The Most Effective Way to Bring Guests Back? Retargeting

The struggle to drive more direct bookings while keeping costs under wraps is one of the major challenges for most hoteliers. After spending substantial marketing budgets driving quality traffic to your carefully-designed website, the last thing you want is for someone to abandon at the last hurdle. Retarketing gives you a second chance.

Last-minute abandonments happen for every hotelier -they’re a fact of life. Numbers are high, too, with figures in the range of 81% abandonment often quoted.

The first step towards shrinking that number is jumping into the mind of the consumer. Your potential guests are familiar with the idea of using multiple devices and visiting multiple websites before making that final purchase. Many visit dozens of sites before they reach for their wallet.

The challenge for the independent hotelier is clear. Drive as many users through your booking funnel as possible, without losing them permanently to one of those other touch points or websites.

Here’s the fix: for those who abandon, use retargeting to give yourself a second chance and bring them back.

Let’s get started.

What exactly do we mean by Booking Abandonment?

In the hotel industry, booking abandonment is an e-commerce phrase used to describe a user who shows an interest in making a booking, but leaves the booking funnel before they finish the booking.  In mainstream retail and e-commerce, this is called ‘cart abandonment’.


Millward Brown conducted a study for Expedia. They found that in the 45 days lead up to a booking, a consumer will conduct as many as 38 visits to travel sites.

Knowing when and how to engage with these users is crucial to driving direct business.  With so many touch points, booking retargeting techniques can be the tipping point in converting the user at a time when they are swamped with choices.

Before we go over the latest retargeting techniques, here are some key findings which are taken from a study conducted by SaleCycle.  The study found that 81% of users abandon a travel booking. Why?

  • 39% said they were ‘doing more research’
  • 37% said ‘Price too high’
  • 21% needed to ‘check with other travelers’

sales cycle infographic

Source: SaleCycle

If your guest leaves your booking process for one of these reasons, SaleCycle found that it’s very likely they’ll end up making a booking either at your property or a similar one. However, the channel they decide to complete this booking on is still up in the air. They might find or Expedia the next time they search, and decide it’s easier to just book there.

Re-engaging these guests though retargeting techniques is crucial in making sure your future guest chooses to make their booking directly on your hotel’s site.

Retargeting Techniques to Reconnectwith Abandoned Guests

There are a number of retargeting techniques used by digital marketers worldwide, but for today’s discussion, we’ll examine something we call the ‘Retargeting Trio’.

The Retargeting Trio are three techniques which can work in tandem to re-engage users at different touch points through your booking funnel and achieve the end goal of more direct bookings. Sounds good, right?

Here’s how they work.

The Retargeting Trio

retargeting trio

1. Paid Remarketing Campaigns:

Remarketing is the most common technique for hoteliers, and it’s also one of the easiest to set up.

Paid advertising platforms like Google and Facebook offer you the ability to re-engage users. They typically use either cookie lists or email identification. There are also third party platforms like Ad Roll who specialise in retargeting across various platforms.

The concept of remarketing was first launched about 6 years ago, and technology has let it grow enormously in what it can do.

Remarketing can be used to re-engage with users who enter your goal funnel but abandon without booking. Triggers for your goal funnel might be visiting key pages on your hotel website, or starting the booking process.

Remarketing adverts give you the chance to keep your hotel in the front of your indecisive guests’ minds.

Here’s an example: Imagine that, as a consumer, you decided to book a hotel and go through the online booking process. However, you didn’t complete this booking—maybe you got distracted by a different site, or decided to wait to book until later.

How about if, over the next 7 days, you’re shown adverts for the hotel you almost booked on other websites, or you see an advert for the hotel in your Facebook newsfeed? You’d be more likely to return and book, wouldn’t you?

Well, this is why re-marketing works. It brings people back into your booking funnel.

In fact, we at Net Affinity are yet to see a hotel where re-marketing doesn’t perform.

retargeting graphic

A note of caution: When you set up your campaign, make sure you’ve got frequency caps on your remarketing ads. This makes sure people aren’t seeing them too often and feeling harassed or “followed.” Our recommendation would be a maximum of 3 impressions a day, but there’s a little flexibility there depending on your customer base.

2. Retargeting through Email:

The first step of retargeting through email is, of course, getting the email address. Ideally, the email address of your guest is captured as early in your booking process as possible. That way, when users do abandon, you can reengage easily.

