Imagine this: a traveller visits your hotel website, ready to book a room for their next vacation. They're excited, they love what they see, but then something goes wrong. They abandon their booking, and you lose a potential guest. This frustrating scenario, known as booking engine abandonment, leaves your rooms unsold and your efforts wasted.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the top reasons why potential guests abandon their bookings. By understanding the 'why' behind these drop-offs, you can implement strategies to keep your guests engaged and committed to completing their reservations. Get ready to turn those near-misses into confirmed bookings and boost your hotel’s conversion rates.

What is Booking Engine Abandonment?

Booking engine abandonment is a critical issue that's all too common in the hospitality industry. It can be a significant barrier to converting interested visitors into actual guests. 81.7% of potential travel bookings don’t reach completion. That's over four in every five interested visitors leaving your site without making a reservation, which means lost opportunities and money.

But why do so many guests leave at the last minute? The reasons are as varied as the customers themselves. From indecision to issues with the payment method—the bottom line is that understanding the essence of booking engine abandonment is critical. It’s not just about missing out on a few bookings; it affects your overall business and your return on investment. Fixing these problems can help turn more visitors into guests and make the booking process smoother for everyone.

5 Reasons for Booking Engine Abandonment

1. Traveller indecision

Indecision is a key factor leading to booking abandonment. With so many options available to them, potential guests find themselves in a loop of comparing hotels. As a result, they often hesitate to commit immediately. Either they keep weighing their options, or they grapple with uncertainties about costs or cancellation policies. Regardless of why they are uncertain, you need to clearly communicate your value—not only for potential guests to choose you above competitors, but also for them to be more willing to spend.

Alleviate uncertainty with clear communication

Engaging indecisive bookers proactively is essential. Here it’s crucial to highlight your hotel's unique selling points (USPs). This distinguishes you from the competition and makes you stand out. Then, make sure to display compelling direct booking benefits. Exclusive offers and personalised messages in the booking engine can encourage them to finalise their booking. Implementing features like Saved Search messaging can also be beneficial. By allowing guests to have their search details emailed, they can easily resume their booking at a later time.

Lastly, address the fear of inflexible cancellation policies or costly booking changes. Build trust by clearly stating your cancellation and refund policies on your website and booking engine. Through this, you can eliminate uncertainty and instil confidence in potential guests. And make yourself available. Incorporate a live chat or chatbot feature to offer immediate assistance for any questions, facilitating a smoother booking process.

Screenshot of a message highlighting a hotel's unique selling points and workcation offer.
Highlight your unique selling points (USPs) in the booking engine to show how you differ from your competition.

2. Technical issues

Technical hiccups like slow loading times and random website crashes are real deal-breakers when booking a hotel. In this day and age, a sluggish website is a quick way to lose their interest. When a site takes too long to load or crashes unexpectedly, it not only frustrates users but also diminishes their trust in your brand.

The frustration is even higher on mobile, with an abandonment rate of 85.6% compared to 73.1% on desktop. Mobile users expect fast, seamless experiences, and any delay can cause them to leave instantly. With the majority of people practically living on their phones, ensuring your website performs well on all devices is crucial. A poor technical experience suggests to potential guests that other aspects of their stay might also be lacking, making them abandon their booking and look elsewhere. Plus, frequent performance issues can negatively impact your site's search engine ranking, making it harder for new guests to find you. Attention spans are short and alternatives are just a click away, so technical reliability is key to maintaining and converting your website traffic.

Make great performance a priority

Step up your website's performance. Opt for robust web hosting, speed things up with optimised images, and keep an eye out for any performance glitches. Making your website mobile-friendly is also key. It’s not just about looking good on a smaller screen; it's about offering a seamless experience that builds trust and keeps those mobile users engaged. Think fast-loading and no filler content. A smooth, fast, and reliable website experience can significantly reduce the chances of your guests bouncing off and increase the likelihood of completing their bookings.

Person frustrated in front of a laptop.
Don’t let potential guests be chased away by technical issues.

3. Confusing user experience

Right on the heels of technical issues, another critical factor leading to booking abandonment is user experience. When navigation is complex or the booking process is laden with too many steps, it can overwhelm and confuse guests. Put yourself in guests’ shoes. They don’t want to click through multiple pages, fill out long forms, and hunt for information that's scattered across the site. If finding what they need feels like solving a puzzle, guests are likely to throw in the towel and abandon the process.

Streamlining the user experience

Streamline the booking process to a few straightforward steps and ensure that navigation leads intuitively towards the booking engine. The 'Book Now' buttons should be unmissable, guiding users clearly and compellingly towards finalising their reservations. A good start for this is having a strong website template designed specifically for the hotel industry. These templates are built with your guests and their journey in mind, so they make it much easier for you to maintain a conversion-focused user experience.

Again, don't underestimate the power of mobile responsiveness. A mobile-responsive design that's easy to navigate, visually appealing, and secure is essential. You can incorporate inline messaging both on desktop and mobile for a seamless experience. These messages can keep the user engaged and informed, guiding them smoothly through the booking process. Remember, the goal is to make booking a room as easy and pleasant as picking out a favourite holiday destination.

A screenshot of a hotel website main page.
It’s crucial to make the ‘Book Now’ buttons visible.

4. Lack of pricing transparency

One of the quickest ways to lose a potential guest’s trust is by springing unexpected costs on them at the last minute. If they’ve carefully chosen your hotel, selected their dates and filled in their details, they’ve already mentally committed to a price. The last thing you want to do is add additional fees like taxes or service charges. This surprise feels like a betrayal, making the guest feel deceived and leading to immediate abandonment. Indeed, guests expect honesty and transparency—and hidden costs can severely damage their trust in your brand.

Displaying all costs up-front

The key to preventing this is transparent pricing. Make a habit of displaying all costs upfront. This transparency builds trust and prevents those last-minute surprises that can sour the booking experience. Another nice tip is to incorporate price comparison tools or offer best price guarantees to reassure guests. It shows that you're open about your pricing and confident that you’re offering the best value. This approach turns the pricing stage from a potential obstacle into an opportunity to cement trust and commitment.

Person making a payment on their phone, with a card.
Hidden costs are a big reason for booking engine abandonment.

5. Lack of flexibility in payment options

In the final steps of booking, the payment process can make or break the deal. Limited payment options and security worries can turn guests off. If someone finds the perfect room but can't use their favourite payment method, they'll probably give up and leave. Plus, if they're not sure their payment is safe, they won't go through with the booking. Offering a variety of secure payment options is key to keeping those bookings from slipping away at the last moment.

Offering a wide range of payment options

To avoid this, offer a variety of secure payment options. Credit and debit cards are common, but not everyone likes them. Adding digital wallets like PayPal, Amazon Wallet, and Apple Pay can make a huge difference. These options appeal to more people and add extra security and convenience that guests love.

Moreover, make sure your payment gateway is secure and certified. Being upfront about fees and security gives guests peace of mind and boosts your booking process’s credibility. As a result, you will make it easy and reassuring for guests to complete their booking.

Person paying for a coffee by Apple Pay
Quick payment through Apple Pay has become very popular amongst smartphone users.

Getting rid of booking engine abandonment

Tackling booking engine abandonment requires a strategic approach. From addressing technical issues like slow loading times to refining the user experience with intuitive navigation and clear booking paths, each aspect plays a crucial role. By implementing these strategies, hotels can turn hesitant browsers into satisfied bookers.

May 22, 2024
Trends and Insights
Written by
Hotelchamp Team