By Jean Francois Mourier
(Miami/Florida, USA – 5 December 2012) At REVPAR GURU, we are all about making our clients the most money possible. In some cases, that means using the OTAs but other times, the direct channel is best. Given the importance of the direct channel, we wanted to share our top five ways to increase website traffic and direct bookings.
Rates are King
When attempting to drive business to the direct channel, rates are of the utmost importance. Potential guests are motivated by the best rate and they will go wherever they need to get the best rate.
Typically, we suggest keeping your direct rates in line with the rates being offered through the OTAs (obviously to avoid rate parity issues), but offer complimentary upgrades to encourage potential bookers to choose the direct channel over the OTAs. For example, if you¹re selling a two double bed room for $229 through the OTAs, charge the same rate for a king bed through the direct channel. You’ll see that consumers are motivated by the value of the direct channel and most will choose to take the extra step to go to your site to book.
Make your Website Stand Out
Today, consumers are very web-savvy so they have very high expectations when it comes to the quality and professionalism of your property¹s website. If your website is not up to the standards of the OTAs, then assume that guests will question your property¹s integrity and whether or not you can deliver the vacation experience that they are looking for.
Your property¹s website should be clean, modern and professionally designed. It should use high-quality, professional photos and videos to entice potential guests to book with your property. Photos and videos are the best way to help potential guests picture themselves vacationing at your property, and are a highly effective way to increase bookings through the direct channel. Ideally, your website should also be accessible on a mobile device, as a large percentage of bookers now use smartphones instead of regular computers to book.
KISS (Keep it Simple Silly)
While guests are motivated by price, they are also motivated by convenience. If you make it super complicated for them to book directly, they will be willing to spend a few extra dollars to save themselves time and annoyance with the booking process.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your booking process to a maximum of 3-5 steps. First step is to search availability, second is to click purchase, third is to enter personal info (again, keep the required info to a minimum), fourth is to enter payment info and fifth is to confirm the details before approving the reservation.
Offer Multiple Methods of Payment
Again, this tip is all about making it easier for potential guests. My recommendation would be to offer payment via credit card, Paypal, as well as innovative new payment methods such as Google Checkout. If you aren¹t able to offer the same (or more) methods of payments than the OTAs, you risk losing business because the guest simply cannot pay by credit card.
Incentivize, Incentivize, Incentivize
As well as offering complimentary upgrades for guests who book direct, you should also be offering incentives to direct bookers. Some properties choose to create a ‘club’ for direct bookers. By booking directly, guests are able to get free services like airport transportation, free breakfast, or discounted on-site services (spa, fitness center, etc.). These incentive programs should be displayed prominently on every page of your website because you want potential guests to remember to book direct when they are ready to book.