Sites like Expedia and Priceline (which are typically members of the OpenTravel Appliance and sometimes referred to as OTAs) are popular with consumers seeking budget-friendly travel arrangements. However, if you’re a hospitality and travel company, you’re probably best off getting customers to make reservations using your own website as often as possible. This post will cover some tips on how you can provide a great website experience to your customers so they choose your site over OTAs or competitors.
Why It’s Important for Customers to Use Your Site Over an OTA’s
There are two main reasons why it’s important a customer uses your website over the OTA’s:
- Increased revenue per reservation: Whenever a customer books a hotel stay using an OTA, you share part of the revenue with the OTA. However, if the customer books a stay using your reservation system, you keep a greater share of the revenue, increasing your overall profit line.
- Increased insight into the customer’s preferences and interests prior to purchase: When a customer books a reservation using an OTA (or an aggregator like Trivago), you don’t get any information about the customer until he or she finalizes the reservation and pays the deposit. However, it’s too late at this point for you to cross-sell or upsell.
On the other hand, if the customer uses your website, you gain information about the person even before he or she finalizes the transaction. Based on the pages the customer views, the places he or she clicks, the page abandon rate, and so on, you’re gathering information that lets you cross-sell, upsell, or offer information you think the customer might find useful before the transaction finishes.
How to Ensure a Great Experience for Customers Using a Hospitality/Travel Company’s Site
One way to spur customers to use your own site is to ensure the customers’ experiences with it is the best possible. You can do this by observing the following best practices.
Track Page Load Times and Site Speeds
Consumers are impatient people, so you’ll want to ensure that your site loads as quickly as possible. If your site is too slow, there’s a good chance your customer will navigate elsewhere, either to use an OTA to reserve a room with you or to try booking with another hotel. Obviously, both actions eat into your bottom line.
However, before you can do anything about your site’s performance, you’ll need to track the load times of your pages and your site’s speeds. Doing so ensures that:
- You’ll have an idea of what needs you should be addressing
- You’ll know what your baseline performance is so that you can see if your changes are improving things or not
Use Real Browser Checks
Tools such as Rigor’s Real Browser Checks (which allows you to monitor the full user experience in terms of performance for a given user flow) are an easy way to ensure that everything on your site works the way it is supposed to. Nothing’s more frustrating for a user than a site that doesn’t work correctly, and a Real Browser Check will alert you if there are issues at any step of the process, from the initial page load to the final checkout.
By ensuring that your site works the way you intended it to, you avoid losing out on customers who have already indicated that they are interested in your business due to technical difficulties. In addition, you will minimize the possibility of losing out on future business as well. Not only do customers frown on businesses with a troublesome site, they are less likely to return and they are likely to share their negative experiences with others.
Monitor the Reservations and Credit Card Info Pages
These pages contain sensitive user information, so it’s important that you implement the necessary security features to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands. Your business’ reputation is hard-won and important, and a data breach is a quick way to lose a lot of customers. People are justifiably nervous when it comes to this type of issue, so it’s best to prevent it from happening in the first place.
This is another area where a Real Browser Check can be helpful. By alerting you of issues preemptively (such as invalid or expired TSL/SSL certificates), you’ll be able to address things as they pop up and before they cause issues for your customers.
Track Conversion and Bounce Rates
To pinpoint things on your site that could be improved, track conversion and bounce rates.
The conversion rate measures the percentage of your visitors who does something you’ve defined as valuable to your business (in this case, it’s booking a stay). If you discover that this number is high enough, great! However, if it’s lower than expected, you know that there are things you could do to improve your site to encourage your customers to book.
One of the first things to look into if your conversion rate is lower than expected is your bounce rate. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your site who navigate away after viewing only one page. If your homepage has a high bounce rate, that would be a good place to start your research into why visitors aren’t staying on your site and looking at other pages. If you have targeted advertisements that lead directly to a certain page, and that page has a high bounce rate, you should see why visitors, who have indicated interest (after all, they did click on your ad) aren’t staying on your site.
Use API Checks to Make Sure OTAs Access the Hotel’s Site Correctly
While this action isn’t a best practice per se, OTAs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so you’ll continue to receive traffic from these sites. As such, it’s important that you make sure the OTAs are displaying accurate, up-to-date information about your business–after all, people can’t book a stay if, due to a communication issue, the OTA indicates that you have no rooms available.
To make sure that OTAs are accessing your site correctly and pulling the correct information to display to users, as well as receiving prompt responses, you should regularly run API checks. Tools such as Rigor Monitoring’s API Check can help you identify any issues before they cost you bookings.
While partnerships with OTAs are certainly a good tool to have in your business arsenal, you’re probably interested in driving more of your sales from your own website. To encourage customers to choose your site over others, you’ll need to provide them with the best possible overall user experience, including lightning-fast page loads, accurate information, and assurances that their personal information is in safe hands.
For customized information on how Rigor can help you optimize and improve your site’s performance,