Avvio had the pleasure of attending yesterday’s first MIALD Alumni meeting where our Co-founder and CEO Frank Reeves and Chief Commercial Officer Michael De Jongh spoke to a rapt audience about everything from OTAs and personalised guest journeys to Google’s direction of travel.
Hosted by Master Innholders and held at the spectacular Langham Hotel in London, the event provided a detailed insight into the industry’s changing digital landscape. Here are some key take-aways from the day’s session.
Online Travel Agents
Expedia and booking.com are undoubtedly the most dominant players in the industry and while many hoteliers have a love-hate relationship with OTAs it’s important to remember that they do more than just charge you a hefty commission fee. Including them in your overall distribution strategy should be strongly considered if you want to increase your total audience and international reach.
This topic also raised some interesting questions on Airbnb and what their impact is on the sector. Interestingly you don’t often see Airbnb advertising in the same places as booking.com/Expedia. The main reason for this is that Airbnb has a closed user group – meaning their demographic already has a vested interest having already downloaded their app. Visitors are actively browsing the app instead of searching for ‘Airbnb in France’ on Google.
The proliferation of smart devices combined with enhanced data packages has revolutionised the way we interact with companies online. Computing technology will continue to get more powerful especially with the advance in connectivity. As a result, user journeys no longer start and end on the same device nor do they follow simplistic linear tracks. It’s also important to remember that context drives device choice which means users engage with different devices based on their current surroundings or requirements.
Google and Trivago drive over 80% of Metasearch traffic.
Metasearch is a great way to promote your direct channel and is something that needs to become a part of your marketing plan. While there is still an associated cost (usually 7% for a Metasearch booking) it is still substantially lower than a typical OTA fee. By not being present on Metasearch you are almost giving your booking to an OTA.
Think of Metasearch like a supermarket which advertises 5 different brands of soft drinks side-by-side with a clear indication of cost.
Facilitated Bookings are bookings that are made directly on the metasearch platform as opposed to the traditional form of Metasearch where users are directed to a hotel’s own website. ‘Book on Google’ is an example of this. Why would hoteliers choose this option you ask? This method is typically helpful for hotels that don’t have the best landing pages or booking experiences cross-device. Why would users choose to ‘Book on Google’ specifically? That’s easy. Most people trust them. Many already use Google for navigation, Gmail and browsing, so why not for a hotel booking?
With all this in mind, how do hotels use their direct channel to navigate these barriers and effectively compete in such a crowded market place?
A really simplistic approach is to take up more space on the SERPs. Hotels can claim up to 30% real-estate on a Google Ad if they capitalise on their offerings. This not only strengths and promotes the brand, it also pushes competing brands further down the search results page. Mirror-marketing (brands bidding on your hotel name) will still happen which is why you need to beat OTAs and competitors at their own game by making your hotels’ digital marketing a top priority.
Don’t forget to use tools like SEMRush which provide valuable insights into your hotel’s website.
AI is everywhere
Artificial Intelligence has and will continue to change life as we know it. AI curated user experiences is machine learning at its finest and is what separates a good online experience from a great one. Recommender engine technology is one of the ways companies (including ours) serve relevant content to users based on learned behaviours. This is why the likes of Spotify is so successful. Not only is it a facilitating platform, it’s also a discovery platform based on recommendation.
Personalised online browsing experiences result in a higher propensity to book. Conversion rates are higher when personalising the user journey and (unsurprisingly) the average booking value increases. It shouldn’t be website.com with the same ‘book direct’ messaging plastered on every landing page it should be a personalised version of your website tailored to your guest’s upcoming stay and specified interest.
The event provided a great space to discuss some of the big things that are shaping the digital landscape. There’s a lot going on and there’s a huge amount of opportunity in the booking engine space for hotels to move beyond the ‘brochure’ approach. You need to create valuable interactions with potential guests and tailor your online experience to fit their search requirements. If you can get to this version of personalisation on brand.com you will see a noticeable uplift in direct bookings and overall booking conversion.