Online Merchandising: Steps to Capitalizing on Travel Websites
By Paolo Boni President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo, Inc. | May 20, 2012
Today's travelers are choosing hotels that inspire them and effectively articulate why their rooms and amenities are 'worth' the price. But hotel listings on travel sites are typically lackluster and undifferentiated with unclear value propositions. The challenge for hoteliers is this: successfully conveying their hotel's unique value on the sites travel shoppers use to research and compare hotels online. Hoteliers can capitalize on their presence on travel websites by applying online merchandising techniques and using visual content to their advantage.
The Internet is an essential tool for travelers and those looking to attract them. Travel suppliers, including airlines, attractions, car rental companies and hotels are faced with the challenge of cutting through the clutter of the online travel environment. Due to the economic downturn, hoteliers have to work even harder to compete for guests online and capitalize on their presence on travel websites.
Even as travelers reduce the number of trips they are willing to take, they are continuing to seek high quality travel experiences. "The economy makes travel more precious," contends Henry Harteveldt, Vice President and Principal Analyst with Forrester Research. Today's travelers are choosing the hotels that inspire them and effectively articulate why their rooms and amenities are 'worth' the price. Shoppers need help visualizing how your hotel can provide the experience they're seeking.
Applying online merchandising techniques is a critical step hoteliers can take to capitalize on travel websites - the sites that travelers use to used to research and compare travel products online. This includes more than just booking engines, but also travel review sites, portals, meta-search engines, among others. Today, hotel listings on travel sites are typically lackluster and undifferentiated with unclear value propositions.
Successful retailers live or die by their merchandising skills. In retail, merchandising refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products in ways that stimulate interest and entice customers to purchase. Travel websites are the retail stores in which hoteliers can effectively merchandise their properties in ways that stimulate interest and entice travel shoppers to book.
A study by Forrester Research revealed that general search engines (61%) and web-based travel agencies (55%) are the top destinations for online leisure travel research.(i) According to McKinsey, consumers begin their initial considerations with a relatively narrow list of options, and then they move into active evaluation where the number of options increases, often due to the wealth and availability of information online. In order to even be considered, hotels need to be available on travel websites when shoppers are actively evaluating their options.