The advent of the internet has simultaneously democratised and demolished the concept of the traditional retail model. Products once differentiated by the distance between consumer and retailer, are now available at the click of a button. Customers were once willing to pay twice as much just to travel half as far for their products—an unthinkable concept in today’s global marketplace. Products are now available online from all over the world to the lowest bidder with increased convenience.
The accessibility of this eCommerce revolution has permeated spending behaviour in all industries—electricity providers, pizza deliveries, health insurance, used cars and travel. It’s never been easier for the bottom dollar bargain hunter to browse and buy the very cheapest offering from almost anywhere. Nowhere is this truer than in the travel space. In fact, it’s given birth to a multi-billion dollar industry of online resellers and middlemen.
Something for your price-sensitive guests
Unlike eBay, Alibaba and Amazon, where an authentic product may be available many times cheaper than its brand.com, the hotel industry has won itself a respectable order and control of its inventory under the protection of rate parity. Despite this many consumers mistakenly believing that the resellers offer the cheaper deal. Many hoteliers have seen success in combating this misconception by turning their rate parity agreements into a customer-facing sales weapon. Hotels can publicly compare their direct price against that of their online resellers. By proactively educating these price-sensitive customers, who are often experts in comparison shopping, hotels are removing the urge to visit OTA websites to compare prices.
Whilst this sounds simple, knowing where and when to display a price comparison is crucial to make sure that it is working for your hotel, rather than against it.
Understanding the Customer Journey
Booking a hotel is no hastily made decision. A holiday is generally considered a luxury purchase. Guests spend a large amount of time researching and deliberating where to book and get the best price. The most important opportunity for the hotelier to influence this decision is via the hotel website. There is a chance to turn curious browsers into direct bookers. This change is not a simple flip of a mental switch though. The customer journey through your website is a step-by-step mental process, each phase containing its own challenges and opportunities. Two of these closely linked, but fundamentally different phases of the customer journey are the Exploration and Decision phases.
Why not show a price comparison on your website?
Many booking engines offer price check solutions that can be placed on both your hotel website and booking engine. Whilst on the surface this may sound like a trivial difference in placements. In practice, it is far more beneficial to place a price comparison on your booking engine. Placing one on your website only leads to confusion.
One of the most important functions of a hotel website is to communicate the facts and features that will convince a visitor that the hotel meets their needs. The Exploration Phase is all about gathering information about the hotel itself. Does the location, facilities and availability of the hotel answer the fundamental requirements of the guest? This utilitarian part of the Customer Journey is about answering basic requirements before they progress to the Consideration Phase. This is when guests take a more subjective look at the value that the hotel will provide over similar competitors.
By introducing a price comparison at this early stage, price is positioned as the most important feature of this hotel. All other features will now be compared against price. A visitor is far more likely to be dismissive of the property in general as the value has not been communicated to them.
Price Comparison: Theory into practice
A practical consideration to take into account when planning your price comparison strategy is the actual rate you are quoting. If you display a price comparison on the homepage of your website, your visitor has not yet input any information about their stay. It’s very unlikely your hotel has the same rate for every night of the year so without the proper data, the price displayed is likely a pre-set default or your lowest possible rate. This actually works against you, as your visitors began to construct their value equation based on a figure far lower than what their total will end up being quoted as in your booking engine. This disparity when they see the true cost is far more likely to result in an abandoned booking as the customer journey has been mismanaged through presenting inaccurate information.
If you want to provide your guests with transparency, the most reliable spot to place a price comparison is on the booking engine. That is where the data will be more accurate, and you will not risk misleading the guest. It is also where you can show guests that the hotel price is the best and most affordable deal.
The benefits of having a price comparison in your booking engine
The Consideration Phase follows the Exploration Phase. This is when guests make an evaluation of whether the information gathered has tempted them to further explore the possibility of staying at your hotel. Typically this phase benefits from supporting information like social proof (e.g. TripAdvisor reviews from previous guests) or special benefits that come from booking direct (like a Free Breakfast). All this information builds cumulative value in the mind of the consumer. Once they’re convinced of this value, visitors will then progress to the booking engine to establish the price.
This next phase in the Customer Journey, the Decision Phase, is the key opportunity for the savvy hotelier to deploy a price comparison. As customers enter the booking engine, specify dates, the number of guests and rooms, the price is presented to them for the first time. Based on Hotelchamp’s analysis of more than 500 million customer journeys from more than 1500 hotels around the world, on average, 53% of website visitors will exit the booking process at this point. Whilst this happens for a variety of reasons, a large portion of this is specifically to compare rates for your hotel through third-party booking platforms. By displaying a live price comparison in your booking engine, you can simultaneously keep your visitors moving through your Customer Journey whilst also denying them the opportunity to find alternative hotels through a third-party platform.
Who is your guest?
It is important to have a close eye on which segment you are targeting. Is your property more focused on business travellers, or leisure travellers or maybe a mix of both? According to Phocuswire, there is a clear difference in what these groups of travellers are looking for. While leisure travellers are more price sensitive, business travellers may not be. Research has found that leisure travellers pay close attention to prices, but also rely heavily on reviews. In comparison, business travellers put prices behind reviews, preferred brand, and high rating.
This gives hoteliers a great opportunity to place a price comparison that is relevant to guests looking for their next stay. Using Hotelchamp targeting options, you can show a price comparison tool that will be of value. If placed in the booking engine, you know exactly who your visitor is and whether they are travelling alone, and whether they are planning a business trip or leisure stay. Hoteliers can show a tool that is personalised and relevant for this guest persona.
How to personalise a Price Comparison tool
Personalised messaging helps to show the right message to your guest at the right time. As with all of Hotelchamp’s solutions, Price Comparison tools can be customised to fit your hotel or booking engine branding, look and feel and be configured to display the rates of OTA’s that you want your comparison to be with.
By using targeting, you can make sure that your website visitors are seeing the most relevant Price Comparison for their needs.
For example, a guest could select the following stay:
- A room for one person
- A mid-week stay
Based on this information, this visitor could be a business traveller. So the Price Comparison can show a targeted message for business travellers.
Another guest could make the following selections:
- A room for two people
- A weekend stay
We can assume that this is a leisure traveller who looking for their next getaway. Showing a Price comparison Tool with information that is relevant for them, such as reviews, can help to convert these guests.
How to implement a Price Comparison strategy
As we can see, the Price Comparison is a powerful tool when implemented and placed correctly on your online presence. Not only can you ensure that the Customer Journey on your website is even more customised, but you can also be sure that you show relevant and valuable information throughout the booking process.
In today’s day and age, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Redirect your focus on what it really is a traveller wants to find on your website to convert this website visitor into a paying guest.
If you are interested in exploring the Price Comparison for your hotel, we would be more than happy to help. Our team can make sure we can find a solution that brings you closer to your guest. Reach out to us via live chat or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been refreshed and updated for accuracy and new best practices.