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Mobile App Development

Make no mistake, the mobile app market is blisteringly competitive. The battle for downloads is as fierce as the battle for reservations. Even when your hotel’s mobile app has won a place on your user’s smartphone, having them interact with it regularly and keep it on their device is almost as tricky as getting them to select it from the thousands of other hotel apps crowding the App Store and Google Play.

Some stats suggest that 90% of all mobile apps downloaded are not opened after 30 days, with 75% ignored after just 24 hours.

Other studies show that 70% of travellers will use two apps at most, with even the most frequent travellers downloading a max of three apps and using just two of the trio.

So, what can you do to ensure the money you invest in mobile app development keeps your hotel reservation system software busy with reservations, rather than left to gather virtual dust on a smartphone or tablet device? One innovation report has attempted to identify just what sets the successful app apart.

The ‘Digital Keys to Hotel App Success’ says that one of the pillars of a successful app is frequent updates. For hoteliers, this information is crucial and means that the value of retaining mobile app development services for periodic app development should not be underestimated. According to its research, a positive relationship exists between how often a travel app is updated and its ranking in the App Store.

Interestingly, the report suggests that there is also a credible correlation between the age of the app and its App Store rank. Therefore, it makes more sense to continually invest in the update of an existing app rather than shelve an app that doesn’t have an immediate onslaught of downloads. With age being crucial to ranking, hotels which were quick to invest in mobile app development are likely to enjoy more success more easily than those launching brand new apps.

Two of the top travel apps in the App Store come from Hilton and Marriott International. The report finds that both apps are updated an average of 13 times per year, or just over once per calendar month. If you are guilty of letting your app slide past this timeframe, or conducting only infrequent updates, creating a regular roll-out schedule for new features and versions could help to improve both user engagement and App Store rank. This in turn leads to more visibility – a benefit which should then lead to a spike in demand on your hotel reservation system software.

Other useful insights from the report include ensuring your hotel app is optimised to function well across multiple devices. This will help to ensure reach and functionality. Additional features above and beyond the expected link to your hotel booking engine also come highly recommended – consider things like translation, lists of recommended dining and entertainment spots nearby, weather updates and excursions.

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Booking Engine

Leading names in the hotel sector have spoken out about the benefits of providing customers with the best price and service when they book directly through their website. Despite backing direct bookings, research indicates that online travel agents (OTAs) are more frequently providing a cheaper price for a room than supplier websites, indicating that there’s a disconnect between hotel ambitions and practice.

Consumers today are willing to browse to find the best holiday price before they make a booking and expect the process to be simple from start to finish. It represents an opportunity for hoteliers seeking to boost direct reservations. Through consistently offering the best price that can’t be beaten by OTAs, hoteliers can increase how many customers are using their hotel reservation system software to make a booking.

Hotel industry heavyweights Hilton and Marriott have both spoken out about how booking direct gives travellers the best deal. However, a study looking at these two hotel chains and Hyatt and IHG suggested that this is not always the case. Research from Piper Jaffray found that booking from a hotel’s own website offered the best price just 13% of the time, while using an OTA led to a lower price 21% of the time.

It marks a need for hotels to step up their strategy to improve their online hotel booking engine so it continuously offers the best price.

Travel

Why should you encourage more direct bookings?

There are numerous reasons why you should be eager to increase more customers to make a booking with you directly.

• It removes the commission cost you pay for bookings made through OTAs. • It allows you to create a personalised experience for your guests, improving satisfaction. • You can offer additional perks by signing up to a loyalty programme, creating a valuable database for marketing purposes. • You can gather insight into your customer’s user journey and preferences to improve your brand. • You’re in control of the experience the customer has from beginning to end.

How to increase you direct bookings

If you’re eager to reap the benefits of booking directly, there are some steps to increase your chances of customers coming to your hotel’s website and making a booking. With the right tools and steps taken, you can follow the lead of industry heavyweights to focus on direct bookings.

• Price check – Price is one of the most important factors for consumers when making a decision and your website should offer the best deal for travellers. To be competitive it’s essential that your online hotel booking engine is optimised for reflecting the fluctuating market.

• Make the booking process simple – If your booking process is complicated and overly time-consuming, customers will go elsewhere. Consumers choose to book via online channels for the ease of use and if you’re not meeting this vital demand your direct bookings will slip.

• Use a price check widget – Embedding a price check widget within your website will clearly demonstrate how your booking price compares to OTAs. It helps to give travellers the confidence to book directly without shopping around first.

• Add value – It’s not just price that’s considered during the booking process and direct bookings give you an opportunity to add value. It could be as simple as offering loyalty points for future discounts or demonstrating how you offer a customised service for each booking.

