Do you know your hotel website conversion rate? The exact percentage? For many hotel marketers, it is the single best indicator of website performance – the lookers that turned to bookers at the bottom of your marketing funnel. You likely know where you’re losing them in the customer journey too – metrics like conversion funnels are designed specifically to show you on which page they’re leaving.
But a conversion funnel typically indicates a linear journey through your website – a series of standard checkpoints that lead to a direct booking. The problem with this approach is that decision making is not a perfectly linear path – and it certainly doesn’t mirror your sitemap. Looking purely at your departing traffic through the lens of the conversion funnel may definitively tell you where you’re losing your traffic, but it can only provide hints as to why.
To get to the bottom of this, Hotelchamp has analysed 500 million data points from the booking processes of 1500 hotels from around the world. From chains to independents and from resorts to hostels, regardless of whether guests are looking for luxury or simplicity, family or flexibility, the behaviour is the same – there is a definitive guest journey on every hotel’s website.
Defined by 5 key phases, this guest journey is based on universal objectives, opportunities and obstacles that are present in the decision-making process of every potential booker – not simply the page flow of your website. By understanding these motivations and moments in the booking process, hoteliers can offer the Ultimate Guest Journey – a powerful booking experience that directly addresses these pain points and leverages the unexplored opportunities, ultimately convincing guests to book direct.
Phase in Focus – The Welcome Phase
What is it
Hotel websites serve two intertwined but very distinct purposes – as a high quality, detailed and reputable source of information about your hotel, but also as a functional e-commerce channel to facilitate direct bookings. Ideally, your website will serve both functions within the same website session of a visitor. The reality, however, is that the traffic hitting the homepage of your website will either be a first-time or returning visitor, with two surprisingly different objectives.
First-time visitors are acquainting themselves with your hotel – your photos, amenities, location and brand. They are forming a first impression and so do not yet have the information necessary to weigh your costs against your benefits – the fundamental value equation that will determine if your hotel is right for them.Conversely, returning visitors are have already passed through this stage and so are satisfied that your hotel meets their prerequisites. They are no longer looking for basic information about your facilities, but rather your rates and dates. Instead of looking for an introduction, these guest are here to talk business - in fact on average, a returning guest is 200% more likely to book than a first time visitor.
Having two fundamentally different objectives and attitudes to cater to on your homepage can be challenging, if not potentially damaging. 92% of first time visitors have no intention of booking and so are in no position to immediately be thrust into a financial decision making process. Being greeted with rates on their arrival immediately puts your hotel on the back foot - all your benefits are then seen as attempts to justify your price in the mind of the consumer. Returning visitors though are already in this commercial mindset and so are likely trying to get to your booking engine to view your prices for the selected period as soon as they can. It is crucial to get these guests into the booking engine as quickly and easily as possible, lest they book your hotel through a channel whose booking process they are more familiar with, like an OTA.
The Opportunity - Two audiences, Two opportunities
By identifying and dividing this traffic, it is easy for your hotel to service each visitor objective independently and effectively.
First Time Visitors
Instead of leading with hard commercial advantages like price or discount, your hotel can secure the understanding of first time visitors that booking direct with your hotel is the best option. By explicitly drawing attention to the benefits of booking direct, these benefits are cemented into the mind of the visitor as part of their subsequent value equation. By coupling this added value specifically to your own direct channel, you are proactively positioning your website as the most logical way to book.
Not to be blunt but returning visitors are returning for a reason. Repeat visits indicate that a customer is already in the process of more critically assessing your property and booking channel and so are inherently in a more analytical mindset. Hoteliers can benefit by capitalising on and amplifying this higher intention to book – first by welcoming them back with incentives to book via your website, and then providing a direct link to your booking engine to check rates and dates. This one-two punch of information and convenience can shortcut returning visitors through your website, taking advantage of this higher likelihood to make a booking.