Hotel Industry Blog

“Just In Case” Bookers and Soaring Cancellations

By Claire Sawier | On Thu, March 14, 2019

By Claire Sawier, Bernhard Böhm, and Des O’Mahony

This is the first in a two-part feature on cancellation impacts and how to mitigate their impact.

Part 2 of this article will focus on actual tactics that hotels can use to address the issue of cancellations in their hotel. Share your ideas and experiences and we will share them in our follow up article. Take survey


Rising cancellations

Cancellations are an inevitable part of the hotel industry but they have soared in recent times and bring with them more headaches for hotel and revenue managers. Much of this rise in cancellations is fuelled by OTA booking cancellation rates, and some hotels we have consulted with cite over 50% cancellation rates today for bookings made through OTAs.

In contrast, cancellation rates for direct bookings are significantly lower, although these rates too are rising for some hotels. Based on an analysis of hundreds of thousands of direct bookings across all of our markets, cancellation rates for direct bookings now stand at an average of 12% as of March 2019, and have been noticeably rising since the beginning of 2017. The cancellation rate varies with lead-in time, but more on this later.

Huge variation across hotels

Cancellation rates vary a lot between hotels, and this is significantly impacted by the strategy that the hotel employs. Hotels that adopt a robust direct booking strategy tend to experience less cancellations across the board and experience a far more profitable bottom line since they more actively control distribution and therefore exposure to OTAs.

This is in contrast to more passive hotels, some of whom do nothing even on the hottest high-demand dates, and others who deal only tactically with the impact of cancellations rather than working actively on reducing them. Direct booking cancellation rates in these cases can exceed 30%.

Why do bookers cancel?

Getting to the heart of the problem is not simple, and attitudes to booking and customer commitment to booking have certainly changed online. On the whole, bookers cancel for one of three reasons: Of these reasons, hotels should be adopting strategic approaches to mitigating the first 2, which they can directly influence.

  1. They found a better deal in another hotel
  2. They found a better deal for your hotel elsewhere
  3. They have a genuine reason for not travelling

OTA practices influencing cancellations

OTAs promote competition based on price and are particularly useful for people looking for a location rather than a specific hotel. There’s nothing wrong with this, OTAs provide a vital service to hotels in furthering a hotel’s reach into markets it cannot normally or easily tap into.

However, OTAs are increasingly encouraging bookers to actually book multiple hotels in a destination well in advance and then make their final choice later, with no-penalty cancellations. These “casual” bookers are higher up the sales funnel and are not so sure of their plans. The planning phase is therefore morphing into a “just in case” booking phase with a knock-on impact on those ultimately delivering the service fulfilment - hotels.

Pressure-selling tactics such as “one room left at this price” and “booked 4 times in the last 24 hours” are also routinely used to create a sense of urgency further pushing people to book before they are ready. (Tellingly, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority CMA has just recently clamped down on these practices as well as misleading discount claims. Offending OTAs have until September 1st to make changes). Figure 1 for example shows seven different pressure-selling tactics in use in a single hotel listing for a Dublin hotel, two of which emphasise the ease of cancelation.

Figure 1: OTAs using pressure-selling tactics in their listings. In this case, at least 7 examples of pushing for early booking, including phrases such as “see our last available rooms” as distinct from just “see our rooms”, and two statements, 5 and 6, relating to free cancellations.
Figure 1: OTAs using pressure-selling tactics in their listings. In this case, at least 7 examples of pushing for early booking, including phrases such as “see our last available rooms” as distinct from just “see our rooms”, and two statements, 5 and 6, relating to free cancellations.

The OTA of course doesn’t mind that you book many and cancel most, since they will still receive their fee for the one booking that is finally chosen. However all the hotels bar one that are provisionally booked in this “just in case” approach are now left with some real problems. It is possible, especially in high occupancy markets, that rooms being held for this “just in case” booker are now not available for sale to a genuine booker (direct or indirect), leading to real loss of business in the long term.

In today’s world therefore, there is a clear difference for hotels between receiving an OTA booking and actual intent to stay. Bookers are increasingly “just in case” bookers and your chance of them actually staying is only as good as all the other hotels the OTA customer has also booked. Follow on alerts from the OTA notifying the booker of price drops encourages them to cancel their original booking and rebook at the lower rate, and so the situation worsens.

Risk Free Reservations and Cancellation Parity

In an effort to push the early booking strategy Booking.com introduced Risk Free Reservations for hotels in 2018. Hotels that participate see their advance purchase rates effectively turned into free cancellation rates for bookers with Booking.com guaranteeing the hotel another guest or the price of the room in the event of a cancellation.

Customers see the same rate on Booking.com and the hotel website but with different conditions that favour booking on Booking.com. With free cancellations being offered, cancellations will again increase with more and more people being encouraged to book multiple hotels for the same date. Booking.com carry all cancellation risks as it usually results in a confirmed booking for another hotel on their platform.

However, cancellations of direct bookings on the hotel website will increase too as bookers cancel their direct booking in favour of the better free cancellation rate on Booking.com.

