Dissecting the direct booking funnel: a guide for independent hotels

How to assess the value of your hotel’s most profitable online distribution channel

In the ultra-competitive world of hotels, it’s easy to be wowed by the possibilities of digital technology. Take for example Marriott’s launch of a global creative content marketing studio (à la Red Bull and Go Pro), or Starwood’s Apple Watch door key initiative. But for the independent hotelier, there is often simply not enough resources to reach for the stratosphere (literally, in Red Bull’s case).

At Travel Tripper we advocate the need for digital innovation in the hotel industry, but we do find that it’s equally important that hotels — particularly the independent and boutique hotels that have limited resources — understand the foundational aspects of their consumer-facing digital presence. Your hotel’s direct booking channel offers the potential for the highest ROI, but only if all the building blocks are in place.

Assessing the value of this channel goes beyond looking at sales figures. Are you maximizing the potential of each element in the sales funnel?  Are you converting “lookers into bookers”? Working backwards from the point of sale, we’ve dissected the key elements of the direct online booking channel and the fundamentals that independent hotels should evaluate:

 

westhouse

 

Row NYC websites

  • A good looking website that works across all digital platforms. Your customers won’t make it to the booking engine if they leave the website first, so it’s crucial that your hotel’s website is designed well and presents all the information that a customer needs without having to dig deep for it. Take a look at your website’s analytics — how high is your bounce rate (the number of users that leave after visiting only one page)? A high bounce rate can indicate that your website is visually unappealing or difficult to use. This may also be a symptom of having a site that isn’t mobile friendly, a problem for which we advocate the use of responsive web design.

 

NU Hotel on Google

  • A website that can easily be found by Google. Sure, customers can find you by Googling your hotel name, but are you reaching those potential customers who don’t know you but want a “boutique hotel brooklyn”? Don’t wait until after you’ve launched your website to invest in SEO. Develop a solid hotel SEO strategy from the get go as you are developing your website and its content, and make sure that your hotel is listed in all the proper online directories (especially Google Business). While we recommend working with an experienced SEO team to ensure everything is executed properly, it’s good to educate yourself on the basics on hotel SEO best practices so that you understand what’s going on.

 

Refinery Hotel Instagram

  • A digital marketing strategy that effectively utilizes paid and organic traffic. Digital marketing for hotels is more of an art than a science. How much should you spend on paid advertising such as PPC and remarketing, and how much should you invest in generating organic traffic through social media and unique content? While bidding PPC or metasearch ads can be costly when you have to compete with OTAs’ bigger budgets, the conversion rates tend to be higher as audience targeting is more precise. But social media and content development are much better at engaging audiences and conveying brand, which has long term benefits in cultivating guest loyalty. Either way, both are good for business and it’s important to strike a fine balance between the two.

 

So now that your hotel has mastered the basic fundamentals of the direct booking channel, you’ve got some room to experiment on the digital frontier. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll produce a hit action comedy stunt show or develop “fully immersive, 4-D virtual journey teleporters” via Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles. Maybe. Just maybe.

Gautam Lulla

Gautam Lulla

Gautam is CEO of Pegasus and an outspoken expert in hotel technology and distribution. When he's not busy disrupting the status quo, you can find him ripping powder on the slopes. Contact him at gautam@pegs.com.

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