September 9, 2021
Hospitality players from Algarve-based boutique hotels to 5-star Hong Kong mainstays are stepping up to the plate to offer customers the best possible experience as the world approaches a post-lockdown state. Fine-tuning the digital experience to draw visitors in after a practically travel-free year seems to be a universal aim, but hoteliers must find the right approach to make future clients feel at ease as they get back into the swing of traveling. Crafting an intuitive, seamless experience that avoids operational hiccups is paramount to capturing and maintaining their attention and, ultimately, to driving hotel bookings.
Google has taken the first step in this direction by eliminating the requirement for hotels to pay to appear on its Hotel Search feature. The result? Hotels’ own websites are featured free of charge, along with a handy “Official Site” button to foster trust and facilitate click-throughs straight to the hotel’s booking page rather than to a multi-brand platform. This allows hotels to draw customers directly into their universe, rather than losing them to a sea of faceless options on external booking sites.
The opportunity to be featured on Google Hotel Search payment-free brings hotels, especially more niche players with smaller advertising budgets, onto an equal playing field with behemoth booking platforms, enhancing their visibility and encouraging customers to book directly with the hotel. While most consumers’ modus operandi when booking typically involves selecting the first and cheapest link for simplicity’s sake, Google’s new feature empowers hotels by helping them stand out regardless of their budget and, when paired with Selfbook, allows them to save up to a quarter in revenue by eliminating booking agency commissions.
Selfbook’s direct booking technology takes the wheel as soon as a customer clicks through to a partner hotel’s official website link. Sites equipped with its easy-to-use capabilities can maintain the flow from a customer’s initial Google search all the way through to payment without ever detracting from a controlled, on-brand experience. Without pop-ups or redirects, clients won’t be led toward alternatives, but will rather move through the booking process within the world of the brand, becoming increasingly inspired along the way. Whether planning a romantic Venetian getaway or a horseback riding trip in Patagonia en famille, travelers will stay in the vacation mindset from room selection to checkout thanks to the integrated nature of Selfbook-enabled platforms.
Attribute-based shopping takes the Selfbook experience to the next level, allowing travelers to speedily upgrade and include add-ons to their room with a single tap. Breakfast in bed, a green juice-stocked minifridge, or a rooftop yoga class are all just a click away, and the price of each individual addition is simply tallied up to funnel the checkout process into one single step. With an eye to consumers’ potential desires, while booking, Selfbook’s hassle-free technology boosts average order value thanks to the ease of incorporating last-minute additions to one’s stay or selecting an ocean-view room on a whim.
With booking abandonment rates sitting near 85% on hotel websites (which is even lower than the desertion frequency faced by online travel agencies), Selfbook can help guide customers through the process without losing them at any stage, especially when it comes to payment. The only direct booking platform of its kind to incorporate digital wallets such as Apple Pay, AliPay, Google Pay, and more, Selfbook enables completely frictionless, practically instantaneous payments. The integration of digital wallets therefore greatly reduces the risk of losing customers at the final stage of booking and consequently bolsters conversion rates.
With direct reservations, hotels can also build more personal relationships with their customers and encourage repeat purchases on their own sites by connecting with clients following their stay with on-brand, hyperlinked email communications. By forging stronger bonds with clients, hospitality providers can also compound savings on repeat cuts formerly taken by booking agencies and reduce client acquisition costs, which gives them the bandwidth to offer discounts and loyalty programs to faithful customers and further improve their relationships. Hotels will also undoubtedly sharpen their understanding of their clientele along the way.
As Google makes strides to foster direct bookings, the future of hotel reservations is clear: Direct interactions between travelers and hospitality providers, rather than middlemen, is the only way forward. Not only will it save hotels money, but consumers will benefit from a seamless, instinctual booking journey that is as experiential as their stay.
By Haley Crawford