Understanding the Complexity of the Booking Journey

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Melody Ciria
Melody Ciria
August 20, 2014
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Understanding the path to booking for most traveler shoppers can be very complex especially when it comes to different devices. The path to booking will vary depending on the device a traveler is using and which search engines, OTA or meta search sites they are searching from. It is imperative that hoteliers be aware that consumer behavior shifts from one device to another and from one site to another. In today’s technology driven world, the path to purchase for consumers is no longer straight-forward rather it takes on  different stages. Travel shoppers are not merely searching on desktops or going straight to Google to do a search and then decide to book. Instead, we are seeing more and more consumers doing their initial search on their smartphones then navigating to different review sites to validate their view of the hotel. We are even seeing social media having an influence in a consumer’s decision making process. Whether you are a leisure or business traveler, we all prioritize search differently. With that said, hotels need to remain relevant and drive brand awareness by casting a wider net in order to capture the consumer during the entire purchasing funnel. Hoteliers must learn to deliver content that will reflect consumer behavior, appeal to the traveler’s needs and align with today’s technology.

The Mobile Journey

In a recent study conducted by the marketing firm, Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB), it was found that smartphones play a vital role in the initial research stage of hotel planning but infrequently used to actually book.  Of the 2,000 consumers in the study, 47% of the participants stated they used a smartphone sometime during the planning phase while only 6% of them actually booked via mobile device. Nearly half of leisure travelers used a smartphone during the research and evaluation stage and went on various sites like review sites, OTAs, social media, meta search engines and the hotel’s mobile site to get the information they needed to make a decision. This study also reveals that consumers are using mobile web browsers more often than mobile apps during the research phase.   Among the desktop survey participants, only 4% of participants stated that they used mobile app when researching for a hotel. When booking on a smartphone, consumers prefer calling the hotel to make a reservation which is why it is important to have a prominent click to call button on your hotel’s mobile website.

The Social Media and Online Review Journey

Along with using a smartphone to do research, travelers also utilize social media to get some insights about which hotel to stay at. The top 5 social media channels consumers go to during the travel research phase include Facebook, Google +, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter.  In the study, 13% of bookers were reported to use social media during the purchasing journey while 59% of bookers considered review sites to base their decision on where to book. From this study, we can conclude that online reviews have a strong impact on a consumer’s final purchase decision. With more than half of people considering consumer reviews in their final decision to book, it is critical that hotels devise a strategy that would encourage more reviews and respond to negative ones.  Hotels with few reviews will rarely be considered by the consumer and hotels with poor reviews will be negatively depicted.  Hotels should make it a habit to respond to reviews.   In these management responses make sure to address the problem, find a solution and ensure the guest that it won’t happen again.

The Meta Search and OTA Journey

Kayak, Trivago and other meta search engines has become a popular source for many travelers looking to score the cheapest hotel rates.  Meta search engines are mainly used by consumers who are very price driven and looking for the best deals.  Meta search sites aggregate all the rates from OTAs and display them in one channel which makes it easier for the consumer to compare rates. This CMB study revealed that 49% used a price comparison or OTAs such as Expedia, Priceline or Kayak. Not everyone who uses these sites will book on these channels however. 36% who did go on these sites directly booked on there. For many consumers, meta search sites may not be the final destination to book a hotel. The majority of travelers will choose to visit the hotel’s website to get a feel for not only the amenities but most importantly the local culture. There are still many who prefer to book direct on the hotel’s website so as long as the hotel is in rate parity or if they are offering a special.

As we can see from this study and all its findings, travelers go to different avenues when making the final booking decision. No matter which channel a consumer searches on or which device he or she chooses to use keep in mind that convenience is the top driver of booking online.  When you make the booking process seamless for the consumer, they will more likely convert into a guest. With that said, how is your hotel keeping up with the constant changes to the travelsphere, digital world, and traveler behavior?

Photo Courtesy of CMSwire

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