It can be extremely frustrating if you’ve put time and effort into your digital marketing and website, only to send potential customers to a booking engine that doesn’t provide a similarly on-brand and personalized experience.
If you don’t have a booking engine that allows you to create tailored experiences for your guests in a consistent and branded way, Triptease tools can help provide that service.
In this guide we’ll cover:
- Understanding your customers and why you should personalize their experience
- Reviewing your existing booking engine to identify issues
- How to use Triptease products to improve the booking experience
Understanding your customers and why you should personalize their experience
If you’ve already read our guide to targeting the right customers with the right content on your website, you should now have a clear idea of who is coming to your website and what kind of messaging you need to show them to help them convert.
On your booking engine specifically you’re likely to have a mix of customers who have come via other pages on your website, and customers who have come straight to the booking engine from metasearch or a retargeting advert.
As we outline in our guide to improving a low converting website, keeping the user journey for these customers as clear and easy to navigate as possible is really important. Once you’ve ensured that the key user journeys on your website are as easy to navigate as possible, you can begin to add personalized content to help specific audience segments convert.
Customers coming from elsewhere on your website may have already seen personalized content on other pages. Whatever offers or content they’ve seen previously should be reinforced here, rather than contradicted with something different or entirely new.
Customers who are landing straight onto your booking engine from meta or retargeting also need simplicity and consistency - the price they’ve seen off your website must match the price they see on your booking engine. Additionally - while these customers may be further down the booking funnel - you should still be thinking about what exactly you need to show them to make sure they book on your direct channel rather than bouncing back to their search results to book your room somewhere else.
Reviewing your existing booking engine to identify issues
What happens on a booking engine is somewhat beyond a hotelier’s control - but that doesn’t mean you can’t still review it’s performance and take any steps you realistically can to improve its conversion rate.
Reviewing you Google Analytics tracking and setting it up correctly for your hotel
Use Google Analytics to track the performance of your booking engine - but make sure it’s set up correctly for a hotel. From previous analysis of customer activity on hotel booking engines, we’ve noticed that one typical customer’s booking journey occurred over the course of three different sessions, in the space of six hours. Between each session there was an inactive time of anywhere from three hours to thirty minutes.
That’s an important point to note - the Google Analytics default setting of what constitutes ‘inactivity’ is 30 minutes. So, if your analytics still has the default settings you’ll be tracking that one full guest journey towards booking as three separate sessions with only one session resulting in a booking.
We sometimes hear feedback from our clients that their Google Analytics performance data doesn’t quite match up with what they’re seeing in the Triptease platform. That’s because, while Google Analytics is obviously a great way of tracking performance, it was built for ecommerce in general. Triptease was built specifically for hotels so our measurement of what is considered session inactivity is eight hours, to properly reflect how long a booking journey can take to complete.
So - the first action you can take is to double check the setup of Google Analytics on your booking engine to make sure it reflects the reality of what a hotel booking session really is.
Reviewing and simplifying room and rate types
Once you’re tracking booking engine sessions correctly, it’s time to review the content on your booking engine. While you may not have the same control here as you do on other parts of your website, one thing you do have ownership of is how many - and what type - of room and rate packages you offer.
As with all other parts of your website, you have the potential to significantly improve conversion rates here by simplifying what you choose to include.
One example that is helpful to share here is from a hotelier who reviewed their room types and cut them right down from eleven to just four. Previously they’d included a range of rooms so specific and detailed (‘Ocean view, left hand side’ and ‘Ocean view, right hand side’ for example) that was overwhelming their customers and preventing them from making a decision. After cutting their room types down to just four, simply named options they saw much better conversion rates.
The same thing happened with rate plans. They started with around eight or nine rates per room - from family and corporate, to rates plus added perks, etc - and cut their options right down to three choices: pre-paid, B&B and half board.
This is something that all hoteliers should be regularly reviewing. Take a step back and ask yourself what the goal is for each of your rate types. If, for example, you want to drive customers to book a longer length of stay then that should be the cheapest rate type. And if that’s not the case then why have that rate available? Again, simplicity will help to increase conversions.
How to use Triptease products to improve the booking experience
So, you’ve reviewed your booking engine and simplified what you can, but you still want to give guests a personalized incentive to book when they arrive on this page. Here are three ideas you can try:
Consistent promotional signposting towards - and on - your booking engine
If you’re running a promotional advert, reflect the key message and imagery all the way through the journey. Update your metasearch call out text, highlight the promotion on your homepage, update any retargeting ads and include the promotional details on your booking engine. If you don’t have the flexibility within your booking engine to regularly update room and rate deals and promotional activities you can always use messaging to do this. Here’s how:
- Create a Nudge Message in the Triptease Message Manager.
- In the Behaviour tab select Specific pages in the Which pages should it display on section and add the URL of your booking engine.
