This is the ultimate guide to hotel direct booking strategies that will keep OTAs from putting you out of business.
We’ll look at the 10 best strategies to increase your hotel’s direct bookings that affect every aspect of your hotel’s success, from your booking engine to your staff.
Let’s get started.
1. HAVE A SUPER-FAST MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITE
OTAs have invested a lot of time and effort into making their mobile experience great, thanks to easy-to-use apps and mobile websites. Which begs the question, How does your website’s mobile experience compare?
Did you know: 87% of people visit a hotel’s website before booking with that hotel. That’s a lot of eyeballs! And most of that traffic is likely coming from a mobile device, as many of our clients continue to see increasing traffic numbers via mobile device.
What we’re trying to say is: you missed your shot if people are booking elsewhere.
Let’s head into the lab for a quick demonstration: Let’s say your website’s conversion rate is 4%, which means 96 out of every 100 people that come to your site did not book. If you can convince just one or two of those 96 people to book, you’ve just increased your website revenue by 25-50%.
Tip: Start looking at your website from the consumer’s perspective, which is likely via mobile phone. Because if most people aren’t viewing your website via desktop, you shouldn’t be either.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR BOOKING ENGINE DOESN’T LET YOU DOWN
If you have a booking engine that’s not mobile-friendly, we have some not-so-nice words for you…but we’ll keep them to ourselves for now.
People may make it to your website, but if you don’t make it easy for them to book, especially on mobile, they’ll most likely leave and book with someone else that does make it easy.
We see quite a few potential problems from larger booking engine providers that make the booking process really frustrating like too many clicks, asking for too much information, or the booking engine opens in a new tab.
When you lose your navigation and your booking engine looks nothing like your website, you are losing some of those 96 people.
It’s just not necessary, folks.
That’s why you booking engine should integrate completely with your website, look identical to your website, and stay on your domain.
Take Action: Now’s the time to put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Go through the booking process yourself on your website and note anything that could be improved.
3. USE PYSCHOLOGY TO NUDGE THE GUEST TO BOOK
OTAs are very good at this. We’ve seen the OTAs take these psychology tactics and incorporate them themselves which is why people feel so comfortable booking on their websites and mobile apps.
This is why you should sprinkle those same marketing psychology tactics into your booking process.
Social proof is one way to nudge guests into booking. This could be a banner that reads 5 people have booked this room in the past hour and so forth.
This type of marketing psychology works because it eliminates doubt. People are more likely to do something if they know other people have already done it.
However, there’s a balance between encouragement and manipulation. It’s one thing to use real-time data for these tactics and another to slap on a flashing banner that is untrue just to get people to book.
You can learn more about marketing psychology tactics that increase direct bookings here.
4. OFFER INCENTIVES TO BOOK DIRECT AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE VISIBLE
Let’s take a moment to thank the big guys here.
Yes, that’s right. The competition.
Because big hotel chains have pushed book direct and save when you book direct into the consciousness of the hotel guest, all thanks to rewards programs, booking direct perks, and so forth.
And because big hotel chains are doing this, their reliance on OTAs have decreased, which has had a meaningful impact on their business. So, why can’t you do the same?
That 87% of people that visit your hotel website are likely going back-and-forth between you and the OTAs to make a final decision. Using book direct and book through the official website type callouts will help tilt the balance in your favor.
Highlighting the perks guests will receive if they book direct is how you tilt the balance in your favor even further.
Perks could be free parking, on-property discounts, and free tickets to shows or attractions that are only for guests that book on your website.
Tip: These types of incentives typically drive higher click-through-rates when used in PPC ad copy.
Don’t be intimidated to call out OTAs by name either. Let people know that there are benefits to booking with you instead of the big guys like Expedia or Booking.com.
You should make sure those benefits are visible everywhere on your website, but even more so on the checkout page.
That’s where you put any and all fears to rest by communicating that if they book now, these are the awesome things they get.