Tuesday 20 October 2009

Guaranteed Best Rates Will Maximise Conversion

Make Sure More of YOUR Guests Book Direct on YOUR Website.

In current times some accommodation providers still wonder why they get so many bookings from third party sites as opposed to their own.

As we’ve said before in other areas of online marketing simply put yourself in the place of the online customer and make it as easy as possible for them to find you and book with you.

One of the most asked questions we get is why am I getting more bookings from third party sites and not from my own website?

There are a number issues around website visibility, Search Engine Optimisation, content, design and others. This briefing simply looks at Guaranteed Best Rate or Best Available Rate.

Hotels offering online reservations on their own site have to make strategic decisions about what rate they offer to website visitors. Quite clearly many hotels are found in third party websites or Online Travel Agents (OTS’s) such as, for example, Booking.com, HotelRooms, LateRooms, VisitScotland and Hotels.com.

Whilst hotels this year in particular have been glad of the third party marketing undertaken on their behalf the market will continue, as with other travel sectors, to move towards booking direct and a growing shift to actually source the hotel they have found via the third party website.

Increasingly, if your site can be found by name and it offers the same or better deal, the customer will be more likely to book direct with you. By making your best available rate prominent on the key landing pages you can maximise your website conversion as with The Inn at Lathones above

Potential customers however will by nature browse and whether we like it or not this will often involve price comparisons. If they can book your hotel somewhere else cheaper they invariably will. They close down the hotel’s own booking engine and books through the third party site at a higher commission level. Sound familiar?

Okay it’s a booking but here’s the impact
  • Higher commission paid; lower room rate achieved
  • Lower conversion on your website
  • Customer details now shared with third party
The reverse is also true.

A customer searched for a hotel in your area and finds your property on a Price Comparison site. They like the sound of your property and wish to make a booking. Do they just click Book Now? Actually, no. They will still search out the best price and many will then type in your hotel’s name into their search engine, click through to it and check price and availability DIRECT! If you have Guaranteed Best Rates on your site you will have increased the chance of securing a direct reservation at a higher rate and the knowledge they are your direct customer!

So for the independent or smaller hotel that is trying to drive increased traffic through their own website is it essential that they offer a Guaranteed Best Rate assurance through their own website. If some of your marketing contracts insist on you offering them guaranteed best rates then the worst your own website should offer is “rate parity”.

It’s simple really, if the booking comes through your website, you retain the customer details and avoid future third party marketing diverting them away from you; you make the direct contact, retain the booking information and the booking is clearly direct with the hotel – something that increasingly the online buyer is considering valuable.
We've put some practical hints on what you should be doing to increase your conversion through your own site. Find out how to promote Guaranteed Best Rates on your own site

1 comment:

Admin said...

Okay let's discount the cynical theory that you may have posted the response to create a backlink to the website linked and discuss the "assurances" on third party sites. I received a superb analysis yesterday on the over exertion of pwoer by some of the OTA's insisting to chains that they should be fundamentally guaranteeing the OTA in question (Expedia) guaranteed best rate, last available room and guaranteed inventory. The article argues that to give this level of control to a third party for a few extra rooms in the short term is suicidal and will inevitably lead to "brand erosion". For the big boys brand is everything but the principles of the "brand" is everything for the hotel. Surely a direct customer - the hotel's customer - should receive the best available rate? How much customer loyalty can you seriously expect the buyer to give a hotel when they sit in the bar only to discover that the hotel has "ripped them off" (and they will see it that way) by selling cheaper to third parties? At best you'll have lost their web traffic in future and all the opportunities you may have had to sell secondary and tertiary visits, special offers and the chance to build a loyal customer.
Building your own customer base has been accepted as critical for the long term growth of any business. Why hotels would wish to undermine this concept by giving the control of their premium promotional assets over to third parties does not actually make business sense. Much better in our opinion to work on developing your presence online, making your product offering the best both in price and added value and re-assuring the customer that indeed they are wanted and valued and will be treated with the respect they deserve. All of that points, surely, to ensuring Guaranteed Best Rate stays with the accommodation provider. Does it not?