Luxury hotels trying to master guided selling online
It’s no secret that hotels would love to have a deeper relationship with customers, with direct booking seen as the best way of achieving it.
But with consolidation in the online travel agency sector (and its associated marketing muscle) and the rise of brands such as TripAdvisor that want to be all things to all people with metasearch and reviews of hotels, properties and chains have a problem getting consumers “in the front door” of their websites.
Searches and bookings are taking place elsewhere, in other words.
Still, there are plenty of consumers that do make it onto hotel websites, often for research, check prices or make a booking.
As a result, hoteliers are starting to thinking about how they convert those visitors before they disappear off to a rival property or favourite OTA.
One growing trend is the concept of “guided selling”, a process by which web users are channelled faster or easier into making a decision about whether to make a reservation.
Booking.com is the master at this, using the “one room left” or “five people looking”-type messages on properties in the hope that it pushes the conversion.
Business intelligence service L2 has spent some time examining how major luxury hotel brands have been using guided selling tactics on their own websites, with some interesting results.
Over the course of the last year, hotel brands have certainly been trying to improve the user experience of their websites to facilitate the guided selling idea.
For example, more websites are using filtering tools in 2015 than they were in the previous year, whilst there has been a marked increase (39% to 49%) of brands offering online virtual tours and comparison tools to show how a property ranks against competitors are even starting to make their presence felt.
Here are some of the key points from the research:
1. Search and navigation
Almost two-thirds (61%) of luxury hotel brands offer destination search filters and 47% offer sorting (excluding price, rate, or room type options).
Amenities, the most common filter criteria, are incorporated by 42 percent of brands, although they do not offer sorting by the same option.
Some 28% of luxury hotel brands allow loyalty members to filter by program-related criteria (e.g., points available or property status levels) to easily determine where accrued points or nights can be spent.
Interestingly, only 14% of brands enable filtering or sorting by availability, arguably one of the most important factors from a booking practicality standpoint.
2. Interactive tools
Just over half (52%) of brands include an interactive map within search results, enabling users to more easily visualize property locations and proximity to points of interest or transportation.
Another helpful tool for users to narrow in on properties that best fit their needs is through direct comparison; on a third of brand sites travelers can compare properties by features.
Once a destination has been selected, 16 % of brands allow users to compare rooms. Whilst 62% of brands offer videos directly on the property page and 50% incorporate a virtual tour to give greater insights into property details.
3. Property pages
Two-thirds percent of luxury hotel brands feature reviews on property pages, up from 59% last year. Of the brands offering reviews, half syndicate them from TripAdvisor, while 40% offer a proprietary (potentially curated) review system.
Less than half of brands invite guests to submit reviews about their stay on the brand site, missing an opportunity to collect content to inform and potentially persuade future users.
Marketers are embracing user-generated content (UGC) as a way to signal authenticity, but brands in multiple categories are still positioning UGC (for example, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) as a top-of-the-funnel brand equity play, rather than a way to drive conversion.
Many luxury hotel brands are limiting use of UGC to their social media pages, oftentimes merely reposting content from their fans, but a handful include
Instagram image collateral on-site.
Although 86% of brands maintain an Instagram account and some have thoughtfully curated image galleries, only 14 percent of brands feature Instagram UGC on property pages.
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