Psychology plays a deeper role in online hotel booking decisions than you may think, particularly when it comes to building trust among hotel consumers.
And creating that trust, experts say, is not as simple as just touting your brand affiliation or TripAdvisor rating.
Ultimately, your sales will suffer if you fail to foster trust with your hotel website visitors and give them psychological motivation to buy. According to a recent Western University study recently discussed in the Harvard Business Review, that begins with understanding the two methods of reasoning customers use when making online purchases, depending on the level of risk involved with that decision.
There are two different, yet complementary “parallel” means in which humans decide to buy. On the one hand, potential customers use logical, rules-based “deliberative”system of reasoning when making small, low-risk purchases.
That means that when buying lower-priced items online, shoppers are mostly looking for the standard signs of business legitimacy, like a secure checkout, a strong search-engine presence, online reviews, etc. Buying in this situation is a deliberate, informed choice that satisfies a very basic customer need.
But for more expensive, complicated transactions where personal comforts are associated (ie hotel stays), humans tend to rely on what is called “associative”reasoning, which is far less structured and rules-based than the deliberative process. Associative reasoning relies more on the individual’s own intuition and personal experience, and here is where building virtual trust becomes so important. Instead of creating a bond in person through your sales charisma and the reassuring experience of meeting your client in person at your office or storefront, you need to find the online aesthetics instead that trigger the same associative customer trust.
Here are three proven ways to build trust and increase your hotel website conversion rate:
1. Actually be authentic
You’ll never connect with consumers with a generic, cookie-cutter hotel website that fails to convey a truthful story. But there are also a number of subtle visual cues, as well as content features, that can go a long way toward enhancing a sense of authenticity that eases suspicion and fosters trust. Some useful tips include:
- Be truthful
Travelers are no longer drawn to sterile facts, puffy promises of a wonderful stay or mentions of your recent industry awards. They want to be a part of something that intrigues them, connects with them and gives them something to brag about. Telling a meaningful, TRUTHFUL story is what can truly attract travelers. Correctly telling your story means knowing your audience, being honest about your assets and getting all stakeholders into consensus about your property’s unique identity, so you can convey it poignantly across all marketing channels.
Also, be truthful in how you tailor your messaging, language and imagery. Avoid using models in photos who don’t look anything like your typical visitors. And write your copy with language that speaks to your intended audience.
- Avoid stock photography
Those dull, lifeless stock images that are used all too often on the web do little to motivate buyers or convince them they should do business with you. Instead, try and use your own unique photos. If that means hiring a professional photographer in order to create quality images, then go ahead and budget for that. And most importantly, every hotel should be capturing guest-generated content and repurpose it across every marketing channel
- Get hyper-local
Give visitors the most authentic personalized content and recommendations you can. Offer “Staff picks” on great places to eat, “in-the-know” events and other local suggestions that go beyond the typical tips already available online for your area. Position your hotel website as the epicenter of the destination!
2. Provide social proof
Social proof can have a huge effect on building trust, because it taps into that fuzzy human logic that drives associative reasoning, including the fear of missing out (FOMO). Some core methods of providing social proof include:
- Celebrate Past Guest Experiences on Social Media
Travel consumers are heavily influenced by “social proof” (this is why TripAdvisor is so popular). By sharing past guest stories, reviews (and best of all videos) on their hotel’s social media channels, you can turn your past guests into a perpetual army of experience evangelists.
Harvest their good times!
- User Testimonials
Post glowing past guest reviews directly on your website (especially for meeting planners). If possible, include a photo of the person leaving the review, which enhances the perceived legitimacy of the testimonial
- Media Labels
Showcase awards on your hotel website from the reputable news or travel industry organizations who’ve recognized your property. The equity of these organisations creates buyer confidence at a quick glance
- Partner Logos
Also display the logos of the businesses and organizations you partner with, even if they are smaller, less easily recognized brands. This bolsters credibility and draws other partners and customers to you
3. Create helpful content
Research has shown that people are more likely to do you a favor if you do something for them first. In marketing, this is called reciprocity, the principle of give and take. If you offer something of value upfront, travelers will have an innate desire and obligation to return the favor.
So when planning and executing content strategies for your site, create content purely for the sake of being useful to your customers. Don’t make content a thinly-veiled sales pitch. That’s a surefire recipe for a rapid bounce rate (how quickly someone clicks on a link and then leaves) and is a general turn-off for viewers, who see right through this tactic.
Design content to help solve problems and address customer pain points. Local area guides, FAQ pages, area events calendars etc are all examples of selfless content that conveys helpfulness and generates trust