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Personalized Offerings Capture Bookers on Their Paths to Purchase

by Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor |

One of the most perplexing issues facing revenue managers is determining how guests ultimately decide to book their properties. A customer’s journey from making a decision to travel to booking a hotel room is often long, winding and sometimes counterintuitive.

Just like fingerprints, no two paths to purchase are the same. And while business and group travelers typically make just a few decisions before booking, leisure travelers weigh their choices carefully and usually hit a variety of digital spots before booking.

The goal—no, the imperative—for every hotel marketer, website developer and revenue manager—is to create a site and, more importantly, a message on that site that stops potential guests dead in their tracks, leaving them uninterested in visiting other hotel, OTA or metasearch destinations.

Using a personal approach will convert more travelers along the booking path Click To Tweet

Creating this kind of show stopper involves a combination of innovative website design, effective imagery, an easy-to-use and intuitive booking engine and a call to action that offers personalized experiences for each booker. Just as important is a rate strategy that presents options that, combined with other aspects of the pitch, gives the guest the sense they’re receiving maximum value for their expenditures.

When a potential customer lands on your site, you must have a deal ready for them to justify booking and not moving on.

TIME FOR VACATION

For leisure travelers, the purchase journey is often a long one. According to one survey, six in 10 people considering a summer trip are already conducting some type of research as early as February, yet at that time 46% of them had not even decided on a destination. And in 80% of cases, according to Phocuswright, consumers plan and/or book their leisure business online.

Phocuswright says those planning travel are most likely to visit OTA websites sometime during their planning processes, followed by review sites such as TripAdvisor and then accommodations sites. Ultimately, however, the hotel choice is an important one. Another study says North American consumers spend 25% more time when booking a hotel room than they spend booking an airline seat. That’s logical: The airline experience by and large is vanilla and generic; a hotel stay is highly personal, even emotional.

FOR SOME, FRUSTRATION

For some consumers, the path to purchasing a vacation or even a weekend trip can be a fun kind of treasure hunt. For others, it’s a nightmare of frustration. Phocuswright data presented during a recent webinar showed nearly 25% of U.S. consumers are frustrated by online travel planning. Their pain points tend to be too much information, too little time to devote to the process and not enough visuals provided by travel suppliers, such as hotels.

While there are no magic bullets to always capturing the attention of a potential guest during their journey, one key is to offer (and effectively provide) personalized experiences, packages and rate tiers.

When planning trips, travelers want to get personalized information related to their destination, and the content they want to see online is visuals of that destination or where they’re staying, said Mark Blutstein, a Phocuswright research analyst, during the webinar.

Differences in consumer behaviors also differ by generation. One study says those in so-called Generation Z (born between the late 1990s and 2010) have attention spans of eight seconds, which is apparent through their multi-tasking, multi-screen behaviors. This means it’s even more important for hotel marketers and revenue managers to create content, messages and rate offers that engage these consumers quickly or fear losing them to the next screen.

There’s no one answer or magic formula for solving the path-to-purchase dilemma. RMs and marketing managers need to employ every data technique, amenity offer and rate strategy they have to gain a better-than-average share of lookers who stop and book.

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Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Contributing editor at Duetto
Ed has been covering the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He was editor-in-chief of Lodging Hospitality from 1980 to 2012. He then joined Hotel News Now as an Editor at Large, until his retirement at the end of 2014. Ed still contributes to several publications and is a member of the advisory boards for the hotels schools at Michigan State and Penn State.
Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

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Ed Watkins, Contributing Editor

Ed has been covering the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He was editor-in-chief of Lodging Hospitality from 1980 to 2012. He then joined Hotel News Now as an Editor at Large, until his retirement at the end of 2014. Ed still contributes to several publications and is a member of the advisory boards for the hotels schools at Michigan State and Penn State.