In a webinar we hosted earlier this year, we asked hoteliers what direct booking challenges they were currently facing. The results were nearly evenly split:
- 30% told us they were having difficulty standing out in search results
- 36% said they couldn’t compete with the huge marketing budgets of OTAs
- 34% admitted they didn’t know what motivated travel shoppers to book directly
These are common problems for hoteliers, especially in today’s every-changing online world. In fact, when it comes to consumers’ browsing and purchasing behavior online, the travel industry boasts one of the most complex digital landscapes.
Travelers have access to unlimited resources when researching a destination, hotels and flight options, which makes gaining their attention and influencing their decisions even more competitive.
Breaking Down the Travel Shopping Journey
A study published by Expedia MediaSolutions in February 2016 breaks down the travel shopping journey into 3 phases: Inspiration, Mid-Funnel and Booking.
They define “Inspiration” as where the consumer begins – the first site they visit in their travel shopping journey. Next comes the middle phase of Research and Consideration – the most complicated part of the journey. Consumers can take multiple pathways through this middle phase, and can visit various kinds of sites in between Inspiration and the final point of their journey: Purchase. This is where shoppers transact—where the booking is actually made.
The chart below shows that hotels and OTAs have almost the same amount of influence during the Inspiration phase, while OTAs dominate the Mid-Funnel phase, as travel shoppers research and compare their options. But what’s interesting is that hotels have over a 50% chance of securing the final booking, which is very encouraging. Just because travel shoppers may use OTAs in the Mid-Funnel phase, doesn’t mean they win the booking by default.
So the question is: How can you influence travel shoppers during each stage of the travel shopping journey, and ultimately win their business?
To answer that, we first need to look at how people find your hotel website.
Possible entry points to your hotel website include the usual – organic search, OTA sites, metasearch and review sites. But increasingly, visitors can also find you via social media – whether that’s through your own social media pages, or through a friend who has tagged your property in one of their posts.