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By Joanna DeChellis

Getting customers to your hotel’s website is one thing. Converting their clicks into bookings is quite another.

According to Sam Weston, marketing manager for 80 DAYS, conversion rates for hotel websites average between 1.7% and 2%. (If you’re looking at anything higher than that, you’re doing great.) But even in the best-case scenarios, where a hotel might be seeing a 5% conversion rate, 95% of visitors are still abandoning.

The good news is, the majority of visitors who abandon a booking are not lost for good. It’s more likely these visitors want to shop around. (According to a recent statistic by SaleCycle.com for the travel industry, the top three reasons for booking abandonment are around research, price comparison and checking with other travelers.)

Even so, hotels can do more to lower the rate of abandonment.

Duetto’s Gabriela Guevara, Regional Director of Customer Success & Strategic Consulting, attributes the industry’s low conversion rates to slow load times, designs that are not mobile first, poor site user experiences, insufficient content and confusing offers. Weston agrees, adding these additional reasons for why hotels might have low conversion rates.

  1. Risk/Investment. Booking a hotel stay, especially for a longer period of time, is not often a spur-of-the-moment type of decision. Many guests shop extensively before booking. “If you purchase a t-shirt for $40 and it turns out to be of poor quality, that’s not the end of the world,” says Weston. “But if you book a hotel stay for $400 and it’s a poor experience, you are far unhappier about that investment. Guests tend to spend a lot of time researching and shopping.”
     
  2. Choice and Information Overload. If hotels want to win the booking war, it’s critical to know how to differentiate from the competition. “There are 1,081 hotels in London, for example,” says Weston. “For you to sell a room at your hotel you need to have a better overall proposition than a thousand other hotels. And you need to make that very clear on your website.”
     
  3. Confusing Offers. How you position your offers can have a big impact on conversion rates. “Hotel guests looking to book a stay on February 14th are more likely to want a romance-themed package,” says Weston. “Hoteliers that present standard offers on their website at times when guests are looking for special packages are going to see low conversions.”
     
  4. Poor Platforms. A lot of work goes into building a hotel’s website. But once it’s live, it must evolve in order for conversions to go up. “Often, hotel websites are built, go live and sit stagnate,” continues Weston. “Sites should evolve as guest behaviors evolve. You must constantly improve usability and continue tweaking. This is a job that is never finished.”
     
  5. Ancillary Services. Spas, golf courses and restaurants can have a massive impact on conversions. Visitor may be visiting a site to learn more about a hotel’s highly rated restaurant and thus lowering conversions.
     

Both Weston and Guevara see room for growth with conversion rates. After all, it’s easier (and more cost effective) to generate more revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Plus, achieving even a slight conversion rate increase can have a huge impact on a hotel’s bottom-line.

“Hotels shouldn’t be aiming for a 2% conversion rate,” says Weston. “They should be aiming much higher—well above industry average.”

One example of a strong site with higher-than-average conversions is The Doyle Collection. Another is citizen M.

While improving conversions isn’t a perfect science, there are a few things hotels can do right away to improve their rate.

Here are Weston’s top six tips:

  1. Have a clear and obvious call to action.
     
  2. Delve into your data by evaluating the booking funnel. Determine when and where guests are dropping off and experiment with improvements.
     
  3. Make your offers clear and simple. Avoid complicated term and conditions.
     
  4. Offer relevant content. This means good imagery and good copy. Your site should accurately reflect your property.
     
  5. Avoid industry jargon. Consumers don’t always understand acronyms, especially international guests.
     
  6. Make sure your rates are the same across all your distribution channels (or, ideally, cheaper on your own website).
     

“Number six is especially important if you’re paying for advertising or have metasearch representation,” says Weston. “It’s essential to have strong revenue management processes and tools in place to avoid losing conversion to competitors and OTAs.”

Max Starkov, president and CEO of HeBS Digital, says hotels should focus on developing a website conversion strategy to improve direct bookings and lower distribution costs.

“Any investment in website conversions will not only pay for itself, but will reward the hotel generously by improving the bottom line,” he says in a piece he penned for Hotel Online. “Start by evaluating your current website conversion rates, the quality of your website technology and the overall design.”

Guevara concurs, saying hotels should focus on a mobile-first build with concise content and availability to best offers.

About Joanna DeChellis

Joanna joined Duetto in May 2015 as a Contributing Editor with more than a decade of writing, editing and graphic design experience for both print and online trade publications. She is passionate about driving content innovation through blogs, e-newsletter and social channels.

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