How to perk up hotel website conversions
How to perk up hotel website conversions
29 SEPTEMBER 2015 7:39 AM
Converting lookers to bookers can be a daunting task. Panelists on a webinar suggested focusing on three key things to improve conversion rates.
GLOBAL REPORT—Hoteliers have two important website related tasks: getting potential customers to their site, and, once they're there, converting them to bookers, panelists said during a recent webinar.
During the webinar titled “The clear path to conversions,” hosted by Leonardo, two panelists discussed myriad ways to better conversion rates. 
Consultant Scott Yankton said there are three key things to focus on when it comes to converting lookers to bookers:
  1. usability/user experience (how easy do you make it to find what users want);
  2. social proof (what others think about your property); and
  3. optimizing check-out (how easy one makes it to press that book button).
User experience
One part of improving the user experience is making sure to tell the hotel's story, said Cristobal Galit Jr., assistant e-commerce executive at the Doha Marriott Hotel in Qatar. 
“Use visually appealing photos, create personalized stories/content, update regularly,” Galit explained, adding that it’s important to create custom offers for the prospective guest. 
The Doha Marriott uses special offers and merchandising icons on its booking sites offered by third-party resources. Galit said these icons also are available through some online travel agencies and are usually free.
Yankton said there are two important elements to bettering the user experience:
  1. make sure you’re answering the user’s most important questions; and
  2. provide users with an easy, intuitive interface that doesn’t contain obstacles that discourage conversion.
“Have obvious calls to action that pull users down the desired path,” he said. “As soon as they hit something they don’t understand, they jump back to the OTAs.”
Yankton used the J House Greenwich in Greenwich, Connecticut, as an example of a hotel that is delivering on the user experience. The boutique hotel’s website boasts large, full-screen photos of things guests have requested as part of a usability study for the property. The top three things users wanted to see were guestroom pictures (all angles), room amenities and food.
Additionally, the property’s booking widget is easy to identify and navigate once landing on the page, which is pictured below.

The J House Greenwich in Greenwich, Connecticut, uses large imagery to draw potential guests in. 
Social proof
According to a Forrester & Juniper research study, 77% of customers read reviews before they purchase online. 
As such, Yankton advises hoteliers to add reviews to their home page so users don’t have to leave the page to look at those reviews. 
For example, the Blue Bay Inn in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, has a separate tab for reviews, in addition to a TripAdvisor button at the top of the page.

The Blue Bay Inn in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, places TripAdvisor reviews on the home page so that prospective guests can read them without leaving the page. 
Galit said TripAdvisor conversions are a big opportunity for the Doha Marriott. Last year, the hotel had negative reviews about its Wi-Fi costs. This past February, the hotel began offering free Wi-Fi.
“When they see that, they’re thinking, ‘Hey, these guys are listening to us,’” Galit said.
Yankton listed other features that help users feel more confident when booking with a given hotel, including: customer testimonials; awards; third-party icons that create confidence (i.e. SSL secure connection); and evidence that shows others are booking (for example, a flashing icon that reads “156 booked in the last 48 hours”). 
These types of icons are typically available free of cost, the speakers said.
Optimizing check-out
Yankton offered up the following list of tips for optimizing check-out (or, in other words, ways to get users to press that book button):
  1. Only ask for what you need. (Do you really need the street address of where they live, or do you want to get them booked first?)
  2. Tell users why you need the information you collect.
  3. Require minimal clicks/pages. (To book on Expedia it takes four pages, but it can be done in three, Yankton said.)
  4. Use clear calls to action. (Don’t make guests guess where to click.)
  5. Don’t add calls to action that distract from check-out (such as registering).
  6. Assure customers that check-out is safe (add those confidence icons).
  7. Assure customers that they are getting the best deal possible (best rate guarantee is helpful).
  8. Add sense of urgency prompts (book now, only so many left).
Also, it’s not a bad idea to mimic what the OTAs are doing when it comes to turning lookers into bookers, Yankton said.
“OTAs like Expedia spend an inordinate amount of money on research, so go ahead and use what they do because it works,” he said.

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