Does your boutique hotel website offer a great booking experience? And equally importantly, is it reflected in the conversion ratio between visitors and bookers?
Here is a 25 point checklist to maximise direct booking revenue through your hotel website.
1 – Laser-sharp focus on target audience
Review your website to ensure that the content and images are precisely targeted at your main target audience. Positioning is a key element of this exercise as well. If your hotel is positioned differently on your brand website to other channels, this can cause booker confusion. Equally, it needs to match with the expectations of the audience you are targeting. Using the content goal matrix is a very helpful way to achieve this focus.
2 – Highly competitive value-driven pricing
While this may seem somewhat elementary, pricing is a challenge for hotels. The perishable nature of the product, the ultracompetitive landscape, rate parity demands, rate parity issues from unauthorised undercutting of rates by online travel companies – all these pose a real challenge on a daily basis on the ability of your boutique hotel to maximise direct website bookings. Hence a simple strategy to offer a great value proposition (rather than just a lower rate) with direct bookings is key to maximising conversion.
3 – Optimise number of rate plans displayed
While online bookers seek choice, they can also be easily overwhelmed by options if you offer too many. And this means that too much choice can lose you bookers. Read more on how to choose the right rate plans for your hotel.
4 – Differentiate rate plans
Ensure that the rate plans are clearly differentiated in terms of the offer and benefits that it provides bookers. Measure the impact periodically and make necessary adjustments.
5 – Challenge steps required in booking process
Like with any online experience, the number of steps needed for an online user to complete the booking process is a make or break factor. Put too many steps in and you drive the prospect away. Too few and you cannot process the booking correctly. List and describe each step (and the time required) taken by a prospect to complete a booking – and review opportunities for minimising this.
6 – Review upsells in booking process
The scool of thought some years ago was to cram in a lot of additional sales and upsells during the initial booking process. This has been proven to be ineffective as most bookers just want to complete the core process and maybe return at a later stage or during stay for add-on services. So keeping the add-ons and upsells to a minimum during the booking process has a big impact on conversion. Hotels will do much better to deploy a system at check-in that allows to upsell.
7 – Ensure calendar display is optimised
This may sound rather trivial, but has a high potential to annoy regular online bookers. When selecting a check-in date, the calendar needs to be configured in a way that the check out dates change accordingly (plus one) instead of staying with the current date view.
8 – Ensure availability display is optimised
Availability display should ideally show both rates and availability for dates that are on either side of the chosen dates. This allows bookers the flexibility and information needed to change dates if they are looking for better rates or availability.
9 – Use a booking progress bar
This is all about keeping the booker informed about which stage they are in the booking process – and helps them manage both their time and expectations. Think about all the progress bars that we get to see in a single day, whether it is charging a phone or watching an app download!
10 – Ensure great photos of rooms during booking process
Enough has been said about the importance of visual content especially in the case of boutique hotels. However, there aree occasions when the images that accompany the booking process are not of the same quality and/or not the most relevant. The choice of room images being booked is key to conversion as many bookers start having doubts at this stage of their booking journey.
11 – Ensure room highlights represented
Along with the most relevant room images, the key highlights and benefits of that room needs to be stated in simple language. Ensure that this is more benefits driven rather than a list of items in the room.
12 – Ensure good pairing of visual and descriptive content
The right combination of great room visuals with a summary as to why the room is a great choice plays a key role in conversion. Use simple language.
13 – Ensure visibility of reviews during booking process
Social proof of trust and reliability are critical for every business. As a boutique hotel providing authentic experiences, this goes up a notch. Having the ability to see reviews that affirm the booker’s choice of the hotel will maximise booker experience and decision.
14 – Align mobile booking path
The booking experience needs to be aligned across devices – desktop, tablet and mobile. While there will be some differences in look and feel, the key areas discussed here will apply and needs to be consistent.
15 – Minimise use of fields to complete
Count the number of fields a booker needs to fill in to complete a reservation. Do you have any fields that are “good to have” rather than absolutely essential? Try and minimise fields as much as possible to optimise the booking experience.
16 – Avoid need for user registration
Typically for a hotel reservation, bookers should not have to register/login to complete the process. You may want them to opt into a loyalty programme or similar for some benefits in exchange, but this should not be necessary to complete the booking.
17 – Provide ample proof of website security
In today’s world, online bookers are increasingly wary of parting with their payment details and understandably so! And this applies more to smaller independent hotels. Emphasising the trustworthiness and security credentials of your boutique hotel website is very important to reassure the booker that their details are safe – and that they can make their hotel reservation in a secure environment. While many booking engines have their own ways of doing this, it is important that the website overall provides that reassurance. This could be through badges and icons or other related means.
18 – Provide clear calls to action (CTAs)
Inviting the prospect to take an action – in this case ideally make a reservation is the most important call to action. However there maybe other CTAs that you would like to use to ensure you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with the prospect, maybe in the form of signing up to a newsletter or promotion updates. These need to be well thought out and consistent. Colour of these CTAs are also important – red appears to be the one that works the best as we are all attuned to clicking on the red update buttons on social media channels. If you look at Google, however, they use blue.
19 – Review placement of CTAs
While the consistency in colour and text of CTAs are important, their placement has a big impact as well. It is important to have CTAs visible above the fold – this has been shown to increase the click through rates (CTR) and therfore also contribute to better conversion. For bookers on mobile devices, the CTA should follow the booker as they scroll down.
20 – Spend time on improving microcopy
Microcopy is typically small bits of descriptive content that help users complete or accomplish what they are attempting to on the website or app – helpful cues, hints and tips are all microcopy. Examples include error messages, contact form hints etc. It can also include the page title, sign up instructions, loading screen message etc. Although this may appear insignificant, it forms a big part of the user experience and therefore has an impact on conversion. Microcopy can be used to address any concerns that the prospect may have about making a reservation.
21 – Speak the booker’s language
Ensure that the language used throughout the website uses simple words, phrases and concepts that are likely to be familiar to the target audience instead of using industry led jargon. Equally if your website is localised in different languages, it is important that the flow continues from the website copy through to the booking engine and the reservation process.
22 – Use retargeting
Use re-targeting to help convert prospects that visited your hotel website browsed around but did not book. With the use of retargeting ads, the prospect will then see your hotel being advertised on another website that they visit next. While this method has its pros and cons, it is a really effective way to maximise the impact of visitors that have already shown interest by coming to your hotel website and achieve better conversion.
23 – Make good use of campaign landing pages
Landing pages are important to maximise the impact of any marketing campaign. Consider the example of a hotel special summer offer this year – and that you are doing a range of activities to get the message out to your target audience. It is critical that the click throughs from those campaigns reach a dedicated page on your website which explains all the benefits and allows them to enter the booking process right away. And instead, if the clickthrough brought prospects to the website home page, the conversion ratio will go down significantly. So it is important to have a good strategy in terms of capaign landing pages to maximise conversion.
24 – Use conversion triggers
While conversion triggers have been overused and misused by Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), it is an important element in improving conversion. Creating an apppropriate level of urgency using “microcopy facts” can have a very positive impact overall. This can include messages like “only 1 room left” and so on.
25 – Provide best rate guarantee
Providing a best rate guarantee is necessary. It is as much a reassurance as it is a bold statement of confidence in the price integrity of the hotel. In today’s messy online distribution world, this can be challenging, but hotels need to find ways to guarantee the best rate through their own website if they are to improve direct website bookings. Widgets like those provided by Triptease and others also help in supporting and monitoring this.
The above 25 checks, when implemented correctly, along with ensuring a fast, easy to navigate website, will have a definitive impact on your hotel’s direct booking conversion rates.