When running a successful hotel, online bookings are a staple part of keeping business flowing and getting visitors through the door. Online Travel Agencies are a fantastic way to ensure the rooms in your hotel aren’t left empty as they guarantee high levels of exposure and authenticity for the customer. Unfortunately for you, these agencies mean commission and lots of it! This leads to your costs going up and profits getting driven down.
Direct bookings are the holy grail for the Hospitality sector, allowing you to maximize the benefit for each visitor’s stay. Here at Digital Zest, we understand that direct bookings mean the world to our Hospitality customers – us Yorkshire folk are careful with our money, right? So, here are our top tips to get more customers coming straight to you…
1 – Who Are Your Customers?
When trying to get customers to book directly with you, you need to identify exactly who your target market is. Whether you target the young adult, family or retired market, ensure you have a good idea of the persona of your average customer.
We don’t say this for no reason! As we move through the rest of our tips, optimising your brand and marketing material to your market is crucial to ensure it is not only engaging but that it actually converts to bookings.
Creating a simple persona is easy – try identifying characteristics such as gender, age, income and interests. Beyond this, there are a number of ways to use data and analytics to further identify your ideal customer base and measure how well your brand shapes up. Just get in touch to find out more!
2 – A Website That Performs
Often your biggest marketing asset, your website needs to be firing on all cylinders to bring in those direct bookings. Focus on a sharp and smooth design style, breathtaking imagery and engaging website copy to build desire for your Hotel with your potential customers.
With over 50% of internet traffic now delivered on a mobile device, ensure your website is optimised for different technologies. Mobile compatibility is a must to ensure however someone comes to your website, they get a great experience prompting them to convert to a customer.
Alongside the dynamics of your website, ensure the actual booking process is smooth too! A bad booking engine is essentially sales prevention, why do all the hard work to put your customer off at the final hurdle?
Whether it be website design or the booking process, try out a variety of different sales flows to optimise the site for best performance. Again remember to keep your target audience in mind, catering to their tastes and desires.
3 – Time to be Social
With billions of daily worldwide users, Social Media is now a true battleground for reaching prospective customers. Often free, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give you the opportunity to market your hotel without the need to pay any commissions at all. And the best bit? You can drive Social traffic straight to you, no agencies!
As with your website, streamlining your Social Media to your market is crucial to receiving engagement and converting new customers. Keep in mind what does and doesn’t appeal to your ideal visitor and try mixing up the post types to better showcase your pride and joy.
Remember with Social Media, the content you post must bring value to your customer – use the platforms to show the customer how fantastic your facilities are or pass on photos and comments from happy guests.
4 – Embrace Customer Reviews
Outside of the common agencies, many customers look to review sites to determine where their next getaway should take place. These sites often don’t provide the user with booking and as such are great places to drive traffic straight to your website and boost those direct bookings.
TripAdvisor and Google Places and two of the largest platforms of this kind, offering a repository of customer experiences for practically every establishment in the Hospitality sector.
Get yourself registered on these platforms, ensuring your contact information is fully up to date. That way when your next customer takes a look, they are armed with all the information they need to come directly to you rather than those pesky agencies.
Not only does a strong review page provide a great path to your website, it also offers social proof that you are the place to go. Actively encourage your client base to big you up online, you could maybe even incentivise them doing so? Check out our next tip!
5 – Make It Worth Their While
As a direct booking brings a larger financial benefit to your business, try incentivising your customers coming straight to you with a direct booking deal.
Many establishments offer free WiFi, discounted rates or added goodies when a customer books directly on their website. If someone knows they can make their trip that little more special, they will likely take the extra time to earn that reward.
Alongside a one time offer, if you have many repeat guests try introducing a direct booking loyalty scheme. If someone has enjoyed their stay, ensure they book again the right way by showing them the benefits to be had. Maybe a ‘book 4 nights and the 5th is free’ type arrangement? I know if I’d book direct if this kind of scheme was on offer!
To round up…
When getting your next customer away from the agencies and directly to your website, knowing how to make the journey easy for the customer is the first step. Taking the time to identify, research and cater to your target market is key to ensuring your Hotel truly puts its best foot forward. Your website really has to work for you – ensure the content is of high quality, can handle all devices and the booking process is a smart and simple operation.
Use Social Media and Review sites to get the word out there that your Hotel is the place to be. From these platforms, ensure the transition to booking is easy and intuitive.
But often the best way to encourage direct booking it to dangle the carrot in front of your customer. Offering free and discount services or running a repeat booking loyalty scheme means the customer can share in the benefits you receive from scoring a direct booking.
Want some expert advice to boost your direct bookings even further? Give us a call today on 01723 332080 to speak with our expert team at Digital Zest.