Five Reasons Why Visitors are Abandoning You Before They Book (and how to stop it)

By Mark Simpson President & Founder, Maxymiser | August 12, 2012

While the U.S. travel market fell the fastest and hardest during the recession (down 26% in 2009), the sector also bounced back more quickly than any other. Following consecutive years of strong double-digit growth, the travel market has recovered to pre-recession levels. Despite its quick rebound, however, the industry is still in the midst of major transformation. The digital age has made it easy to comparison shop, often before consumers even see your site-thanks to the likes of Kayak, TripAdvisor and Expedia. So we have to ask ourselves, once we get people to our sites, how do we prevent them from vanishing before the reservation is booked?

Travel sites are notoriously cumbersome: you have a lot of properties, a lot of options, locations, dates, amenities, the list goes on. It's why now more than ever, optimizing your site for the visitor's experience, not just "conversions" is essential. If you really want to tackle your site's problem areas, it's time to put the customer at the heart of all online content and update decisions and start providing each visitor with a unique, personalized experience. Here are some common problems, along with some potential remedies.

1. Your Homepage Is Weak

If you can't get many people past the homepage, you don't stand a chance of making the sale. Check out your analytics, if more than 55% of your traffic is bolting as soon as they get to your site, you're doing it wrong. Luckily, just because you scared them off once, doesn't mean you can't try a new approach. Start by conducting A/B and multivariate testing on your home page. This will give you definitive answers with respect to the best layout, design, navigation, functionality, etc. of this crucial entry point to your site. You will learn, via data, exactly what makes your visitors stay, or leave-it could be as simple as moving some crucial promotional areas, or a completely new design. You must test to know.

Secondly, using segmentation strategies to point different groups of visitors to different content or layouts, or even promotions, can further help boost conversion rates. For example, it's fairly easy to find segments, or clusters of people, grouped around categories such as time of day, geographic location, new vs. returning visitors, seasonality, etc. This type of data is crucial to travel, since it's not likely that your site traffic from the Greater New York City area will be looking to book 3 Nights in Times Square anytime soon. It's all about relevancy. The conversions during testing can be measured on these groups so that going forward you can serve them more relevant content. For example, if returning visitors convert better on Version A of the homepage, then that version should always be served to that group. With over 50 different attributes by which to cluster visitors, the possibilities for targeting them are virtually endless.

2. Your Booking Funnel is Confusing, Distracting, and Cumbersome (or all of the above)

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.