In our view as hotel partners encouraging higher-profit direct bookings for our client hotels, Booking.com’s Risk Free Reservations should be a clear NO for any hotelier who wants to grow their overall business. The only place a customer should ever be able to get the best deal should be “hotel direct”. What’s clear is that rate parity in itself is not enough to facilitate this. Cancellation Parity is becoming just as important as customers look for more booking flexibility. Imposing more restrictive cancellation policies on OTAs is just the starting point.

Watch those early bookers

From our own data analysing hundreds of thousands of direct bookings we can see that the closer to arrival date the booking is made, the smaller the risk of cancellation and the further away the greater the risk of cancellation (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Bookassist data on direct booking cancellation rates versus lead-in time across hundreds of thousands of bookings in multiple markets back to January 2018. The further out a booking is made, the more likely it is to be cancelled.
Figure 2: Bookassist data on direct booking cancellation rates versus lead-in time across hundreds of thousands of bookings in multiple markets back to January 2018. The further out a booking is made, the more likely it is to be cancelled.

In fact, one third of all cancellations occur within a week of the arrival date, and half of these bookings are cancelled two days or less before arrival (see figure 3). Interestingly almost half of those who cancelled two days or less before arrival time had booked with a lead-in of more than one month. Watch those early bookers.

Figure 3: Bookassist data on how soon before arrival that direct bookings tend to be cancelled based on data since January 2018.
Figure 3: Bookassist data on how soon before arrival that direct bookings tend to be cancelled based on data since January 2018.

Given this direct booking data, what about OTA behaviour? The question here for hotels is: how much of your inventory is now tied up with “just in case” OTA bookers, many of which will go on to cancel, leaving you with a narrow window for sales recovery? How far out are your OTA bookers booking and how close to arrival are they cancelling? It is critical to have a handle on these figures in your business so that you can formulate an action plan.

Impact of Cancellations

In our experience, hoteliers often fail to calculate the true cost of cancellations when analysing their distribution per channel costs. Cancellation costs not only include the loss of revenue when it is not possible to resell that room for the same price but also:

(a) the operational costs of processing volumes of bookings that go on to be cancelled, and the operational costs of processing the cancellations themselves;

(b) additional distribution costs associated with sales efforts that become void, and

(c) the wasted initial cost of acquisition to include digital marketing spend and website costs for example in the case of a cancelled direct booking that resulted in a subsequent indirect OTA booking.

Even a compensated cancelled booking via Booking.com’s risk free reservations program brings costs in terms of an empty room that could be have been generating F&B income, or could have attracted a higher margin direct booker.

There is far more to a cancelled booking than the loss of the room itself and hotels need to be very mindful of the total cost per cancelation just as they need to be fully aware of cost per acquisition for successful bookings. Proper analysis is the starting point for risk mitigation.

Losing a direct booker to an OTA has long term implications

No hotelier wants to see a confirmed direct booking being switched to an OTA booking, but unfortunately it happens. But this situation is for the most part avoidable. An astute revenue manager or direct booking partner such as Bookassist will help to address any of the issues that may lead bookers to switch from direct booking to indirect booking.

You are already on the back foot when a direct booker cancels only to book instead via an OTA. They may have already concluded (perhaps correctly, but hopefully incorrectly!) that the OTA brings them better value so will be less inclined to go back to the hotel website if booking again.

Furthermore, the minute an OTA booker checks out of your hotel, the OTA sends them emails suggesting other locations or hotels, as well as offers. They own the customer, and unless your hotel has a robust process in place to capture and inform that customer before checkout then they will most likely be lost to the OTA if they decide to come back again. Why? Because there may be no reason for them not to go back to the OTA – unless you give them a reason.

OTAs build tight connections with their customers and so to compete effectively and be more resilient to cancellations hotels need to develop closer ties with their bookers well before arrival to ensure they are not tempted away by an OTA. You risk losing the life time value of a customer by losing them to an OTA, so it is key to push your direct booking benefits at every opportunity.

Know your data

Profitable hotels are the ones that know exactly where their customers come from, how far out they book and how many will end of cancelling. They also know why bookers cancel. Knowing why people cancel and when they cancel is essential in order to put in place effective cancellation, rate and overbooking policies. No two hotels are the same and cancellation trends can vary a lot across hotels. The key is to know your own data. If you don’t, you can’t even begin to address the issue.

Seizing opportunities - Guests who book on mobile devices tend to cancel less

According to Booking.com, guests who book on mobile devices tend to cancel less. With more and more bookings now being made on mobile a good user experience on mobile is therefore paramount. If your hotel fails to offer a fast feature-rich mobile experience, you may be raising barriers to getting the booking even though that booker may want to book direct.

Targeting mobile transactions is the single best thing that a hotel can do to improve its direct booking business and be prepared for the future. While desktop may drive more revenue now, traffic on mobile has now exceeded desktop traffic for hotels, giving you opportunity to capitalise on growing levels of mobile transactions. Alternatively, not addressing mobile is lost opportunity today, and increasingly into the future.

For example, Bookassist’s next generation V10 Mobile platform is an entirely new mobile-first booking platform delivering a truly engaging, super fast, touch-optimised mobile experience. It offers a full-feature app-like user experience that fully exploits the mobile opportunity for hotels right now, and positions them for the future. It has already proven to increase mobile conversion as well as average booking value for participating hotels.

