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.

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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.