Travellers booking their accommodation have access to more information than ever before. Visiting on average 38 websites before making a booking, potential guests come across plenty of hotels that could satisfy their needs. And nowadays, the online environment brings about increasingly fierce competition. It’s more important than ever to stand out against your competitors and give guests an incentive to choose you.
There are many things that influence the behaviour of travellers landing on your hotel website. From price, to copy and imagery, many factors can either draw guests closer to booking or push them away. However, there are insights into the psychology behind consumers’ purchases that can help your marketing efforts immensely. We will look at how you can use consumer psychology to present information in a captivating way. You will learn what draws and keeps attention so that you can ultimately convert your website traffic into paying guests.
Why consumer psychology can help you
We face many decisions on a daily basis. From what to eat and what to wear, to who to talk to, and what to buy. Particularly when it comes to buying decisions, it’s impossible to personally evaluate all the different available options. This is why the human brain resorts to shortcuts in thinking to ease complex decisions, regardless if the decisions are the most beneficial ones or not. These shortcuts are the reason why you bring an umbrella when you see clouds in the sky without checking the weather forecast. They’re also the reason why you use the same dish soap your family, without checking for better options.
These shortcuts are called heuristics, and they affect consumers’ decision-making and judgements. As a result, knowledge of how heuristics influence travellers’ decision-making is crucial. Ultimately, it can help you avoid having your hotel thrown in potential guests’ discard pile.
Learning to influence decision-making
You might already be familiar with several types of heuristics without even realising. A popular one in the hotel industry is the use of the scarcity heuristic. This heuristic indicates that when an object is considered scarce, it is perceived as more valuable. You can often see this being used by OTAs to encourage purchases through messages like “Only 1 room left at this price!”. By giving the impression of limited availability, the perceived value of the room increases, making travellers more prone to booking.
However, there are more useful heuristics you can use when communicating messages and offers on your website. Particularly, the two that we will look into are anchoring and framing. Used together, these consumer psychology effects can have a powerful impact on travellers’ decisions when choosing a hotel.
Anchoring is very closely related to the decision-making process. It occurs when people rely heavily on either pre-existing information, or the first information presented (the anchor) when making a decision. This happens because people have a tendency to remember things that they learn first better than things they learnt later. As a result, they adjust their subsequent decisions around the first reference point.
One of the oldest tricks in the retail book is based on anchoring—the “.99” pricing trick. And it still works! When comparing a small coffee priced at $0.95 with a large coffee priced at $1.20, only 29% of people chose to go with the larger option. However, when the price was changed to $1 for a small cup and $1.25 for a large one, 56% of people decided to go for the larger option. Both the price difference and the first digit of the price stayed the same. However, in the second case, the difference seemed smaller. This apparently insignificant change resulted in a 51% increase in sales for the more expensive option.
Similarly, you can use the anchoring effect to make some offers seem more favourable than others. For example, placing a $69 dollar hot dog before a $17.95 cheeseburger $17.95 made the sales for the latter sore. That is because, through comparison, the cheeseburger seemed like a reasonable choice.
How hoteliers can use anchoring
Hoteliers can use similar price anchoring strategies to make certain offers or prices seem more attractive. Similar to how the expensive hot dog was placed first on the menu, you position your more expensive rooms first on your ‘Rooms’ page. This will make your hotel’s cheaper rooms seem more attractive and an overall even better deal. Similarly, consider increasing the prices for some of your offers to make your mid-priced options seem more affordable.
Another way to use anchoring is when creating special offers. Try presenting the new, lower price against the original price. Anchoring the new price in such a way will make your offer seem like an even better deal. Similarly, you can present your customer review scores favourably by comparing them to the average in your area.
Another clever use of the anchoring bias is in branding. Use strong anchors—like a bold logo, colour scheme or intriguing hook. This can differentiate you from your competitors and make your hotel more likely to stand out in travellers’ minds. If most of your competitors are using muted colours, try using bright and bold colours to grab attention and stand out.
Simply put, our decisions are influenced by the way in which information is presented (or framed). The same information can become more or less attractive depending on the features you highlight. In consumer psychology, this effect is called ‘framing’. One of the most frequent uses for this effect brings attention to the positive gain or negative loss associated with a choice. As people tend to avoid loss, the positive gain framing is perceived more favourably. However, other types of framing can also be used. For instance, temporal framing suggests that people value delayed gratification less than immediate gains. Another type of framing is value framing, which states that people will care more if the information is framed as affecting something that they value.
How hoteliers can use framing
The framing effect can be kept in mind whenever you are writing copy for your website. Consider communicating your terms and conditions for cancellation. If your target audience values flexibility, you can inspire more confidence by framing your terms and conditions positively. For example, say “Free cancellation up to 3 days in advance” instead of highlighting a loss “Late booking cancellations will not be refunded”. Similarly, value framing can be very helpful when targeting specific groups of people. For instance, when targeting families, highlighting reviews that talk about your hotel having “the best playground in the area” will carry more value than those simply stating “outstanding facilities”. Using framing like this you can ensure your target audience is more likely to choose you over other options.
Consider also combining the two effects. Take the example of creating special offers. Alongside anchoring the price, you can also frame the offer as a limited-time deal to make it seem more exclusive. Moreover, displaying customer testimonials can also do a great deal for you with the use of both heuristics—without you even realising it. 81% of travellers always or often read reviews before booking their accommodations, so it’s crucial to highlight good reviews on your website. If you anchor potential guests on your website with a good review, they are more likely to develop a positive opinion of your hotel and thus, book with you.
Applying consumer psychology to your hotel website
Heuristics are powerful tools that hoteliers can use to influence travellers' decision-making. And the best part is that applying these concepts only means making small changes—but with the potential for great impact. To make potential guests choose you, use these techniques strategically. You will increase the perceived value of your hotel, attract more customers and increase your conversion.