Improving Conversions Starts with Reaching and Engaging Consumers

By Paolo Boni President & Chief Executive Officer, VFM Leonardo, Inc. | January 29, 2012

As travel shopping continues to fragment within the online space to a myriad of channels, devices, and platforms the role of the hotel marketer is becoming increasingly complicated. Today, audiences are jumping from online travel agencies to review sites to social media and so on, using their smartphones, computers and tablets to do so. This makes for a complex web of touch-points for hotel marketers to explore and take advantage of. Success requires balancing a number of priorities and activities that make up a hotel's greater marketing strategy. Included in this strategy are activities that convert website traffic to bookings on the hotel's own website and third party websites.

Driving Traffic Versus Converting Traffic

Converting website traffic involves getting website visitors to take a desired action, or in this case, book hotel accommodation. This is one area that is often off balance in hotel marketing. Currently, marketers tend to put more effort and dollars toward driving more visitors to their sites by implementing tactics such as search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising programs than they do to converting the visitors to hotel guests.

Employing these types of programs to drive traffic as well as using online visual merchandising creates the complete marketing cycle and increases the number of visitors who actually book your hotel. This article focuses on the latter part of the equation – improving conversions through visual merchandising.
What is visual merchandising?

There are two main components of visual merchandising. The first is reach, the second is engagement. The result of these two components being executed successfully is improved conversions which means a couple of things – gaining a higher number of bookings overall and/or increasing the value of each conversion. By showing consumers the value that your hotel offers, what they will experience, and what sets your hotel apart, you are able to get more bookings and convert guests at higher rates.

Hoteliers who have grasped and employed online merchandising practices take their listings and web properties as opportunities to reach consumers with a great, compelling experience. Visual merchandising ensures that what hotel shoppers see makes them want to take the next step and book with you. Regardless of which site they're visiting, from transactional online travel agencies to social media channels, a well-merchandised hotel listing with informative, rich, engaging content can significantly improve conversions.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.