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.
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.