By Richard Drummond, COO of Hop Software (www.hopsoftware.com)
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality sector has had no choice but to opt for a digital-first approach to engage with its customers.Although this presents some challenges, it also offers an opportunity to move away from conventional marketing methods and refine the industry’s digital front door.
For hotels in particular, the quality of their online presence as travel reopens will be crucial to ongoing success and sustainability. This is even more vital when you consider that 55% of people use search engines as their main channel to research holidays according to our recent research of 2,000 UK consumers.
The same study found that almost half of Britons plan on taking a Staycation in 2021, with a quarter intending to go abroad and 13% saying they’ll do both. So, it’s clear that the public are eager for a getaway, but hoteliers need to evolve to fit the needs of the modern consumer if they’re to thrive.
BOOKING ONLINE: BRITAIN’S BIGGEST TURN-OFFS
While many are eager to book a holiday, there are a number of factors in the online journey that make consumers hesitant to book online.We found that almost half (42%) of the British public are put off booking online by hidden costs, while a third expressed concern about prices increasing before having the chance to book. Uncertainty also remains apparent, with 1 in 4 respondents saying they are put off booking by a lack of COVID cover options.
For hoteliers, it’s important to note that holidaymakers aren’t always looking for the cheapest deal – they simply want to know upfront how much their trip will cost and that the price they’re quoted is what they’ll pay. Hidden costs can leave consumers feeling misled by your brand, meaning they may not only book elsewhere, but avoid you in future too.This is an easy fix for hoteliers, so ensure you’re transparent with costs to gain consumer trust – don’t leave it for the small print!
It’s not just cost issues that put people off booking online – intrusive data collection also came high up the list, with 1 in 5 respondents being turned off by lots of personal information being collected.This is hardly surprising following a string of high-profile data breaches in the media recently, including that of the test- and-trace system. Again, this can be a simple fix for hoteliers, consider avoiding obtrusive data requests and pop ups as soon as someone lands on your site. By capturing data in a creative manner at the right stage of the user journey – perhaps during exit-intent or with an incentive or blog – data capture can work for both you and your customer.
BOOKING ONLINE:WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
As consumer behaviour has changed, consumer preference has shifted too, and in an increasingly online world, people now demand easy-to-use websites and booking systems.Websites have evolved into some- thing much more than just text on a page; holidaymakers expect your website to deliver quality content and a seamless experience.
Almost half of survey respondents said that an easy-to-use website would make them more likely to book a holiday, whilst one in five were put off by confusing websites. By investing in your user experience, web visitors are more likely to stay on your website for longer and visit multiple pages, instead of growing frustrated.
The quality of content on a website was also an important factor, with a third of people we surveyed say- ing that enticing photography would have a positive impact. Now more than ever, an appealing web presence is imperative. So, ensure you have professional imagery, clean colour schemes and short, enticing chunks of information that make the user want to read on.
The pandemic has accelerated a change in how the industry engages with its customers, but as consumer habits evolve, hoteliers must evolve with them.This year, will undoubtedly present more challenges for the sector, but with those come opportunities.The hoteliers that invest in their digital presence now will reap the rewards in the coming months.