It is the 21st. Century and the majority of hotel reservations are made online, being it directly on the property's website or via third party mediators, a.k.a OTAs. Hotel websites have become the face of hospitality businesses, their digital identity. Among a myriad of factors that make a hotel website successful, there are design and content that attract and hold visitors on the website and the online reservation software that turns visits into bookings. Here we have collected 10 basic rules and smart tricks to make the most of an online booking software.
Insert a "Book Now" button at every appropriate place.
It's a must to have it, bright and visible, on your homepage but there are also other places to insert the button and encourage your website visitors to initiate a booking. The button should be linked directly to the online booking engine to avoid any hassle or disruption and see significant conversion levels.
Link special offers directly to the online reservation software.
Too much distraction on the way to booking completion is too risky and may result in lost revenue. Therefore it is best to publish links that lead the website visitors directly to the particular offer they are interested in. If your online reservation system allows for generating such links, you can place them next to each special offer, room type or package description with a specific call to action.
Entice your potential guests with great visuals.
When looking for accommodation travellers like to see more photos so they can create their own picture of the place, feel the atmosphere and recognise your hotel as the right place to stay for them. It is important to have such pictures not only on a "gallery" page but within the online reservation software, too. This will let guests view the particular room before they make their choice, not just a text description or a room type name. This in its turn increases the conversion. One thing is very important here - don't be lured in the trap of showing photos that do not match the physical reality. It is always better to meet or exceed your guests' expectations than to disappoint a customer.
Selling rooms is just a start.
Online reservation software can help you sell not just rooms or packages but also extra services like airport transfers, spa packages, dinners or other services. Introducing such extras just a step before the booking completion is a very good strategy to increase sales. It is a moment in time, or a micro-moment, when people are in a special state of mind: both determined to buy and eager to add more value to their dream vacation.
Give a Best Price Guarantee promise (and keep it!)
What better way to encourage guests to book a room directly on your website than clearly stating that they are getting the best available rate or more for the same price. The best place for this would be, but is not limited to, the header of your home page and the one of your online reservation software. Make sure it is a visible and simple message of your best price and value promise.
Use the emails you collect at checkout smartly.
Every online reservation process ends with a checkout screen where an email address is required for confirmation and further communication. These emails, and others you can collect like newsletter subscribers for example, are your marketing database. You can send them targeted emails with special offers, upgrade suggestions, direct booking bonus codes, service messages and so on. If your online reservation software and hotel PMS system are connected, or even better - part of the same hotel system, emails are stored and used by all functionalities, like the Guest Mailer in Clock PMS.
Sell rooms and services as a gift.
Many guests, if happy with your services, would turn into your best brand advocates. Besides recommending your property and leaving positive reviews, they could also buy from you if not for themselves then as a present for others. Offering gift vouchers on your website is another way to boost your direct sales through your online reservation software. Clock PMS, for example, lets you offer gift vouchers for accommodation, extra services or packages. Once purchased, their consumption can be subject to availability i.e. you take bookings for the times when your occupancy is low.
Hide special perks and incentives behind bonus codes
Give more for the same price and stay on the safe side with rate parity clauses. With the help of personal bonus codes that are applicable in your online reservation software you can offer special rates to loyal guests or such who have previously booked through an OTA. They are also very useful for retargeting campaigns. The idea is to provide personal access to special rates and/or perks like free wi-fi, late checkout, free parking, a SPA procedure or an airport transfer as incentives for those who book directly on your website.
Use the FOMO effect
FOMO stays for Fear Of Missing Out. In your online reservation system you could put labels on your best rates such like "best offer", "lowest price" or anything you creative mind can come up with. And to urge your website visitors to complete their booking you can also add warning messages like "only two rooms left" or "last available room". This is a marketing strategy widely used by online booking websites to create a sense of urgency and increase conversion. Another smart trick is to offer booking alternatives that are similar to the initial request but could be better bargains.
Be honest with you guests! Always!
We've mentioned this already. If you lie to your customers, they will know. If you create wrong expectations in your guests and then disappoint them, this can turn into true disaster. Guests have more power these days, with all online review websites and social networks. So you better don't risk winning the customer with false promises and then suffer their anger. It is always better to keep your presentation attractive but real and then exceed the expectations and give your guests a remarkable experience they won't forget and will recommend to others.
Each of the above will take you a step closer to the number of direct bookings you have always wanted. To implement them, you will need an online reservation software that supports such features. It could be an external application that is interfaced to your hotel PMS software. Better though, it can be a part of the property management system which will ensure that the synchronisation between your offline and online sales channels is adequate and in real-time.