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How to boost visits to your website and convert them into actual reservations

by Julia Rey

One of the pains of every hotelier is to drive traffic to the web and finally convert visits into real bookings. We have been talking to our friends at MyHotelShop to gather some recommendations and help you increase your visits and improve the conversion rate.

How to bring traffic to your website

Revenue cannot increase without traffic, traffic cannot be increased without visibility - visibility can only be influenced on the direct channel, not via third party distribution

 

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OTAs and other distribution partners are crucial for hoteliers all over the world. Throughout the years some online travel agencies have developed a very strong brand and are known all over the globe. They are responsible for a big portion of revenue generated in hotels. However, what is important to keep in mind is that they don’t want travellers to specifically book YOUR hotel, but ANY hotel of their partner network. Therefore hoteliers don’t have any influence on how their hotel is marketed by third parties.

They have to accept the amount of visibility that the OTA is granting them with little to no room for negotiations which results in no control over the generated sales. That being said, the only option hoteliers have to influence their online visibility is by focusing on their own distribution channel.


Focus on metasearch and Google Ads

From the moment you have a contract with an OTA they will use a percentage of the commission to invest in online marketing, mainly on Google’s search and display networks as well as on price comparison platforms (metasearch) such as Google Hotel Ads, trivago and TripAdvisor. They are buying traffic at the exact spot of demand. Once the user is on the website of the OTA, they are offered a vast choice of hotels within a destination and don’t need to visit other websites in order to find a suitable accommodation. This shows how dependent hoteliers are from their distribution parties and how exposed they are to the order of listing within a destination and the way a hotel is displayed. So, the important part is to not let the OTA buy the traffic but to always be one step ahead in order to direct the potential guest to your own website.
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Google Ads

Whenever a user searches online for your brand, the OTA will be at the top of the result page and the user will probably go to that website. Through this, they will generate bookings for you, or in a worse case scenario they will change their mind and book another hotel. Very nice you are found via google search, but why wouldn’t you take control in your own hands? The costs will be lower and you will be in full control of your customers’ journey, from the moment they do research till the moment of check out.

The ads from OTA’s are often not personalised and don’t show your USP’s. By creating your own ad’s you are in control of what you’d like to write and show to the potential customers. Furthermore, the ads can have extensions (links) to specific pages of the website, the phone number to the reservations department or special (seasonal) offers.

As you are bidding on your own brand linking to your website, the ad will very likely end up above the OTA’s ads. That is because search engines work with quality factors. These factors determine where/if you end up on the results page and how much you pay per click. You bidding on your brand makes it that you have a very high quality factor.

Together with these ads you can track the development; how often it is seen, the amount of clicks and even implement conversion-tracking, so you’ll know what the ROI is.
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Metasearch

A similar scenario is happening on metasearch. By placing direct links to their website, OTA’s try to fill as many clickable spots as possible on the price comparison platform and direct the user to their website. Hoteliers have the possibility to link their own websites on their profiles and influence the visibility of their own channel and rates as well as the ranking of their profile within the destination.

For any platform, it is important not to stop investing in marketing. If you don’t do it, other companies will!


Take care of the content and first impression on the platform and get an expert to manage visibility efficiently

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With everything being available within seconds nowadays and decreasing attention spans of internet users, the first impression is more than important. Hoteliers should pay particular attention to their profiles on Google MyBusiness, trivago and TripAdvisor to name the most important platforms. Content and pictures should be up to date and of high quality. 

Reviews are harder to be influenced but make sure guests who liked your service tell everyone about it online. Once the profiles are attractive, hoteliers can start managing the actual campaigns (direct links to their websites). As most platforms work with auction models, managing a number of campaigns at the same time can be quite overwhelming. By getting help from an expert that can manage all of the campaigns meeting your visibility and ROI goals, hoteliers have set the scene for successful direct distribution online.

Additionally, quality content, pictures and overall appearance is not only important for first impression but also on the booking engine. On average, hotel booking engines have a conversion rate below 3%. This 97% of potential bookers lost is usually due to limited content, bad design and poor user experience. These potential bookers then move to either booking on an OTA or with a competitor. The booking engine should have a responsive design to display perfectly across devices, follow the corporate identity of the hotel for a seamless transition from website to booking engine, the navigation on the booking engine should be smooth and simple and always give options to lead back to the website. Pictures and descriptions of rooms should be identical to those found on the hotel website as well as to the OTAs. The display of rates should be in ascending order and special offers, additional services should be clearly stated and bookable. Finally, the process should be completed with as little amount of clicks and fill-outs possible to make it easy and quick for the potential guest.

With the marketing methods mentioned above - campaigns on google ads and metasearch -  hotels have the opportunity to increase their online visibility to attract more potential bookers to the hotel’s direct website and the booking engine. If content and navigation are well optimised, the user might just stay on and consider booking. However, this is only half the job done. Next, you must convert these viewers into bookers and this often comes down to price.

How to manage pricing in your website to convert reservations

Now, you have conquered your potential customer, and got him to your website. You are a couple of steps away from converting this visit into an actual reservation.

