6 ways to drive direct sales on your accommodations website
For an accommodations provider your most important sales channel is your own website. The main goal of a website for an accommodations business is to convert lookers into bookers. Here are some of the best practices for building a high performance accommodations business website that converts:
1. Give punters what they want
The best performing accommodations websites show the right type of content to travel shoppers, that is content tailored to their target audience focusing on what the consumer cares most about. For travel shoppers, it comes down to 4 main “wants”:
What makes your accommodation different than others they may be considering? Will your hotel that will make their trip more fun, comfortable or efficient?
What do the rooms look like? A picture tells 1000 words – they want to see photos of all the details.
Is it a good deal? Are they getting a good price compared to other accommodations and/or are they getting extras for the price?
What do other people think about your accommodations? They want to see trust-worthy reviews.
2. Tell a story visually
We all love storytelling and this creates a big opportunity for accommodations providers. Your website is your chance to make a great first impression and tell your story. And it is your content that tells the story – words, images, video, articles, social media posts, etc. – all help tell stories that are engage consumers. Visual content, in particular, is what travellers crave – beautiful photos that tell a story, demonstrating or hinting at the special characteristics of your hotel, guest house or holiday home.
You can use visuals to target specific travelers. For example you can show that you are family friendly or a hot spot for certain outdoor activities such as kayaking, tramping, biking, surfing, etc.
3. Establish trust and provide social proof
As consumers edge towards making purchase decision, it’s important to establish trust and provide ‘social proof’. Social proof is independent third-party feedback and it gives travel shoppers the trust and confidence they need to complete the booking. It can include reviews, ratings or awards.
When shopping online we trust peer recommendations over paid advertisements. These days most of your potential guests won’t even make a booking without reviews and if two hotels are priced the same, travel shoppers are much more likely to choose the hotel with higher review scores, and they will pay more for a hotel with better reviews. You need to provide social proof on your website, so shoppers don’t have to go somewhere else to find it. Here are just a few ideas for incorporating social proof into your website:
- Embed third party reviews from sites such as TripAdvisor directly on your website. These review sites usually have widgets that makes this easy.
- Pull user generated content (photos, videos, etc.) that your guests are posting on social media right into your website.
- Place awards in prominent places on your website.
- If transactions take place directly on your website, demonstrate that these are safe and secure by by adding third-party certification icons (secure certificate provider).
- Show evidence that other people are booking. Knowing that other people want to stay at your property too will provide reassurance. A booking calendar that shows your booked out dates can be one way to do this. If you use a 3rd party booking engine they may be able to provide you with widgets to provide booking evidence right on your own website.
4. Give the best rate and other incentives for direct bookings
Travel shoppers should always be able to get the best deal direct. If you are offering rates on external channels for cheaper than you would be able to book direct, you are training your guests to look elsewhere for better deals. If this isn’t possible (e.g. due to terms and conditions imposed by the OTAs that you list with), give guests another incentive to book direct.
Regularly, you should check your sales channels to ensure that your rooms are not being sold more cheaply on other channels. Check on the OTAs as well as through metasearch engines like Trivago and Google Hotel Price ads.
If your cheapest rate is already direct, look at the cancellation policies on OTAs. Consider adding more restrictive policies than your own website – a more flexible rate direct for the same price as a non-refundable rate on OTAs gives better value and an incentive to book direct.
Ensure that your incentives to book direct are very visible on all your touchpoints with your guests and offer a consistent message: Ads, Homepage, Booking Abandonment, Post Stay Emails.
Here are a few ideas for incentives you could provide to encourage direct booking:
- Free WiFi
- Free breakfast
- Extended check-in or check-out times
- A glass of wine
4. Make it easy to book
Abandoned bookings are a real problem for travel websites so it is very important to make the booking process as simple and trustworthy as possible. Make sure your “Book Now” button is prominently displayed on every page of your website. If travel shoppers can’t find it quickly, you may loose them.
Here are some recommendations to optimise your booking process:
- Don’t make them guess where to click – Have a clear call-to-action
- Make sure one can book with the minimum number of clicks. Too many clicks and you will loose a percentage of the punters.
- Only ask for details that you really need. Extra form fields make the booking process harder and may drive some customers away.
- If you need some non-standard details, e.g. driver licence number, clearly explain why you need the information you’re collecting
- Remove anything (other offers, etc.) that may distract from check-out
- If checkout occurs directly on your website, assure customers that the check-out process is secure. The checkout page needs to be secured with a SSL certificate and the certificate provider badge should be displayed.
5. Make sure your website works really well on mobile devices
In the travel industry having a mobile friendly website is especially critical as many shoppers will be booking using their phones while they are on the move. Make sure your website’s mobile usability is up to scratch. Test it on a phone yourself, go through the booking process, make sure it works well and is not compromised. Get others to check out your site and give you their opinions.
Make sure your website is optimised for fast loading on mobile devices. You can get an idea by testing it in Google’s speed testing tool.