How to Combat Shortening Lead Times
The hotel expectations of today’s guests are higher than ever. With so many offers and choices in the palm of their hand, the time they are willing to spend on finding the right hotel is stretching as they scroll through various websites, researching and filtering. It is taking longer for guests to find the hotel that ticks all of their boxes and therefore, the space of time between when they book and when they check-in is narrowing. To put it simply, much to the regret of the revenue manager, paths-to-purchase are increasing whilst lead times are decreasing, making it difficult to effectively forecast and plan. Keep reading to learn how to combat shortening lead times.
Cut Down the Path to Purchase
As paths to purchase and lead times come hand in hand, the first thing to focus on is decreasing your guest’s path to purchase. How can you do this? Firstly, let your potential guest know that booking direct is best. Reassure them that by booking through your hotel they are guaranteed the best price and deal, and in turn they will be less inclined to stray towards OTA websites and get distracted by other hotel deals. Take the image below as an example.
Ensure that when users attempt to abandon your website without booking, that you give your hotel- and your guests- a second chance! At Net Affinity, our built in booking abandonment features means that you can create an on-screen pop up or send an automated follow up email by re-marketing to put a stop to the humming and hawing and entice them to jump straight into the booking!
Lastly, as obvious as it may seem, ensure the booking process is as simple and hassle-free as possible to make a seamless booking experience. The more options and steps there are to the booking engine, the more complicated and off-putting it seems for your potential guest, leading to doubts and hesitation.
Advanced Purchase Discounts
Another way to combat shortening lead times is by offering exclusive advanced booking discounts and rates. The further in advance a guest books, the larger the discount they receive. For example, consider offering a 15% discount for bookings 60+ days out, and 10% discount at 30 days. However, make sure to accompany these discounts with a strict cancellation policy that is either non-refundable or requires a deposit to prevent increased cancellations.
Know Your Guest
Although these guidelines will certainly prove helpful in tackling shortening lead times, its important to understand that the average lead time of a hotel varies depending on the type of guests it attracts, and you should incorporate this into your hotel’s marketing strategy.
Geo-marketing can prove very useful here. For example, a last-minute stay promotion for your hotel in Dublin would most likely be futile if the majority of your guests are from The United States or Canada. Guests from these locations usually make their bookings further in advance due to complications such as flights and visas that a local traveler does not have to consider. Thanks to geo-marketing, you can know that an advanced purchase offer would be more effective, suiting to their lead time.
It is also important to distinguish what type of traveler your hotel attracts. For example, a leisure traveler seeking a family holiday would be more inclined to have a longer lead time than a business traveler seeking an overnight stay. According to Sojern’s 2017 Hotel Report the majority of leisure travelers begin their search 60+ days beforehand, compared to 58% of business travelers who search last minute. Once you make these distinctions within your guests you can then begin to segment them by their lead times and market accordingly.
Use Lead Times To Your Advantage
So you’ve done your research and you know who your guest and what their average lead time is. Now how do you use this information to your advantage?
If you have discovered that your average guest has a short lead time, act on it! For example, you know that the likelihood of your hotel receiving last minute bookings is high. Therefore, when your hotel is 85% full, close out OTAs and drive your own bookings.
Similarly, longer lead times are linked to a higher cancellation rate. According to our Digital Trends report from January- June 2017, 15% of cancellations were for bookings made within the week of arrival compared to 57% of cancellations that were for bookings made a month or more prior to arrival. If your hotel has a longer average lead time, it gives you the perfect opportunity to over-sell. You can learn more about over-selling here.
Overall, lead times can vary from hotel to hotel, and once you have the knowledge of what your hotel’s average lead time is, you can use it to your hotel’s benefit. Furthermore, short lead times do not have to be a point of concern. By using these guidelines you can mitigate their disadvantages and combat any further shortening!