Thinking of placing a price comparison on your hotel website? We look at the unexpected Do’s and Don’ts of the price comparison.
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 to anyone anywhere at the click of a mouse 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 where products are available online from all over the world to the lowest bidder.
The accessibility of this e-commerce 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 middle-men.
But unlike the Wild West-esque retail landscapes of 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, the retail perception persists and permeates the hospitality industry, with 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 – publicly comparing their direct price against that of their online resellers. By proactively educating these price sensitive customers, who are often experts in comparison shopping, the hotels are removing the urge to visit OTA websites to compare prices.
Whilst this tactic sounds simple in theory, 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
Choosing to book a hotel is no hastily made decision. A holiday is generally considered somewhat of a luxury purchase and as such, guests spend a large amount of time meticulously researching and deliberating on where to book and where to get the best price. The most important opportunity for the hotelier to influence this decision is via the hotel website – 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 on the website?
In the past year, many booking engines have started to 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 the price comparison on your booking engine – placing one on your website can only lead to confusion.
One of the first and most important functions of a hotel website is to communicate the fundamental facts and features that will convince a visitor that the hotel meets their needs. This ‘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 then progress to the Consideration Phase – a more subjective look at the value that the hotel will provide over similar competitors.
By introducing a price comparison at this early stage, the hotelier is immediately positioning price as the most important feature of this hotel by which all other features will now be compared. Without any knowledge of what justifies this price, a visitor is far more likely to be dismissive of the property in general as the value has not been aptly communicated to them.
Better in the Booking Engine
The Consideration Phase follows the Exploration Phase – an evaluation of whether the information gathered has tempted a website visitor 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 a 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, number of guests and rooms, the cumulative 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 whilst comparing your rates.
The Price is Right
It’s important to keep in mind that the price check is worth showing on your website when the price on your website is cheaper than any OTA price, but also when it is the same as the OTA. Instead of obsessively checking and rechecking your rates on a daily basis, Hotelchamp allows you to set conditional rules to only display a price comparison to guests when your rate is cheaper. Another handy feature that Hotelchamp offers hoteliers is a dynamic, live updating price comparison – if you are offering a discount code, once input this will be immediately reflected in the floating price comparison tab, further reinforcing your direct benefits against that of your resellers.
Price Check Basics:
The above image is a basic example of what Hotelchamp’s “Price Comparison” solution looks like. Like all of Hotelchamp’s solutions, this Price Comparison tab can be customised to fit your hotel or booking engine branding, look and feel, include images and be configured to display some or all of your third-party resellers.
A practical consideration to take into account when planning your Price Comparison strategy is the actual functionality of what rate you are quoting. Take the following example. By displaying a Price Comparison on the homepage of your hotel website, your visitor has not yet input any dates, preferences or number of guests. 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 shock and disparity when they see the true calculated 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 and convincing spot to place a price comparison is on the hotel 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.
Levelling the Meta-search Playing Field
Metasearch is a crucial traffic source for many hoteliers, and whilst it technically occurs outside the realm of your website, hoteliers can still exert an amount of control of how their hotel is presented in this sphere. Hotels that optimise their presence on Google for example often will appear in searches as a highlighted or promoted hotel with fixed pricing and dates visible in the search, often alongside quotes from their third party booking sites. But why does this happen? Google offers hotel owners a pricing configuration tool to define default check-in date, length of stay and hotel prices. As the owner of your hotel’s website, this allows you to configure what information is fed into Google’s display. By ensuring your data is up to date, your direct price will be displayed alongside your third-parties right from the beginning of the customer’s Discovery Phase – planting the seed in their mind from the get-go that the best deal comes from booking direct.
Interested in exploring price comparison for your hotel booking engine? Contact the Hotelchamp team today – we’d love love to find the solution that fits your hotel.