This is the second part in our 2-part series on 5 strategies to simplify the guest journey. For part 1, go here.

How can you grow direct bookings on your hotel website? Help your guests make a booking in as few steps as possible. One thing that OTAs spend a lot of their time and money on is improving their conversion rate. It’s time for hotels to do the same.

When you simplify the guest journey, guests achieve the goals you want them to more quickly and easily, whether that goal is signing up for a newsletter or completing a booking.

In part 2 of our series on strategies to simplify the guest journey, we’re discussing the last 3 of our 5 simple strategies.

Here are 3 strategies to make the guest journey to your booking engine simpler – and to make your conversion rate soar.

  1. Mobile-friendly websites: show the visitor the right message for each device
  2. Excellent imagery: sell the experience visually
  3. Do your homework to improve the booking journey: look at the data for market segments, and examine bookings by device and source

1. Mobile-Friendly Websites

Today, it’s vital to have a mobile friendly website. This might be a dedicated, separate mobile site, a responsive main website (or an adaptive one, depending on your needs), or in some cases even a mobile app.

Whichever you choose, you must be on mobile. Here are 3 reasons why.

1. Google Says So:

Google has been using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for several years. That means if Google sees that your site is mobile friendly, you’ll rank higher in search results than sites that only work on desktop.

Earlier this year, they doubled down on this and make mobile-friendliness a more important raking signal. The latest news about Google’s dedication to mobile-friendliness came out just this week: They are now creating a “mobile-first search index.” Effectively, this means that mobile sites will be indexed and prioritized above all desktop-only sites.

Being mobile friendly isn’t optional anymore. If your hotel doesn’t already cater to mobile users, start today.

2. Users Say So:

Support your multi-device users. It’s a no-brainer at this point to say that lots of people use their mobiles and tablets to surf the web. Travelers do this as much as anyone else, and part of their surfing is travel research.

A new report from Expedia Media Solutions and comScore reveals that mobile travel content engagement surpasses desktop engagement for US travellers. In the UK, multi-platform usage is 54% of total digital travel users in 2016.

Users also visit an average of 121-161 different travel sites in the 45 days before a booking. Those intensive levels of research on multiple devices highlight exactly how important it is to be ready! If you don’t have a good, fast mobile site, you won’t be visited or remembered by many users.

You must be certain to display the right message on each device. On desktop, you have more freedom to display content and images – you can even show more rate plans. On mobile, however, the name of the game is simplification.

3. Your Hotel Revenue Says So:

25% of bookings were on mobile in Q3 2016. While this is still a lower number than desktop bookings, it’s not an insignificant figure.

From a revenue perspective, it’s in your best interest to drive direct bookings – and many of those have the potential to come through mobile.

Here’s a quick guide to help you decide which type of mobile website is right for your hotel.

If you already have a mobile-friendly site but aren’t getting the bookings you want, here are 6 ways to reduce mobile cart abandonment.

2. Excellent Imagery

Images are one of the most important parts of the booking journey. Can you imagine booking a hotel without having seen at least a picture of the room?

Visuals are one powerful way to communicate the value your hotel provides, “so that you don’t just sell on price,” according to Leonardo. When you properly emphasize the value of a stay at your hotel, you gain some flexibility with the prices you set.

Good pictures instantly tell the user what staying at your hotel is like, and give a sense of the atmosphere that would take 1,000 words of copy to replicate.

They also help from a more technical perspective. If your images are optimised for SEO, they help tell Google what your web pages about and boost them in organic search rankings. You show up for more people, and get more traffic.

What do you need to do to ensure your images connect with your guests?

  1. Know what your audience wants to look at. Are you tracking which images are the most-viewed on your website? If you can’t drill down to that specific level of analysis, look at which pages are most important to your guests. Which images are on those pages? Among our hotel clients, we find that room photos are the most viewed images on nearly every site. Event galleries (e.g. wedding galleries) are also very important.
  2. Hire a professional photographer. Ensure that your photographer knows to highlight your USPs in images. For example, instruct them focus on shots of your pool, the views around your hotel, luxury rooms, restaurant food, etc. Also, make sure you’ve got good lighting and weather when you take the pictures!
  3. Avoid stock photography. At the end of the day, what’s the point? Many people can tell stock photography from photos unique to your property, and they don’t communicate anything real to your guests. While stock photos may be suitable for certain things, such as Christmas adverts or a ‘hero shot’ on a landing page, only use them if you absolutely must!
  4. Make your images easy to find. Don’t make guests waste time hunting. If photos are not easily found, they may assume there are no images and move on to the next hotel.
  5. Look at your images without reading your copy. This is an easy test. Can you still tell what the page is about? Do they broadcast the ideal message to your ideal guest?
  6. Optimise images for SEO. According to every SEO specialist, optimised images are good for SEO. They improve time spent on site, and support the content on the page. They also make pages more relevant to search terms. How can you optimise images? Use keywords in your alt text descriptions. Make file names relevant. Reduce image sizes to improve load times.
  7. Do what you can to keep load time down. Sometimes, it’s a tricky line to walk between loading 50 of your favourite images and keeping page load time to a reasonable number. So look at how many images your guests are actually looking at – you might be surprised! Guests often only look at the first 3-4 images per gallery. If that’s the case for you, cut the rest. They’re slowing your site down for no reason, and losing you booking.
  8. Place your best images ‘above the fold’. Lead with your best foot forward, and dazzle your guests as soon as they land on the page. Place your strongest imagery where no one can miss it!
  9. Consider putting images from your guests in your gallery or on your social feeds. User-generated content (UGC) acts as a powerful form of social proof. If you see pictures from your guests that make your hotel look great, don’t hesitate to ask to use them! If they’re in a tweet or a Facebook post, you can simply share the post on your own page. If you want them on your site, be sure to get permission first.

3. Do Your Homework to Improve the Booking Journey

Look at the data for your key market segments, and examine bookings by device and source. When you know where your guests are coming from, when those guests are booking, and how they’re booking, you can create an incredibly tailored strategy. After all, it’s about finding the right guest and the right time – and then selling them the right room for the right price!

To get started, here are 8 questions you can ask to see how guests engage with your site:

  1. Which source drives the most total revenue?
  2. Which sources deliver you the most valuable customers?
  3. Which device drives the most total revenue?
  4. Which devices deliver you the most valuable customers?
  5. Assisted Conversions: Which sources appear in your users’ path to purchase, even if they aren’t the sources that deliver the final conversion?
  6. Which pages of your booking funnel see the largest drop off?
  7. Are you adequately addressing users’ concerns? (e.g. security, best rate guarantee, what happens with their data)
  8. Is the process and available information as clear and concise as possible?

Those questions will take care of your on-site booking journey. Along with those, look at who your guests are, and where they’re booking from. Don’t for get to examine booking windows and cancellation rates for each channel too!

Conclusion

These 5 strategies will help your guests make a booking in as few steps as possible. When hotels focus on conversion strategies, you take control of the booking process and grow direct bookings.

It’s vital to appeal strongly and immediately to your potential guests, and to shorten their booking journey. Guests should be able to book quickly and easily, and you should do everything in your power to persuade them to make their bookings directly.

Which of these 5 strategies have you seen the most success with? What does your hotel do differently?