Know your customer: How your hotel website can make a difference between lost conversions and loyal customers
The saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." How bad would it be for a potential customer's first impression of your hotel's brand and value to be tarnished by an unresponsive, frustrating attempt at shopping for the perfect room from a mobile device?
Consider these facts from a recent Sabre data study: From 2014 to 2015, the number of visits to hotel property websites from desktop computers dropped by about 10 percent while the number of mobile visits rose from 20 percent to 32 percent.
Meanwhile, a market survey of Millennial travelers (ages 18 to 34) found that the number who rely on mobile devices to shop for hotels and book their stays is growing – giving us a look at what the future holds for the hospitality industry. While many still use desktop or laptop computers to look and book, Sabre's survey of Millennials found that 81 percent of Millennial travelers used mobile devices to shop for hotels this past year.
While Millennials definitely are driving this trend toward mobile booking, Forrester's Consumer Technographics research shows that today, 59 percent of all generations have switched among devices during common tasks, such as getting directions or shopping online.  Hotels will not be able to serve customers effectively if they cannot meet their expectations consistently across all devices and booking channels.
One way hoteliers can compete for direct bookings is to give travelers the best possible online user experience, by providing a responsive website that's designed to work well with multiple platforms, with a booking experience that's intuitive and flexible, using the customer's language and preferred currency, on any type of device a customer is using to shop.
Whether you're a one-of-a-kind resort with views like no other on Earth, or a global chain providing reliable service to tourists and business travelers, your hotel's booking experience needs to be straightforward and customer-friendly – as inviting and free from frustration as you want your front desk to be.
However, when your booking engine is not intuitive, or non-customizable, you run the risk of losing customers to the competition – or, worse yet, creating the wrong first impression on travelers who may have only heard of your brand, and who are just now coming to your website to find out more.
When you consider your current website, how well does it match these simple guidelines?
- Does your hotel's booking engine feel like a natural part of your website's design?
- Does your site clearly convey the look and feel of your brand? Remember, the booking experience is a major part of the way your brand's story is told, and it must be consistent for users on computers and mobile devices. If customers can't intuitively navigate the booking engine to find the room types, dates and amenities they want, the chance that they will drop out of the funnel and choose a different property are much higher.
- Can your website adapt its content and layout to different buyers? Your hotel's booking engine needs to show an understanding of the customer. A good booking engine adjusts to the language your guest speaks, and can also convert and display rates in the preferred currency. For guests who don't often travel internationally, these changes can remove a great deal of frustration.
The better designed your hotel's digital "front desk," the more pleasing and trustworthy your brand will appear, especially to first-time guests. The more flexibility that you have to customize your guests' online experience, the fewer barriers there will be between them and the in-person experience that awaits them on-property.
We've seen how Sabre customers have increased their conversion rates with responsive websites, attracting more lifelong guests and revenue. Average look-to-book ratios across both desktop and mobile (in aggregate) increased by 27.75 percent across all properties who started using a responsive booking engine.
Learn more about SynXis Booking Engine and find out how to make your guests' booking experience seamless, reliable and frustration-free.
 Forrester Consumer Technographics© research quoted in Customer Experience in Hospitality: Embrace Customer Data and Elevate the Guest Experience, p.5.