Personalization of Hotel Reservation Websites
Some Lessons from Online Retailers
By Jayesh Amdekar Principal Consultant in Travel & Hospitality Practice, Infosys Limited | June 16, 2013
Personalization has been a key focus for hospitality companies for years now. However, when you look at the personalization initiatives by major chains and boutique hotels alike they seemed to be focused on personalizing guest experience while the guest is at the property. When it comes to personalization of the online shopping experience there is a lot of room for improvement. If you compare the leading hotel reservation websites to some of the leading online retailers, the gap between the two appears to be substantial.
Hospitality companies need to make some adjustments to their websites in the short run and evaluate some longer term investments that will help them to offer personalized online shopping experiences to their guests. Some of the measures mentioned below can help hotels achieve dramatic improvements in their ability to offer personalized shopping experience. This will also help the hotels to improve brand loyalty while yielding higher look to book ratios.
1. Use Stay and Visit History When the Guest is Online
Hospitality companies already track stay history of their frequent guests and their loyalty members. This data is a goldmine of information and knowledge about the guest. This includes where the guest typically stays, for how many nights, average spend per visit, and what items and amenities the guest typically buys during that stay, etc. Using this vast amount of data, hotels can clearly understand brand and product preferences as well as booking habits of their frequent guests. In order to make the online shopping / booking experience more personal, it is important to use that information when the guest has logged in and is interacting with the reservations website.
To personalize the booking experience, hotels can display offers and promotions that are most likely to be of interest to the guest based on their past stays. When displaying the search results the hotel sites can prioritize the brand or product class that the guest has shown the most affinity to. For example, if the guest has always stayed in a one bedroom suite, why display a standard room type at the top of the search results and vice-versa? Additionally, the historical information can be used to understand what rate classes are typically chosen by the guest and those rate classes, if available, can be prioritized in the search result displays along with other complementary offers. Providing even this level of personalization during the shopping process will reduce the time it takes for the guests to drill down to their usual choices and make that booking experience much more streamlined and pleasant for the guests.
In the longer run, hotels can invest in technology solutions that will enable brand.com sites to "track" frequent visitors and their browsing history. This is not only a common practice in retail but today's guests expect the sites they visit often, to "remember" them even if they have not created a profile or user id on the site. Take the example of Amazon.com, when a visitor goes and searches for some merchandise on the website, the site remembers the browsing history and next time the same user goes to Amazon site again, based on the tracked browsing history the site will display merchandise that was searched by the user. Hotel websites too can store this type of information and use this data to personalize not only the offers and promotions displayed to these repeat visitors, but also to personalize the search results returned for product searches. Typically, the hotel shopper visits over 10-15 different websites before making a hotel reservation. So if based on previous visits to the website, if brand.com can quickly present the options that have been of most interest to the guest then the chances of that guest converting is much higher.