Three principles for hotels wanting to boost direct bookings
When improving direct booking, hotels could treat different kinds of traffic in different ways, carrying copy and branding initiatives all the way through the booking process and spliting your audience, see what really does work best, and use those learnings for the next campaign you launch.
The Battle for Direct Bookings has exploded this year. Online travel agencies are developing loyalty programs in an attempt to “own the customer” even more concretely, and, in turn, hotels are starting to invest in improvements to their hotels’ branded websites to improve their direct relationship in the digital format.
Here are three guiding principles hotels should consider:
1) Treat different kinds of traffic in different ways
All e-commerce professionals know that the most effective way to convert someone is to address them by name with a personalized offer.
But even if you don’t know a person’s name, their preferences, or their stay history, there’s at least one thing you do know about almost every web visitor: the source of your web visit.
• Did this person type your URL into their browser directly?
• Did they Google your hotel and arrive from a search engine?
• Did they engage with a PPC ad?
• Did they see your property on a review site and follow a link from there?
• Did they link from a piece of press about your restaurant?
Data proves that showing each of these kinds of visitors a different welcome message — emphasizing a unique service experience for visitors from a review site, and a Best Rate Guarantee from people arriving from a search engine, for example — will improve the number of people who drop into your booking funnel as opposed to going elsewhere.
2) Tell a cohesive story
Over the last decade, the idea of a hotel has transitioned from “bed and continental breakfast” to a complete lifestyle experience. People sleep at their hotel, sure, but also they eat, socialize, work, date, shop, and more.
Top-of-funnel marketing has evolved accordingly: hotel ads and branded content aren’t about getting good rest any more, they’re about being part of a certain lifestyle.
But often advertising and branding campaigns that bring people to your site aren’t carried through the rest of your digital presence…your website and booking engine may be static and generic.
It’s important to carry copy and branding initiatives all the way through the booking process. It improves your numbers!
If a guest linked from some press about a specific brand partnership, show them messaging about that event when they hit your site! If they engaged with an ad with copy about a specific nightlife event, tease that copy when they hit your webpage. Technical and timeline challenges are no longer a good excuse for a disjointed website marketing experience.
3) Trust the data
As you tailor your website experience, don’t feel like you have to make the single right decision for every category of visitor — there isn’t one. The opportunity is for you to split your audience, see what really does work best, and use those learnings for the next campaign you launch.
So set a baseline for your traffic. See where they come from and how they break down.
Do extensive A/B testing, too. And don’t solve for “engagement,” whatever that means. Solve for hard dollars, because the copy that drives the most clicks might not be the one that drives the most money.
A good digital experience should be a balancing act between raw numbers and your branding team’s creative direction. Neglecting either side of that equation means you’re leaving money on the table.
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