Your hotel booking engine provider should give you a highly flexible, fully controllable, feature-rich solution, along with genuinely in-depth reporting and a capable team ready to support you.
Why is having the right booking engine provider so important?
- Brand promotion
- Lower costs than other online channels
- Increases the lifetime value of a guest
- Retains the loyalty of a guest
We have gathered 10 key things we think you need to look at when you are reviewing or deciding on a booking engine provider. Paying attention to these things will ensure you get value for your money and ultimately, will help you with longer term guest relationships and more direct bookings.
1. Connecting to all the channels your hotel is on
Your website is not the only digital channel you have. You most likely have multiple different online channels on which you sell your offers and it's very important you can centralise your strategy so that you have control over your entire online presence. The first step towards this is to try and manage your inventory in the one place. When you see your availability and rates all in the one place, it's much easier to fine tune your rate strategy and see how each channel is performing.
2. Being optimised for mobile
As of Q2 2022, the mobile traffic (website visits) we have seen across our clients is sitting at 74% compared to 23% of visitors via desktop. A booking engine and website optimised for mobile is no longer a nice-to-have - it is a necessity!
Your booking engine should be easily customized for every device. While most of us use both mobile and desktop, we don't use them in the same way - that's why optimisation is important, ie, making sure you are accounting for smaller screen size on mobile etc.
Does your booking engine’s admin system provide your hotel the features and tools necessary to succeed? For example, does it...
- Display all the languages that your guests speak?
- Prominently display your hotel’s logo?
- Offer unlimited creation of tariffs, room types, special offers and discounts?
- Provide online voucher redemption?
- Offer wedding and corporate booking modules?
- Show a pooled inventory?
To figure out exactly what features your booking engine needs, think closely about your guests: where are they coming from? Do you typically see success with voucher sales? Are wedding bookings typical for your hotel?
When you know who you're targeting, you have a much better chance of succeeding overall.
4. Customer service and reporting features
Your booking engine provider should be consistently open with you about your hotel’s performance so they can offer advice for improvement based on best practices and data.
What kind of reporting does your booking engine provider offer you? Do they give you a full picture of your hotel’s performance? You should be able to use your booking engine reports to identify booking patterns that will help you with your revenue and marketing strategies.
A knowledgeable team is an invaluable tool in improving your direct bookings. When it comes to communication between you and your booking engine provider, make sure you have an open and productive exchange of information and ideas.
5. Promoting a ‘Book Direct’ message
Your website is often the channel with the lowest cost-per-acquisition. That makes it the most profitable one, and your booking engine provider should be able to help you grow your direct bookings!
Direct bookings typically come with a much lower CPA, even when you account for marketing costs. Growing your direct bookings means growing your revenue.
There are a large variety of tactics that can improve your book direct strategy - for example, providing a clear, compelling reason to book direct to your guests and managing your rate strategy correctly on your online channels.
6. Additional services like marketing and design
Having an experienced, full-service booking engine provider who cam provide you with much more than just a booking engine is a great asset to your hotel.
When you think about how the likes of digital marketing services can support your booking engine by driving high volume and high quality traffic to your website and booking engine, it makes sense to connect the two if possible.
A smart, solid marketing team should be able to help you drive direct bookings through metasearch and paid campaigns on the likes of Google and Facebook, etc.
Then comes website design. If your website is beautifully designed with conversion principles in mind, it will be much more successful at driving bookings than a generic, run-of-the-mill hotel website. You need these three key elements to see direct booking success.
7. Innovating and preparing for the future
As a hotelier, you’re fully aware that it’s not enough to be ready for the ‘now’. You need to be looking 6 months or a year down the road at a minimum to be truly prepared!
Your booking engine provider has to be right there with you. They should be consistently developing new product features to cope with the ever-changing landscape – and importantly, to prepare for the future.
8. A team of experts in the hospitality and technology sector
Online booking engines exist at the crossroads of traditional hospitality and tech – your booking engine provider should have both on their minds!
The best software developers in the world still need product designers that know the industry. At Net Affinity, we pride ourselves on hiring from the hospitality industry and the technology sector.
Our conversion team and leaders all have hospitality experience, and we have experience working with every kind of hotel. Our experience, along with our data, allows us to create a booking engine that’s for hoteliers – not just in theory, but in practice.
9. Helping you build guest relationships
Your booking engine provider should do more than just take bookings. The ideal booking engine allows you the flexibility to create unlimited tariffs and rate plans. You should also be able to create separate rates for guests booking corporate events or weddings.
Once those flexible features have helped you persuade guests to book, are they helping you build a long term relationship with that guest? The better the guest gets to know you, the more likely they are to stay again in future.
10. The type of clients they have
A key question to ask yourself initially is whether your booking engine provider has a product that is suitable for your property. While in theory a good booking engine is flexible and scalable for different property types, you should still take the time to look at their client portfolio.
If they only cater to country guesthouses for example, consider looking elsewhere for your large city centre property.
On the other hand, if they have an extensive client list across a range of different property types, or if they specialize in your type of property, that's a great start. If your hotel has a focus on a certain type of bookings - like weddings - consider asking them how their booking engine can cater to those needs.
If you can, seek out a booking engine provider that provides you with the whole package – booking engine, marketing and web design. An all-in-one solution means you have one point of contact with one brilliant team taking care of all your needs.
The right booking engine is absolutely vital to your hotel’s online success.