5 ways your booking engine is pushing people out the door

The minute they enter your booking engine, you’ve got ’em right where you want them.

They’re seconds away from hitting Book Now.

You’ve pulled them past all of the initial dreaming and researching phases. They like you and your destination. It should be easy enough to get them to fill out some basic information and book a room, right?


According to a recent study from SalesCycle, 81% of people abandon your booking engine without a transaction.

Why get so far in the booking process only to give up in the last seconds?

Often, travellers have one of ten issues:

1. Rates are cheaper on third party sites and OTAs:

The number one reason travellers leave your booking engine is they believe they can find a cheaper rate elsewhere for your property. OTAs are notorious for finding creative ways to seduce consumers with “creative rate presentation.”

Ensure that your contracts with third parties clearly specify what they can showcase and even then, make sure your revenue management team is vigilantly policing your rate parity agreements. (Shameless plug: Our hotel booking engine reduces abandonment by pulling current prices from the major OTAs and displaying them alongside your best rate—if prices are out of parity, our booking engine instantly matches the lower OTA rate). Or, build in more value add-ons in your rates, like complimentary breakfast, complimentary Wifi, or complimentary parking, that are only available to guests who book direct. Market these add-ons as much as you can throughout your Website so your visitors know that the best deal can only be found there, not elsewhere.

2. Hidden costs and sticker shock:

Studies show that nothing kills a sale – and trust – like unexpected costs. Mostly hidden costs that many hotels like to sneak into the transaction right before asking for credit card information. Today’s travellers have no patience for additional charges and will be ruthless in abandoning any property that tries to spring on pesky fees.

In fact, 64% of travellers would leave your booking engine when they find hidden costs. Present any additional costs as early in the process as possible, such as a resort fee. Don’t wait until they press ‘book now’ to announce these charges.

3. Your mobile experience is poor:

Google studies show that 36% of business travellers and 40% of leisure travellers book hotel rooms on their mobile phones. And, bookings originating from users on iPads and other tablet-sized devices are growing fast. The viewing/booking experience on a tablet is especially conducive to eCommerce and is no longer a choice for hotel marketers. It’s necessary that your hotel’s website design is not only mobile-friendly, but has a tablet-specific experience that harnesses the intrinsic functionality of tablet computing (extensive swipe-thru galleries etc).

Optimising the tablet experience also extends to the booking process. Make sure your booking engine vendor has tablet-friendly booking widgets and screens that delight users rather than irritate them and cause abandonment. With all of this focus on smartphone and tablet experience, don’t completely turn your back on your desktop experience.

An inadequate website user experience can also chase away bookings. If your website is dated, or lacks the new large, dramatic formatting now used by serious hoteliers, guests will expect cheaper rates (even if you provide a luxury experience) and shun your property for a more worthwhile competitor.

4. You haven’t satisfied one side of their brain:

Travel purchases require two types of thought: rational and emotional.

While leisure travellers may be more emotional, they still have budgets. Likewise, business travel seems more rational, but no company wants to field employee complaints about accommodations. The booking engine falls into the rational side of the decision-making process, but by the time a traveler arrives at your booking engine, their emotional needs must be met. They must be “inspired” to pay your prices. 39% of abandoners say they are “just looking.”

So your website experience must go above and beyond to inspire and excite visitors.

5. It’s too frustrating to make a reservation

It’s a lesson hoteliers rarely hear, but should immediately heed: your booking engine must be a simple process.

According to SalesCycle, out of 1000 travel buyers, 13% said they left the booking process because it was too long and time-consuming. Hundreds of hotels are still cluttering their booking engines with too much text, too many pages and endless steps. The rule of thumb is that it should take no more than three clicks to complete a booking. Avoid too many self-serving screens of add-ons and upgrades. Save up-selling for the confirmation email or pre-arrival email sent by your PMS or CRM system. When it becomes too cumbersome or technical, a new emotion takes hold of your consumer—frustration. And frustration overcomes rationality.

Then emotion takes over and they begin searching for an easier option. After all, if they’re already having difficulties with you, what can they expect upon arrival? Simplify the process and air on the side of making their experience a pleasant one, just as you would if they were physically in your hotel.

Part 2 of this article will appear next week… stay tuned!


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