by Deepak Chauhan
It is no secret that the key players and successful marketing strategies change dramatically over short periods of time. Hoteliers who fail to keep up with the ever-changing pace fall behind. Since the hospitality business is highly competitive, it is crucial to explore and invest in the latest and most effective tools that will likely increase the booking of your hotel, and hence the revenue.
OTAs and Changing the Game:
With the launch of the World Wide Web, hoteliers knew that this was the route to go. Marketers started to work on SEO in order to grant their hotels more visibility. It was true then as it is true now, that people would most likely consider a business or a service provider that appeared high on Google search pages.
But when OTAs entered the business, the rules started to change. Sites like Booking.com and Expedia were competing for SEO as well. However, it is safe to say that OTAs were not the reason behind the fall in booking numbers. As a matter of fact, to some hotels, they actually helped to increase the revenue by granting them more exposure and visibility with a competitive advantage over businesses that didn’t cooperate with OTAs. This was true because they had the right content and funding that allowed them to compete effectively. They were basically changing the game; as instead of hotels trying to improve their ranks in Google search results, they aimed to improve their ratings on different OTAs and review sites.
OTAs didn’t affect the amount of direct booking either. As a matter of fact, clients would still be able to go straight to the hotel’s page and make a direct booking, allowing hotels to make it without paying a high commission.
By that time, hotel managers and marketers started to shift their focus to something else; how to appear higher on OTAs and review sites. This would also include how to make sure that a significant amount of guests would choose to go to the hotel’s website in order to increase the rate of direct bookings.
OTAs and Metasearch Engines:
There is a common misconception that Metasearch engines and OTAs are the same things. As a matter of fact, these are two different platforms that can help you increase the success of your business by increasing the number of direct bookings.
Metasearch engines allow customers to compare various hotels in the target area. Then they direct potential guests to the direct website of the hotel. This means that they don’t charge the same commissions that OTAs charge, which is great news for small businesses. However, they charge based on a pay-per-click model. Metasearches compare and use data from various websites and platforms to offer relevant information that consumers will most likely look for.
One of the most important factors that guests would consider would be previous client’s ratings. Guests would be more than happy to share a good experience on such websites. At the same time, bad experiences will ultimately affect how your hotel’s name will appear in the platform’s search. When you have a good rating on such sites like Trivago or Hotels Combined, chances are that more clients will automatically head to your hotel’s website.
What are the Main Factors to Consider?
Looking at Booking.com for example, there are a few factors that would help a hotel appear higher in search results. These will include the quality of photos, the prices, and cancellation policy, but most importantly; customers’ ratings.
We live in an era where the customer is king. Every aspect of the marketing business is shifting to be more customers oriented. Today customers are more concerned with what they will get for the money they spend rather than what brands promise them. This is why increasing your hotel rating from 7.9 to 8 for example, can actually double the number of clicks and hence booking rating. This is true since there is a filter that will allow customers to choose hotels that have a rating above 8. This means that regardless of the brand name, your hotel will have a fair opportunity to compete.
Why is Customer Experience the Main Key to Success?
Customers would most probably click your hotel page based on previous ratings and not just what you promise to offer them. However, the work doesn’t stop here. Marketers are required to use all their tools in order to make sure that the whole customer cycle is improved. Customer satisfaction pre, during and post the visit is crucial to increase your direct bookings in the future. More than 30% of regular travelers will visit the same hotel again, provided that they have had a great experience. This means that hoteliers need to do whatever it takes in order to build loyalty with previous customers who will not only come back for more but will also recommend your facility to friends and family.
Marketers should beware of the failure in meeting their client’s expectations. Research has shown that it takes 12 positive experiences to neutralize the effect of a single negative one. One bad customer experience might cost you a previous customer forever. People are becoming less tolerant. A bad customer experience will also decrease the number of potential customers who will get affected by your previous customer’s review or opinion.
As a matter of fact, people are more likely going to mention a bad experience more than a good one. Surveys have shown that people who have had a good customer experience will most probably talk about it to 9 people. But they would talk about their negative experience to about 16 people.
The worst part is that this is only true in the physical world. As a matter of fact, it gets uglier on the internet, where the negative comment would probably reach thousands of people. Think of it, most customers will not run to the review section after they have left your hotel to leave a positive comment unless they have experienced something extraordinary. However, they would do so to post a complaint or warn other potential customers of the shortcomings of your facility.
It is absolutely crucial to understand and never to underestimate the importance of customer experience in today’s and tomorrow’s hospitality business. This doesn’t mean, however, that marketers should neglect all other factors that will also play an important role in increasing the rates of direct bookings and income. As a matter of fact, the potential of success lies in the hands of those who will efficiently manage their resources in order to make the proper investment in tools of direct marketing as well as increasing their customers’ satisfaction levels.