All the previous efforts and cost of acquiring a new client, have to be accompanied by good pricing and a user friendly booking engine, to make sure they don’t drop off your website and book a room elsewhere. Our Revenue Management experts at  Beonprice are giving you some recommendations on pricing to make sure you have a good conversion rate:


First, design an efficient rate structure

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Since the last time you set up the distribution of room types, some things may have changed in your property. Are they currently defined in the most efficient way? Can you create new room types or join room types that are not so different? Reconsider the configuration of your room types, meal plan and attributes and design your product in a comprehensive way for the customer, at the same time you make it the most efficient structure for your operations and profitability.

Then, take some time to see if your rate plans and rate codes are correctly configured and in the most efficient way. Review the basic plans and indexed rates and make the changes you think are appropriate to optimize results. Try to keep a clear difference of prices and conditions between one rate and another.

Think now how you are going to work your price points and if you need to modify something regarding how you have been working so far. If you are still working with price levels, maybe this is a good time to start moving to open rates if your tech stack is prepared for it.


A good forecasting makes a good pricing

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In Revenue Management, we can predict demand through forecasting, which will simplify the task of making strategic decisions to optimize inventory and pricing in the aim of maximizing income and therefore the GOPPAR (Gross operating profit per available room).

A forecast, broken down by market segments, will make it easier to identify the most profitable travelers, so that we can take specific action aimed at providing the best possible customer experience, and thus win the loyalty of the most interesting target audience for accommodation. By focusing on demand prediction, we can establish pricing customization strategies, working from the point of view of Customer-Centric Revenue Management.


A high overall quality increases the probability of sale

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The relationship that exists between the overall quality of each property and the selling price level, determines your positioning in the market within a particular competitive set.

 

At Beonprice we understand overall quality as a combination of objective quality, that is, all those features and services that make up the hotel; the expected segmentation, since each segment has different quality expectations; and online reputation, understood as the guest’s perception of quality. At this time, the customer's expectations will take into account the hotel's hygiene, health security and cleanliness. These parameters will configure the concept of hotel quality differently for a while, and how we respond to expectations will make a difference. Indicators such as the HQI™ facilitate the consideration of these expectations to discover the willingness to pay of each segment and the probability of sale for each price level.

We insist on the importance of the added value that you can provide to the customer, to reduce the price sensitivity of the demand and thus be able to position your property, within the competitive set, in an optimal position that matches with what each segment is willing to pay. Bear in mind that this will also affect the overall experience of the destination for the traveler and will enhance the loyalty of the different segments.


Make all your inventory available on your booking engine

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Once you have all set up for a good sale, and you have made your potential customer visit your website, you just need to make sure your booking engine is up and running and all your available inventory is shown for sale. You need to have a user friendly booking engine to avoid the customer dropping the purchase. It can be useful to integrate any online direct sales software that would use AI to help you increase conversion rate.

It is also relevant to bear in mind that there is a psychological aspect to pricing. On this point there is a clear convergence between pricing and marketing strategy, since it is not only important which rates (prices)  you are selling, but also how you present these prices to customers on your booking engine, as this can have an impact on your sales. As consumers, when we are making decisions about purchasing a product, there is a stage of the process known as “price assessment”. In this stage we always assess the price of a product in relative terms, never in absolute terms. For example, if you are in a restaurant choosing a bottle of wine, when only one bottle is available at a cost of 25 euros  you are not really able to assess if this is expensive or cheap. If the wine list also contains bottles at 10, 15, 20 and 30 euros you are able to assess the value by comparison and decide which to purchase. In terms of your booking engine this means you need to present your rates in a way which permits this assessment process to take place. You can even direct the customer towards the purchase of a specific rate by framing the rate you want them to purchase between other rates which are clearly not so attractive - this is known as using decoy rates.


Make sure you have the perfect tech stack

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All of the above is necessary for you to have a joined-up strategy which helps you to maximize your incomes, however to do this manually is highly labour intensive and time consuming. Fortunately, these days there are a lot of hotel technology products in the market which can help you with this 

You should review your tech stack to ensure that it meets your strategic needs: is the technology you are using flexible and adaptable? Does your RMS system forecast using advanced AI and Machine Learning?  Are all of your systems integrated so that information flows effectively between them? Does your PMS have sufficient granularity for you to segment by market, by nationality, by channel, etc.  If you have all of these things properly set up and managed you are free to focus on mid and long term strategies to get the most out of your business.


It is becoming clear that the lines between traditional Revenue Management, Marketing, Sales and Operations are becoming increasingly blurred. Departments need to stop working in silos and start to collaborate in order to maximize long term profitability - this is known as discipline convergence, and we can already see this happening in many large organizations. A successful hotel needs to coordinate activities over the whole life cycle of the customer, ensuring that demand is created, brought to the direct channel and then correctly optimized. To do this in the most profitable way it is highly recommended to use a good revenue management software (RMS) - hotels typically see 5 - 11% increases in RevPAR on adopting technology of this kind. As well as to establish an efficient digital marketing strategy across the customer journey - hotels typically see an increase of 20 - 40% in direct website revenue thanks to these activities. Equally important is a robust and flexible Booking Engine on the website, and all integrated with the hotel PMS in a seamless way. Hotels not only see a financial impact from working this way, but also an operational return - improvements in efficiency and productivity. Combining the approach mentioned above with the correct technology makes the perfect process to be efficient and get more profitable reservations.


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