As we all know, the direct bookings present two great advantages for our business; creates a personable direct relationship with our customers which improves satisfaction and retention as well as financial benefits.
If we all agree on the above statement then a key question follows; how we can achieve this?
The obvious first step is to have an online and engine sales-oriented approach. Strengthening your hotel’s website and online presence could generate more direct contact with your customers and this translates into an increase in direct bookings and reduce acquisition costs which ultimately benefit your property in all areas.
It is important to invest not only in a good web design but also in the content of it. The hotel website should not be just looking beautiful, it must be well designed and written so that the user finds what he reads interesting, easy to navigate and seeds curiosity that they want to learn more and visit your property. It should be user-friendly, if you create a site which is heavy with videos and quality picture, it might look great but without a decent content, it means nothing or if it takes ages to open and difficult to navigate, people will be left you page within 10 seconds.
The content and SEO have a big part to play in this strategy, we cannot ignore the power of beautiful visuals, however, you need to be able to paint a picture with your content that user could feel how it feels to be at your hotel.
The reservation engine should be also easy to use and facilities the next steps to the user. Remember, it might look great for your and cover all necessary angles for you but you need to be able to see it with the user’s point of view. If there is any glitch or confusion in your reservation engine, this will push your potential customer to one of the well-known and expertly designed OTAs. So, whatever you create, always think about the user and make it easier for them to book.
Of course, all above should be a part of the greater marketing and commercial strategy aimed at attracting users to choose your booking system directly. Always bear-in-mind that OTAs specialise in this area, they closely follow customer, booking and technology trends to make their websites more attractive and easier for both on the desktop and rapidly growing mobile user needs.
Let me reveal 5 tips that can help you to capture these customers and convince them that the best option is the direct channel.
1. Visibility of your Hotel
OTAs spend a lot of money and effort to dominate the internet and create a user-friendly easy booking system to attract a great audience. One of the requirements to increase direct sales is for the hotel to be visible to this audience when they are searching for a hotel.
I have previously shared two article, I would suggest having a look at them by double-clicking highlighted titles; Creating Strategy Driven Digital Marketing Plan to explain how to create an effective plan and SEO Tools Guide to list most useful tools to achieve this target.
The first step to encourage direct sales and attracting an audience is to improve the visibility of your webpage by applying effective digital marketing techniques. This is crucially important but not enough alone, as more than 70% of potential bookers who visit hotel website, leave without making any booking. Therefore, positioning, content, an effective booking system and offering value-added differentiators vs OTAs makes all the difference when you grab their attention.
2. Creating a competitive edge with exclusivity
Due to the nature of contracts between hotels and the OTAs, they cannot sell your hotels cheaper than your prices adversely you cannot offer more competitive prices on your website. Saying that you can offer more favourable conditions on your website to gain an advantage;
One of the critical strategies you can implement is that do not include non-refundable rates with other platforms and this will give you an edge vs other platform and provide an extra motivation to your potential customer to book through your website.
3. Incentivize direct bookings
When the rates are similar you need to offer some incentive that captures the attention of the potential customers to book with you. To be able to do that you need to understand what your audience wants and create added value without breaking the bank.
This could be free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast or free Spa treatment; you could add more to this list. The incentive should be something that appreciated by the guests giving a strong reason and differential fact when making the decision to make the reservation through the hotel website or another platform.
4. Rewarding direct customers
Once you get a direct booking it means you did some of the above steps to grab their attention. Of course, you could do it again and again to get more direct bookings.
However, retaining direct customers for their future bookings gives you continuous profit advantage. Considering previously mentioned price parity agreements, you have limited options to play with the rate on the public stage. However, it does not stop you to offer special promotional code directly to your previous direct booking customers.
If they know the next reservation period your Front Desk or reservations could arrange it while they are at your property. Alternatively, you could embed promotional code in your booking engine and give a special code to your direct booking customers, so that when they decided to make another reservation they could get an additional discount on official rates which allows you to beat other platforms on rate without breaking rate parity.
5. Retaining loyal direct customers
This is an added bonus that all key hotel companies use as a powerful tool. If a guest staying at your hotel and keep coming it is in your best interest to know more about them and tailor-made their experience during their stays. This is more important if you have a worldwide known brand and hotels to keep these customers attach to their brand.
This does not take away to create a loyalty programme for individual or group of hotels. As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of advantages to getting direct bookings; both profitability and guest satisfaction point of view. You need to give a reason and motivation to stay loyal to the most valuable customers.
Through a loyalty strategy, you will be able to offer a direct discount without any restriction if they book through your website. If you could be able to apply accumulation of points, then it allows your loyal customers to use their points for partial or entire bill payment.
This is an ultimate win-win situation, while you improve the hotel’s productivity, attract new customers and retain loyal ones with a very attractive advantage while promoting direct sales.
I would like to remind you at this point that all of the above steps will help you get reservations through your direct channel and retain these loyal guests for future stays. Do not forget that OTAs and other channels are not only our competition, we also need them to fill our hotels and beat the CompSet. Therefore, you also need to watch both the market and the competition. The pricing strategy must be coherent and flexible, adapting to the market and its demand.
I hope you find this article useful. Please feel free to contact me to get advice, assess your property and help you developing revenue solutions and team trainings. You can reach me either Contact tab on my website or via email directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a private chat.
Please follow me on www.hospitalitycode.com for my articles on various areas of Hospitality business, trends and interpretation methods.