Help Centre

Book Direct Strategy

15 steps to a book direct strategy

Objective: Let’s get straight to business. Direct bookings are every hotelier’s goal in terms of reservations and revenue. While distributing your hotel listing on third parties (OTAs) is unavoidable these days, the best-case scenario is still the one in which travellers book direct and save you the commission.

“The Mardi Gras Hotel has performed exceptionally well since adopting Allora, our booking engine. Revenue for the last 3 months, year-on-year has increased by 129% and their direct bookings are up by 110% over the same period. In addition, their average booking value and length of stay is up, so we’re all delighted with this performance!”

Still, many hoteliers struggle to increase their number of direct bookings. This can be caused by a lack of visibility of the topic, a faulty direct booking program or the improper optimization of certain features and listings. Small details that are easily overlooked can be turned into solid strategies of encouraging direct bookings.

1. Understand guest intent

Customer intent has always been an important aspect of marketing. Understanding what different users want & need from your site and where they are positioned in the purchasing funnel can be the difference between keeping your audience engaged on the direct site or potentially losing them to a competitor or OTA site.


Types of user intent can vary from informational based (top of the funnel) to the more conversion based intent. (bottom of the funnel.) For example, if we look at new visitors vs returning visitors, we know that returning visitors have typically completed their research and are ready to move towards the booking engine. At this stage, it is important to show the user relevant rates and more sales based content or sales messaging. Compare this to new visitors - New visitors are at the informational stage where they are typically moving around the website looking for information about the property. Providing informational content in this instance is key. (About page, FAQ page or the Gallery.)

Source: Avvio data, 2019



2. Create targeted content 

In order to keep shoppers on your website ensure that your content matches the types of queries people are searching for. Each page has a different purpose & it is important that you ensure you are providing the right content at the right time. Content should be user-centric. A great tool we frequently recommend is Answer the Public which can help you understand what users are asking about your brand. Integrate key questions into both your video and written content to ensure you are providing the user with relevant answers to their questions. Keeping your landing pages, FAQ & informational pages up to date is essential to ensure you are not driving visitors to third party sites to find this information.



Example of Answer the Public



3. Clear pricing strategy

Hotels need to identify their target markets and have a very clear rate strategy - who gets what rate and identify any blockers e.g. FIT Rates (you need to ensure they don’t sell onto an OTA who in turn could sell cheaper than brand.com (this is the term used to reference a hotels own website) OTA rates - you need to create a price differential either on same room types or only allowing them to sell a particular room type/ rate and holding the lowest prices room type/ rate on brand e.g. Advance Purchase. There is no point in having a Best Rate Guarantee statement on the website or in your ads if a consumer can purchase a better rate in the market.
  • Review your Rate Distribution and ensure the hotel is always selling the best rate
  • Update your Best Rate Statement and be able to stand over it
  • Update your digital ads and messaging on your website to advise BOOK DIRECT/ BEST RATE


4. Mobile First

Global usage of mobile continues to grow, they’re no longer a trend but a reality. Yet OTAs are still getting a far bigger slice of the mobile booking pie than hotels. Hotels need to offer enhanced usability on mobile:

  • Providing relevant information to incentivise bookings 
  • A fast and frictionless experience, and fast site loading times. Hotel guests need to feel happy and confident to book on mobile, rather than compelled to book via a hotel’s desktop site. Consider the number of steps to make a booking - the least amount possible. 

With the right ingredients in place, hotels can begin to close the gap and drive more BOOKINGS DIRECT. 

  • Create your rate
  • Update your mobile offering on the home page
  • Update your Digital Advertising to promote the rate

5. How many steps to make a booking?

The consumer lands on your website. What next? Lead them into your booking engine to BOOK DIRECT. Ensure the Call To Actions (CTAs) on your website lead the consumer to the booking engine and (if promoting an offer) deep link into that specific offer. The whole point of it is to encourage travellers to make the booking on-the-spot while visiting your website, which can only be achieved by making the booking process at least as easy as on a third-party platform.


