Here at Aró we're busy updating our branding as part of our policy of continuous improvement and in line with our vision of being a global leader and trusted disrupter for independent luxury hotels and resorts.
As part of this we talk about having a 360 degree view of a hotels performance and shifting the needle on direct booking. How does one go about putting that into practice?
Our stated aim is to get our clients to over 50% direct booking - that is more than 50% of their room revenue comes via their own Internet booking engine (IBE).
There are several strategy changes required in order to make that happen.
In this blog I'm going to talk about the features of a luxury hotel website which we know will increase direct bookings.
Assuming all other factors remain the same, if a hotel’s website could be improved so that the conversion rate increases by 1%, say from 2% to 3%, this would make a huge difference on shifting the needle to the direct bookings channel and away from the OTAs.
What do I mean by conversion rate? It's the number of people who make a booking on the site compared to the number of people who land on the site initially, expressed as a percentage.
Typically, this might be around 2% which means that for every 1000 people who come to the home page, 20 would make a booking.
Even if the hotel did nothing else, if they could increase their conversion rate to 3% then that would be 30 direct bookings a day compared to 20.
That's an extra 10 bookings each day, 70 a week or 3650 a year. 3650 guests for whom you don't have to pay exorbitant commission to the OTAs; guests you're in control of as you have all their details and guests who, our research shows, will on average stay for more room nights and deliver more discretionary spend while they are in the hotel.
And who, in all likelihood, will book direct again as you are able to send them promotional marketing material and potentially enrol them in your loyalty scheme.
Of course, not all the other conditions will remain the same but it's clear to see that by focusing on certain areas of your book direct strategy, in this case the website, you can shift the paradigm to more direct bookings, more revenue and more profit.
Here are our top five tips for improving your website to increase the conversion rate
1. An open booking panel.
If you look at any Aró hotel website you will see, generally at the top right of the homepage, an open booking panel with prefilled dates, a book now call to action (CTA) and the relevant book direct advantages.
We recently managed to implement this feature on mobile as well as desktop despite the much smaller space available.
Because it increases traffic from the homepage to the booking engine by around 25%
2. Room videos.
We've always been strong advocates of having different images for each different room type - it's amazing how many hotels don't.
We've taken this to the next level now with room videos.
In A/B tests we found that having professionally shot in-room videos rather than still images increase click through rates by 20-25%
Just like an estate agent might say the three most important things about buying a house are location, location, location, we would say for a website it’s speed, speed, speed.
There are any amount of statistics available on the web that will tell you how much traffic you lose for a slow website.
Suffice to say a slow site will not convert.
That is why we ensure that all our hotel sites pass the Google page speed insights tests and, as they become more prevalent, the Google Core Web Vitals tests.
4. Calls to action.
These are handily placed buttons which help a user navigate a website and guide them towards a conversion.
It's not just a matter of having them - it's amazing how many websites don't - but also where they are placed.
For example, in our gallery module when a user clicks on an image to enlarge it, they will see a book now button next to the image.
That means that if they like what they see, they don't have to go back to the homepage to make a booking - they can simply click on the CTA and go straight to the booking engine
5. Mobile design
Just like with website speed, there are numerous statistics available on the web about how many bookings are taken via mobile devices.
For our hotel clients, we know from our own data that it's well over 60%. This means it's critical that the way your website presents on mobile devices is well thought out.
Yes, you want to retain some of your gorgeous images or video, your font, your logo and your colours.
However we also need to include the aforementioned open booking panel, provide the most relevant conversion focused CTAs and have a well-structured and easy to navigate menu system.
This takes time care and ingenuity.
If you’re looking for a digital agency who will take a 360˚ view of your luxury hotel business and shift the needle on direct bookings, talk to Aró Digital.