Bottom Line

Hotels should pay much more attention to cancellation rates and their subsequent effects. Rather than accept the issue of rising cancellations and only tactically adjust operations to cope with them, hotels need to focus more on why they happen and strategically adjust for long term business success.

Conversion rates for sales channels need to be considered alongside cancellation rates and not in isolation. Hotels that adopt a strong direct booking strategy and professional mobile presence experience a far lower rate of cancellations and therefore a far more profitable bottom line.

Part 2 of this article will focus on actual tactics that hotels can use to address the issue of cancellations in their hotel. Share your ideas and experiences and we will share them in our follow up article. Take survey

Claire Sawier is Head of Marketing, Bernhard Böhm is Product R&D Officer and Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist, (bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.


The Good and Bad of Trivago’s Hotel Metasearch Model

By Jacopo Rita | On Thu, March 07, 2019

According to recent industry buzz and rumours, Trivago has seen better times.

Hardly a month (or even a week!) goes past by without an article or press release highlighting even more trouble for the metasearch site.

The issues seem endless: Financial woes and a weakening competitive position as an effective marketing channel are compounded by online travel agencies pulling back on spend.

But at same time, we are still bombarded by Trivago advertisements and demand as well as interest from hotels in Trivago show no signs of slowing down.

There’s no doubt about the steady interest in the company from the market, and it still remains a major player in travellers’ efforts to research, find and book the ideal hotel.

So, what’s behind all these stories?

From a Hotelier Perspective: The Good About Trivago

At Bookassist, we work with hundreds of hotels to boost their visibility on metasearch sites, including Trivago.

We collect a huge volume of data over time, and that gives us a privileged position in determining how effective Trivago is from an advertising perspective for independent hotels.

And some positive news can’t be ignored.

  1. Trivago is still the metasearch leader in terms of traffic generation to hotel websites.
  1. The ROI is there.
  1. The volumes vs. profitability eternal dilemma: Trivago is fine here, too.

Trivago still drives lot of traffic to hotels websites at a reasonable cost of acquisition, given the ROI it delivers at a larger scale; and it’s actually the metasearch site - second only to Google - that gives the best balance between these KPIs.

So, again: why all the negativity?
While the year-to-date figures above show some pretty nice and positive KPIs for Trivago itself as well as for Trivago’s effectiveness compared to other metasearch engines, the same can’t be said when those very KPIs get compared to the previous year.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Trivago, as with any other digital marketing activities has to have a long-term strategy, and so looking at its growth (or decline) over a longer time frame is a crucial task for digital marketing managers, especially at this time of the year when 2019 budgets are due!

When we look at Trivago’s growth through a year-over-year comparison, the picture changes dramatically.

While Trivago is still the channel that delivers the most traffic to hotel websites (see Chart 1 above), the trend has actually decreased quite significantly compared to last year, showing a concerning up-to 40% drop for some hotels.

While metasearch as a whole has been growing, Trivago has been falling behind, not only in terms of traffic generation (see Chart 4), but also in terms of contribution to bookings for hotel websites.

When Everything Changed For The Worse

At the end of 2017, Trivago rolled out a major update to its algorithm that determined how advertisers ranked in the auction. While Trivago always has been proud of its price-win auction dynamics (resulting in giving first position to advertisers with the cheapest room rate), this has all now changed to a bid-win dynamic: Room rate is no longer a way to guarantee a first position in the ranking.

Whether this has been done in a desperate effort to try to keep OTAs onboard (as they had started pulling back on spend) or as a way to increase revenue (it’s hard to say, but it’s likely to be a bit of both ), the outcome is the same: This move has only penalised independent hotels and, in particular, the effectiveness of their pay-per-click investments on Trivago. The result is a higher cost-per-click (Chart 6 below) and, as a consequence, less traffic to hotel websites.

Less traffic to hotel websites at a higher cost of click acquisition can only lead to a decrease in profitability, as has happened to many hotels.

The Trivago Value Proposition Compromise

On the consumer side, overall popularity of Trivago also seems to have taken a nose dive. Again, comparisons to 2017 show fewer users using the Trivago search engine, which Trivago also states in its quarterly reports when significant decreases in qualified referrals are reported.

Trivago’s changes to its algorithm didn’t only affect profitability of hotels investments, it has also compromised its value proposition to its customers.

How can you promote yourself as the go-to place to find the best price if the results don’t reflect that?

There’s disconnect here between brand promise and user experience.

And this can be certainly one of the reasons why Trivago, as a brand, has lost some popularity compared to the past in users’ eyes.

So while bidding and ranking algorithm changes were crucial to the effectiveness of hoteliers’ investments in Trivago (which turns into a higher or lower profitability), attractiveness of Trivago to travellers is now crucial in terms of potential volumes that it can drive to hotels.

These are the two key areas that need to be looked at closely to ensure ongoing successful performances for hotels, and we expect (and hope!) that these are the two main areas where Trivago moves next.
Like everything involved in technology and the digital ecosystem - and when it comes to metasearch advertising, even more so! - change is the norm, and the speed of change is the paradigm.

