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Conversion rate optimisation is about driving up the percentage of visitors to your site that convert into real bookings. Increasing your occupancy rate via direct bookings can generate incremental additional revenue without having to use expensive OTA’s.

The conversion rate of hotel websites is among the lowest across all industries, typically sitting at 4%. It is easy to get distracted by the constant battle of competing with the OTA’s in the search engines but what are you doing to hold hands with the people who are already visiting your website? Conversion rate optimisation of your site can impact direct sales by up to 25% and there is no better place to learn some of these tricks than from the OTA’s who have invested millions in making their websites convert.

“In digital marketing, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage. It is commonly referred to as CRO.”

Strong Call to Actions Create a Sense of Urgency and Scarcity

The key messages strategically placed all over the booking.com sales funnel are designed to create a sense of scarcity and urgency. Scarcity is when your show that your product is a limited commodity and if users don’t buy it now, they might miss out. Urgency is when you ask users to act quickly in order to receive an incentive.

“FREE cancellation on most rooms!”

Messages such at “FREE cancellation on most rooms!” are aimed at the travelers who are fast decision makers but still want some flexibility just in case there is a change of circumstances. Similar messages such as ‘FREE cancellation before [date]’ also give you little reason not to book. If I know I can change, edit or cancel my booking up to two days prior the booking date, then I am more likely to proceed with that booking rather than miss out.

‘This hotel is likely to sell out soon’

‘Last room!’ message next to the individual room type…

‘Last chance! Only 1 room left’ message under availability…

This is where booking.com do another great job in the strong call to actions, key messages creating a sense of scarcity force your hand in proceeding with the booking in fear of missing out. The ‘just booked’ widget prompts the visitor to make a quick decision to book before the room is taken. ‘This hotel is likely to sell out soon’, ‘Last room!’ message next to the individual room type and ‘Last chance! Only 1 room left’ message under availability all send the key message of scarcity. This widget refreshes in real-time and shows the country of origin of the person who has booked. More importantly, it brings trust. If so many other people are booking and from a lot of different countries, why shouldn’t I?

Scarcity of availability is something that booking.com clearly feel is a fundamental factor in encouraging and persuading visitors to make a decision and book on their website. Do you see the message: “There are X people looking at this hotel.” Accompanied by: “Latest booking: X minutes ago.” This also works so well in making us want to book instead of waiting.

‘No booking or credit card fees’

‘Confirmation is immediate’…

‘No payment needed today’…

Prices play a very important role in the booking decision. So the message ‘No booking or credit card fees’ definitely adds value. Telling people upfront means that they don’t need to worry about added costs later on. People shopping online all want the best hotel at the lowest possible price. ‘Confirmation is immediate’ gives peace of mind that as soon as you checkout you know you have reserved your hotel room (and you haven’t missed out), keeping you in the mood to quickly book your destination. Finally, on the reserve page of the funnel is the message in Green ‘No payment needed today’… It is great to know that today you don’t have to pay any money and by showing this message in green lowers the possible friction level.

Triggers on the Reservation Page…

The reservation page has so many “triggers” that improve the chances that you will book. The hotels three best unique selling points are made a priority:

  • Free WIFI
  • Breakfast
  • FREE cancellation

According to a TripAdvisor survey, free Wi-Fi is the most requested hotel amenity with 89% of travelers wanting it, followed by free parking and breakfast.

Booking.com advertise with ‘Today’s price’ and put a discount in place. It makes you think the prices might be higher tomorrow, again creating the feeling of urgency and that there is a chance of you either missing out or spending more if you don’t proceed with your booking right now. Attractive prices in combination with FREE cancellation are the most prominent persuasive elements booking.com use on their website.

It is common and a best practice to place persuasive elements on top of each page. These three reasons help people who are still hesitant convert. The most important elements are repeated on almost every page in the booking process.

Your secure booking starts here – it only takes 2 minutes!

No payment needed today. You’ll pay during your stay.

FREE cancellation before 8 March 2023

With all this re-assurance why shouldn’t you book?

Trust Signs – Reviews and Awards

Then there are these trust Signs – Reviews and Awards. Awards and a lot of good reviews bring trust. There is a carousel-like overview of testimonials that you can filter by the travel type, language and country. This is very handy to find out what people think about their experience staying at that particular hotel. It also gives a third party overview in a snapshot of what is good about the place and any concerns people who stayed here may have had. This social proof and volume of reviews builds trust.

Mobile Friendly…

Mobile search has officially over taken desktop. In fact, most households have more than three mobile devices connected to the internet for every one desktop so these figures make sense. Combine this new user trend with the highly sophisticated apps such as the booking.com app, then you can see why mobile bookings are growing at a rapid rate. As a hotelier it is your duty to keep your website and mobile version of your site up to speed.

“In 2014 booking.com announced over PR Newswire that its mobile bookings grew 160% in 2013, which the total transaction value of mobile accommodation bookings grew over to $8 billion.”

Taking a look into your Analytic’s can show you how your mobile site conversion rate compares to the desktop conversion rate. If it is not equal or close to equal then you are without a doubt losing revenue. In fact you could be losing up to possibly half of your direct bookings due to a poor user experience on mobile devices.

Invest in a responsive design so that the visitor has a seamless experience across all devices. And if you have different websites for mobile and tablet, make sure they have the same functionality and features.

The Reservation Process…

How’s does your reservation process compare to booking.com? Take a screen grab of your reservation page online and compare it side by side with your hotels reservation page on booking.com. Is it over-complicated? Are you asking for too much ancillary information or trying to up-sell too many things? Even better, sit with a friend while they try to navigate the best price on your hotel website then complete a booking. Then ask them to do the same on booking.com and compare the user experience. Try this on your mobile site and compare it to the booking.com app.

And what about telephone bookings? Hoteliers have the advantage over the OTA’s in that the OTA’s rely heavily on their online booking engine and do not want to take telephone bookings. ‘Click to call for the today’s best rate guaranteed’ for mobile devices can work extremely well, especially if you use this as the call to action in your paid Ads.

OTA’s have a very simple system for remembering your details for next time making repeat bookings even easier to complete. Having a simple online checkout or encouraging people to call your reservations team can improve your revenue from direct bookings.

In Summary…

Check your Analytics to see what your conversion rate is on mobile vs desktop. If it is less than the industry standard of 4% then you have some work to do. If your hotels mobile site converts at a much lower rate than your desktop then you should invest in bringing this to parity.

Compare your online booking experience to Booking.com and see what you can learn from the difference. Are you asking too much of your end user, is the process confusing, are you trying to up-sell too many things and putting the potential customer off with too many distractions?

Check the content on your site, especially the call to actions and your hotels unique selling points. Do you have your top three USP’s at the top of every page during the checkout process? Are you offering the best rate by booking direct? Do you have added credit card fees or cancellation fees that the customer can avoid by using an OTA? Do your call to actions create a sense of scarcity or urgency?

Finally, test and measure. Employ some of the techniques above and track the date it was implemented in your Google Analytics and measure the impact on your conversion rate.

Lisa has extensive experience in the SEO for the hotel and accommodation industry having worked with some of Australia’s largest brands including IHG, Crown Plaza Hotel Group, the National Convention Centre Canberra, Star Casino, Punthill Apartment Hotels and Hotel Ibis World Square. She also has international SEO experience working with the SEO and inbound marketing strategies for the Nantucket Hotel and Winnetu Oceanside Resort in the USA. If you have questions about your hotels marketing strategy, drop her a line or request a free audit.