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Barriers to Book: How to increase Direct On-line Bookings

IntroductionSo many independent hotels focus energy on driving ‘followers’, ‘likes’ & ‘shares’ on their Social Media, and ultimately driving traffic to their website, that they neglect the most important part of the overall process: the booking engine! They may achieve a reasonable percentage of people who either check availability or click on ‘Book Now’, but a recent article by FastBooking (www.fastbooking.com) confirmed my experiences, that the conversion rate at that point is only around 2%. So, unless you analyse this, all of the rest of the marketing will be meaningless. Of course a certain number of people are simply researching hotels and checking prices and availability. But not 98% of them! I call the obstacles in the process ‘Barriers to Book’.

Barriers to BookThese fall into 4 simple categories:

  1. People can’t find what they are looking for.

  2. People don’t like what they are seeing.

  3. The process is too difficult or time-consuming.

  4. They don’t trust the product or the process.

People Can’t Find What they are Looking ForIf you visit an OTA site it is very easy to find what you want, it is easy to compare prices and it is easy to book. In fact, it isn’t just easy to book: there are typically no prohibitive Terms & Conditions either. Often hotels have too many room types displayed, too many promotions and too many T&C, for the customer to find what they want. If a hotel has too many roomtypes (& let’s face it, many independent hotels view their variety of rooms as a major USP), there may be limited availability for any date for each room, and this can be exacerbated if room types are allocated to certain promotions, as well. SIMPLIFY THE CONTENT AND THE PROCESS AND MAXIMISE AVAILABILITY!

People Don’t Like What they are SeeingEveryone shops around. This doesn’t mean that your prices have to be the cheapest, but it does mean that you have to demonstrate that you offer great value for money, or something unique. A huge challenge faced by the hotel marketer is whether you lead with your cheapest room and rate (which may not be representative of the rest of the hotel), or your most expensive (whereby people immediately consider you too expensive, rather than being wowed by what’s on offer), or somewhere in the middle (which leaves the challenge of then trying to upsell some people and make others aware of cheaper rooms!).  Dynamic packaging is probably the route to go, and the one typically used by airlines, whereby once you have clicked on ‘book’ you are presented with add-on options at every stage, for a price! Ensure your Terms & Conditions aren’t a huge deterrent.

The Process is too Difficult or Time-ConsumingGenerally speaking, this should not be the case, because booking engine software is fairly generalised. The exception may be if the hotel has not upgraded its booking engine for many years, or has not yet made its site mobile-friendly. We are all very used to making purchases that require many clicks! We have so moved on from ‘Five clicks max or you lose the customer’! Test this for yourself, then test your competitors, then compare with booking via an OTA.

Lack of Trust in the Product or the ProcessA high percentage of customers check reviews before they book. That is how they decide whether or not they trust you and what you claim you have to offer. People lose trust in a hotel if a promotion claims it is the best available rate, when the customer can find a better rate elsewhere. Or if you create a package, that claims to be a great deal and the customer can see that it would be cheaper if they booked the components separately e.g. room, dinner and breakfast. It’s all about attention to detail.

ConclusionsIt really annoys me that to do an online supermarket shop I have to go through around 20 steps (excluding selecting my items), but as this is a necessity, and the industry norm, I just get on with it. And I have no other choice. But booking a hotel is not a weekly activity for most people, and they have multiple options where they can book. So, if you have too many ‘barriers to book’ they will at best book through another channel, or at worst book another hotel. A longer version of this article is available at hotelmarketing4u.wordpress.com Written by Pamela Carvell, Lifestyle Marketer, March 2018.

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