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Choosing the right hotel booking engine and reservations system
Today, the most advanced booking systems can radically alter how a hotel operates. With a wealth of front-end and back-end features, they have the power to drive direct bookings, grow revenue, increase efficiency and create a much more user-friendly experience for hotel staff and their guests.
The following post offers a guide to how the latest tools can bring dramatic transformation to your own hotel’s booking platform.
Delivering complete flexibility on the back-end system
On the back-end of your system, do you have complete control over your inventory? Skilled revenue managers need the right tools so they can maximize merchandising opportunities. Here are five features worth investing in.
Dynamic pricing rules
As opposed to an inflexible one-size-fits-all model, dynamic pricing lets you set your rates in a much more granular way. A range of parameters can be applied to how rates are set, such as reservation dates, length of stay, lead time, and geographical location.
This flexibility means a hotel can be highly adaptive to the fluidity of the market, constantly fine-tuning prices to remain competitive, maximize revenue, and create timely and appealing packages that are most likely to increase conversions.
Auto-generated landing pages for rate plans
To instantly catch the eye of potential guests, auto-generated landing pages can be swiftly deployed to promote special offers and group rate plans right on the hotel website. These kind of landing pages are easy to publish and can prove effective in a variety of scenarios.
For example, a wedding party with a room block can have its own booking page solely for its special group rate. Or a during a sudden drop in weekend demand, a revenue manager can quickly create a landing page with a weekend promotion such as “20% off room rates and a free breakfast.” By having a separate URL just for the rate plan, revenue managers can easily run promotions and measure the effectiveness of their offer and campaign.
Hotels around the world are beginning to rethink and modernize their loyalty programs. In particular, many are now offering guests more flexibility and choice over how points are spent. But alongside this perk of personalized rewards, guests also want their points to be easier to access and redeem in the first place.
That’s where loyalty integrations come in. For unbranded independent hotels that run their own separate loyalty programs, a loyalty program integration with a booking engine means a loyalty customer can simply log into their account on the hotel website and redeem their points or select perks and special offers as they make a reservation.
Profitable but sometimes problematic, group bookings often mean having to manage a variety of room types, rate plans, and add-ons. Weddings and big group reunions are prime examples when this might cause a particular headache, but even smaller family reservations often involve needing different room types for adults and kids.
A multi-room booking feature helps with this. It allows different rooms with different rates to be reserved all in one streamlined system. This can end up saving a lot of frustration and wasted time.
Brand or group booking portals
If you’re part of a small hotel group, this feature enables you to cross-market your properties and increases the overall chance of a conversion.
A portal booking engine really comes into its own when one of your hotels has no availability. Instead of giving up and shopping elsewhere, a traveler is given the option to search for alternate properties in your group.
This tool is also great if a customer finds your property lacks an amenity they really wanted, or isn’t quite near enough to the major city sights. Using a range of filters (including amenities, location and star rating), they can look for another option that matches their criteria, potentially saving you from losing a profitable booking.
Is your booking platform optimized for conversions?
Through constant measuring and meticulous testing, OTAs have refined their user experience to make sure their sites are easy to browse and that rooms are snapped up fast.
But the great news is that the most effective OTA conversion tools can all be replicated, and without huge investment. With that in mind, here are the essential elements a conversion-focused hotel website and booking engine needs.
Make vital information easy to find
The majority of people that visit a hotel website are quickly scanning for important details such as room descriptions, rates and amenities. If these details are hard to find, they won’t hang around long. So making a site easy to navigate is crucial to reducing customer friction.
Take a look at how The New Yorker makes their homepage visually stylish yet clean, clear and simple to browse. With a distraction-free design, prominent search engine, and eye-catching “Book Now” button, a website like this gets the fundamentals of conversion spot on.
Avoid overwhelming users with choice
Common sense would say the more choice you give customers, the more chance they’ll spend with you. But consumer psychology says different. According to studies, offering too much choice can prove overwhelming, and it can even lead to fewer sales.
While it might sound counterintuitive, limiting options can be a much more effective approach. To minimize the chance of overwhelming potential guests, consider reducing the amount of add-ons during the booking phase, and break up the decision-making process into multiple stages.
The power of urgency triggers
When consumers feel a sense of urgency, they’re far less likely to delay their buying decision. This simple premise is the reason urgency triggers are used throughout ecommerce, and they’re a driving force behind OTA direct booking dominance.
But hotels can compete using a similar range of tools. Widgets that show “rooms remaining” availability, recent number of bookings, and countdown clocks that appear next to limited-time deals can all be integrated to ratchet up urgency and capture more reservations.
Strikethrough pricing to indicate deals
Strikethrough pricing is another tried-and-testing tactic deployed by OTAs to enhance the attractiveness of deals. By striking out the before price next to the current price, a customer sees exactly how much they stand to save.
As well as making a deal clear, this visual prompt also taps into consumer pain points. Nobody wants to pay more for something than they should have. So when a person sees the previous price next to the discounted one, they’re reminded of the potential pain involved if they don’t act now and the price leaps back up.
OTAs rely heavily on rate match tools to show price transparency and boost direct bookings. Some hotels have also introduced price-checking widgets on their own website, but traditional tools remain flawed. If an OTA rate comes out lower, they don’t offer an improved rate but ask a person to contact the hotel to resolve the pricing issue.
Understandably, the sense of perceived hassle puts a lot of people off.
In contrast, an automatic price-checking tool such as Travel Tripper’s Rate Match looks for real-time rates on major OTA sites, then automatically matches any lower rates it finds. This new rate is then made instantly bookable—immediately capitalizing on the interest of the customer.
Connect the booking engine with the website
When a user visits your website, the transition from browsing rooms to checking rates needs to be seamless. To achieve this, your website and booking engine need to be integrated as a single direct booking platform. If they’re not, the clunky experience a potential guest finds could frustrate them enough to shop elsewhere.
Aside from improved user experience, integrating the hotel website and booking engine lets you devise optimized pricing strategies, work more efficiently, and partner with specialist third-party software companies that provide conversion tools for the hospitality industry.
The impact of the right hotel booking platform
As dominant OTAs and sharing accommodation platforms continue to evolve their own booking platforms, the hospitality industry must overhaul their own systems to keep up.
The technology now exists for this to happen.
With a modern day platform, a hotel has complete control over their inventory, flexibility over room rates, the ability to rapidly advertise deals, and the influence to drive bookings using urgency-style triggers. Combined, these features can transform the very way a hotel operates and make direct distribution a powerful strategy for maximizing revenue.
Interested in learning more about new platforms and technologies available to your hotel? Join us for our webinar on April 26 to learn more:
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