A Hotelier Action Plan

Things change so quickly, so often: Reacting to change, and adapting on time is the key to staying competitive.

This is the same approach that needs to be taken with Trivago.
Trivago is still delivering positive KPIs as an advertising platform, and it’s a cost-effective channel, especially compared to a number of other digital advertising options hotels can choose. This can’t be ignored by independent hotels in their quest to drive direct bookings.

Trivago is still the leader in terms of traffic acquisition in the metasearch landscape, especially for properties located across Europe. There’s a lot of online traffic to hotels (official websites or OTA listings) through Trivago, which it makes it a worthwhile channel.

Conversion rate optimisation is the key when it comes to converting Trivago’s huge traffic into bookings. Hotels need to be well-equipped for that, with outstanding landing pages, well-performing booking engines and, and last but not least, an optimised user experience for mobile devices (since 70% of traffic on Trivago is through mobile).

These are some of the tactical actions required to maximise the Trivago opportunity.


Top Trends Hotels Should Watch Out For in 2019

By Editor | On Mon, December 03, 2018

As the year draws to a close, the hotel industry is setting its sights on the future in an effort to align marketing plans with new and emerging trends. So what are the hot new trends? Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that while hoteliers are always keen to know what’s coming next, some get over-excited about new trends but have not properly adopted the more universal current trends. The benefits for hotels who choose to ride the online wave of innovation will be realised in more direct, higher-margin bookings. But make sure to get your fundamentals right and optimise today’s opportunities before embarking on shiny new directions.

Millennials and Gen Z

Buying power in the market is now dominated by Millennials and Gen Z who by 2020 will make up nearly 60% of the world’s global workforce.

Millennials are much more interested in discovering something unique and personal, spending 70% more on experiences than purchasing physical items. Gen Z, known as the convenience generation, has never known a world without the internet. Always connected and always on, they are used to instant results and feedback. With short attention spans, they demand quick and pain-free user experiences.

The message is clear. Experience is king. Luckily, hoteliers have a huge influence over generating customer experience. Hotels need to remember that they alone own their hotel rooms, they alone own the in-stay experience, and they alone choose whether or not to own the customer relationship at the time of booking. This is the hotels’ unique advantage over online sales brands.

Mobile is set to explode. Again.

With download speeds 10 to 20 times faster than currently available, 5G will have a massive impact on mobile user behaviour and expectations. Video and augmented or virtual reality will become readily accessible. This will lead to huge changes in pre-booking research, with users able to visualise themselves in a room rather than just looking through photos or a 360 degree tour.

A mobile-first strategy must replace the “also available on mobile” approach. Google’s mobile-first indexing will reward hotels who invest in a mobile-first strategy and heavily penalise those that are not mobile friendly. No hotel can afford to ignore mobile as again online travel agents (OTAs) will be waiting in the wings for the easy pickings served to them by hotels that fail to prioritise a mobile-first strategy.

Bookassist statistics show up to 60% of hotel website traffic coming from mobile (UK & IE). Transactions too have seen a jump for hotels who are mobile optimised. While revenue is still very much desktop-heavy, mobile revenue is rapidly rising. It’s also important to consider that the customer journey doesn’t always start on desktop and has multiple touch points. Ignore mobile optimisation at your peril.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be further enabled by 5G network rollout. While VR replaces the real-world environment with a virtual one and requires wearable technology such as a VR headset, AR adds to the real-world environment by introducing digital components into reality which users can access with a smartphone. This makes AR a more realistic goal for hoteliers.

Some hotels are already using AR to enhance their brochures which, when scanned by mobile, can jump to life. AR-enabled wall maps allow guests to explore local points of interest before venturing out. AR can even be used to augment the hotel environment itself to make it a more enjoyable experience. There is huge opportunity here for hotels to enhance both the pre-stay and in-stay experience for their guests.

Video Will Dominate

Millennials and Gen Z access more content by video than any other form. Information transfer from video is also significantly higher, since people today are more likely to watch than read, especially on mobile. It’s worth remembering that in terms of search volume, YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine. And it’s not just YouTube - Facebook generates 8 billion video views on average per day and certainly can’t be ignored. The advent of 5G access will just make this an even more important medium.

Hotels need to future-proof their businesses now by investing in relevant, informational and entertaining video content and video advertising. Google estimates that video will account for 80% of all media consumed online by 2021. While video, and video advertising, may be more expensive to generate, the cost of not investing in video will become plain very soon.

Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence

The most widely implemented form of artificial intelligence (AI) in travel is in the form of chatbots. Many hotels already have a live chat on their websites but chatbots have automation at their core and can deliver rapid response times to common problems or queries, freeing hotel staff to focus on more personalised service.

An intelligent chatbot is further able to improve itself through machine learning based on its interactions with customers over time. At the moment most chatbots are text based, although this will change as voice queries increase.

Some of the key things to look for in choosing a chatbot service are:
Chatbots can integrate with booking engine APIs so that rates and availability can be provided to customers, and Bookassist has already completed such integrations (for example with Colossal Factory’s chatbot Zoé).