Keep in mind that modern travellers focus on immediacy. The booking experience should be seamless and quick - no one wants to spend more than a few minutes on this matter. Also, make sure that you provide different payment methods to ensure that users have options to choose from. See here the Payment Gateways supported by Avvio.

6. Messaging

It's really important that we use the right language to guests so make sure you have the right messaging set up within the booking engine.

  1. What is the message to the consumer on the Booking Engine? 
  2. Is there a Best Rate Guarantee Statement?
  3. Is there sales messaging in place across all touchpoints to support the BOOK DIRECT strategy i.e. Sales Messaging/ Reinforcement Messaging/ Rate Incentives/ Room Incentives. 
Example of Best Rate Guarantee content:



7. Metasearch

Is the hotel signed up for Metasearch? Metasearch lets consumers compare room rates from various online travel agencies (OTAs) and brand web. Metasearch is seen as a valuable space for hotels because it allows them greater opportunity to compete with bigger travel companies and secure more DIRECT bookings. The bidding system gives hotels some control over where and when they show up on lists of hotel prices, making it a more efficient way to spend marketing budget. There’s a lot of freedom to adjust strategy and increase DIRECT BOOKINGS over time. The OTAs are there, hotels should be there too.


  • Dingle Skellig not on META, space dominated by OTAs.
  • Sandymount Hotel on META, Official Website Displayed and Best Rate Available (€10 Cheaper than other rates showing on OTAs)


There is a once off set-up fee, a monthly fee and a minimum budget required to display on META. If you want to start on META, contact your Avvio Account Manager who will take action. 



8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) 

SEO is the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as "organic") search engine results.  It’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer.


In short, SEO is significant because it makes your website more visible, and that means more traffic and more opportunities to convert prospects into customers and gain more direct bookings.



9. Load Time

Ensuring that your website loads quickly is essential for engaging potential customers and prompting interaction. 

Can the speed of your website really have that much of an effect on your sales? The answer is yes, it does. Google and other search engines penalise sites that load slowly - but more importantly, so do users. They stop visiting, bounce, and don’t convert. You’ll lose out on sales and traffic if your site loads slowly.


53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load (Source: Google)
AND


As page load goes up to 5 seconds the possibility of bounce increases by 90! (Source: Google

Example of bounce rate data:


At Avvio, we’ve known about the importance of page speed for a long time. And we are constantly optimising our platform to ensure that your visitors are engaging with a highly adaptive and reliable booking engine. With customers more mobile than ever before, it is important to cater for them by optimising for all device types. Avvio’s responsive booking engine specifically caters to the mobile customer.

Avvio’s average booking engine page takes just 0.1 seconds to load. That’s fast!


10. Price Comparison Tool

There are a variety of price comparison tools in the Hotel Industry. They tend to attract and convert high-value guests on a hotel website by connecting to a hotel's data and providing a price-led experience. By enabling this tool on a hotel site, it fixes parity problems and shows guests the best price. Hotels can see in real time where they're being undercut and fix disparities as they occur. It ensures that the consumer knows they always have the best rate and therefore BOOK DIRECT.


Example of a price comparison widget (TripTease)




11. Guest reviews

The vast majority of consumers begin any purchase journey on Google. It’s no surprise that businesses lacking information on their Google listing or just don’t pay proper attention to it can miss out on bookings. A hotel’s presence on Google is crucial and can easily redirect travellers to the hotel website in order to facilitate a direct booking. Don’t overlook the weight of Google reviews which have been unveiled to be the second most important review source. Google reports that responding to reviews is good for your SEO. Present travellers with reviews on your site, along with a sign of involvement and care from the management (signalled by the replies to the Google/ Tripadvisor reviews). In this way, they will be more likely to BOOK DIRECT. 
  1. How to respond to reviews on TripAdvisor
  2. Responding to reviews on Google 

12. Incentives

Once visitors are on your website, you can give them compelling reasons to BOOK DIRECT with you. Clearly mention the kind of perks they are entitled to if they make direct bookings. Here are some of the examples:

  • BOOK DIRECT - Save an additional 10% off our Best Available Rate (this can be done by enabling the Closed User Group). The hotel’s getting their email, the customer's getting 10% off

  • BOOK DIRECT and receive complimentary breakfast.

