If you have been in the hospitality industry for a while and been following the trend and effect patterns, you may have heard of the term “The Billboard Effect”.
It’s a term that represents a traveller initially finding a property through the advertising of an online travel agency (OTA) listing, then proceeding to the property’s direct website to secure the booking.
Some property managers may not see the benefit of listing their properties on OTA websites, due to a lack of ROI (return on investment). However, a pattern we have seen in modern-day travellers, is that OTAs are first being used as a research tool to identify location, price variants, and value for money. This is then followed by viewing the website of the property directly to determine if the brand is a cultural fit and to review any additional information or offers. At that time, the consumer completes the transaction directly through the property’s webpage.
So, what does this mean for property owners and managers? Simply put, OTAs can be an extraordinarily beneficial advertising tool. OTAs, used in conjunction with a responsive property website, can increase direct bookings considerably. It is imperative that properties have a modern, easy-to-use website that enhances customer engagement in order to complete the transaction process.
Website appearance & responsiveness
To maximise the advantage of the Billboard Effect, it is essential that your webpage is visually appealing, modern, and user-friendly. Professional, high-quality imagery will optimise the appearance of your property and transform your properties digital representation. It is important to showcase the time, quality, and financial investment you have committed directly to consumers to highlight the best parts of your brand.
Ensure your webpage is easy to navigate across all devices (desktop, mobile and tablet). Consumers are likely to peruse and research hotels from numerous devices before finally booking, which is why having a responsive website is crucial to the customer booking process.
Show customers you have taken the time to go above and beyond by providing tourism options beyond their accommodation stay. This could entail local tourist spots, attractions, transport, restaurants, and activities. Delivering travellers more information about the area and what they can do will enhance their view of the property as “the whole package”.
An attractive and easy-to-use booking form will make your accommodation look highly appealing to consumers and therefore increase the chances of a direct booking being made. A booking form that has just three clicks from ‘look to book’ is imperative to save guests time and to ensure they have a pleasant booking experience. Make sure your booking form allows you to personalise its appearance so that it blends seamlessly with your website and brand.
Optimise your website
It’s important that your website is easy for consumers to find. The accommodation industry is saturated with online businesses, so investing in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is going to be one of the best ways to ensure your website stands out from the rest. Outsourcing to a digital marketing firm and dealing with industry professionals is well worth the investment.
Competitive booking rates
Once consumers decide to visit your webpage to make their final decision, it’s worth encouraging them through competitive prices that can only be secured through booking directly. Adding time-sensitive promotions will also add the subtle pressure to book now at a special rate, instead of opting for the OTA.
The Billboard Effect is a great digital event in the industry. When used proactively, it can increase direct bookings considerably. The above tools are just some of the ways you can make the most out of a natural event that occurs during the consumer booking process.
Sylvia is a Senior Executive at HiRUM Software Solutions, which has become one of the global leaders in hotel software, helping hotel and accommodation managers with a complete hotel software solution.