  • The ability to ‘teach’ your chatbot by adding personalised questions and answers
  • Multilingual options
  • Self-learning through machine learning so that the chatbot can improve itself
  • Availability on all devices
  • Option to connect with live chat when necessary
  • Option to arrange a follow up or call back when an answer is not available
  • Most importantly, the facility to provide information that can facilitate a booking.

Digital Voice Assistants

There has been a surge in digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana, and the hotel industry is increasingly adopting these assistants to enhance the in-stay experience.

In-room voice assistants and the Internet of Things is being used to enhance the guest experience. We can now simply speak to easily adjust room features to suit personal needs such as controlling lights, heating etc. Voice commands can also be used to schedule a wake-up call, play a favourite playlist, order room service, request towels, and report faults. The implications for hyper personalisation and customer service are significant.

AI-enabled robots equipped with speech recognition technology are already being used by some hotels such as Yotel to greet guests, answer basic queries and deliver room service. It’s still very early days, but expect to see lot more robots in your travels in future years.

Voice Search

Statistics around voice search are dramatic. According to Comscore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. And about 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020 according to Mediapos. There is no doubt that there is a solid trend away from traditional text-based search.

The shift to voice search has implications for digital marketers who need to tailor their SEO and content strategy to match with voice search. To be optimised for voice search, you first need to assess the intent of likely queries. Is the user likely to ask general questions indicating that they are not very far into the purchase path, or questions that indicate they are almost ready to book? Next, you need to see how your content might answer the various questions you anticipate. Is your content conversational and likely to provide a good and clear answer?

A well-written FAQ page is a good way to address voice search. Other areas to look at include adding schema markup to your content to help it appear in featured snippets on Google results, optimising your Google My Business page, and ensuring your site is mobile friendly and fast to load.

Visual Search

Visual Search has been around for quite a while, but it is starting to gain more traction, particularly since the launch of tools such as Pinterest Lens and Google Lens which allow users to point a smartphone at an object and access information about it. It is also possible to search by image on Google on desktop, by clicking in the camera icon in the search box.

To prepare for the shift towards visual search, hotels need to examine their visual content strategy. High quality and engaging imagery, preferably quite unique, consistency across all platforms and presence on key visual platform such and Instagram and Pinterest are basic requirements.

Consider your role both as a content creator and a curator of images. If you come across great images of your property on Instagram or Pinterest you should repost on your hotel’s account and also approach the owners and ask for permission to use them on your website.

Opportunities to appear in visual search present themselves across the entire customer journey, so don’t limit yourself to images in and around your property. A good quality image of a local attraction added to a blog post about things to do in your area could potentially appear for a user who is researching their next trip.

Exploring new markets - China

The number of Chinese tourists to Europe surged by 65% in the first half of 2017 year on year. The growth in the number of visas being issued for Chinese travel to Europe further underlines this growth with almost 2.5M visas issued in 2017, compared to 1.2M just 5 years earlier.

Before deciding to target the Chinese market, consider that Independent travellers from China are rare as it is more typical for Chinese visitors to have visas and travel arranged by a tour operator.

In targeting the Chinese market, look for options that don’t require a huge initial investment. An example would be a meta search platform such as Wego, which has strong visibility in China and which can be accessed for you by Bookassist Meta Search services. If you start to see good results, then it may be worthwhile investigating other platforms and making a firmer commitment to advertising on them and localising content.

Recognition Technology

Recognition technology has hit the hotel space and is increasingly being used in a bid to enhance personalisation and significantly improve customer service. Recognition technology includes biometric identifiers such as facial recognition, fingerprint recognition and retina scanning.

Some hotels are already adopting this technology to create a more frictionless guest experience for example room access via fingerprint, or seamless check in via facial recognition. In a time-poor world, friction reduction is something that guests will increasingly appreciate. The hotel of the future will adopt this technology to personalise the experience to an extent never seen before.

Blockchain

Blockchain is a highly secure digital approach to recording data changes and transactions. Think of it as a ledger but each digital block of a record is encrypted, and each subsequent block has a link to the previous block in that ledger, along with a timestamp and information on the transaction or change. These blocks of data cannot be overwritten, leaving a permanent immutable record and making the data extremely difficult to compromise.

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy in terms of mass market adoption, but there are already foreseeable uses in the hotel industry. For example, the travel industry relies upon client information being passed between multiple different companies. Blockchain technology can make accessing and storing this client information much more secure, reliable and seamless, improving the travel experience and making customers feel more secure with their bookings and sharing their personal data

The issue remains market adoption. Blockchain is not free, and it certainly is not fast to use in terms of transaction speeds. The technology is getting there, but it has to be widely utilised to start disrupting industries, including hospitality.

Out With The Old For Measuring Success

The traditional method of looking at return on investment (ROI) per medium in isolation is no longer relevant. it only measures the impact of one channel but ignores the overall contribution to success. We need to look at total revenue uplift and different attribution models to measure overall contribution of all paid platforms combined.

