According to Sales Cycle, 81% of online travel bookings are abandoned, with 13% saying it’s because the booking process is too long and complicated, even after selecting rooms and dates. But why would a potential guest secure rooms, dates, rates and perhaps even add-ons, only to abandon at the last moment?
According to the survey:
53% of visitors abandon their booking when shown the total price.
26% of bookers drop off when asked for personal details.
The remaining 21% give up when asked for their payment details.
There are real reasons behind their abandonment, just as there are real reasons why a shopper chooses to make that last move and book. In this article, I’m going to let you in on a few simple ways to minimise the motivation to abandon, so you can improve your direct booking revenue.
1. Get the right price tag
First, let’s tackle the majority of abandoners – the ones who don’t do their maths properly the first time round; or maybe they do get their maths right, but they’re daunted when they see the number written out in front of them. All those zeroes – is it worth it? According to more than half of the booking population, it isn’t. So it’s your job to assure them that your hotel most definitely is worth it.
You just need to remind them of – and strengthen their confidence in – their initial incentive to book. Do this by displaying an image of the room type and any add-ons they’ve selected, next to the price. This will divert attention away from the expense and balance it with the reason they decided to book in the first place.
Visual content like this also evokes an emotive response from your potential guest, which will build a stronger connection with your brand and the room they wish to book. Emotion leads to conversion, as a study by the Missouri University of Science and Technology into human-computer interaction revealed, where websites with a stronger emotional impact produced a greater intent to buy.
Most leisure travelers don’t have a specific destination in mind when planning a trip, so visual content is critical to paint a picture of the experience hotel guests can expect. To incentivise them to convert quickly, it’s important to show these images at every stage of their booking journey.
At the most basic level, you’re just reminding potential guests of the value of the booking. Use emotive language to strengthen the impact and images that spur them to imagine themselves staying in that room. Images are particularly effective here, for example, you may show a suitcase lying open on the bed, or a dress hanging up somewhere in the background. Forrester research has revealed that today’s travellers care more about having a special experience than they do about bagging a bargain. Speaking to the New York Times in 2016, senior analyst at Forrester, Emily Collins, stated that while people say discounts are important, they overwhelmingly say that they want special treatment and that they come for the perks but stay for the experience. So if you remind bookers of just how wonderful their stay with you will be, you’ll be closer to ensuring that they’ll convert, rather than abandon.
At a more advanced level, use data accumulated about the shopper during the time in which they have been browsing your site to personalise their booking experience. This can be as simple as including their name in your sales messaging if they’re logged in or have already provided this information. You can also use personalisation to change images based on bookers’ personal likes and tastes. For example, if they have shown an interest in the spa facilities, restaurant or pool during their visit to your site, consider showing them images of these services again later on in the booking journey. For returning website visitors, personalisation technology can remember the booking dates and/ or room type they were searching for before, and offer them targeted recommendations according to that, which will speed up the booking process and make potential guests feel valued, even before they stay at your hotel.
2. Don’t let data be a barrier
Here lies your next hurdle. How close is too close when it comes to personalisation? You want to ensure you give your booker a unique and personal experience, without asking for too much that scares them away. The key to this is to provide a strong incentive to disclose personal details. According to a Mintel study, 90% of millennials would be willing to share their personal details to receive relevant and targeted marketing if there was an incentive.
Marriott International is a master at this – and their technique is simple. They make it clear to the booker that they can use the data shared with them to reduce the stress of travelling and make their journey easier. In an interview with CMO, VP of personalisation for the hotel chain, Devon Sung summarised: “We want to know the knowns in a traveler’s head … if we can get that coffee shop location, or preferred airline, and pre-load those into the system and wrap your experience with those data points, how much easier will that trip be? We will have increased the likelihood you are going to have a great trip.”
Of course, even with this assurance, some travellers remain wary of sharing their data. And although you want to maximise revenue per booking, your main objective is to get them to convert. So to keep all potential bookers happy, make the disclosure of personal details optional. This way, they still have the option to convert easily without getting personal.
3. Getting over the final hurdle
The remaining 21% of shoppers who abandon just need extra assurance, or a more convenient payment method. One way to avoid this is to offer a flexible payment policy, whereby payment isn’t made until arrival. This way, guests will feel more confident to complete their booking without having to clarify their bank details or wait until pay day. If you require your guests to give you their card details when they make a booking, provide extra assurance with a green HTTPS certificate confirming secure payment and a bold reminder that you offer a best rate guarantee. This will reassure the booker that they won’t find a better deal elsewhere, and keep them safe in the knowledge that their transaction will be secure, even when booking on a mobile device.
To strengthen trust further, make this last stage of the booking journey really special. Include a personalised message from your general manager as this message, whether formal or informal, can be the reassurance that your shopper is craving. You may want to add an upsell or recommendation or even a call to action to follow you on social media. This personal touch will build more of a connection and trust between the booker and your brand and will again, evoke an emotional reaction, inciting them to complete their conversion.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that almost all (94%) of travelers switch between devices while making a booking. To stop these switchers from abandoning their booking as they switch between devices, ensure that the booking process is quick, slick and seamless on every device. Insight from Tnooz reveals that a third of bookings on mobile devices are abandoned due to slow loading times. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get an overview of your website loading time and simple tips to speed it up.
Also, ensure the booking and payment form is easy to fill out on both large and small screens. Your ‘book now’ button and drop down menus need to be large enough to navigate and click without taking up the entire screen. You might want to provide an option for bookers to save their card details for a faster checkout next time, or link to a loyalty or membership scheme, to minimise effort on their part.
The Power of Personal
In this article, I’ve talked a little about how you can encourage direct bookings through emotion. Whether that’s by displaying powerful images that evoke desire to stay in your hotel, or by providing powerful messaging throughout your website and booking journey to build brand loyalty. But arguably few things are more powerful than personalisation, and the ability to offer your guests what they want, when they want it. Many organisations have seen huge uplifts in enquiry conversion by following simple steps to increase personalisation in their digital strategies. Skift reported that according to Travel News USA, leisure travel brands have seen an average 19% increase in turnover when their website uses personalisation. For some it has been far more: EasyJet has seen a 60% uplift since it introduced personalisation, whilst Airbnb has championed personalisation from the outset.
But how close is too close? And how can you unlock the full power of personalisation? For a full report with case studies, cutting edge research and expert insight, download Avvio’s free whitepaper: The Power of Personal.