NB: This is an article by Robert Hernandez, Revenue Discovery Consultant & Trainer at Origin World Labs
The fight is on globally to end rate parity. While governments and Big Travel work out the details, you need to focus on what can be done today to funnel more transactions through your booking engines.
I have often said on this blog that the hotel business is usually 7-10 years behind other industries when it comes to online marketing. Hopefully the information in this post will help many of you leapfrog your competitors by implementing a set of tactics that has now become the standard for website conversion strategies. Now, why am I talking about website conversion when this is a Revenue Management blog? Simple, focusing on website conversion is the next great responsibility that RM will take from Marketing as it has a profound effect on the entire pricing strategy for any property. Read more here later.
The game today is driving bookings away from the OTAs by converting more on your website. Here is the 5 step process that is being used today by the best online marketers to drive conversion rates and revenue through their online business.
- Email Capture Popup. When a potential guest visits your site, they are usually looking for the best deal. So why not give them that immediately. Use a lead capture popup that will ask the site visitor for their email and typical stay month in exchange for sending them to a hidden page with private discounts. The typical stay month question is important because you don’t want to send direct marketing emails for discounts that the email subscriber is not interested in. This makes it more likely that they will just unsubscribe or junk mail you.
- Private Discount Page. Many websites have a “subscribe” field that asks the visitor to submit their email to receive future discounts. That is not very enticing. People want instant gratification and therefore you have to send them straight to a hidden discounts page that has offers that are available now. This tactic also allows you to circumvent rate parity issues on your website. As long as the rates are not public and searchable you are OK. Depending on your booking engine, you can have a link that sends the visitor to the booking engine with the discount code already populated.
- Exit Email Capture Popup. For those site visitors that do not submit their email at the beginning of their visit you can try to grab it at the end. You can ask for their email with the promise that you will send them discount codes for the private sales for their typical stay month.
- Auto Responder. The biggest innovation in direct marketing in the last five years has been the proliferation of tools that will help you automate your email marketing. Auto Responders are applications that will send out a scheduled set of emails to your subscribers in a personalized order. Say I subscribe to your list today, I then receive an email one week later telling me about your restaurant. Then the month after about your spa. Then when my preferred stay month approaches, and email with all your discount codes. This schedule is personalized for each subscriber, therefore if you subscribe one month after I do you will get the restaurant email one week after while I am on another email schedule. The auto-responder tactic is what all the best online marketers swear by, yet I have not come across many hotels that use it at all.
- Targeted emails filtered by stay month. With the information you collected during the lead capture process you can send targeted emails to a portion of your database that has been filtered by preferred stay month.. Again, success in email open rates, clickthroughs and conversions is highly dependent on whether your email arrives when the potential guest is making travel plans. You can increase the likelihood of your email reaching their inbox at the “right time” if you segment your emails by month. The eliminates the “spray and pray: tactics that most hotels use with their email blasts.
By the way, depending on what platform your website is running on, there are plenty of tools that will help you track the effectiveness and conversion of step 1-4. Tracking the success of Step 5 is more straightforward since you can easily add tracking links to any email.