Enter your favourite shop and look around. Why do you think it has become your favourite? Very probably, because besides offering good stuff, it’s all set up for a great shopping experience. The signature products are presented in a way that grab your attention, the store surroundings let you feel comfortable and at ease, and making a purchase is a pleasant process.
Now, enter a hotel website to book a room. Most hotels treat their core product as a sideshow. A nice image of a room, a list of features next to it and that’s the end of that presentation. Not the optimal way to get business and successfully close a sale, is it?
Why don’t you tempt prospective guests with a shopping experience they’ll really enjoy and in the process, sell more rooms? Making your hotel store look appealing and inviting is relatively simple if you pay attention to three key points:
1. Reduce room categories to sell more rooms
Too much choice can lead to fewer sales. In his 2004 book, “The Paradox of choice”, American psychologist Barry Schwartz shows that offering limited choices helps reduce shoppers’ anxiety.
Imagine you need a new printer. You go online, google “inkjet printer” and up come 1,894 hits under Amazon.com. Perfect – lots of choices and all you have to do is make the decision. But exactly how many printers do you need to view to find the one that’s “right” and how do you know this one is really the optimal choice? Anxiety starts creeping in and you become indecisive.
It’s no different in, let’s say, a supermarket. Ever looked at 24 different brands of jam on display and tried to make a choice? That’s what Sheena Iyengar, author of “The Art of Choice,” and TED presenter asked her test group to do in an experiment. Turns out that of the people who were exposed to such a large selection of jams, only 3% made a purchase. When, for a different group, the selection was reduced to 6 jams, 30% (!) of the customers made a purchase.
2. Use Yield Management carefully
Once things get too complex, your guests won’t spend the time and energy to figure it out.
Revenue management enables hotels to predict demand, optimise inventory and maximise revenue. It’s a great tool that helps hotels sell smarter. That is, as long as it doesn’t get too confusing and complicated for potential guests…
Visit some hotel websites and you’ll find up to 15 different room categories, 4 different seasons, small print with taxes that are still to be added and special discounts that are applicable, if (…fill in the blank…) terms, conditions and further instructions are all over the place and after one long look, your potential guest just wants to leave.
A great hotel shopping experience looks different. It highlights your “best” room, provides choices below and above that category, and showcases rates and availability in a way that is simple and straightforward. Guests aren’t forced to think things through, rather, with two or three clicks, are presented with all the information they need.
Believe me, the more complex it gets, the quicker your prospective guest will abandon the booking process, and once they’re gone, this direct booking has very probably been lost forever.
3. Highlight the guest benefits
You’ve showcased your great looking hotel features, but how will your guests benefit from this?
Do you buy shoes because of their patented foot bed or great arch support? No, you purchase shoes that are comfortable, make you look nice and deliver a great walking experience.
The same goes for hotel rooms. Your guests are not looking for real estate or interior design, but for a great hotel experience. Don’t get me wrong. Your rooms have fabulous features and you should proudly show them off. But if you met a guest in your hotel lobby and he asked you about a recommendation, how would you respond?
You’d probably have a nice chat, ask him a few questions about his requirements and needs, and depending on the answers you’d be able to suggest the ideal room in your product line – the room that provides the best benefits to that guest.
If you did a good job, your guest would happily walk away to book the room.
Have a look at how innovative hotels gained an edge over their competitors by having framed their guests’ “shopping experience” differently.
They’ve created an emotional connection with their site visitors
“You will find so much space in your 35m² large room that you could comfortably do a little happy dance in there”. The Madison in Hamburg adds one single sentence that not only gets the message across, but also personalises the hotel and builds an immediate connection with the prospective guest.
Or look at The Dylan Amsterdam. It let’s one of their managers speak about the rooms which instantly helps build some trust.
They’ve made booking a room fun for their guests and let them have a say
Kimpton Chicago has created a booking experience that’s engaging, appealing and enjoyable. They’ve made it super easy and very gently lead you deeper and deeper into the sales funnel as more and more details enfold. The layout of the booking page is classy and simple and feels just perfect.
Even better, before you get to the actual “book your room”, a beautifully designed page offers you ad-ons of your choice. “A dozen chocolate-dipped strawberries anyone?” From wine to other goodies, it gives you a taste of the experience to come – VERY tempting indeed.
They’ve made it super easy for their guests and presented all information at a glance
Motel One, London Tower-Hill, very cleverly presents you with all the basics right there on their homepage. From price to guest feedback to check out time and contact info – it’s all there at one glance. No searching, no clicking through – handy information that helps you make a quick decision.
They’ve made signing up for a rewards club rewarding!
Check out Virgin Hotel Chicago that has turned hotel rewards into something truly special. “Get in the Know” is the name of the program and it let’s you know that YOU decide what’s a special treat in your books. You’re asked to complete a questionnaire full of witty questions and while you’re having fun completing it, Virgin Hotel Chicago collects valuable information about your preferences.
When they’re finished, they know all about your preferred mini bar treat to your favourite artist. Invaluable information that helps the hotel make you feel super special during your stay.
It doesn’t take much to make your online store more attractive, but if you miss out, you’ll lose the opportunity to close the sale!