When it comes to optimizing your revenue, getting those direct bookings in is key. To do so, you need to ensure both your website and booking engine are optimized to provide a seamless customer experience. Going through online travel agents (OTAs) can't be avoided in such a competitive market, but you'll bring in the most revenue when bookings are being made direct. In order to do this though, you need to ensure that your own channels are optimized to not only create brand awareness but to make conversions.
Your hotel's booking engine is perhaps the most important single component in your efforts to win more direct bookings. It is accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week. Customers can book a room at your hotel whenever they want to and it provides an ideal opportunity to boost your revenue by offering customers the ability to up sell.
So which aspects do you need to consider when choosing the right hotel reservations system?
1. Make it easy: Phocuswright research has revealed that having an easy-to-use website is the number one reason why customers use online travel agents (OTAs) rather than booking directly with a hotel. The only way hotels can respond to this is to develop booking engines that offer the same level of usability. Your booking engine should be easy to find, quick to load and tailored for mobile as well as desktop users. Navigation needs to be as simple as possible and all of the key information, room availability, rates, and dates must be easy to find and understand. If your hotel is to win customers away from OTAs, you need to offer a booking experience that is just as intuitive. Taking a look at these sites and seeing how their booking engines work can be a good way to see what sort of direction your own booking process needs to take.
2. Attractive visuals: A picture can say a thousand words, so let images of your rooms do most of the talking and keep text down to the crucial information. Customers are more likely to lose interest if they click through to a booking engine that is ugly and outdated. And of course, it is important to ensure the look and feel of your booking engine is consistent with your website. Keep branding intact throughout.
3. Global functionality: A good booking engine makes the process as easy as possible for customers. This means it should offer users the chance to use the engine in their own language and to view rates in their native currency. Failure to provide this functionality and customers will likely head to the OTAs who do.
4. Live updates: These days, any booking engine worth its salt should be able to update availability automatically every time a booking is made. The benefits of this are twofold, customers receive better service, while the hotel itself does not have to undertake the manual process of updating availability each time a room is booked. Double bookings and apology emails can be avoided afterwards since inventory is updated in real time.
Learn more about the essential components of a conversion-primed booking engine in The essential components of a conversion-primed booking engine.