• Lower cancellation costs – Cancelling a booking through an OTA typically means the consumer doesn’t get a significant portion of their money back. Offering lower cancellation costs can tip the balance in your favour.

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Digital Marketing
Direct bookings are the gold standard for most hotels in 2017. It cuts out the third party OTA who eats into your profits, and means that any queries from the guest reach your front desk before they check in. But new research from Barclays has uncovered the fact that your rivals could be wooing customers away from you—just by using a more personalised system.

Hotel reservation system software has got to the point where it’s a key part of the direct bookings system. Guests want to see what they’re getting when they book directly with you, but the Barclays research uncovered that plenty of visitors—66% of domestic and 73% of international guests in fact—wanted to be able to pre-select their room location. A chance to avoid a room near the lifts or just above the late-night bar or with a window looking out onto the smoking area is something that any guest would jump at, so if your rival has such software in place but you haven’t, be prepared to say goodbye to that booking.

Used well, technology like hotel reservation system software can work when it comes to streamlining the visitor experience. If your customers want to avoid interactions when it comes to checking in or out—whether they’re tired and want to avoid unnecessary talk or want to avoid the language barrier—offering them the option to check in with their smartphone can boost your direct bookings. The Barclays study found that this option was particularly popular in China (82%), Saudi Arabia (74%) and the US (67%).

However, missing out the option to have face-to-face interaction entirely can cause some guests to baulk. Overuse of technology without giving your guests a choice in the matter can prove off-putting and can stop guests from building up relationships with your staff that could lead to further direct bookings down the line.

online-hotel-direct-bookings
Specifically targeting international visitors may increase direct bookings, but one major takeaway from the Barclays report is that a large number of travellers who are not domestic instead prefer to book via a third party website. Using good hotel reservation system software could potentially help subvert this trend, but another way to entice these visitors to stay with you is by offering comprehensive loyalty programmes.

57% of international visitors surveyed chose membership of a reward or loyalty programme as an important factor in choosing their hotel, whereas only 44% of domestic visitors did. 73% of American visitors said they considered it before choosing where to stay.

Personalisation, however, is still the name of the game. Four in ten UK visitors would pick a hotel if the provider remembered the guest’s previous preferences, and 32% where the guests were known to staff by name. Even in an age where everything seems to be online, the personal touch is still the thing that entices guests to choose your hotel over another.

The rest of the Barclays report is almost required reading for any hotelier. From small boutiques to big chains, we are all there for our guests.
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Tips & Guide
It seems that every few months a new piece of technology comes out that promises to revolutionise the way business is done, but it’s only one every few years that such a piece of software actually changes the business world. Things like TripAdvisor and Yelp probably count, even if they didn’t spring from nowhere as Uber seems to have done.

If you’re looking at updating your hotel marketing software or your hotel reservation system software, there are a few things you should ask yourself before investing in it. How will it help your hotel? If the answer is ‘not that much’, look again, and make sure you’re not only buying software to look like you’re succeeding in your role.

1. How will this improve my reach?

How do guests find you currently? How will they find you with this hotel marketing software or hotel reservation system software if you do invest? Will it change at all? All hotels would like to be seen by their potential guests. If this new system can make you more visible to online travel agents (OTAs) and global distribution systems (GDSs), it may well be worth it. If the software focuses on something that your hotel is already good at, think about if you need it before taking the plunge and investing.

online-hotel-booking
2. Will it drive up revenue?

The question here is really if this piece of technology offers pooled inventory. That means that all your channels, from OTAs to your own website, are connected, and when one booking is made the others are automatically updated. Pooled inventory can reduce the risk of overbooking, as well as opening your hotel up to all the channels you’re a part of. If you only practice allocated inventory, you could find that you’re missing out on a wide audience who want to book with you but were scared off by overbooking.

3. Will it drive up profit margins?

it’s easy for technology to promise to drive up profit, but before buying it, ask if you’re already doing the right things on your website. If it’s SEO optimised, designed with the user in mind, set up for mobile usage, has a quick load time and a quick, preferably two-step booking procedure, then it may be worth boosting your profit by spending on software. However, if your website load times are the issue then all the software in the world won’t help until you fix your homepage.

4. Will it make guest acquisition easier?

If you were spending hours upon hours inputting guest data before getting the technology and you’re still spending hours doing the same job—or teaching the technology to do the same job—then you might have made an unwise purchase. It’s integral that any technology you get for your hotel makes life easier for you. Whether that means automatically flagging up a guest’s likes and dislikes, giving you reports on room occupancy, and extras that come with the software like package suggestions, it has to have material benefit to your organisation.
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Booking Engine
The consumer process for booking a hotel room follows a similar thread to making any other big ticket purchase, with potential destinations discovered through online searches and other recommendations. Once the potential visitor hits your booking engine, having good conversion rate optimisation and following tried-and-tested ecommerce measures to funnel visitors through the checkout process is imperative.

