Recovery mode: top tips for your book direct strategy

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As opening day approaches quicker than we thought, it’s time to plan each part of your strategy and weave it all together. We know a lot of hoteliers are in planning mode, figuring out how they are going to maneuver this period of recovery – we have been chatting to them about it over the last few weeks on our podcast series, The Hotelier’s Take.

We’ve also been taking different topics and exploring them in order to help you get all the tools and information you need – last week we went through tips for relaunching your marketing strategy.

This week, two of our eCommerce experts Helena and Danielle presented a webinar on top tips for your book direct strategy – here are a few key takeaways.

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Looking ahead at future bookings

Over the last few months, we’ve continued to pay close attention to booking data – we know how crucial this information is in helping to devise and plan your recovery strategy in full. 

Bookings made in May have been coming in for July, and predominantly August. The huge increase in August does show clearly a confidence beginning to return, so it’s vital that you’re ahead of the demand and the OTAs with a strong book direct strategy.

A change in mindset

We have noticed from conversations from conversations with many clients that their current bookings are coming in direct – over the phone or through their site. There is little coming in through OTAs at the moment. When you consider the huge effects of the pandemic on us all – socially, emotionally, practically – of course it makes sense that guests want a direct connection, and the reassurance that comes from dealing with a property directly.

A book direct strategy obviously allows for cheaper acquisition costs. With OTAs having pulled back on their marketing spend, this gives hotels an opportunity to regain a higher impression share.

If you’re not present online via Google Ads or meta channels, you’re not leveraging this opportunity. Be aware that the OTAs will start to bid once demand returns. Being active and offering the best rate and value on your website now is what you need to do to ensure you get, and stay, ahead. 

So… what are the book direct tips to help you do this?

First up… your website

Take the customer journey yourself.  Are you offers easy to find and see? Is all the key information easily accessible? Is it easy to navigate through your site? Yes… key word here is ease! Pop into the front end of your site with your guest hat on and go through the booking process yourself step by step to see what could be improved.

Marketing relaunch plan

You’ll need to devise a marketing relaunch plan based on upcoming phases. As we continue to progress closer to July 20th, you will want to gradually reintroduce your campaigns and increase budgets to suit demand. We wrote in more detail about this last week, take a look here on how to get started. If you’d like any further advice from us or if you have any queries, reach out on hello@netaffinity.com

Investment in tech

While we’re very aware that budgets are tight at the moment, you might have the time to start looking into additional technologies that can help make your life easier in the long run. Can you invest in book direct tools or email marketing systems to improve your messaging and the customer journey? Some tools that could be useful include those from the likes of The Hotel’s Network, Triptease, Guestjoy or Revinate.

We did a podcast episode with Will Howes from Revinate recently, listen here to find out more about the future of hotel tech.

Reviewing your rateplans & offers

Highlight your flexibility

Within your rateplan names & descriptions, make sure you’re using reassuring wording like ‘Fully Flexible’, ‘Pay at the Hotel’, and ‘Free Cancellation’. People want to book – and they’re beginning to book more! But they still need to know their booking is flexible, because we don’t know anything for certain yet, and it’s still very early.

Value

As always, make sure your best rate is kept for and championed on your own site – nowhere else! It gives bookers a tangible and tempting incentive to book direct. People will be looking for added value as they tentatively begin their first bookings over the next few months. Added extras like early check-ins or discount codes will help to make them feel they’re getting a good deal. 

Packages

Let’s not forget about the Paradox of Choice – less is most definitely more. Don’t have a huge flurry of packages that will confuse an already tentative booker who might not understand the difference and value offered between each package.

Try and be creative by making sure that the package you do offer has a strong value proposition. Highlight this in the rateplan name so that the person who lands in on and browses your site understands immediately what the rateplan includes. 

 Your website content 

Your website should have all the content your guest needs – give them everything they’re looking for, and then everything else they didn’t know they were looking for!

Add new pages to your website

  • Add your Covid-19-related health and safety measures to your website
  • Create new videos or 3D virtual tours to showcase your property, grounds or large facilities

Write and craft blogs

  • Promote your new health & safety measures
  • Showcasing the hotels surroundings & social distant activities/ amenities / use to highlight ‘destination’ marketing

Add an FAQ page

  • This is a great way to answer any questions for guests that may not have stayed with you before in an easily accessible and digestible way

Send Newsletters / Ezines

  • Keep your database informed of new offers and health & safety measures!

Call To Action Buttons 

  • Ensure that your call to actions on the homepage and internal pages of your site are at the forefront and very clear
  • Text or buttons that encourage people to “book now” or “explore further” keep people on your site and guide them through the booking process with ease

Be direct with your message! 

  • Whether it’s about free cancellations, vouchers, a note to say you’re closed or even a staycation message, grab people’s attention the second they land on your website and use an action bar to your advantage

Promo codes and discounts

  • Can you offer your previous guests a Promo Code to avail of an exclusive discount? Such as  ‘Use the code ‘50OFF’ to get €50 off your next stay when you book directly with us!’ or   “We’re looking forward  to welcoming you back. It’s been awhile! Book directly with us and get 25% off on your next stay!”

Loyalty

  • Can you offer extra ‘points’ to someone when they book direct through your loyalty programme?

Maintaining your presence online

We’ve been harping on about it for weeks, but make sure you’re investing in digital marketing platforms and you still have a presence on meta search channels like Google Hotel Ads. It’s also really important that your channels are consistent. Take the time you need to review the content within your ads and make sure all your messaging aligns. 

For now, consider the following campaigns:

Brand Awareness

  • Interest based prospecting via YouTube Bumper Ads, Google Display and Facebook

Search

  • Google Ads Location & Category Search
  • Ongoing: Brand Search & Hotel Ads

Lead Generation

  • Focus on collating a fresh database with Facebook Lead Ads to increase newsletter subscriptions and direct bookings with incentives using promo codes and offering exclusive discounts

Positive attribution and consistent content will make people want to book with you

Keep focusing your tone and messaging on “Dream now, stay later”. Positive attribution and consistent content on social media like recipes, self-care tips and home work-outs will help maintain your brand awareness. 

Social proofing your brand

As humans we make choices based on several factors – one factor is ‘social proofing’. This happens when we witness others do things, which then relays a reassuring message that something is worth doing. 

As we all know, it’s going to be much easier to sell a hotel that has a higher TripAdvisor rating than one with a low or non-existent one.  

Put a plan of action together to review internally and improve reviews across your channels online. Encourage guests to leave a review with a post-stay email too.

Finally, show off all your positive reviews on-site – don’t hide them! People will look for them anyway, so let’s make it easier for them. 

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