Delegates at the 2017 National Hotel Marketing Conference were told how they can turn potential customers looking at their website into booking guests.
The event, run by the Hotel Marketing Association (HMA) and held at the Hilton St George's Park in Burton-upon-Trent last week, saw conference chairman and HMA president Pamela Carvell and Umi Digital director and HMA Young Agency Marketer of the Year Harry Fielder take delegates through potential ways of ensuring maximum booking conversions.
"The single most important thing you need to know is you need tracking within the booking engine or you're going to lose a lot of people," said Carvell. "Try to find out at what step of the process you're actually losing people, only then can you remedy what the problem is."
Carvell urged marketers to constantly test their booking engine or booking software: "Software is constantly updating, if you don't keep testing you'll end up with problems you weren't necessarily aware of. Test every time you modify a rate, every time you make a change it impacts everywhere else. Get friends and family to make bookings with you and see how easy or complicated they find it."
Or even sit down and book a room for yourself and look out for things like the quality of photography on your booking engine, which is as equally important as that on your website and social media pages.
She reminded marketers to ensure that, if a rate is reduced on one page, that your packages still make sense, because if a potential customer discovers it's cheaper to book a room and a treatment separately rather than one of your packages on offer, that could be fatal. "Once people lose trust in you, you've potentially lost them for good."
"Just because you have 20 room types doesn't mean you have to load them in booking engine," she said. "We've lost sight of the potential to upsell. Don't try to do this on the booking engine. You can still upsell on check-in or via phone or email."
This way, visitors are also more likely to find availability on your site.
Improving site to booking conversion
Fielder then took attendees through some things to consider to improve conversion of getting site visitors through to your booking engine.
When it comes to social media, he said using the word 'free', £ or % in posts have been shown to have a higher click through rate, as well as anything that makes visitors do a double-take ("weigh that up against your brand image," he advised).
And while images of babies and animals may seem like an obvious way to get clicks, he told marketers to also avoid using colours like blue and white because they blend into social media platforms where the predominant colours are blue and white - Facebook and Twitter being two prime examples.
Instead, use colours that stand out, bring out certain colours using Photoshop - and in particular have a style (for example a particular Instagram filter) that works with your content and keep it consistent across your social assets and website.
When it comes to website visitors, as well as ensuring a website is optimised by using a tool such as Google Optimize, he advised hotel marketers to tailor visitors' web experience, going further than just chatbots.
For example, use calls to action on different pages (so 'book our restaurant' on F&B pages), feature pictures of countryside walks in periods of good weather and cosy fireplaces in the winter, have a responsive website that can react to someone who engages positively with weddings on social media with wedding pictures on the homepage.
Dynamic personalisation can ensure your website is a unique experience for everyone, added Fielder. Not only can websites be trained to recognise the location of a visitor and react accordingly, but can recognise right- or left-handed scrolling on a smartphone and rearrange content, and recognise one-finger typers, who are more likely to be older visitors.
While he acknowledged that not all of this may be possible for all hotels, "It's important to whet your appetite now to know what could be done in the future," he concluded.
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