Whenever a guest decides to book a trip they are investing their time, money, and resources in exchange for what they hope to be an amazing vacation. Are they booking with you directly or are they shopping the market?
Unfortunately, OTA’s are experts at capitalizing on your guests’ desire to ﬁnd the best price for the best place at the best time. OTA’s have built an industry based on leveraging price and convenience to make travelers’ choices feel safe while keeping their agencies on top of the sales funnel and capturing demand. Pretty clever!
You’ve likely been ﬁghting OTA’s and their 30% cut for years, and the good news is you’re making progress. A recent poll from our friends at GlobalData has reported a shift in direct bookings vs using an OTA. This is mostly attributed to the pandemic when travelers felt more comfortable speaking directly with the hotel regarding cancellation policies and cleaning protocols.
How do we continue to shrink OTA’s commission and grow our revenue? Let’s take a good hard look at our direct booking strategy. Are you convincing your guests that your property will be the ideal ﬁt for them? If you don’t see the results you expect, you may want to dive deeper.
9 signs your direct booking strategy isn’t cutting it
1. You’re sending the same message to the same audience
Market segmentation is sending the right message, at the right time, to the right people. Wait, what?
Think of it like this: Your family may consist of your grandparents, parents, and your children. But you communicate to each subgroup differently by curating personalized content in a way that captures each individual’s attention and meets their needs, which makes your message valuable. That’s segmentation!
Focus on your target market, and segment, and unpack what makes each guest tick so you can communicate effectively and meet their direct booking needs. Personalization adds resonance to your guests’ decision-making process. Meanwhile, direct booking provides your hotel with all the guest details and proﬁles from the beginning. You can nurture a great relationship (and offer an excellent overall experience) by interacting personally and directly across the entire booking journey, from voice to email to in person.
2. You’re targeting the wrong audience
What’s the point of marketing to your guest if you don’t understand what they need? How are you supposed to know this? Data! Every time a guest interacts with your hotel it creates the opportunity to collect data. Let that data be the magnifying glass to see the right audience.
Google Analytics, your PMS, and a fully integrated hospitality CRM are great ways to identify where your demand is, determine how they are traveling, and develop actionable demographic information to generate a proper marketing ROI from your audience.
3. You’re taking loyalty for granted
We all know it’s much more cost-effective to keep a current customer than to ﬁnd a new one. The direct booking process creates opportunities to gather the guest details you need to create personal and authentic connections. You’ll be enhancing the guest experience with thoughtfully crafted pre-and post-stay communications. Every guest wants to feel seen, so taking the time to notice and demonstrate your appreciation is the future to direct booking magic.
And don’t forget, 53% of customer loyalty is driven through the sales experience. Every point of guest contact is a determining factor to loyalty, right from the first contact. Carrying your brand through each touchpoint of the guests’ journey is important to the guest buying experience.
4. You haven’t invested in the right tech stack
Your tech stack describes the way all of your technology works together in harmony for your business. From your PMS to your CRM, to your marketing platform, the right tech stack can mean the difference between getting the job done right or not at all. Staying in touch with guests and offering a consistent experience can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the right combination of hospitality tech solves this problem by creating a beautiful marriage between personalization and automation.
5. You’re seen as a commodity
In the course of marketing your property, it’s easy to simply focus on your functionality (what you are, and what you have to offer). Unfortunately, by doing so, it becomes more difﬁcult for the guest to differentiate your property from competitors. Next thing you know, you’re in a pricing war with your comp set and no one wins… well maybe the guest because they just received a great price. And guess what? You’ve become a commodity!
Price does not drive demand; it does not miraculously appear because you put a great rate out there. Demand is driven by the brand you have built in your marketplace.
To drive direct bookings, focus on your brand’s attitude, the status you convey, the experience you deliver, and how you are different. What are the little things you do that are unique to you and create a fantastic guest experience? This tells your guests why they should care and gives your property a chance to stand out.
6. Most of your prospects are abandoning your website
Guests are lining up in your booking engine, getting ready to book that room, and then, POOF! Gone. This is known as shopping cart abandonment and is the bane of the entire e-commerce industry. The travel & hospitality segment in particular is hit hard with an abandonment rate of 81.7% according to AnnexCloud. Ouch.
You’re spending money to drive these guests to your site, so it’s worth exploring how to capture what you’ve been missing. We came up with 10 strategies to recapture those guests.
7. You’re not on the right platform (at the right time)
Imagine, you’re all set to make that purchase, but the page times about or fails to load… Frustration ensues. You curse the brand and vow never to go back again. So here’s the question, when was the last time you tried to complete a booking on your property’s site? How about using a mobile device?
Let’s look at some numbers. The online booking market makes up 63% of all travel industry bookings. 700 million people will be booking online by 2023. 70% of all customers do their research on a smartphone.
Since your guests’ decision-making journey spans multiple devices with upwards of 700 digital touchpoints (searches, website visits, video views, and clicks), it’s important to know where your property lives at these key conversion moments so you can tighten up your mobile booking experience. You need to be aligned with your other channels, including your voice channel!
8. You are not focused on the voice channel
Focus on the quality and not the quantity of your traffic. While website and OTA bookings may push more volume, they’re not always your best revenue driver. Your voice channel is the most profitable channel since it leads to direct bookings and can generate more significant revenue than your website. We’ve found that the voice channel drives 75-80% of a property’s revenue.
Your guests are looking for a personal touch and a conversation where they can ask questions. They trust reservation agents to help guide them through a customized experience. By focusing on your voice channel, you can drive higher ADRs and more conversions. Make sure your call center is up to the task.
9. You follow your instincts, not the data
It’s important to embrace your instincts and think big. Explore all the creative options available to reach your guests.
To create an effective balance, however, you need to think like a scientist and let data inform all your decisions. Allowing analytics and A/B testing to determine which marketing strategies are actual revenue drivers prevents over-conﬁdence cycles, groupthink, and throwing darts at the dartboard. These methods help you achieve your always-important marketing ROI.
Enhance your direct booking strategy
Data is the true litmus test to determine whether a marketing strategy resulted in the desired outcome of captured demand. What does this all mean?
Your guests are looking for direction and assurance on their next trip. You need to adapt your direct booking strategy to provide the information they’re looking for to make a safe decision and book direct with you. Capitalize on your data capture through all channels, then leverage your message designed for optimization.
Goal: To deliver the right message, to the right guest, at the right time within their booking journey and provide a call to action for that potential guest to book in the right room, at the right rate, at the right time.