It can be daunting and complex to manage dynamics such as staffing in the face of labor shortages, activating digital transformation, or attracting pre-pandemic levels of group activity. Often, however, small incremental improvements in specific areas can have a big impact without too much time and effort. Optimizing the performance of your direct channel by addressing the fundamentals of e-commerce, for example, can provide significant returns for a relatively low level of effort.
Evolution of the industry and customers
Before looking at the “what” and “how” of an effective e-commerce strategy, it’s important to understand the “why.” First, let’s recognize that our industry has changed. Increased competition, compressed booking windows and a new awareness of how quickly unforeseen circumstances can impact demand are forcing hoteliers to maximize the value of every potential booking. Second, the guest has changed. They have high shopping expectations because of the experiences they receive when shopping on e-commerce giants – fast, intuitive, simple. They also have a greater desire than ever for more personalized experiences that meet their unique needs and preferences.
These influences mean that yesterday’s e-commerce practices may no longer be sufficient to drive direct bookings and ancillary revenue from a hotel’s e-commerce website while delivering the highest potential value to guests. It’s important to regularly evaluate your direct booking processes, strategies, and tactics to ensure you’re doing everything right to attract, engage, and convert website shoppers into loyal fans.
While e-commerce tactics can be as simple or complex as needed to fit your unique offerings and strategies, a solid foundation needs to cover fundamental strategies. Here are 3 areas of focus to review and refine.
1. Search Engine Optimization
Make sure travelers can find your property
If your direct channel is not present in the search, it is not part of the channel mix. Search “hotels in city X” to see if you appear in the results for your location. If you are in a large urban market, be more specific with your search query “4 star waterfront hotels in city X”. Are you present? Are you listed on the first page of results? Do you have your ad at the bottom of the page?
search engine optimization (SEO) is now a staple of any digital marketing and sales strategy. Almost all hoteliers will use some form of SEO in their e-commerce practices, but this is often limited to competitive keyword strategies, title tags, and meta descriptions.
To take your SEO strategy to the next level, there are a number of additional elements you can use on your website to increase search engine rankings to increase site traffic, including:
- Link building: Search engines consider the reach and reach of your site when providing results. Build links between internal pages and with reputable external sites to increase your rankings.
- Schema markup: This is a more technical and advanced strategy, which will probably require the help of your webmaster. Schema markup (also known as “structured data”) is additional information in your website’s HTML code that tells search engines more about your property.
- Advertising campaigns: Targeting high-potential guest audiences through paid search advertising campaigns (e.g., Pay Per Click or PPC) can attract high-converting groups to your direct channel and is an important addition to your overall SEO strategy, because it allows you to test different messages and offers with specific customer segments.
2. Website navigation
Put customers at ease and reduce drop-outs
E-commerce giants are investing heavily in manufacturing site navigation simple and intuitive – and you too. Unfortunately, this is not often the case on hotel e-commerce sites. You may have encountered navigation issues yourself when booking a stay on a Brand.com website. For example, was it clear and simple to start the booking process at every step and on every page? Once you clicked the “Book Now” button, were you redirected to a new URL, with a different look and feel that made you wonder if you were in the right place? If you clicked on a Brand.com website from a metasearch site, did your stay data arrive intact and pre-populated in the booking engine?
Focusing on key areas of navigational improvement can deliver a better shopping experience for customers, higher conversion rates, and increased ancillary revenue. Here are some things to consider when evaluating your website browsing experience.
- Mobile-First, Responsive Design: Recent studies show that more than 40% of hotel reservations come via mobile devices, while more than 60% of site visitors are on mobile devices. Ensuring mobile-friendly navigation is no longer an option.
- Integrated web-to-booking engine experiences: Solving the fragmented website to booking engine experience with a single URL and matching appearance puts customers at ease and encourages higher conversion rates.
- Meta to booking engine deep links: Allowing customers to quickly and easily click through from meta sites into your booking engine with all dates, rooms/packages and customer numbers pre-populated can help support a healthy channel mix between OTAs and bookings direct. It can also drive higher direct conversions due to the ease of booking and time savings involved.
3. Conversion Optimization
Incentivize guests to book profitable stays
Attracting potential customers to your website and providing a great browsing experience is only part of the e-commerce equation. Now that they’re in your direct channel, you need to close the deal. Conversion Optimization can cover a wide range of strategies and tactics, but addressing the fundamentals is crucial and there are many different ways to turn a website visitor into a loyal fan.
- Efficient use of white space: Clean, uncluttered layouts can help focus the customer’s attention on the actions and next steps you want them to take.
- Social tags/emergency messages: Create urgency and capitalize on human nature and the “fear of losing” by highlighting booking options and packages with additional social context such as a “Best Seller”, “Hot Deal”, or ” Only 2 left!”.
- Discounted service promotions: Consider reducing and promoting services (parking, breakfast, late check-out) in the booking flow, which can not only encourage more customers to book, but also help protect the average daily rate (ADR) by keeping the rates constant.
An effective e-commerce strategy that increases direct bookings, generates ancillary revenue, and personalizes the customer experience begins with a solid application of fundamental strategies and tactics. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to optimizing your direct channel performance, a willingness to experiment can help build the right set of tools to meet your customer’s expectations and your company’s business goals. your mark.
For more information on fundamental e-commerce strategies in hospitality, be sure to download the “Ultimate Guide to Hotel Ecommerce” to understand all the different elements you can apply to create your winning formula.
Amadeus delivers more personalized and authentic travel experiences. Our solutions are designed to enrich every step of the traveler journey and help hotel providers acquire, serve and retain customers by cost-effectively driving demand and converting them into loyal fans.
With over 30 years of experience, we design open, industry-leading software to deliver the most efficient, reliable, and dependable systems to our customers. With experts in over 175 countries, we have deep knowledge of the hospitality industry and want to enable our hotel partners to create memorable experiences for our guests.
To learn more about Amadeus, visit www.amadeus-hospitality.com.