Imagine if every time you answered the phone to a booking enquiry, you gave them 300 words of blurb, described eight of your best photos, and recited three of your latest tweets. And then diverted their call to the local travel agent.
“Shut up and let me book!”
Quite. But time and again, accommodation websites are almost apologetic about taking direct bookings. Why are we so scared about asking for the sale?
Everyone (hopefully) knows that leveraging direct bookings from visitors to your website can be the most effective way to increase revenue, wean yourself off the OTAs and reduce the administrative burden of having to be chained to the telephone and inbox at all hours.
So here’s a few common sins to avoid, and some steps to take to make your website work harder at driving bookings.
Four Common Sins
The apologetic call to action
If you want people to book now, tell them to BOOK NOW! Securing the sale is not the time to be all British about it and use obscure phrases such as ‘Peruse Our Tariff’ – your booking system will tell them the price anyway.
The hide-and-seek link
Please don’t bury your booking link deep in a page where it looks the same as a link to your local theatre. I know you don’t want to make your website look gaudy – but I’m not asking for an oversized, flashing booking button with animated rainbows (although if you haven’t tested such a button, how do you know it wouldn’t work?!).
The last-hurdle tumble
For the same reason your local butcher doesn’t have signs that read “Also Available at Tesco”, you shouldn’t be using OTA-powered booking links. There are plenty of booking systems out there that can earn you direct, commission-free bookings without breaking the piggy bank.
The pinch-and-zoom purgatory
Your last-minute booker is keen to support the independent B&B owner, but she’s on the train home and trying to book on her phone. She hits the ‘Book Now’ button and persists with five minutes of pinching, zooming, rotating and squinting, but to no avail. With a grump and a sigh, she opens her Booking.com app…
Five Simple Solutions
Put a ‘Book Now’ button in your main menu
Make sure your booking link is in a prominent position in your main menu, because potential guests won’t always start their visit to your website on the homepage. Keeping the button nice and clear in the main menu will keep reinforcing to them that booking satisfaction is just a click away.
Add a ‘Book Now’ button to the bottom of pages
You’ve written something akin to War and Peace on your bathroom decor, eco-credentials, and the history of the local area. Which is great, except that at the very point your potential guest is convinced that you’re the accommodation for them, they can’t find your booking link. Include additional calls to action to book (and any benefits of booking direct) on these pages.
Reduce visibility of your OTA presence on your own site
This happens all-too-often. It’s nice if you’re accredited with the booking behemoths, but don’t waste all your effort in driving potential guests to your website only to then give the visitor the opportunity to take a sharp right turn to book with an OTA. Not only do you obliterate your revenue by 15%-20%, but also surrender your ongoing relationship with the guest to the OTA.
A mobile-friendly website and booking system
Inn Style is seeing on average 40% of bookings made online are made on smartphones or tablets (Jan-Dec 2015). It’s becoming increasingly easy with the likes of SquareSpace to have an easy to use (and easy to manage!), mobile-friendly website, but make sure you complete the guest booking experience with a responsive, easy to use booking system.
But remember – Don’t hide it in the hamburger!
The ‘hamburger’ is the name given to that little set of lines you see on mobile friendly sites than hide the menu. Make sure your ’Book Now’ button isn’t tucked away for those all-important mobile users.