, restaurant, rooms, etc.

The business page should be one click away from a direct communication with the hotel representative, or at least a direct contact form. Hotels can utilize a Facebook messenger button on the page, or redirect the user to the contact page on its website.

important facebook page setting for hotels

Facebook also allows hotels to present one of the most important contents that can help the customer choose the right hotel, and it’s a “reviews” section.

If you decide to open the option for users to leave reviews on your Facebook page, make sure to take this very seriously and reply to each and every negative comment.

facebook page reviews for hotels

The Facebook page is also the asset that your potential guests will interact with. Therefore, it’s recommended to post regularly (2-4 times per week) to keep a continuous communication with your audience.

 

Facebook Ads Manager

The Ads Manager is the main tool of the Facebook Ads platform. This is the place where you actually run the ads. The Ads Manager is responsible for the entire ad campaign structure: scheduling, budgeting, creative creation, and performance tracking.

Compared to Google AdWords (Google’s ad platform), the Ads Manager is a pretty intuitive tool, which also helps many hoteliers to independently manage the ads operations and the media buying processes within Facebook.

 

Facebook Custom Audiences

Okay! So this is where the real magic happens. Facebook Custom Audiences is actually the name of the advanced targeting and retargeting tool within Facebook’s ads platform. This tool allows hoteliers to upload their own prospect lists to Facebook and run ads inside their feeds. It also used to segment different audience lists based on their position in the marketing funnel.

A quick reminder. The marketing funnel consists of 3 main stages: Top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel. Each step represents the distances of a prospect from its final purchase decision.

In order to maximize the functionality of the Custom Audiences tool, there’s a simple process that is required from the hotel to implement. A pixel should be embedded on all pages of the hotel’s website. This pixel is a small piece of code that collects data from users who visit your website in order to help you personalize Facebook ads that you can later serve to them.

So here is an example of how a hotel should use the Custom Audiences feature to segment its marketing funnel.

 

Top of the funnel audience:

A lookalike audience made of source audiences of Facebook page fans, or its website visitors, or of Facebook users who engaged with the page.

Middle of the funnel audience:

A custom audience of Facebook users who watched your video, or those who engaged with any of your page’s content.

Bottom of the funnel audiences:

A custom retargeting audience of people who visited your hotel’s website and conducted a search for available dates & rooms.

full funnel marketing for hotels

 

Facebook Messenger

This is the last big marketing product that was released by Facebook, and many marketers around the world rely on this great tool for their acquisition and lead generation campaigns. However, Facebook Messenger is also a great tool for customer service and support, and therefore it can provide a value for hotels that are maybe the most customer service focused businesses in the world.

Facebook messenger should be used to provide guests and potential guests quick answers with the help of a chatbot. The bot can be easily created via several chatbot development programs such as Chatfuel or Maychat.

Check this chatbot of the W Barcelona hotel (make sure to click “Get Started”) to see a clear example of how hotels should use Facebook Messenger chatbot for customer service

Facebook messenger chat bot for hotels

 

Facebook Dynamic Travel Ads

While this is one of the most advanced and technically challenging marketing products out there, it is fully designed for hotels to use.

It allows the hotel to upload a live inventory file (a catalog) to the Facebook ads platform, and generate automated ads based on personal preferences of those users who visited the hotel’s websites.

For instance, a small hotel chain will be able to not only target Facebook users who searched for available dates on a specific property, but also offer an additional coupon to those prospects who didn’t book. Or even upsell with additional extras to guests who have already booked.

 

Facebook ads for travel

 

The main advantage of this ad product is that it’s fully automated, and once an inventory catalog is set along with the ad campaigns, it will run autonomously and present relevant and personalized Facebook ads to all website visitors.

 

Rap

Creating a profitable direct bookings channel that hotels can rely on requires a holistic approach towards the use of Facebook’s marketing products.

On the one hand, it won’t be enough to only run ads campaigns, if the hotels’ Facebook page doesn’t provide the right information and user experience to assist the prospect in overcoming its objections regarding an unknown hotel.

On the other hand, a well-managed and well-constructed Facebook business page still lacks many of the important features that are required to conduct a Full Funnel Marketing strategy and push prospects down the funnel until they make their final purchase decision.

Hotels that use a combined portfolio of several Facebook marketing tools generate the ideal environment for the creation and maintenance of an online direct booking channel.   

 

Bonus 1

I know how frustrating it can be for hoteliers to search the web for high-quality Facebook marketing resources, and especially ones that are dedicated to hotels. Therefore, I’ve browsed the web and collected all the best resources on Facebook Marketing for hotels, providing a single curated list of resources.

Bonus 2

If you’re already implementing a few online marketing strategies, you have probably noticed that it can be pretty difficult to convert website traffic into direct bookings.

BookingDirection was designed exactly to help solve this pain for hoteliers.

Our innovative price compare widget for hotel websites encourages website visitors to book directly from your hotel’s website, converting lookers into bookers.

Our clients see a 41% increase in direct booking on average.

BookingDirection Preview

 

We offer a free demo of the product, and we believe it’s worth trying if you’re looking for ways to cut out high OTA commissions by increasing direct bookings on your website.

Sign up here to get the complete list of Facebook Marketing Resources for Hoteliers, and a demo of BookingDirection.

Signup for Your Free Demo With an Email Address Only