Removing friction from the travel experience is Expedia Group’s “Everest” goal. At Expedia Group’s Explore ’19 conference in Las Vegas, Mark Okerstrom, the company’s president and CEO, set out a vision where customers experience less friction during the booking, shopping and research process.
The OTAs are also envisaging a new “connected trip” concept, where disparate travel arrangements are combined into a dynamic package. As part of this concept, travelers will be able to import trip elements booked directly or on other platforms, so everything is neatly “connected” in one place.
As the OTAs strive for a truly frictionless user experience, hotel websites must also evolve to keep pace. This means delivering supreme convenience and a seamless journey from start to finish.
In the following post, we’ll outline how your hotel website can do just that, by harnessing some of the latest industry-specific tools and technology.
1. Seamless user experience
In the digital age, consumer attention is a shrinking resource. A website that doesn’t engage its audience will be abandoned fast since countless other options are just a click away. To drive attention and keep travelers interested, your hotel website has to deliver a seamless experience and avoid some of the most common UX mistakes.
An effortless browsing experience free of distraction is critical, which involves making the most important information easy to find.
As it turns out, the OTAs aren’t so great at doing this. To illustrate this point, take a look at this search results page from Booking.com.
On first glance, it’s pretty overwhelming. The page is packed with various prices, deals, average guest ratings, and urgency-based messages. But of course, with thousands of hotels on the same platform, it’s not easy for an OTA to create a clean and simple interface.
In contrast, It’s far easier for an independent property to offer a clutter-free experience. By using simple navigation and clear call-to-action buttons, you can help guests find the most important information to inform their booking decision.
Take a look at the homepage of Belvedere Hotel in New York City. There’s very little clutter, and the call-to-action buttons are all prominently displayed.
Visitors to this website are instantly steered towards viewing rooms or making a booking. With minimal copy and a distraction-free experience, this kind of website is a great example of how to nudge potential guests along the path to purchase.
2. Frictionless rate comparison
When a guest wants to find the best deal on a hotel website, they shouldn’t have to leave the page they’re on to compare other options. Yet in many cases, they’re forced to navigate back and forth between the website and booking engine to update their stay dates and find the best deals.
This is a major friction point, and one that might easily convince a potential guest to book elsewhere out of pure frustration.
Conversion Plus provides a solution to this convoluted process. By using our Rate Match technology, it lets hotels automatically display the lowest direct rate throughout their website. These rates can be compared in real-time with OTA rates, then automatically adjusted to match or beat that price.
You can see how real-time rates are prominently displayed on the homepage of the Stewart Hotel in New York City.
When a user clicks “Book Now,” a side menu instantly lets them choose their stay dates, and then rates are dynamically updated and displayed for each room option.
This ensures visitors don’t have to navigate back-and-forward between the website and booking engine, which removes a major friction point between browsing and booking.
Find out how a New York hotel doubled their conversion rates using our industry-leading technology.
3. Inject some urgency
In the world of e-commerce, indecision leads to lost sales. Online shoppers know they can leave a site and easily come back later. But of course, they might forget or get distracted by a better offer. As a result, it’s crucial to motivate consumers to act now, or potentially lose them forever.
One way to reduce indecision is to add urgency into the buying decision. The OTAs do this all the time, using scarcity-based messaging to influence behavior. Booking.com uses this approach more than most.
Notice the use of scarcity-driven copy such as “Only 1 like this left on our site” and “Booked 2 times for your dates in the last 24 hours on our site.” By focusing on the fear of missing out, consumers are reminded about the cost of indecision — a great deal on your preferred stay dates could potentially be lost.
Again, Conversion Plus allows hotels to leverage powerful OTA-style messaging to bring urgency into the travel shopping process. For instance, it can let visitors know how many rooms have been booked in the past 48 hours. Highlighting popularity in this way lets people know rooms are being snapped up fast, increasing desirability and prompting action.
4. Make it personal
Tech giants such as Amazon and Netflix have taught consumers they can have a completely personalized experience. Instead of having to find the right products, the right products find them.
While the online travel space is yet to get near the same level of personalized experience, the OTAs are trying—Expedia has said it’s looking at creating more hyper-personalized content.
To keep pace, it’s essential for hotels to personalize their own marketing and website.
Powered by artificial intelligence, platforms such as LaaSie.ai enable a hotel to tailor its website based on the unique behavior and context of each user. By analyzing factors such as a user’s location and place in the booking journey, Laasie can serve specific rewards and offers that are most likely to drive the direct booking.
Here’s how it looks on the homepage of Washington Park Hotel in Miami Beach.
To personalize the guest stay, it’s important to learn more about their needs via pre-stay communication. Virgin Hotels does this brilliantly with its “The Know” loyalty program. Guests can complete an online form that lets them provide information, such as their favorite band, how they like to spend their leisure time, and a Fantasy Mini Fridge item.
Instead of relying on cookie-cutter emails and questionnaires, this is a great example of how to inject a unique and personal feel to collect guest data.
5. ADA compliance (a frictionless experience for all)
To create a frictionless user experience for ALL guests, a hotel must ensure its website is accessible to anyone with disabilities. This requires adhering to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Any hotel that doesn’t meet these standards risks a compliance lawsuit. But aside from the legal imperative, a website that isn’t accessible to those with disabilities risks losing customers and harming profitability. If a potential guest with disabilities can’t browse and book your website using assistive tools, they’ll likely be put off for good.
An industry first, our ADA Monitoring Platform actively audits hotel websites according to WCAG 2.1 AA-Level standards. Property teams are automatically alerted if a technical violation is found. The platform also provides data that legal teams can use to show due diligence regarding awareness, action, and resolution of compliance violations, which is a typical outcome of lawsuit mitigation.
Create a friction-free experience on your website
Expedia’s Explore ’19 conference highlighted how the OTAs continue to strive for excellence in their user experience. To entice travelers away from the OTAs and towards your hotel website, it’s vital to remove obstacles from your buyer’s journey.
Simple navigation, urgency-based messaging, effortless price comparison, and personalized content are just some of the ways you can remove friction and convince travelers to book direct.
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