The seemingly unshakeable grip of the online travel agencies has long been a point of contention for hoteliers trying to maximise profits from online bookings. But how do they do it?
Beside the obvious factor of low rates, one of the key reasons for the success of the OTAs can be put down to their total perfection of the conversion process. Armed with extensive ecommerce research, companies like Expedia and Booking.com have carefully constructed their websites to drive bookings every step of the way.
But don’t despair. You don’t need a marketing budget the size of the OTAs to draw on some of their tried and tested tactics. Here are 3 lessons from the OTAs you can use to generate more bookings on your hotel’s website.
A Seamless User Experience
Take a look at any of the major OTAs and you’ll notice some pretty hard to miss similarities. Clutter-free design, easy navigation, clear and concise information and lots of large, high quality photos right at the centre of the user experience. In other words, everything a consumer needs to find out what they need to know and make a booking decision within a few minutes.
When consumers click on a property to find out more, OTAs ensure they display the most important information at a glance. That way, there’s no need to click around and risk losing the traveller’s interest at a crucial stage in the booking flow. On Expedia for example, essential room details, location info, the hotel’s cancellation policy and total price are all presented in a logical sequence that tackles the most common objections that may impact a booking decision.
Prominent Social Proof
Browsing the reviews of past guest plays an integral role in the booking process for nearly all online travel shoppers. It doesn’t’ matter if it’s a spontaneous one night stopover or a two week holiday with the family, travellers want reassurance that they’re making the right decision. This is a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the OTAs, who use guest comments, review stats and ratings, as well as recent booking and browsing figures to demonstrate a property’s popularity with likeminded travellers.
Draw on the same tactics by prominently showing off glowing testimonials, reviews and industry awards on your own site. A TripAdvisor widget is one of the simplest and most effective ways to start.
A Quick, Straightforward Checkout
Just because a travel shopper has reached the checkout, doesn’t mean the booking is a done deal. In fact as much as 81% will abandon a booking at checkout, according to a study by SalesCycle.
Minimise booking abandonment by keeping the booking process as smooth, simple and straightforward as possible. Take a note from the OTAs’ book and keep your booking form short, eliminate unnecessary distractions and cut down the number of questions and clicks to the smallest amount possible.
OTA’s also know that this is the place to reassure travellers that their payment details are safe and secure and to give them one final nudge by inspiring a sense of urgency at checkout (“Hurry! 10 other people are viewing this room right now”).
Don’t be fooled by the dominance and million dollar marketing budgets of the OTAs. With a little work, the conversion model these websites are built on can be replicated on your hotel’s own website to start driving more direct bookings today.
What do you think? Do you use these tactics on your hotel’s website? Let us know in the comments below!