When COVID-19 hit, travel consumers found it difficult to access overwhelmed OTA support systems to process cancellations. Since then, many travelers are choosing to book direct with hotels instead, for more personalized and immediate service and greater peace of mind.
While OTAs still have a significant role to play in bringing in bookings, increased demand for direct channels is good news for hotels, reducing booking acquisition costs and giving hotels the chance to strengthen their customer relationships. Now is an opportune time to make sure your property’s website booking engine is maximizing conversions and revenue. Here are some important elements to consider:
A user-friendly experience
A simple booking process is essential to a user-friendly experience. The easier it is for your customers to make a booking, the more likely they will go through with it. Complicated booking processes only lead to higher rates of abandonment. Avoid overwhelming customers with too many options and limit required information to only that of what you need to confirm a booking. Any additional data should be voluntary at this point, and users shouldn’t have to click through extra steps to decline add-ons.
Other user-friendly features include currency and language options, photo slideshows for rooms within the availability results, emphasis on special deals and discounts, close-match results, and ADA compliance.
Automatic booking confirmation via a confirmation screen (along with a confirmation email) upon booking completion is also important to reassure customers that their booking was successful.
The proportion of mobile travel bookings has been steadily increasing over recent years. To ensure you — re maximizing conversions by providing a great experience for all users on all devices, look for a booking engine that utilizes responsive design, enabling it to automatically detect the device it is being used on, and optimizing the user experience for that device—whether desktop or mobile.
Reservation modifications & cancellations
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of providing customers with a simple, accessible process for changing or cancelling existing bookings as part of a positive customer experience that inspires booking confidence—which is critical in the wake of this crisis.
The ability for customers to easily modify or cancel bookings through your website booking engine is convenient and reassuring to customers and saves front desk staff time. Customers should be able to use their email address or booking confirmation number to retrieve their booking and then make changes without having to re-enter personal information. Automatic modification/cancellation confirmations are also important for reassuring customers that their request was successful.
Your website booking engine should be fully integrated with your property management system (PMS) to ensure live rates and availability are displayed on your website at all times, preventing double booking errors and optimizing inventory and revenue. Plus, the online booking engine will automatically send reservations to the PMS, so that you don’t have to manually consolidate booking data between them.
Make sure your website booking engine demonstrates credibility and builds trust by offering a degree of customization to reflect your brand, from displaying your property’s logo and images to background customization. The ability to display customizable messages and descriptions—regarding temporary closures of services (such as restaurants) or your entire property due to COVID-19, for example—is also useful for keeping customers informed and managing guest expectations at the booking stage.
It seems like an obvious statement, but you’ll want to make sure that your website booking engine offers the functionality to accommodate all the pricing and availability strategies you use to maximize revenue. Can it sell packages, add-ons, and password-protected rates? Can it handle group bookings, vouchers, length-of-stay and other booking restrictions?
As the industry recovers from COVID-19, flexible technology is crucial for supporting flexible pricing and availability strategies required for maximizing revenue during these unpredictable times.
As a lodging operator you know how important it is to protect customer data—for the sake of your customers and your business. Because an online booking engine accepts personal and payment data from customers, you need to be confident that it is secure. Look for a system that offers SSL encryption, PCI-compliant integrations with payment processors and secure data storage. A credible website booking engine that demonstrates a secure connection (HTTPS) is necessary for gaining customers’ trust and giving them the confidence to complete their booking.
Your website booking engine should track performance and provide the data you need to measure the success of your direct booking strategy. You should be able to easily generate reports that offer insights into conversion rates, booking lead times, revenue from special promotions, average length of stay and so on, to help identify areas for improvement as well as patterns and trends that can help shape revenue-maximizing strategies.
Finally, make sure your website’s booking engine doesn’t charge commission or transaction fees. Direct bookings should come at a lower acquisition cost than bookings through third-parties like OTAs. A commission-free online booking engine for your property’s website will help boost your bottom line.
As travel slowly but surely recovers, make sure your property is ready with a website booking engine that supports your customers (and your business) through a user-friendly booking experience that maximizes conversions and revenue.