You got web site traffic? Now turn those visits into dollars…
I see all kinds of wild figures thrown around from 0.5% to 20.0% of site visitors that book then and there; this is broadly referred to as the conversion factor. I’m not going to tell you what it should be for your web site because I don’t believe in it. I use RevPOV – Revenue Per Online Visit – this is the RevPAR alternative for web site revenue benchmarking. It’s an easy sum; take your total DIRECT online revenues and divide it by the total number of visits to your site. Now, go back for the last 12 months and chart this both on a linear and month-on-month basis. Chasing visit growth as your goal is like chasing occupancy or average rate individually…as we all know, genuine hotel benchmarking is really about RevPAR, and in the online space, it’s all about RevPOV.
Yes, you need to grow visits but you also need to reach visitors who are ready to buy…and make them buy! That’s why we measure your total online revenues per visit, that is your most important benchmark…and now some tips on how to grow your RevPOV sensibly!
How to convert more web visits into revenue…
Right up front, your web site MUST have an Online Booking Engine (OBE) that allows site visitors to see real time availability; one that is able to sell a room or package and confirm the sale NOW, whilst I am in the mood to book. There are a range of third party suppliers that have ready-made booking engines, preferably that can be plugged into a page on your site or one that will open up in a new browser when a visitor clicks on the Book Now button.
Search for “online hotel booking engine” on your favourite search engine and many will come up. We always prefer to keep visitors within a site and therefore the OBE code needs to be easily integrated into a page on your site. Failing that, your OBE set up MUST open a new browser and either present some design/colour relationship with your site (reproduce it completely if possible) or very clearly state that this is the booking engine for The Sample Hotel; it should never provide links to other hotels that the OBE company services.
Why must your OBE open in a new browser? So that, should a customer chicken out of the booking process or make an error and want to start again, your site is still there in the original browser. This way, they can either start again or, shock horror, they might just pick up the phone and call.
Fees vary greatly but most OBEs will offer you a set up fee and then some form of base fee plus a percentage of revenue over a certain volume. Me? I’d negotiate away the setup fee and base fee (they kind of expect you to, that s why they have them) and make it purely performance based. Don’t begrudge them the ongoing fee as, frankly, you are paying this only for materialised bookings so it comes out of incremental revenue and with a technology and user experience level that you could never reproduce on your own site. Don’t sign any long term agreements that don’t have a thirty day cancellation clause and read the fine print; there are some cowboys in this space.
And look for ease of use, for you and your team as well as the consumer. Is it easy to understand and operate or do you need to be a propeller-head to work your end of the system? We also like OBEs that have easy to create packages and lately we also like the ones that offer some value adds just before the final sale for things like fruit platters, wine and cheese or a bottle of bubbly on arrival… just don’t make things too complicated for your consumer…you have got between three and five clicks at the most to finalise a sale online, end of story.
If your current Online Booking Engine does not meet these criteria change to one that does!
Now, what else drives conversion of online visits?
Pop in to Wal-mart or Target or K-mart – are you ever in any doubt that they are trying to sell you something? Lots of signs for specials and deals and promotions…if you buy now. Well, you need to be a little less precious and get a little retail about your web site. EVERY page on your web site must have either a BOOK HERE or ONLINE ENQUIRY button up toward the top right hand corner of your on-page text. This simple addition has been known to double hotel online revenues. Your web site should be created with goals in mind…a) make a sale, b) have users make an enquiry or c) encourage them to register to receive your newsletter and in some cases d) as they leave, ask why they didn’t buy. Your web site needs to be a sales funnel, persuading visitors to buy.
Page upon page of booking opportunities – create a page EACH for your weekend packages, romantic packages, special offers, promotions, deals, mates rates and more with links to your online booking engine – visitors will not scroll down screen upon screen of information…use yourself as a market research group of one, if you won’t do it, then chances are 99.0% of the world won’t either. The majority of people buy either a room only or B&B rate online but like to window shop to see what else may be available; perhaps a unique value added package or a special three night deal for Thanksgiving…you won’t actually sell a lot of these but they will help you sell more of your room only or B&B offers.
Add a very personal sales message and call to action – at the end of each page, and in keeping with the theme of that page, tell people why they should book; a story about what the outcome will be for them and provide a text link through to your booking engine, another link to your online enquiry form and a phone number to call if they are not brave enough to book online.
Testimonials – there’s nothing that consumers like to read more on a web site than testimonials; people who have stayed at your hotel or held an event and have then said something really nice about their experience. Go on, we all get some…add these to your site, either as a separate page in the navigation bar, or as a snippet at the bottom of each page. You will be surprised the impact that this will have on conversion levels as testimonials raise the confidence level of your online visitor.
The common theme I emphasise with web site conversion is about quality content; rich, experiential words and images that, just for a moment, touch your customers and take them past the nervousness stage and into the open arms of your booking engine. And not just on your Home Page on ALL your pages.
The conversion tips I have just given you are just the tip of the iceberg; the essential question you need to ask yourself about every page on your website is “If I were a potential customer, would I buy that now?” If not, then you need to keep tweaking the page content.
A lot of people ask me “Keith, why do you share all these secrets and other tips so openly?”. Well, in all honesty, I know that anyone with the right level of interest and commitment can learn how to build traffic to their sight and convert it…after all, that’s how I learned to do what I do…grow online revenues. The two challenges you face as hoteliers are (a) time (and the lack thereof) and (b) keeping up to date with the constantly changing playing field…then add into the inclination equation yah de yah de yah de…
I know that, all things being equal, the very best conversion results can be produced internally…you and your team know your product and service, you know your customers and you know why your customers buy…all that is missing are the technical skills. Along the way in your career, you have mastered Property Management Systems, training skills, motivation and leadership and you can master this thing called online conversion too.
But you are also smart enough to know that when you have a tax problem, you call in your accountant; if you have a legal issue your first port of call is your lawyer; a technology issue, you contact your IT support resource and for web site development, design and construction, hoteliers call Hotel Marketing Workshop. We are experts in building web site traffic and then converting that traffic into bankable dollars.
And, it might be a bit old fashioned in this hectic world of hotel marketing, the internet, online and hotel ecommerce but, I reckon that if you regularly do something nice or share your knowledge with someone who really needs help, then some time later, that goodwill will is usually returned tenfold.