What’s one thing all guests have in common? The booking journey. And what’s one thing your hotel can influence? The booking journey.
Prospective guests are scouting trip locations, hunting for cheap rates, and perusing hotel websites to learn more about each brand’s offerings and stay experiences. In fact, 74% of travelers who did their trip and rate research on TripAdvisor went on to book directly on a hotel website. And with 72% of travelers preferring to book online last year, your hotel website will continue to be your best tool for turning lookers into bookers.
So don’t hesitate to use your website as an advantage in the inspiration and booking phase of the guest journey. It’s not only a representation of your brand, but a tool to gather valuable guest data that helps you win even more direct bookings.
What you will see here
What is hospitality’s leaky bucket syndrome?
Thousands of prospective guests are visiting your website every day, but how many of them are actually reaching the booking engine or even completing their booking? At least 80% of those prospects are abandoning the booking engine.
Think of your hotel website as a bucket, and potential bookers as water. Water is flowing into the bucket, some of the water is rising to the top, but some is escaping through cracks in the bottom. In the same way, guests are flowing into your website — your booking engine — but some are seeping out, never converting. Your website is leaking guests.
Your mission is to plug those holes so that as many guests as possible complete their booking with you.
Generating attention for your bookings is one step, but making sure that those guests stay and convert is the next priority. With active competition from AI tools, competing hotel sites, and OTAs (projected to make over a trillion dollars in market share by 2030), it is important to use the data that guests leave you on your site. That data is crucial for segmentation and personalization. Good web design is also important for sealing any cracks that might stop people from booking.
Invest in website design and communication to resonate with guests
The display and messaging of your website should feel purposeful, especially on your homepage. Anything you can do to personalize the guest’s web experience can illicit a warmer connection and encourage them to journey through to booking.
Here are some ideas.
Welcome back returning visitors
There are several ways to track website visitors. Popular tools like Google Analytics offer a granular view of criteria, such as traffic and page views. Cookies, website heatmaps, and behavior analytics tools are an easy way to see who viewed your site, from what device, and when, so you can get a pretty good idea of who has their eye on you. Try placing a “Welcome back!” message for these frequent and returning guests. Acknowledging that these guests know about your brand already, and communicating that you appreciate their time and interest, is a great way to nurture a relationship.
Try prompting these returning visitors to check out discounted packages since their last site visit, or simply highlight the benefits of booking in advance. The key is to position any welcome-back strategies to retain interested bookers before they have a chance to leave your website.
Personalize the booking engine
When guests make it to the booking engine, that’s a win! Why? Because now you have access to the data they’ve included for their stay so far. For example, if guests have searched for stay dates or input the number of guests they’re traveling with, personalize and change the booking engine to accommodate that. Prompt single guests with offers for solo breakfast specials or prompt guests with longer trips with length of stay discounts.
But sometimes, you’re just going to have those guests that leave, again! You can still keep that personalization going and add exit pop-ups. When a guest leaves a booking incomplete, a “Before you leave” message reiterating the booking information they provided with additional promotions and a CTA to book, can grab their attention yet again.
Match OTAs on price and amenities
Securing a direct booking on your hotel website is the ultimate goal, so solidify your guest’s decision to book right inside the booking engine. OTAs are constantly waving better prices in front of prospective guests, sometimes at the risk of rate disparity. So show that your rates, and more importantly, the amenities on offer, when they book direct.
Minimize incomplete bookings with built-in abandonment prevention
Direct booking technology is showing up in a major way within the hospitality industry, and it’s taking up a large chunk of growing tech categories. In fact, at least 45% of hoteliers are investing in website builders and direct booking tools to capture as many guests as possible on their hotel websites. But “leaky bucket syndrome” still exists even with a push toward promoting more direct bookings. That’s why it’s important to let guest data be your guide when preventing abandoned bookings.
Abandonment prevention starts with your database
We know the story by now — some travelers just aren’t completing their bookings on your hotel website. But, chances are, they left behind some data breadcrumbs in your booking engine. Maybe a first and last name? Maybe an email address? Those are key pieces to add to your database and jumpstart the abandonment strategies.
Your database, especially if you’re leveraging a Customer Data Platform, is the centerpiece for effective, personalized, and targeted guest communication. With only a few bits of data, a CDP automatically merges that information and builds out a guest profile — a guest profile you can then use to create segments and bring those bookers back.
Data in, campaigns out
Now that you’ve gathered that leftover data, it’s time to let the abandonment campaigns roll. And the more you can automate your marketing campaigns, the better. With rich guest profiles, personalize abandonment campaigns so that you’re targeting the right booker with messaging that matters to them.
Consider campaigns with hyper-personalization or automated drip campaigns. Drip campaigns offer a steady reminder within minutes, or even a few days after abandonment, urging prospective guests to come back and visit their cart. Or maybe you want to try nurturing those warm and cold leads to maximize your chances of winning that guest back.
There’s a way to seal the leaks
Every hotelier faces leaky bucket syndrome, but you don’t need to accept abandoned bookings. Yes, guests may change their minds, but enacting a data-driven strategy to catch them at every hesitation can make all the difference in who returns to your hotel website and completes a booking. Stay inspired and get creative with your personalization so that guests truly understand the value of staying at your hotel.
To dive deeper into the mission of preventing “leaky bucket syndrome” and maximizing the full potential of your hotel website, check out the webinar we co-hosted with The Hotels Network.