An online booking engine can be a game changer for a hotelier; no question. It can be the difference between increasing RevPar (rates per available room) via boosted online bookings that you have control over yourself and relying on expensive online travel agents (OTAs) to deliver those bookings for you. A good booking engine then can be the difference between driving up your bottom line revenue or bumping along with your competitors, dependant as much on third-party sites to pull in customers as you are on your own efforts.
But what makes or breaks a good booking engine? Well, it has to be properly developed, carefully rolled out and run thereafter with diligence – 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. But then, surely all that’s a given. What really makes or breaks a booking engine is its functionality; the features available both on its front-end (the client end) and its back-end (the server end). In which case, using as an example Booking Direct – the booking engine offered by Digital Hotelier –the following are the sorts of features both ends might feature to deliver as effective a reservation system as possible…
Booking Direct’s front-end comes complete with:
• Price check – a widget that enables the comparison of prices across a number of different channels and the display of them, giving users the opportunity to book direct and saving them time and, importantly, preventing them from shopping around
• Power selling – a combination of strike-through pricings, periodic prompts and custom notifications compel action by creating a sense of urgency in the user, while active room listings, value-messaging and social endorsements work to reassure them, thus enhancing conversion by tilting them towards becoming customers
• Abandonment messaging – basket abandonment is reduced thanks to, alongside the efficacy of ‘Price check’, the use of pop-ups to prompt customers to confirm their resumption of a particular booking on their return to the website or the start of an entirely new booking; moreover, if they’ve already provided an email address on the payment page, they can be asked to opt-in to being emailed, leading to the receipt of an emailed hyperlink that enables journey resumption (note: this also makes tailored messaging possible; i.e. offering a cheaper price, if applicable)
• Flexible stay options – a feature that, via a ‘+/- 3 day’ button, ensures users can choose alterative stay-dates should their preferred dates result in no available rooms, thus delivering more flexibility for users and transforming them into would-be guests
• Calendar view availability – enables the display of not just a week or a month’s worth of live inventory, but up to a month’s worth, thanks to a clear and deliberately intuitive calendar view format; a feature designed to appeal particularly to extended-stay guests and, thus, might be readily adopted by serviced apartment providers, precisely because it means advanced trip-planning can be realised quickly and efficiently via an online hotel booking engine, with the minimum of fuss.
As a dynamic and dependable hotel booking engine for website, Booking Direct also offers the following features on its back-end:
• Easy-to-use extranet – with a dashboard that’s refreshingly simple but also reassuringly advanced, our reservation system ensures the extranet becomes easy to access and use, not least thanks to smart intuitive design options like robust rate-set-up features, rate updates and an analytics engine for advanced reporting
• Dynamic rate management – a hotel booking engine becomes an incredibly useful tool when it ensures hoteliers can manage their different, complex policies without time-consuming hassle; Booking Direct’s simple user interface enables the turning on and off of dynamic package deals, promotional rates and special offers via back-end rate codes, as well as their manipulation according to room type, check-in date and length-of-stay
• Dynamic payment – anything that aids cash flow is a boon for a hotelier; dynamic payment functionality is designed specifically to ease the implementation and running of payment and cancellation policies
• Promotion code pre-population – finally, via closed user group click-throughs that take the hotelier straight into the booking engine itself, Booking Direct enables the pre-population of promotional and rate codes set up in a Property Management System (PMS); yet another feature then that reduces friction for the user, thus better ensuring they complete their customer journey and boost the website’s all-important conversion rate.