Guest Post: How hotels can increase direct bookings out of season

Guest Post: How hotels can increase direct bookings out of season

By Kristian Valk, chief executive of Hotelchamp

It should come as no surprise that guests often visit a hotel’s website for more information on the hotel which they intend to book, but then are typically driven to book via an online travel agency (OTA), as opposed to booking direct from the hotel.

As a result, the hoteliers are having to get creative in their approach to targeting customers and improve user experience – but, what are these techniques? How can hotels fight back and gain a greater share of the acquisition of bookings, away from OTAs?

As summer comes to a close, hoteliers are keen to attract out of season bookings. Here are my insider tips and tricks – all backed up through data garnered from our smart platform. These insider tweaks to marketing strategies could just be the secret sauce to increase hotel’s conversion rates online.

Be strategic with discount offerings

Every traveller appreciates a good discount, especially when the discount rate gives a more competitive price compared to other booking platforms. But how much of a discount will result in extra bookings?

Research conducted by Hotelchamp found that hotels offering a 5% discount rather than no discount, resulted in an 11% increase in conversion rate and a 12% increase in average booking value. Compare this to offering a 10% discount rather than no discount, hotels can expect to see a 50% increase in conversion rate and an 11% increase in average booking value.

Despite offering a discount to guests in both instances, whether 5% or 10%, surprisingly the average booking value was increased by over 10% as a result. This increase in booking value would have come as a result of either a more expensive room purchased (room upgrades), extra nights booked, or an upsell feature (breakfast).*

To be successful with providing a discount, try to make it more exclusive by making guests request the discount by email, or add urgency to it by setting an end date for the promotion. It’s safe to say that giving more goes along way, directing more traffic to the hotel whilst making the end consumer happy.

Offer real-time relevant deals based on key seasons

Analysing data across three large hotel chains for the 2016 annual year, insights show that February is the most popular time for actual bookings. The data is likely to have shown this due to the pending summer holidays, the peak travelling season.

But whether it’s a post-Christmas holiday or a Valentine’s Day retreat, changing marketing tactics to accommodate these months and capitalise on these high-demand seasons will see an increase in conversion. As such, serving guests a relevant deal in real-time when they’re booking based on their selection, will be more fruitful for conversion.

Following on from this, January and October were the months when sites received the highest traffic. During these months deals can be put in place in order to drive customers to make a purchase such as one off deals or by offering certain amenities through personalisation.

Learn from your reviews

Often an overlooked aspect for gaining greater conversion, guest reviews are telling based upon the nature of the content as well as the timing. Was the room lacking amenities? Did the guest have a good stay?

Taking a deeper dive into the reviews and reaching out to individual guests for further feedback or a brief phone call can lend itself to greater insight into marketing strategies. It’s important to include questions around the booking experience to ensure guests find the process seamless and not daunting.

Furthermore, hotels should include user reviews on their website to prevent a visitor on the website from leaving to go search for reviews elsewhere on the web.

Ensure you aim for an even playing field

When planning competitive advantages, it’s important to ensure you aim to hit at least an equal playing field in terms of your service offering. It’s important for hoteliers to take the time to analyse and examine that they’re meeting the same booking experience, rates and mobile user experience as other booking platforms to remain in competition.

If you want to boost direct bookings, ensure you have better propositions which are exclusively available on your website alone, increasing the likelihood that you’ll have a repeat customer. If one basic or fundamental offering isn’t available, hoteliers risk a consumer going to book elsewhere. Optimisation is key to ensure a guest can’t get a better deal elsewhere.

Add in personalisation techniques for different customers

Personalisation can go a long way, especially when you anticipate a customer’s needs before they even know what they want. Giving each guest dynamic content that is relevant to them in the moment will have a far more impactful result and higher conversion rate.

Since it’s safe to assume that some guests will leave their planning until the last minute, having a discount for guests booking for a date that is close in proximity will result in a more likely conversion. Additionally, guests booking for dates nearer to Christmas could be pushed a great Christmas deal.

Understanding your customer and optimising with different personalisation or relevancy techniques will be more beneficial in the long run for keeping the customer coming back.

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