There are many different attribution models available, but understanding how attribution works is essential before deciding on a multi-channel model. A simple analogy to help explain it is this: If a player scores a goal, should they get 100% of the credit for that goal, or should the defender who passed to midfield who then passed it across to the eventual scorer also receive credit for assisting? In this analogy, if you decide the goal scorer should get 100% of the credit, then you have no need for the other players. Clearly this doesn’t happen, so in an advertising scenario, it equally doesn’t make sense to remove all the platforms that assisted in your final conversion and rely simply on the campaign that got the last click.

Measuring the value of each channel is not easy, but tools such as Google Analytics have improved how they report on assisted conversions and attribution, so this should be your first step.

Bottom Line

There has never been so much new technology coming down the line. Each year brings more and more opportunities for the future. But it is critical to optimise the opportunities you already have right now. Today, there is no stronger direction to take than to focus on mobile. Most of the future technologies will rely heavily on the mobile channel, so ensuring you already have an optimised presence there will allow you to build in the newer technologies as they arrive and not be playing catch-up in the future.

Bookassist (www.bookassist.com) is the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide. Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a Google Premium Partner.


What smart hoteliers need to know about “Book on Google”

By Jacopo Rita | On Wed, November 28, 2018

After several months of testing and following a preliminary launch in the US to websites directly (outside of OTAs) earlier this year, Google has now rolled-out its Book on Google functionality in Europe.

Like every move the online giant makes, it’s creating a lot of noise in the industry which only leads to a risk of misunderstanding and panic: so some clarification on this new feature and its potential impact on hotels is necessary.

What is Book on Google?

Book on Google is a new feature that enriches the user experience within Hotel Search on Google. While travellers have been able to search hotels and compare prices for a long time, the new feature Book on Google enables travellers to complete their booking on the Google website.

The Book on Google booking flow


There is no longer any need to leave the Google website to pass to third-party booking websites and the reservation can be fully completed within Google.

Why Book on Google?

Google has done some great work over the last few years to provide users with a seamless and smooth hotel search process, with small but ongoing and consistent tweaks to its hotel search results page. There’s no doubt that hotel search experience is pretty straightforward today.

But Google still sees a number of obstacles and frictions on its road to ensure the best hotel search experience ever, as the customer progresses down the booking funnel to the booking phase. With so many unoptimised websites and tech-poor booking platforms still around, how can Google be sure it’s suggesting the right hotel, if its final bookability is harmed?

This is where Book on Google comes in: to facilitate bookings and to ensure that the overall hotel search experience stays smooth and frictionless, not only in the earlier discovery and search phase but also when it comes to the actual booking process

Because the booking is now being completed on Google, there’s no risk that poor websites that are not mobile-ready will affect user experience: Google will now take care of it!

Is Google becoming an OTA?

While the question makes a lot of sense given Google’s growing interest in the travel sector, and the recent roll-out of Book on Google, the search giant is still very clear about it: there’s no plan for Google to become an Online Travel Agency in the immediate term.

All Google’s efforts and innovations in the travel space are focused on the same objective. From Destinations to Trips, from its totally reinvented Hotel and Flight search experience up to the latest Book on Google feature, they are all focused on being relevant to users search.

Google certainly wants to be more relevant in the travel space, but not by acting in a OTA-style. There is no Google extranet you can log in to and load your hotel inventory, prices and availability for example. And while the Book-on-Google booking is made within Google, the hotel is still the owner of the booking information. And, last but not least, there is no cost for hotels: Google doesn’t charge any commission on top of the reservation (quite different to OTAs).

Should your hotel participate on Book on Google with your Official Website?

While, in principle Book on Google is a great feature for users, with Google providing them with the best possible search experience, this is clearly not a game-changer for those hotels that are already optimised. The problem Google wants to solve (friction in the booking process) is not necessarily a problem for hotels that have a well-optimized website, state-of-the-art booking engine and a mobile-first experience.

If this is the case for your hotel then there’s no need to participate on Book on Google.

Bookassist’s hotel clients can count on all of this: award-winning technology combined with state-of-the-art website design which results in a top-performing booking engine. And with the recent launch of a totally brand new mobile-first booking engine we also tackle all the potential obstacles and frictions on the crucial mobile funnel.

With all this in place, there’s no reason why your hotel booking engine shouldn’t be able to capture bookings through Google; the Book on Google facilitation is welcome, but it’s not actually needed. And Bookassist results speak for themselves:

  • Great Conversion Rates from Google campaigns, with an average of 7% Conversion Rate from Google Metasearch campaigns for Bookassist optimised hotels (with many achieving >10% CVR%)
  • Great ROI€ with an average of x15 ROI, resulting in a cost of acquisition for bookings of <7%

Why is owning the booking process on your official website is still better than leaving it to someone else?

But it’s not only about ensuring that your hotel bookings performances are not affected by a bad booking experience. It’s much more than that.

Every action you put in place has a specific goal: capturing more direct bookings. If so, then the endgame must be that this should happen in the most important channel that you own: your official website.

There’s also a number of additional things that you might be doing on your booking page that can’t be left to someone else:
These additional aims are actually not only about facilitating bookings, but are helping to increase your direct business over time.

