Rewind just 15 years and it’s likely most hotels would struggle with the concept of selling their rooms via any other third party than their dedicated, local travel agent. What? Who? Why?
We’ve since moved on, of course, and, with digital technology continually shrinking the world, third party sites such as Expedia.com and Booking.com have become necessary checkpoints for today’s hotels. And yet, there are definite advantages to streamlining bookings and directing people back to your own website – your digital persona. The Online You.
In this blog, we look at the key benefits of direct online bookings and ways they can be optimized.
So, what are the benefits of direct bookings?
1. You can lower your overall cost of distribution
With some Online Travel Agents (OTAs) charging up to 30% in commissions, finding the right balance of online channels to advertise your property on can significantly increase your revenue. Because direct bookings are commission free, you can lower your overall cost of distribution by focusing on direct bookings as well as bookings from OTA’s.
2. You build strong brand awareness
By increasing traffic to your own website, you’ll have already fulfilled one fundamental marketing objective: Building brand awareness. In order to drive potential guests away from OTAs and to your site, work on your online presence. This includes:
- Enhancing your social media channels – Develop a social media strategy to maximize your reach on relevant platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Put up links, photos, new offers and promotions. Make it easy for potential guests to find your site.
- Optimizing your website – Provide visitors with a user-friendly, well-designed interface that makes it easy to book.
- Ensuring there is brand consistency across all of your outlets – See social media platforms as an extension of The Online You.
- Having either a mobile-optimized website or a website that has responsive design – Ensuring your rooms are bookable on mobile devices should be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. Mobile usage now accounts for 25% of all web traffic in 2014, up from 14% a year ago, while 6 percent of the global population own a tablet – that’s 1 in every 17 people! Boost your brand and establish credibility. Direct engagement with potential guests will follow.
3. You build rapport directly with your guests
Being in touch with your guests directly allows you to build rapport. Consider offering value-add items as a thank you for booking directly with you, so you not only attract potential guests but keep them coming back.
One example of a hotel doing this well is The Alp Art Hotel in Austria, which offers a range of value-add deals for guests who book direct.
From Best Price Guarantee, Personal Advice, Rental Deals and Re-visitor Deals, The Alp Art Hotel utilizes all resources to turn lookers into bookers.
4. You deliver a more personalized experience for your guest
It’s all about customer service and direct communication. Guests enjoy their experience more when they feel looked after and receive personalized treatment, especially when they’re on holiday.
So, if handled correctly, a personalized experience can instill major trust with your guests, create loyalty and boost your brand’s credibility.
Optimize your guests’ experience by understanding the rational and emotional drivers they value most, and then deliver on those drivers across their touch points with your brand.
5. You increase your promoters
Satisfied customers are your greatest brand ambassadors. This means revenue. Guests who return to your property are crucial assets, so use these relationships to promote your brand further.
A 2010 survey of around 40,000 people, from more than 10 global loyalty programs, showed that a positive promoter score (positive people talk) can be created by redemption for experiences and unique items.
To quote the old adage, it’s often five times more costly to win new customers than it is to retain them, so don’t just focus on winning new customers; surprise your existing guests with tailored offers and keep the conversation going.
Direct online bookings are a crucial part of successfully capturing more market share, but it’s ultimately up to you to ensure the appropriate technology is in place to allow potential guests to book directly – and easily – through your website. Get an effective booking engine set up, then look to manage your online channels to further increase your market share.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While direct bookings eliminate commissions, don’t forget OTAs remain invaluable gateways for enhanced domestic and global exposure, increases in revenue, and lowering your cost per acquisition.