Meta Search has rapidly emerged in recent years to become one of the leading method for consumers to find the cheapest deal for hotel accommodation resulting in significant change to the distribution landscape for hotels.
Meta Search sites allow consumers to search for accommodation across several sites by consolidating the results in a comparative format for example price, which simplifies the buying decision for the consumer.
In essence, MetaSearch sites simplify the process of looking for and comparing travel products for the consumer, bringing them to one place and reducing the need to look across several sites for the best deal and allowing the guest to compare different hotels, deals, prices from a variety of sources early on in the booking process, even before decisions on destination or dates have been made.
As consumers are used to having the internet in the palm of their hands and want the information that they are looking for quicker than ever before, less and less consumers, want or feel the need to trawl through several sites for the best deal, they expect to find it all in one place and for hotel reservations, that place is now MetaSearch.
Key point for independent hotels is that Meta Search allows them the opportunity, without the marketing might of a large chain, to position themselves on a level playing field with the OTAs and shift a share of their business from the OTA’s to book directly on their own site. If set up correctly and optimised on an ongoing basis, Meta Search channels with direct connections to the hotel’s own website can lead to bookings at a lower cost per acquisition than through Online Travel Agents, allowing the hotel to distribute to a wider audience, while controlling the customer’s booking from an earlier stage.
Cost of OTA v Cost of Meta Search
Some OTAs send reservations to hotels with net rates, so the cost of commission is not apparent, while the Financial Controller is usually the person writing the cheque to the other OTAs, so often times the Reservations or Revenue Manager can’t appreciate the true cost of reservations from 3rd Party Sites and their impact on the bottom line. This needs to be brought back to the strategy planning stage and analysed from the outset, taking the same reservation from the different sources and looking at the cost to the hotel per reservation.
In order to achieve this increase in direct bookings in conjunction with a decrease in the cost of bookings, MetaSearch needs to be viewed as a marketing channel, something that is regularly revised and optimised, as with Google AdWords, to ensure that the hotel is achieving the most from their investment into this channel. The hotel’s profile needs to be up to date, regular rate parity checks need to be carried out, reviews managed and improved upon as well as the strategic management of bids, markets and rate plans on the MetaSearch Engine itself. Rarely will a guest book a rate that appears any lower than the first three positions, and so this ongoing management needs to be able to react to the competition, being OTAs, pushing your hotel bid down the rankings.
In order for Hotels ‘own website rates’ to appears on a MetaSearch engine, Hotels must partner with a verified Booking Engine provider who can offers these connections. Net Affinity have built direct connections with some of the key travel MetaSearch engines including Trivago, Trip Connect and Google Hotel Ads.
Costs on all MetaSearch platforms differ slightly, with some working on a cost per click model and others working on a % of booking value. However from an advertiser’s perspective the goal remains the same: Drive more direct bookings at a CPA % which is lower than that of an OTA. (Generally commission percentages on OTA channels can vary from 15% – 25%)
In order to appear on any of these Meta search engines, you will need to ensure that the basics are right:
1. Access: You have access to your hotel profile on the relevant MetaSearch Engine
2. Up to date Information: All content, images & amenities are up to date and not missing any vital pieces of information. It is important for hotels to ensure that their core data – hotel name, telephone number, address & postcode, amenities – are up to date and accurate across all channels to allow efficient and reliable comparison of hotels and offerings. E.g. if your hotel’s Trivago listing doesn’t mention that you have a swimming pool when it does in fact offer this amenity, your hotel may be filtered out of a search and not considered by the guest, equally so if you don’t mention WiFi, Spa facilities, Beach, Breakfast.
3. Rate Parity / Cheapest Rate on the Hotel Website. Research has shown that consumers have a slight preference for booking direct with hotels over OTAs when given the option, however, the biggest consideration, both from testing and from self-reporting by consumers is price, where the cheapest price wins out. (Ref Koddi) .This will also impact the offers positioning on the MetaSearch results, also an important factor for visitors to the site, as they are most likely to only to look at the top offers.
4. Reviews: In a long-term strategy, your hotel should be actively improving online reviews. Reviews are also important in MetaSearch Engines, which often pull reviews from a variety of third parties to give guests an overall impression of the hotel without having to trawl through a myriad of sites.
Meta Search is a tool that hotels can use as part of their marketing strategy to drive direct bookings and will assist in countering the strength of the OTAs leading to a reduction of commission costs.
With the changes in consumer behaviour and the massive marketing budgets being spent by the Meta Search sites as they become a more integral part of the booking process for consumers, hotels can no longer ignore the impact that they make on your reservations.
With a book direct connection via Net Affinity to the Meta Search sites your hotel will be on a level playing field with the OTAs, bringing in traffic that may otherwise never even visit your site, allowing you more control over the guest experience right from the initial touch point with the guest.
Finally, with Meta Search in your online arsenal, it will give you the opportunity to better manage your distribution channels. Even without increasing occupancies, the same volume of reservations obtained from the different channel mix will allow you to achieve the same volume at a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and have an impact where it matters, on your profit margin!
Helena Rowe is an Account Manager at Net Affinity.
She is a graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management and has international experience in Reservations and Revenue. Helena worked in multiple hotel chains as well as independent brands across a variety of hotel types. She has a keen interest in Revenue Management and Data Analysis. In her role at Net Affinity, Helena works with a variety of hotels across Ireland to ensure that their direct booking channel is centre in their revenue strategy.