Let’s look at some stats. The average hotel website conversion rate—the ratio between a customer’s direct website sessions and completed reservations—is 2.2 percent. This means that for every 100 people who visit your hospitality website, only two actually give you their business.
Are you comfortable with those statistics? What happened to the other 98 potential customers?
When researching emerging trends in the travel/hospitality industry, the number one theme that emerges across all major reporting agencies—as confirmed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—is this: when it comes to travel and lodging, consumers want a “seamless, personalized, and transformative” experience. If only 2 of every 100 people complete a booking on your site, it’s clear that most are not having an experience that meets any of those criteria.
So, what can hospitality brands do to improve channel loyalty and conversion rates? The answer is to create an experience-driven commerce ecosystem. Here are the three tiers of technology that allow hospitality players to stay competitive in a saturated market.
1. Mobile is the mandate.
A 2019 study by travel market research firm Phocuswright shows that 63 percent of independent properties have mobile-optimized websites and utilize web-based booking engines. That’s a great start. If you’re among the 37 percent that have yet to implement these tools, now’s the time. Potential guests expect their online experiences to be as frictionless on mobile as they are on desktop, and with online travel agencies controlling a market share of bookings, your business needs to meet consumers where they are—namely, on their phones.
Not having a modern commerce infrastructure can undermine any attempt to increase direct bookings. If a property is still using, say, Flash, ColdFusion, or other outdated methods to run its day-to-day operations, it is impossible to employ effective marketing and distribution technologies.
2. Sharing is caring.
Beyond reaching consumers where they are, there is a massive opportunity to reach new customers at the top of the funnel—before they start searching—via social publishing, sharing relevant content via blogs, newsletters, webinars, ebooks, photos, and videos. These are easy ways to keep your content robust and to connect with consumers by telling your brand story. Social publishing that links data and storytelling can attract a loyal fan base and potential clients alike. By amping up these marketing strategies, you can continuously create and deliver can’t-resist content to capture the hearts and imaginations of potential travelers everywhere.
3. Act on the AI advantage.
In the age of Amazon, the ability to exploit technology as a business driver to stay ahead of the curve is crucial. Perish the thought that Amazon and Alexa enter the travel space before you’re prepared. That said, brands would be wise to take cues from the Amazon marketplace model.
With the help of its vast machine learning engine and the data Amazon has gathered from nontravel purchases, an Amazon site could quickly create tailored travel recommendations, immediately surpassing what an online travel agency or the average hotelier would provide. Individual purchase history would help indicate what types of packages or additional amenities a consumer would be interested in. Instead of just selling them the best available rate, other enticing offers would be presented to buyers to maximize both spend and enjoyment.
To compete with this model, travel brands need amenities, activities, and experiences that can be bundled into value-added packages to entice guests to spend more upfront. You must look for new ways to gather preference data about your guests—because the more you know about them, the better you’ll be at anticipating their needs. Next, and most importantly, these data points must be seamlessly integrated so that an external marketing automation program, leveraging artificial intelligence, can accurately present your full product range and deliver the best possible offer to a potential customer.
Aqua-Aston exemplifies how a 70-year-old brand can stay fresh and relevant by adopting this approach. This legacy company partnered with Astound Commerce to devise a holistic digital commerce strategy designed to serve customers wherever they are in their purchasing journey—from pre-funnel to post-booking.
Consolidating Aqua-Aston’s sites into a single, mobile-optimized portal, Astound created a compelling travel-planning experience designed to inspire consumers by deploying gorgeous photos, insider destination information, and customizable search options. Customers can now build personalized itineraries, complete with restaurant and event suggestions. Prominently displayed best-rate guarantees and pre- and post-check-in communications also bolster the customer experience.
This level of integration may sound like a tall order. But with the right partner, brands can easily identify and incorporate key emerging technologies that will help them lead the pack and stay relevant to today’s consumer.