  • BOOK DIRECT and avail of a complimentary upgrade


These can be added in as rate incentives t
o reinforce your message. 


13. Digital Marketing:

Once a hotel decides on their BOOK DIRECT Strategy and incorporates some or all of the above features, they should clearly identify their BOOK DIRECT Message in their digital marketing, now knowing that everything has been optimised and they can be 100% sure that they are offering Best Rate DIRECT.  




  • Identify your message
  • Advise your Digital Marketer and update your Adverts


14. Personalization

When it comes to customer experience – few things are as powerful as the right content at the right time. Allora leverages Artificial Intelligence to deliver contextually relevant messaging in real time - improving the experience and outcome for every critical customer interaction.


Utilise Allora’s latest features which seeks to improve the user journey by learning and understanding customer/purchase behaviour tying in with our earlier focus around Understanding intent. The Recommender Engine cards allow Country and Date specific targeting of custom messages and rates. This in line with our Country Specific landing pages and ad copy make for a seamless intent driven journey both on and off the website.


Recommender Engine Cards – The recommender engine cards work by showing the right cards to the right users at the right time based on learnt user behaviour. Additionally, we can configure cards to show different offerings based on a visitors stage within the journey. By adding in rules, we can ensure that the right message is displayed in predetermined instances such as new vs returning users.



15. Photography and Video

Think about the last time you visited a website online. Do you remember what about the website really caught your eye and left an impression? It was most likely a captivating video or engaging photos that intrigued you to stay on the website and click around to discover more pages.


It is a well-known fact that one of the most important things in the hotel business is the first impression and that impression will be the deciding factor on whether you win or lose a valuable customer. With the digital world reaching an all-new high, it is not uncommon for the first impression to be one of your visual pieces of content found online and it can be quite an alarming thought that your potential client could gain the first impression of your Hotel from visual content accessible at their fingertips on their smartphones before even making an initial contact or seeing your pristine facilities in reality. In fact, this could be the factor why they have or haven’t booked their stay with you in the first place. Therefore, photography in the hotel industry is becoming more crucial than ever before. It can be confusing in the world of digital marketing when you must create engaging written content, manage your AdWords account, master your SEO and still lose a booking courtesy to a poor imagery.


Since the first impression is a seven-second window and there is a huge amount of hotels flooding the online world with images, you must put your best foot forward and show the best sides of your facilities. Choose photographers with a style of photography that supports your brand and be consistent with it. Consider your brand guidelines and make sure that photographs are reflecting these ideas.


It is not a coincidence that the famous saying “One image can say a thousand words” exists, you could have the best SEO strategy in place, combined with well-written content, and it all will be worth very little if this will not be joined with appealing photographs that tell your story.



Summary

Educate the visitor to your website that 'direct is best' and reinforce this message at every touch point on their journey. The message should be consistent throughout the journey of the visitor, from the first touch-point on the website right through to the confirmation page, and be supported by the hotel when the guest arrives. 

Key takeaways

  • There are many reasons to fight for direct bookings – less commission fees is just one of them.
  • Understand your customer and ensure content is targeted.
  • Extras can prove a nice incentive for guests to book directly at your hotel.
  • Good imagery can improve your direct booking conversion.
  • Embrace technology - think Mobile.
  • Communicate the right message with the best rate to the right customer on the right channel and you should see an increase in direct bookings.
  • Keeping travellers on your site for as long as possible increases the chance of a direct booking. 

Georgian House in London has seen 70%  uplift in Direct Bookings in 2019: Read More.


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