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Q&A: Strategies to increase direct bookings

Gemma Todd-McVinish Marketing Manager, NewBook reveals strategies that will increase direct bookings

In what ways can operators invest in their own websites/social media channels to increase direct bookings?

Your website is your number one tool to convert bookings. Invest in creating a modern, seamless user experience with an integrated online booking engine, and make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. If your booking process is confusing or slow to load, guests will simply book elsewhere, which will cost you commissions! On social media channels, I would highly recommend implementing retargeting ads. Retargeting ads are cost-effective, great for brand awareness, and have a 10 times higher click-through rate than regular display ads.

Do you have tips on creating and managing website content?

Your website is often the first impression of your business, so regularly updating it with new content is crucial. It not only creates trust for potential guests but search engines regard fresh content as more relevant, meaning your listing will likely appear higher in search results. Winning!

If your last blog is from 2019, or your images were taken in 2012, it’s time to prioritise some updates. Keep up with the times and keep your guests informed on what’s happening at your property by adding some content about events in your area, awards you have won, and most importantly, invest in a professional photographer to take high-quality images of your property.

Are there any benefits to creating a loyalty/rewards program?

Customers who are part of a loyalty program are 59 percent more likely to choose a brand over others. Loyalty programs allow you to reward guests for choosing your property and create a more personalised experience. Treat new members to a discounted rate for their first stay.

What are the most effective ways to convert website traffic to guest bookings?

Did you know that the hospitality industry only has a two percent website conversion rate?

Some simple tips to boost your conversions include creating a seamless booking process with clear prompts, reducing the number of check-out steps, and using abandoned cart recovery emails. These emails will track users who only got part of the way through the booking process and send a follow up email to complete their booking.

Additionally, try adding an offer for 10 percent off their first stay to your home page or as a pop-up and watch new bookings roll in.

What is your advice for operators implementing social media strategies?

Social media offers a massive digital reach with 4.48 billion users across the globe. When creating your social media strategy, it’s important to define and understand your target audience. For example, is your ideal guest a business traveller or a family? Once your key audience is identified, create targeted display and retargeting ads on social platforms that link directly to your booking engine to place their reservation.

Within your Facebook account, you can see the days and times that your followers are most active, so ensure that you are consistently posting at these times for maximum engagement. Most importantly, share your guest content, it’s the most valuable free social proof you can get.

How can operators ensure they appear in searches with effective SEM/SEO?

A simple way to boost your organic search ranking is by writing your own blogs. Start by committing to uploading a short blog just twice a month that includes keywords relevant to you. Write about a new facility that may be coming soon, upcoming events or the best local restaurants in your area. Posting blogs provides your website visitors will valuable information and travel inspiration, and you’ll be increasing your digital reach!

How can operators get to know their audience better and build relationships?

When developing a relationship with your online audience, adopt a customer-centric approach. Take the time to respond to guest reviews, like their comments and share their holiday images at your property. These small interactions can have lasting impacts, making your guests think of your property the next time they want to book a holiday. Look at your analytics to gain insights on who your key audience is.

What are the best ways to spend advertising dollars?

When choosing your advertising channels, it’s important to consider your budget and your key target audience. We’d suggest and test and learn strategy whereby you test a range of channels such as paid Google search, social media ads, or OTA sponsored ads and monitoring the results to see what performs best for your property.

Once you clearly understand which channel performs best, you’ll know exactly where you should spend your advertising dollars.

What should operators prioritise when trying to increase direct bookings?

If direct bookings are your goal, it’s important that you invest in an integrated online booking engine. Keep your booking process seamless and simple, optimize your website and reward guests for booking direct.

What can you tell us about future trends?

With millennials contributing to 31 percent of the world’s population, accommodation providers will need to adapt to cater to the demands of the 21st-century traveller. We are likely to see increased demand for self-service technology and artificial intelligence in the industry. You can also expect to see a rise in online bookings made through mobile apps.

Approximately one in three travellers say they are more likely to use their mobile to complete a booking when booking apps are available.

By Gemma Todd-McVinish Marketing Manager, NewBook

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