  • Strengthening your hotel brand identity;
  • Owning the relationship with your potential customer, that you nurture through content personalisation, popups, prices comparison widgets, addons, instant messages and chatbots;
  • Doing lead generation through newsletter subscription, contact forms, special offers;
  • Acquiring valuable data about your potential customers that are so important for further strategies of remarketing, upselling and conversion rate optimisation.

These additional aims are actually not only about facilitating bookings, but are helping to increase your direct business over time. Smart hoteliers need to look at the long term implications, not just apparent short-term gains.

—-

Jacopo Rita is Product Manager for Metasearch at Bookassist, the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

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Mobile Revenue Continues to Grow in Q3 2018 - Are You Prepared?

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, November 02, 2018

​Mobile is very much the present, no longer the future

We’ve shown on these pages before how mobile traffic and revenue grew in the first half of 2018 and we now update that for the first three quarters of 2018. The continuing change has created immediate opportunities for hotels. Or we can put it another way - it creates immediate and real problems for hotel sales if hotels are not prepared for the mobile mindset.

The figures below show the mobile phone, tablet and desktop traffic share (unique sessions) recorded for hundreds of Bookassist hotel client websites across Europe in the first 9 months of 2018. Notable are that for the Ireland/UK and the Spain/Portugal regions, desktop is now 50% or less of hotel website traffic. For other regions, desktop has been stable or marginally declining year on year. Mobile phone growth is mostly at the expense of tablet traffic this last quarter.

The figures, and the change year or year, indicate that we may be reaching a stable balance between mobile device traffic and desktop traffic in most regions. Desktop cannot of course continue to decline forever, at least while companies and workplaces continue to use desktop and laptop machines despite the ever-increasing shift in personal use to mobile devices.

Mobile traffic and its annual change year to end September 2018
Mobile traffic and its annual change year to end September

This relative balance achieved in traffic this year is not however reflected in revenue generation. Here we see double-digit growth in revenue generation on mobile, and decline in desktop revenue generation across all markets. The data shows that there is a clear increase in confidence in mobile users when it comes to transacting on mobile devices and this trend is continuing upward to narrow the gap with desktop. Revenue generation on mobile still has a long way to go to reach relative desktop levels, but it’s clearly getting there sooner rather than later.

Mobile-generated revenue and its annual change year to end September 2018
Mobile-generated revenue and its annual change year to end September

Responsive is no longer good enough

Taken together, the data here show that having an optimised and fully functional mobile website and mobile ecommerce platform is critical for hotels who want to tap into higher-margin direct business. The mobile experience is clearly different from the desktop experience, and therefore needs to be treated differently and quite specifically.

Having the same experience on desktop as on mobile, a typical “responsive” approach, is simply not good enough anymore. Each platform, whether desktop or mobile, needs to be optimised for its users and for its user experience capabilities and user expectations. This is exactly why Bookassist has developed and launched the V10 Mobile booking engine experience, a uniquely app-like approach to mobile booking that is proving extremely effective at building hotel revenues on mobile.

It’s time hotels stepped up to the mobile challenge - and the opportunity it brings.


The 4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Success. Part 4 - Email Marketing

By Editor | On Wed, September 12, 2018

In this, the last of a four part series The 4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Success, we’ll take a look at pillar 4, Email Marketing. Read about pillar 1 SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), pillar 2 Paid Advertising, and pillar 3 Social Media.

Pillar 4 | Email

In 2017, there were 3.7 billion recorded global email users. This number is predicted to grow to up to 4.1 billion users by 2021[1]. It’s been 40 years since Ray Tomlinson sent the first email and it continues to be one of the most effective digital media channels, surpassing social media marketing according to research conducted by SmartInsights[2].

In a head to head comparison with Facebook and Twitter, email is still the preferred platform for receiving promotional messages[3].

While customers may be more proactive on search engines or social media, they are more likely to be reached and willing to interact with a brand through email. This is why email is still the preferred method of communication between brands and their audience, and a key pillar of digital strategy. If social media is your platform for personalised customer engagement, then email is what you can use to solidify that relationship. It simply engages recipients in a way that other platforms cannot. Customers are able to read messages in their own time and respond at their convenience. It keeps better record of conversations and access to email content is not restricted to a particular device or region. Email can also be easily forwarded and used to reach groups of people simultaneously.

Email continues to have a wider reach than social media. Only two percent of people may see a post on their social media feed, but ninety percent of emails reach their intended inbox[4]. And in a post-GDPR setting, where many marketers have seen their email lists significantly reduced, it is important to remember that customers voluntarily sign up to a brand’s email list, allowing email marketing to reach those who have already expressed brand consideration and purchase intent.

With an average return on investment (ROI) of $38 for every $1 spent[5], email maintains its relevance as an accessible and affordable digital marketing channel and lead nurturing tool.

Make Your Emails Matter

Post-GDPR, it’s critical to consider the type of email communication that can make the most impact. Transactional emails or emails that are a result of an action on the customer’s part such as downloading a brochure, completing a booking, or filling a form, have become significantly more important[6]. Not only do they give you a valid (and GDPR compliant) reason to reach out to your customer, they also prompt you to communicate with your customer just as they’ve recently interacted with your business, while your hotel brand is still fresh in their minds.

Why Make Email Part of Your Marketing Mix?