Capturing the email address of a user within the booking funnel is a significant advantage. When used correctly, email retargeting techniques can return pretty impressive conversion rates.

Since we’ve started seeing the results of the email remarketing campaigns we run for our clients, we’ve started referring to email addresses as the ‘golden nugget’. Not only do you have the guest’s email address, but you also have information on the booking they were about to complete, like the date and room type.

This information lets you effectively reengage your guest via email, encouraging them to return and complete the booking.

In our passion to find the ‘secret sauce’ for email retargeting, we’ve come across some hotels being really creative with this process. Some hotels offer guests an ‘‘exclusive” offer to encourage them to return and book. Others offer discount code in their emails. If you weigh up the fact that without a discount you might have lost this booking completely or lost out to a third party channel, it’s a win-win.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see that a ‘5% off’ promotional code is more cost effective than paying 18% for a booking through an OTA.

So, does it work?

Overwhelmingly, yes. Clients using the email retargeting solution within our booking engine have recorded average conversion rates of 16%, with a quarter of clients reaching a conversion rate in excess of 30%.

Here’s an example of an email retargeting template sent to users who abandon the booking funnel:

retargeting example email

3. On-Screen Prompts:

On-screen prompts are the marmite of re-targeting techniques. Users either love or hate them. Nevertheless, this technique can and dies, so they make the list for the Retargeting Trio.

On-screen prompts can be shown to users based on ‘exit intent’ or ‘page inactivity’. For example, you can present an on-screen message when a user exits the screen. This message can act as a last minute prompt, and encourage users to remain in the booking funnel.

Simply reinforcing a ‘book direct’ message can keep people with the booking funnel and drive stronger conversion rates.

Creative minds can have fun with this technique, leading the guest into different elements of the website or offering ‘secret X% off’ codes.

What else can you do with retargeting?

Outside of the ‘Retargeting Trio’, there are two additional features which, done correctly, can have a positive impact on funnel abandonment rates.

1. Live Chat:

One issue users can have when they book online is a disconnect from someone who can answer their questions in real time. There’s a precision with live chat that’s hard to match with an FAQ.

Depending on the demographic of your guests and their specific needs, this may have an impact on your funnel conversion rate.

For example: If your hotel relies heavily on family business, you probably get lots of weird and wonderful questions about room configuration, family facilities, etc. Being able to answer these questions through real time chat adds a layer of reassurance for the guest and has been proven to improve your funnel conversion rate.

According to a study by BoldChat, live chat is more appealing to web-users when it comes to seeking specific information. The BoldChat survey found that 63% of consumers were more likely to return to a website after live chat, with 38% saying they had completed a purchase after engaging with a live chat session.

2. ‘In-funnel’ Price Widgets:

Price check widgets are tools that can reduce funnel abandonment by adding a layer of reassurance for your guest.

Example: Triptease’s Price Check Widget shows real time OTA prices and compares them to your best available rate.

Not only does this save the consumer valuable ‘shopping around’ time, it also reassures them that they are getting the best price. As a result, you geta more confident booker who is more likely to proceed through the booking funnel.

In a recent TripTease blog post, they shared some interesting statistics of how its tool is influencing the booking funnel:

“Since implementing Price Check, we’ve seen a marked increase in bookings coming through our website. It just works. We saw our booking page exit rate fall by 25% in the first month and have continued to see more direct bookings month on month.” While there aren’t yet case studies for independent hotels specifically, it’s a very promising starts.

price check widget


We’ve seen price check tools quickly develop a strong presence in the market. After all, there’s an active army of hoteliers and marketers on a mission to cut hefty commission costs and drive more direct bookings.


Fully understanding your customers’ journey is a puzzle that continues to challenge hoteliers and digital marketers. The puzzle is particularly tricky when you try to balance driving direct bookings with balancing the budget.

The reality is that there are multiple factors that influence whether a customer will complete the final booking. These factors take place both on and offline, across multiple devices, on multiple platforms and over an unpredictable period of time.

However, from the knowledge we do have, there are techniques and tools that can be relied on. Once implemented, they improve customer flow, and drive users back into your booking funnel if they abandon.

Ultimately, your goal is to improve the conversion rate of your booking engine. Even more importantly, you want to put more revenue in your till and less in the hands of others.

Does your hotel use retargeting? Which techniques do you like, and what kind of results have you seen?

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