Let’s face it—converting a looker into a booker goes beyond having a beautiful website, it’s about properly merchandising your guest-rooms throughout the entire purchasing funnel. Having the ‘right’ booking engine is the single most influential element of hotel’s marketing strategy that would ultimately lead to a reservation. There are different booking engines out there but finding the ‘right’ one depends on several factors including: functionality, ergonomics, user experience and merchandising capabilities. When choosing a booking engine platform make sure to choose one that has the ability to market your property appropriately and effectively. Independent hotels need to do a better job of “merchandising” their hotels with a robust booking engine that includes the following necessary elements:
- Inventory selection (ability to display rates 14 days out)
- Multiple photos of each different room types (showing different angles)
- Language translator
- Currency converter
- Virtual tour
- Display promotional rates and specials
- Hotel detail section- Brief description of each room type
- Property information (i.e. pool, fitness room, meeting space, business center)
Your booking engine must be able to merchandise guest rooms at the point of sale, meaning when guests are looking at rooms and rates, your booking engine’s features must be able to refresh the visitor’s memory of what they’ve read and seen on your website to make an informed decision. Give users flexibility and convenience when choosing a room, this improves purchasing decision to maintain high conversion rates. Include a property detail section highlighting unique selling propositions like your finest amenities and demand generators. This will encourage quick decision making for the visitor.
Furthermore, one of the most effective ways to sell your rooms is through image merchandising. Ensure that your booking engine has photos of your different rooms as well as floor plans. You’ll be surprised to find that many booking engines do not even display photos of their rooms. Failing to add photos of your rooms on the booking engine will increase the bounce rate and decrease conversions. When adding photos of different room types make sure to group them in a logical matter. By this I mean rearranging them according to which rooms you want to sell first and which are the most profitable. Another vital component to a booking engine is its ability to cater to international travelers. If international travelers are one of your key feeder markets, then it is essential to include a language and currency translator.
All these added features will enhance the user experience, increase website conversions, and ultimately boost direct bookings off your vanity website. Your booking engine should have a simplistic design with comprehensive information provided both in text and in photos and clear inventory selection. Don’t allow the poor design of your booking engine to be the reason why website visitors abandon the booking process. Let your booking engine be the final push in converting a potential guest to book with your hotel. Finally, use your booking engine to up-sell your rooms at the point of purchase.