If you’ve had any experience in the website industry, there is no doubt you have had many conversations regarding conversion rate on websites. In the hotel industry, we typically look at conversion rate of either visits or unique visitors into bookings. We’ll get into the difference in those two metrics in a little bit, but right now, I’d like to bring into light the various parts of the hotel funnel, as there are so many places potential customers can fall out. Additionally, each of part of the funnel conveys a different hurdle in the booking process, not to mention the fact that different types of traffic enter the funnel at different points. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Below you can see what a typical hotel website funnel might look like.
Visits > Room Search
Let’s start at the top of this process. Our very first goal is get visitors from the front end of the site into the booking engine by searching for a room. This part of the funnel is wholly dependent on how well the assets of your hotel are presented to the consumer, as well as the usability of the site.
- Is the navigation easy to understand and use?
- Is there a search widget with a clear call to action on all pages?
- Do you have great photography and videos?
- Do you showcase nearby places of interest?
- Do you have clear descriptions of room types?
- Do you highlight your amenities?
- If you are a vacation destination, do you present information about the proximity to the beach, lake, mountains, etc.?
Room Search > Room Selection
At this point of the process, we now have three issues in play: room pricing, availability, and ease of use of the booking engine to further the journey down the funnel.
If visitors have searched for a room and see that prices are out of their budget, this is an obvious abandonment point. It’s certainly possible that this visitor just may not be a good fit for this hotel. If you are interested in closing that gap a bit, and are open to being more aggressive about giving discounts to consumers, you could send an abandonment email offering a discount to these visitors, if you’ve captured an email during the course of the visit.
In the case of no availability, visitors have a few options. They could search for a different date, if their dates are flexible. They could search for another room type. Lastly, and what we are trying to avoid, they could just leave the site. This is where the functionality of the booking engine can really help or hinder you. Ideally, if the room type that was searched isn’t available, but another room type is, the booking engine should serve the alternative inventory with a message to the consumer stating, “Sorry your preferred room type is not available, however, the following rooms are.” This alleviates forcing the consumer to search again, in hopes of finding any room. It puts the visitor one step closer to being able to make a decision about his/her stay, and one step further from leaving the site.
Along those lines, if there truly is no availability for any room, you could offer nearby dates where there is occupancy, in hopes that the consumer can be flexible on the dates. This is never an ideal situation since many people have set travel schedules, but it is better than simply stating, “Sorry, we have no rooms at this time.”
Ease of Use
When the room results are displayed, you want the booking engine to help the consumer through the most efficient decision making process. Give the visitor sorting functionality and/or filtering options, so they can more quickly make a decision.
Room Selection > Additional Services
Many hotels will have a step in between selecting a room and the actual purchase page where there are opportunities for up-selling. Some items included here could be breakfast, tickets to a show, wine and chocolate delivered to the room, spa packages, etc. The way in which these choices are laid out should:
- Be easy enough for the consumer to choose one or more option
- Enticing enough to make them want to choose one or more options
- Simple enough to move on to the final step with or without any additional services.
Additional Services>Booking Form
The booking form is where the consumer gets to confirm all of the hotel stay information and finally fill in the billing information. This step is critical in the purchase process. While it is likely the least glamorous page in the process, it is the most important.
- Are all the mandatory fields clearly marked so that the visitor does not receive an error message when attempting to submit the form due to not completing the form correctly?
- Is the form mobile-friendly? There can potentially be a lot of required information to be completed on a rather small device. How easy is it to navigate between fields? Is there any information that would be gathered through a pre-arrival email instead?
- Where, exactly do you show the total price of the consumer’s stay? Was it at the room results page, so the visitor doesn’t have to go through the whole process of getting to here to see all the taxes and fees? Or do you wait to show this information, and hope the taxes and fees aren’t off-putting?
- If you have a lowest rate guarantee, this would be a great place to show a graphic with that promise.
- If you have a loyalty program or any type of member login functionality, be sure the consumer can easily bypass the login functionality. Forcing a visitor to create an account before booking can be a deterrent. Better to prompt the visitor after the purchase is complete to create an account from the information already entered.
Congratulations, your consumer has made a purchase! What information are you going to serve on the confirmation page and/or email confirmation? At the very least, we want to include the basics: confirmation number, dates of the stay, cost including taxes and fees, and the amount of deposit (if applicable). Don’t miss this opportunity to include critical information to the stay, and even up-selling.
- Consider including an FAQ with items such as check-in time, smoking policy, pet policy, cancellation process, parking fees and locations, etc.
- Have a mobile app? This is a great place to promote it. If you are thinking about a mobile app, listen to our podcast on this topic!
- If there are other options that the consumer didn’t purchase in this visit, the confirmation email and/or confirmation page is another place you could tempt them. Room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, etc. The key is to make it as simple as possible for your guest to add these after their purchase.
Analyzing the Funnel
Now that we understand the flow of the conversion funnel, how do we analyze it?
We typically look at the conversion funnel in two big chunks: getting the visitor to the booking engine, and getting from the booking engine to purchase. The reason for this, as stated earlier, is because that first step is all about how well the property shines and the functionality of the front-end of the website. The second part is all about pricing, availability and ease of use of the booking engine. We’ll get more granular in the analysis process as needed.
The type of traffic entering the funnel throughout various parts of the site can greatly alter the conversion rate from one step to another.
For example, if there is a social media campaign running with the sole purpose of collecting new email addresses, that traffic is going to skew the top of the funnel to a much lower conversion rate. This is to be expected, but then it will be critical to filter those visitors out of the overall funnel, and see where the rest of the traffic stands.
Email traffic can be sent to a variety of locations in the site. For many of our clients, email traffic is one of the top converting sources of traffic. Often times, properties will be promoting a special offer in the email, and will take visitors directly to that offer on the site. That’s further down the funnel than landing them on the homepage. Therefore, we’d want to look at this segment of traffic on its own, and see how it affects the funnel as a whole.
The point at which the total room price shown is another factor that can drastically change the way the funnel looks. We have seen clients that had been showing the full price at the point of room results for some time, shift to showing the full price at the very last step.
You can see how the location of abandonment shifted below. This is not something we would recommend without testing (see tips on testing your site).
Lastly, one more way to look at the whole funnel is based on visitors vs. visits. We know that most people don’t book a hotel stay in just one visit. So it is important to see the difference on a visitor-level vs. the visit-level.
It’s a long road through the hotel purchase process for a consumer. As a hotel marketer, understanding the potential pitfalls through each stop along the way is critical for success. If you have questions or concerns about your consumer funnel, contact us, and we’ll be happy to assist.