Purchasing has evolved to be one of the simplest yet diverse things a person can do in the modern world. It’s all too easy to fill up a virtual shopping cart with the movement of a single finger, but there has also never been more options for buyers to choose from.
This system has been built upon the desires of consumers. When you think about shoppers in general, a range of options and freedom of choice are highest on their list of demands.
But is there a hotel shopping cart experience?
The short answer is no, not in the same sense that other industries employ one. In his article, founder and CEO at hospitalityPulse, Pierre Boettner, discusses the current hotel booking landscape and the potential that hoteliers are yet to fulfil.
Let’s look at how hotels cater for online shoppers now and what they could be doing in the future.
How much choice do guests really have when they book a room?
In reality, the process of purchasing a hotel room is a very limited one. Customisation is kept to a minimum to make it easier for the hotel to manage their guests, Boettner states.
“You select a category, a pre-determined assembly of key room features, offered at a price.”
Many hotels offer very similar packages or extras in distinct bundles that leave guests frustrated they can’t mix and match features. Services like breakfast, massages, teddy bears, towels, bathrobes, and chocolates are as creative as hotels get when it comes to the shopping cart, says Boettner.
“Yet, we want to inspire them – get them excited and delighted. These are not inspiring choices.”
While there’s no fault on a hotelier for trying to optimise the way their entire business is run – it may be failing to give travellers what they truly want.
Above all else, travellers want control. If someone is going to travel a long distance, most often overseas, to stay somewhere it’s only fair they’re in charge of their entire experience. But with a ‘set-menu’ of choices when booking a hotel, the likelihood of them being 100% satisfied with their stay is rather slim.
Mobile capability is a boon for hotels in allowing travellers to handle their booking journey via a smartphone, but it isn’t enough to keep them satisfied.
Above all else, guests want control. Given how far they travel, it’s only fair.
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How can hotels offer a better shopping cart experience?
According to Boettner, hotels need to offer more freedom to guests and allow them to choose features that hold true value for them such as distinct views, corner rooms, or the high floor.
“Instead of having to choose among dozens of categories to find one that best fits their needs, and then hoping the ‘away from elevator’ and ‘king bed’ requests will be honoured, what if travellers are simply offered the choices that correspond to their desires?”
For instance guests could book in as little or as much detail as they want, including:
- Dropping a balcony into their cart
- Select a room on a low, mid, or high level
- Choices about what should be stocked in the mini-bar
- Specific bathroom amenities
- Soft, medium, or firm mattresses
The ability to make personal selections is more likely to move the guest to a buying decision and make your hotel more compelling than a competitor.
Why will a shopping cart strategy increase hotel bookings?
Boettner boils it down to the fundamentals of human desire, giving people everything they want.
“Because you’ve given them more of what they want, it increases loyalty when guests can select the exact amenities and conveniences they care about, and that are geared to the purpose of their stay. Making this experience, and consistently delivering on it – that is what creates loyalty,” he says.
Loyalty is ever more important too.
A JD Power study indicated every succeeding generation is less likely to be a member of a rewards program. In a hyper-connected world, consumers have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it.
On-demand services have shortened the acceptable wait time between a request and its fulfillment. Building loyalty is hard and keeping it is harder still so pandering to the increasing desires of travellers may be the only way to stay afloat.
As we know from Think with Google, guests care about a lot more than just price – touching over 700 digital points in their search. Relevant choices and designed experiences are much more important.
The next time you look at your online booking engine and start setting up your packages, it might be a good idea to start thinking about the future and how to want to change your guests’ perspective.
The more power you give them, the better they’ll rate your hotel.