First, email tells you a lot about your target market. The way that your recipient list responds to your business gives you indispensable market data. Email allows you to gauge user interaction and segment this data to create detailed buyer personas[7]. These personas can, in turn, be used to flesh out the rest of your marketing mix, e.g. to optimise PPC campaigns, to generate social media material and website content, resulting in higher quality leads.

Second, email works well with mobile. Mobile internet traffic is continuously poised to overtake desktop and, as of April 2018, already accounts for 51.2% of webpage views worldwide[8]. Emails can be easily adapted for multiple mobile devices thanks to its minimal formatting options, making it easier for you to reach your target audience on their preferred device.

Third, email is easily personalised. Because email can provide you with a lot of information about your target market, it also makes it easy to create a personalised experience for them. Automated behavioural trigger emails can be used to keep your readers engaged with your business[9], while landing pages on your website customised according to your buyer personas can more successfully prompt users in your email lists to engage with specific aspects of your brand. These activities help strengthen your site’s online presence through customer engagement and retention, resulting in a more authoritative website.


Samantha Salazar, Digital Marketing Specialist at Bookassist (www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a Google Premium Partner.


[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/255080/number-of-e-mail-users-worldwide/

[2] https://www.smartinsights.com/email-marketing/state-email-marketing-infographic/

[3] https://optinmonster.com/email-marketing-vs-social-media-performance-2016-2019-statistics/

[4] https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2016/01/70-email-marketing-stats-you-need-to-know/

[5] https://www.salesforce.com/products/marketing-cloud/best-practices/ecommerce-marketing/

[6] https://marketing.toolbox.com/blogs/peterkowalke/5-ways-gdpr-changes-marketing-071318

[7] https://sleeknote.com/blog/buyer-personas

[8] https://www.statista.com/statistics/306528/share-of-mobile-internet-traffic-in-global-regions/

[9] https://www.smartinsights.com/email-marketing/behavioural-email-marketing/triggered-email-campaigns-infographic/



The 4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Success. Part 3 - Social Media

By Editor | On Wed, September 05, 2018

In this, the third of a four part series The 4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Success we take a look at pillar 3, Social Media. Read about pillar 1 on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and pillar 2 on Paid Advertising.

Pillar 3 | Social Media

By Sara Santos García

About 30% of all time spent on the internet is spent on social media, an average of 2 hours each day per person[1]. As of July 2017, Facebook was the most popular social networking site with an impressive 2 billion active daily users[2]. The potential to tap into this number of active online customers and to seed influence cannot be ignored, and social media channels should be a key pillar of any hotelier’s marketing strategy.

Figure 1: Average Daily spent on Social. Image credit: MediaKix

The use of social media builds social authority for your business. It does not directly impact your organic ranking on Google or other search engines, but it can give a boost to your online presence.

Social media can be a powerful channel for hoteliers if utilised correctly. It should work alongside your SEO and paid advertising strategies in order to create awareness, increase interactions with your brand, engage, delight, and therefore help increase bookings for your hotel. Hoteliers need to understand that using social media in conjunction with all of your other online strategies in a coordinated fashion is what makes it so powerful[3].

Social media works best in an “assistive” capacity, a perfect tool for the top of the sales funnel. But it can also provide prospective customers with insights about where to stay and gives hotels a great opportunity to put their best foot forward in terms of their public image online. It is also about you being present during the buyer’s journey to purchase, reinforcing their decisions, influencing the user throughout the different touch points and ensuring their experience with your brand throughout the buyer decision journey is as easy and simple as it can possibly be.

Paid Social Advertising

Organic social media is a cost-effective and long-term solution for your business. But don’t forget that paid social media advertising can additionally offer immediate results that are worth paying for. Facebook has ramped up their advertising capabilities in recent years and features very strong segmentation that can suit the hospitality business very well. Facebook-owned Instagram also has progressed its advertising platform and can also be quite effective depending on the message you want to push. Creating a strategy for organic and paid social media marketing is something that every hotelier should explore[4].

Why include Social Media as part of your Digital Strategy?

Social media is (of course) highly personal. It helps you communicate who YOU are through your photos, videos and direct customer engagement. It helps to create realistic expectations of what to expect when a guest stays at your hotel and can therefore be used to reduce negative feedback due to false expectations. Most importantly, it builds relationships and connects with your audience and gives your business a personal identity and voice. Having a dedicated Social Media team will also ensure a strong framework for your overall online reputation management.

You may not see the real impact that social media is having in your business at first, but over time, and with a commitment to creating regular content, responding to customer queries, and engaging with your target audience, there can be great implicit and explicit returns. Be sure to dig deeper into Google Analytics to see how social media is playing an assisted role in your online conversions.

Sara Santos Gracia, Digital Marketing Specialist at Bookassist (www.bookassist.com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.

Bookassist is The Direct Booking Expert™ and is a Google Premium Partner.

[1] https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic

[2] https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/27/facebook-2-billion-users/

[3] https://www.e-marketingassociates.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-why-social-media-is-important-for-hotels-pt2

[4] https://medium.com/@the_manifest/how-to-create-strategies-for-organic-vs-paid-social-media-marketing-ce4e754606f7


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