While hotel marketing can be complex, using some of the proven ecommerce techniques that brands in other spaces deploy to take their site visitors from browser to online buyer, can also be useful when there is a need to increase direct bookings and push up reservations made on site.
Try these tried and tested, accepted rules of ecommerce success for guaranteed reservation increases and a busier hotel reservation system software.

1. Add a Sense of Urgency
E-commerce sites know only too well how much adding a sense of urgency can help drive up sales and hotels can take advantage of this clever tactic, too. Nobody likes to feel they’re about to lose out on access to a great deal, so by including a feature which advises on room availability you can create a sense of scarcity and reaffirm the popularity of your hotel.

This is a powerful conversion tool which can markedly increase direct bookings, as well as enhancing the overall desirability of your offering in the first instance. It’s one of the things you can do when you use Digital Hotelier’s own booking engine. This tactic can be deployed in several different ways, from keeping a tally of how many rooms are left when availability falls below a set level, or tracing how many visitors are currently viewing your page. This will appeal to the social aspect of your hotel guests, and the natural desire to value what others are also interested in. 

2. Make it Simple to Book
The usability of your hotel reservation system software is a key factor to consider when building your booking engine and also whilst organising the navigation of your website. You can help to minimise drops in abandoned bookings simply by applying the basic principles of e-commerce to this crucial area, checking the navigational routes of your website make sense and naturally lead to your optimised, easy-to-use and easy-to-understand booking software which works on both desktop and mobile devices. A streamlined and well-structured menu and clear navigational aids to help customers reach the crucial end destination of making a booking will ensure your hotel reservations are at their greatest possible levels.

3. Guarantee Your Rates
Whatever else your hotel guests care about, for the vast majority of travellers, price is likely to be top of mind. Alongside spending time outlining the genuine benefits and points of difference your property has to offer, including a rate comparison tool or absolute price transparency helps to reassure your guests they are getting a great deal – something e-commerce retailers have known for many years.
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Hotel Revenue Management
Rate comparison tools are growing in popularity amongst great value hotels, offering you – and your customers – the chance to check your reservation choices against competitors. These handy apps and add-ons are an increasingly desirable facet of hotel reservation system software, and it’s not difficult to see why, as they can:

 Reduce your abandoned bookings by reassuring customers they are getting the very best deal for their travel preferences – before they purchase a stay.
 Give you the information you need to make any necessary changes to your pricing strategy.
 Increase your ROI by enhancing the customer experience and improving your booking system’s capabilities overall.

A rate comparison tool such as the one offered by Digital Hotelier can give you – and your guests – the peace of mind which comes with knowing they’ve made the right choice.
But what should you look out for when choosing yours?

rate-comparison-detailsUser Experience
The purpose of a rate comparison tool is to help you aggregate your pricing against competitors. This means providing a superior user experience overall – including but not limited to making sure your rate comparison tool is placed on your booking system in a way which does not detract from the overall appearance of the site. Clunky or out-dated systems which obscure booking information or confuse those trying to input their details will only slow you and your customers down, so be sure to opt for the best.

Speed
Tying in with the first priority for choosing a rate comparison tool, the speed of any such addition should be high on your list of essentials. Just because your customers want to see how you stack up against the competition, this doesn’t mean they want to spend all day checking. Assessing the system for speed and agility during the initial load phase should be chief among your concerns when selecting software.

Accuracy
What use is a comparison tool which gives the wrong information? Choosing software which presents inaccurate data could be hugely detrimental to consumer trust and ultimately damage your bookings. Ensuring you select software which provides only the highest levels of accuracy is among the key factors to look out for whilst making your choice.

Quick Filtering
This ties in closely with the speed of the rate comparison tool overall, but also has more specific pertinence to how quickly (and accurately) results are filtered after you have input your priorities. A fast and effective filter can help ensure equally speedy bookings from value-conscious travellers.

Detailed Reporting
A high quality rate comparison tool should provide you with detailed and accessible data, as without the ability to analyse the data gathered over time, you will not be able to make necessary changes. This form of reporting is invaluable for refining and continually improving upon your system and if need be, your pricing strategy – in order to make sure you always stay at the very top of your game.
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Booking Engine
Repeat guests and bookings are an essential revenue stream for all hotels – these loyal customers will work wonders for your reputation, and they have an important impact on your bottom line. It pays to take care of these regulars – which is why you should be focusing on streamlining your booking process and making your hotel reservation system software as quick, simple and effortless as possible for returning guests.

