What do I need to consider when getting an internet booking engine?
Generating hotel bookings on the hotel website is the dream of every hotelier. You cut out the middle man (the online travel agency or other distribution networks) and keep all of the margin to yourself. That’s just the best thing ever, right? The truth is: with an internet booking engine you can build a strong independent channel that can give your hotel business the boost you were looking for, if you are well prepared.
(You might have noticed: we are also a manufacturer of internet booking engines. Ours is called Web Booking Engine (WBE) and we’ve just released the fifth version. It’s awesome. You can check it out here.)
We’re always interested in what our customers have to say and how they use the Booking Engine. Most of them are successfully managing their independent revenue channel. In some other cases we know of people who are feeling unhappy because they don’t generate that many bookings at all. This often results in switching booking engines frequently, hoping they will find the right one for the ultimate breakthrough.
The Next New Shiny Super Easy Thing to fix all your direct distribution troubles?
Unfortunately it’s not going to work just like that. But with some preparation, you can save yourself frustrating moments and market your way to success! There are a few factors to consider: You need to attract an audience and your website needs to be right, before you can think about customers. Even if you dislike channels such as OTAs, keep in mind they are already doing the marketing part for you.
If you know you can’t manage all the responsibilities that come with installing a internet booking engine, it might not be the right choice for you at this specific time, or you need an agency to create a proper setup for you. Whatever you decide, if you get the following points right, you can reward yourself with great business!
1. You need to get traffic on your website to make the booking engine work
Getting traffic on your website is the key to generating bookings. For this you’ll need to do some online-marketing. Spend money on search-ads or proactively improve your Google rankings. Both requires dedication and patience, it’s hard to get everything right the first time. Here’s additional motivation: eighty percent of hotel searches start online, so try to be visible on that all-important Google Page One! Familiarize yourself with tools provided that Google offers you, or maybe hand that responsibility to someone in your staff who already knows how to use them. You can also use social media as a traffic driver, if you’re able to provide really good, original content.
With this last point in mind, what hotel doesn’t have great stories to tell? Social media is THE story-telling platform.
2. Be prepared to produce original content
Speaking of content. Once you have sorted out your channels, you need to get some content online. For starters, you can recycle some of your existing content. You probably have photos and texts you can put online, but make sure to keep your content fresh. If you make changes to your interior, put new photos on your page. Switch texts and images to seasonality. Put special offers online with persuasive texts and pics. Talk about things to do nearby, hook up with your destination marketing organisation, they will have lots of great info for you to share. It will not only make your page more attractive, it will also help your Google ranking, which again brings more people to your page, over time.
3. Getting the website right for your internet booking engine
We’re living in a time of rapid digital advancement, we can carry around our internet in our pockets. All the new types of devices and screen resolutions also force us to rethink user experience. Your booking process needs to work on large screens and on mobile phones. New payment possibilities have emerged and people want to use them, so check that they can! Special offers need to be visible on every device, and images and text need to look nice. So it’s important that you get a booking engine that works and looks great on all devices. Your users will get frustrated easily if they do not find what they want in just a few clicks. If you spent money on visibility and you managed to attract people to your offers, then conversion will take place on your website, so it follows that it must be in the best possible shape you can manage.
4. Run the numbers
To generate a high number of bookings on your website, you’ll need to check which channel delivers results. Expand on channels that bring the bookers, optimize the ones that do not work (or cut them entirely, if you’re only wasting time and money). Also split up your online business into streams (or ‘funnels’), track from which source your visitors are coming and how well they perform, i.e. what do you need to spend to get an online-booking? Also break down your funnels into room types, so you don’t overspend your budget. ). Check how users are consuming your content. Where do they click a lot or spend time looking at pictures? Expand on this!
So, there’s a lot to consider. If you’re not sure how this can play out for your hotel business, take a look at this handy checklist for online sales. It sums up all of the basic key aspects, so you can remind yourself which steps you need to undertake.
If you have any tips you would like to share, or questions concerning the online marketing of your hotel, let me know in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer!
VP Marketing & PR at protel hotelsoftware GmbH, Germany.
Jeremy heads protel hotelsoftware’s marketing department.
He regularly demands cool beers and internet access, as well as great ideas for shaping positive user experiences.
He firmly believes in the power of change!