Hotelchamp has analysed 500 million data points from the booking process 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.
Phase in Focus – The Consideration Phase
What is it
One of the biggest challenges facing hotel marketers today is not simply convincing potential guests that their hotel is the best accommodation – the second gauntlet hotels must run is convincing them of the best channel to book through.
The Consideration Phase is the moment a website visitor moves from casually browsing, to critically thinking about whether your hotel is a real option for their stay. It is a time when your hotel is compared directly to your competitors and is perhaps your last chance to convince guests to book via your website.
Once a potential guest has gathered adequate information about your hotel, there comes the time to decide where to book. Armed with all the information they believe they need to make a decision, bookers will now consider the best option that suits their needs and budget. This doesn’t always mean the hunt for a hotel then finishes with you – your property and price may have met their requirements, but many guests will either procrastinate or continue browsing around for alternative accommodation. Their goal now is to discover for the best deal – a value equation that assesses cost vs benefit – not simply what sits at the bottom of the budget bracket.
Despite them having made it this far and taken a legitimate interest in your hotel, the Consideration Phase is actually one of the easiest places to lose your prospective guests. Considering your hotel as a real option for their stay means that a guest becomes more analytical of the information they have discovered about your property thus far. Most guests will continue browsing other hotels and websites too, even if your hotel fits their budget and brief.
This means you are now more than likely to be unceremoniously pitted dollar for dollar or feature for feature against other properties that may also be in consideration.
If you do come out on top and the guest decides your hotel is the one for them, the next decision that they must make is exactly what channel to use to make their booking – be it direct or through a third party. So, how can hoteliers influence this process?
Your Opportunity – Be Fast
Gutfeel or personal preference may have gotten your prospective guest this far – perhaps your images appealed to them or your website was easy to navigate – but bookers in the Consideration Phase are purposely more analytical. This presents two distinct opportunities for the savvy hotel marketer – be fast and be first.
A primary goal of the Consideration Phase should be to get website visitors through your booking process as quickly as possible before they leave your website due to procrastination, or to ‘shop around’. As soon as they have their rates and dates, it is important to encourage and compel them to make a booking.
Urgency and scarcity-based messaging are particularly effective drivers in this situation – by emphasising either the limited time nature of a price or the risk of missing out on their desired dates, you can encourage guests to make their booking as soon as possible. Appealing to this base fear of losing something puts people in a more reactionary mindset, and so are then less likely to risk missing the deal they’ve found. Hotelchamp can use real-time information about your current availability to display how many rooms are left for their selected dates – personalising and legitimising this urgency to lock in their booking.
Your Opportunity – Be First
Should you fail to be fast, you can still be first. Being first means ensuring your hotel is positioned ahead of your competitors in the Consideration Phase. When weighing up multiple hotels, guests are looking to get the best value for their money, not simply the cheapest price. This means that guests will often compare your offering and features with your competitors like-for-like. For example, a free breakfast from your hotel vs a free breakfast from a competitor is a pretty even playing field – in fact these increasingly common perks almost end up becoming a prerequisite, not an added value as originally intended. But a free breakfast vs an ‘excellent’ free breakfast as rated by TripAdvisor users is a different story. Showcasing Social Proof like this through Hotelchamp provides both authority and a point of differentiation that may be enough to put you ahead of your competition.
The Consideration Phase is also your last opportunity to convince your future guest to book through your direct channel – not through an OTA. This is where communicating your direct booking benefits is crucial to weight the value equation in your favour. The transparency of Hotelchamp’s USP Comparison, for example, highlights to website visitors that certain benefits are available only via your direct channel and explicitly displays that they aren’t available via your third party channels. This technique simultaneously builds the value of your offer whilst actively removing the need for guests to exit your website and browse around.
Whilst the power of price cannot be discounted (pardon the pun), it is important to remember that the Consideration Phase is ultimately a value equation – not simply a race to the bottom of the budget bracket. Putting forth a compelling proposition in this phase is crucial to differentiating your hotel and the benefits that booking direct offers.