- Add any audience targeting required for your message in the Audience tab. For example if you’re running a promotional campaign to target customers in a particular part of the world (which is key as different regions begin to reopen for travel post-Covid) use location targeting to ensure that people in the right country, state, region or city see the right promotion on your booking engine.
- If someone is already on your booking engine, you don’t want them clicking away. In the Design tab you can set your Button action to Remain on the same page. Make sure you’ve selected this option so that someone who has made it all the way to your booking engine doesn’t click away!
Use Price Check to reinforce your direct price and highlight direct booking benefits
Customers arriving from metasearch will already have seen your price alongside various OTAs in their search results. If they’ve chosen to come to your website they will need to see consistent pricing or they’ll lose trust in your brand.
A Price Check Message reinforces that your rate is best for the dates they’re looking to book, but you can also personalize the message to display unique direct booking benefits and offers to specific types of guests. Price Check has all the same audience targeting and customization options as any other Targeted Message, so you can display different versions of Price Check to different types of customer.
Highlight the right packages and upsells to the right customers
Get the right package or upsell experience in front of the right customer, and your chances of securing that booking are very likely to increase. But not all customers will be looking for the same package or upgrade, and you may want to reserve your very best offers for customers with the highest value to your business. This is where audience targeting comes in.
In the Audience tab of the Triptease Message Builder, you’ll find both Booking engine search targeting criteria as well as Visitor profile targeting criteria. Using the booking engine search criteria first, there are three ways to ensure that your high value packages are being displayed only to high value guests:
- Choose Length of stay targeting and set up a message to target guest searching for more than a certain number of nights. This ensures that only guests booking longer stays will see this message.
- Select Check-in date to target customers running searches for key calendar dates - such as New Year’s Eve, Carnival or Valentine’s Day - when you know your rooms sell for a higher price. These are great opportunities to provide added extras rather than discounts to secure that booking engine conversion.
- Use Party size to target visitors based on the number of guests in a reservation. Again, this is a quick way to ensure that customers who are looking to spend more on their room booking see your very best packages and ancillary services. What’s particularly helpful is that you can tailor these based on the type of group that is booking: Select Family and you could surface free childcare services, or choose Group and offer a local wine tasting tour or suite upgrade.
If you’re more interested in targeted potential guests based on their visitor profile, you can do that too. Location targeting is a great place to start, because you can use data from the Insights Dashboard to work out where your high value customers are coming from.
In the data below, for example, we can see that visitors from Spain have by far the highest average booking value for this hotel. The team at that hotel could create a message that highlights a specific upsell or package for Spanish customers, to display on the booking engine and help them convert. (Top tip: You can create a message with that targeting set up automatically by clicking the purple target icon next to the country name).
Finally, Likelihood to book targeting can be used to personalize and increase booking engine conversions from all kinds of customers. When you select this targeting specification, Triptease will automatically determine how likely a visitor is to book. All you need to think about is what message you'd like them to see.
If a visitor already looks likely to book it's probably more profitable to entice them with a low cost direct booking benefit rather than a price discount on what they would have purchased anyway. Whereas for visitors with a low likelihood to book, a discount message might be exactly what it takes to persuade them.
Use Exit Messages to keep customers on your booking engine
Your customers will visit numerous websites before booking a holiday so it’s natural that they will visit your website and leave several times on the path to purchase. But your direct booking strategy should aim to minimize the time it takes for those potential guests to make the decision to book at your hotel.
If a potential guest has made it to your booking engine to look at rooms and rates, it’s likely they are seriously considering a stay at your hotel. Clicking away at this point often means they’re going to check if they can find a better deal - or clearer guidance about cancellations and cleanliness - for your own rooms on an OTA. A pop-up Exit Message can prevent that from happening and ensure that your customer gets the best deal with you. These messages display only if a potential customer is showing signs that they’re about to leave your website, which means they do disrupt the user's experience but in a helpful and useful way.
Again, customization here is key. Stop high value customers booking elsewhere by sharing your best offers with them when it looks like they’re about to exit the booking engine page. All the targeting specifications discussed above can be used to customize the experience here too.
The future of booking engine personalization
While personalization is key for driving direct bookings, speed and ease of use are also vital in ensuring guests make their purchase via your booking engine. Unfortunately, across the key booking engines that most hotels work with, we’ve found that performance scores - specifically on mobile where the booking recovery is happening - are consistently low.
If you’re personalizing the experience for guests but the booking engine itself remains sluggish and hard to navigate, your investment in personalization is much less likely to pay off. At Triptease, we’ve doubled down on improving the speed and ease of the mobile booking experience with the launch of the Express Mobile Experience. With fast loading, a short booking flow and a personalized three-step checkout, Express is a layer that sits on top of your existing booking engine, helping customers to quickly make their booking.
When reviewing your booking engine, make sure that you also audit its performance using Google Lighthouse to ensure that low speed and performance are not preventing customers from booking. If it’s not performing well, get in touch to discuss whether the Express Mobile Experience could help.