Hotel Booking
Here’s how you can go the extra mile for your regular guests, creating a simplified booking experience that’ll keep them coming back for more.

An integrated booking engine

Your hotel website should always have an integrated booking engine – sending guests to an external site to finish off their reservation can be very off-putting for them. Plus, integrated booking engines come with a multitude of operational benefits that you can leverage when enticing guests back for repeat stays.

Automated emails and promotions to previous guests

As well as configuring automated thank-you emails to previous guests, your hotel booking engine will have a feature to send out special offers and promotional codes via automated emails for their next stay. These incentives could be based on fixed discount or a percentage off their next stay – either way, it’s an incentive for them to book with you again.

One-click payment

Nobody likes the time-consuming process of filling in forms with credit card details and there are trust concerns for some consumers when sharing private information such as payment details during the hotel booking process. Fortunately, one-click technology now exists, where users can store their credit card details securely and authorize payment quickly and easily. This makes the booking process itself fast and simple, while maintaining optimum security for sensitive information.

Have a responsive booking engine

Give your repeat customers the ability to make those repeat bookings on-the-go with a responsive booking engine that adapts to any device. Whether they’re using a mobile, a tablet, or a desktop, the booking pages will appear streamlined and simple, rather than cluttered and messy.

Loyalty schemes

One of the best ways to encourage guests to book with you again is to come up with a loyalty scheme that rewards returning customers. You might offer them a free night for every five bookings they make, or money off evening meals, spa treatments and other extras you may have available. If you don’t currently have a loyalty scheme, it’s worth asking for feedback from your existing clientele, so you can establish what types of rewards would most incentivize a repeat booking.

Allow social network integration for faster checkout

This links in with one-click payment. Rather than going through the long process of filling in all of your details, users can simply integrate one of their social networks with the booking engine. The engine will then extract the information it needs from the social network (Facebook, Google+, etc), filling in names, dates of birth, email addresses and other such important information that is required to make a booking.

If you’re interested in hotel reservation system software that will help you simplify the booking experience for return guests, get in touch with the Digital Hotelier team today.
 
 
 

 

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Booking Engine
Recent research has found that one in six hoteliers believe their biggest problem is boosting direct bookings via their websites. But why? After all, how many independent hotels out there don’t have a website running 24/7, advertising their rooms and amenities and enabling potential guests to book direct? Very few. So what are they doing wrong? It’s likely they’re not focusing on what makes the difference; what truly makes or breaks their sites’ effectiveness. Here are three things they need to make a priority – and improve…

Booking Engine
 
Become a storyteller – visually
By nature, people are hotwired to respond to storytelling – if your site’s not taking advantage of this you need to put that right immediately. How to do it? Through content. If you’re not aware, ‘content’ is marketing-speak for much that makes up the, yes, content of a website –page copy, blog articles and (in this case, especially) visuals, including images, videos and vines. The written word is the traditional tool for storytelling, of course; but visual content’s outstanding when it comes to storytelling online. That’s because it provides immediate, short bursts of highly consumable information of what your hotel offers, why it’s so great and, thus, why guests should stay there. It can pack a big emotional punch – and, lest we forget, emotion greatly influences purchase intent.
 
Easy booking
Did you know that more than eight of every 10 (81%) online travel bookings are abandoned before they’re completed? It’s a staggering and very troubling statistic for an independent hotelier who relies on their site to pull in bookings and achieve good revenue – away from bookings made through profit-reducing online travel agents (OTAs). How then to ensure your site isn’t among those making up that statistic? Simple; you need to optimise your booking process, so the customer is comfortably guided through it from start to finish and isn’t put off at any stage, abandoning it part-way through.

For instance, during the process, the website should only ask for the customer information that’s actually needed (as many as 10% of bookings are lost every time there’s an unnecessary form field). And be sure your site has an easy-to-use booking engine by deploying high-quality hotel reservation system software – we advise you consult and use a digital marketing specialist like Digital Hotelier for this task; we know our beans!
 
The power of social proof
And finally, social proof. What is it? Well, it’s independent third-party feedback; so, yes, it’s what provides travel customers with the confidence to actually book a hotel room. We’re talking here the likes of reviews, ratings and awards highlighted on your site; reliable benchmarks that underline the quality of your hotel. Did you know that more than half of potential guests won’t book a room unless they’ve read that hotel’s reviews? That’s the importance of social proof, right there. And consider this – if you’re achieving better reviews than your rivals, you’re almost four times more likely to have guests choosing your property. Powerful stuff!
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