More and more travelers prefer to make their hotel (or flight, or car) reservations directly on the brand’s website—direct bookings outnumber aggregator bookings three-to-one. Although the big online aggregators still offer highly-competitive prices and decent customer service, seasoned travelers are changing their booking habits. While most travelers are still conducting their primary research on an aggregator site, they are increasingly turning to the brand itself once they’re prepared to book.
This is of course a positive development for brands in the travel space: more choices make for better offerings. The reason travelers still do much of their research through aggregators? Finding a hotel (or car, or flight) directly on provider web sites is kind of like grocery shopping in a foreign country: eventually, you’re likely to find the type of cheese you like, but the process is confusing, things aren’t where you expect them to be, and the results don’t always taste as expected.
Why is it that the big aggregators are doing the search for information so much better, and what do hotel chains need to improve? The why is easy—aggregators have always been online operations. They’ve been around longer and have more experience. The what? Turns out, there’s a lot that can be done to improve the direct booking experience on hotel chain sites. I’m not talking about major site overhauls, but relatively simple steps that hotel brands can take now in order to make a big difference.
By way of example, here are five concrete fixes that hotel chains can make to better compete with the big aggregators. Because in today’s digital travel space, customer experience is the true differentiator.