Wonderful Widgets

Why your widget is so important to your business!

A sports car may be beautifully styled, but if it can’t go anywhere it’s just… well, a sculpture. In the same way, no matter how good your website looks – and no matter how much money you spend getting people to it – if it doesn’t have a robust “engine” under the hood, no-one is going to book on it. Your booking engine really is the “business end” of your website.

widgetWe’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making those bookings happen for you, but that can be wasted if you don’t spend a little extra time making sure your widget looks fantastic.  Your room details page is usually the 2nd most visited page on your website. Why? Because people, quite understandably, want to see what they’re getting for their hard-earned money!  Showing customers what they are getting whilst they’re considering prices and availability will increase their likelihood of booking….it’s as simple as that.

Here are our 5 top tips to making your widget wonderful!

  1. Room images that keep the customer in the “booking zone”
  2. A list of room facilities that avoids any doubts/delays (i.e. is there a hair dryer?)
  3. Short and clear room descriptions that sell the benefits (i.e. free WIFI, a view etc)
  4. An enticing breakfast description that reinforces the value
  5. A beautiful header image that says “you’ve found the perfect place….”

The right level of information at the right time with a clear “call to action” (i.e. “Book Now”) is what great marketing is all about. That’s what will get you more bookings. Guaranteed.

TripAdvisor Major Upgrade creates delay

We have recently completed an integration with TripAdvisor to enable Freetobook customers to advertise on their TripAdvisor (TA) page. We believe this makes good

TripAdvisor Show Prices button
TripAdvisor Show Prices button for direct bookings

business sense because potential customers visiting your TA page are at a late stage in the purchasing cycle – in other words they are ready to buy, a perfect time to advertise your direct link to them.

 

 

As part of our service, Freetobook provides an interface to show how many clicks/searches you have paid for and which bookings have resulted from the clicks.

TripAdvisor Show Prices click analysis
TripAdvisor click analysis graph and stats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This keeps you in control and gives you the information you need to calculate your profit from advertising on your TA page. The graphs and figures are easy to read and monitor.

What does the new TripAdvisor upgrade mean to the “Show Prices” button ?

TripAdvisor call this upgrade their “meta interface” and it has some big advantages over their older system. Show Prices button is clicked by customers after they have put in their desired dates.

  1. A neat interface showing customers your available rates on searched dates as provided by various suppliers.
  2. If you are not available (sold out or closed) you will not show on the list and therefore no click charge can occur from the “Show Prices” button.
  3. You only pay when the customer clicks the (Book) button

See an example of the new “meta interface” page below.

Clearly this has major advantages to advertisers. You will not pay if the customer is searching for dates when you are full or closed, nor will you pay if they are speculatively checking rates and availability. You only pay if the customer clicks on the (Book) button. Obviously a click on a (Book) button is far more valuable than a click on a (Show Prices) button.

With the new “meta interface” (live API) click prices will be higher than for the old system but the number of clicks will be far lower. There will also be a different price for TripAdvisor’s mobile pages. We are currently busy completing the new integration to the “meta interface” which we are confident will be a great benefit to freetobook customers.

The Meta Interface page is fed by the live API. A customer will see this when they enter dates and click the (Show Prices) button.

TripAdvisor Meta Interface results

Meta Interface TripAdvisor live API results (example)

 

 

1) The top 4 advertisers with a live API are shown in Cost Per Click price order

2) The top paying advertiser (Expedia in this case) is highlighted with a bigger box, different coloured ‘book’ button, one additional room type shown and a marketing tagline (in this case “120,000 hotels all over the world”) which is provided by the partner

3) Other advertisers with an API who are not in the top 4 show at the bottom with a price

4) Advertisers without an API show at the bottom as a text link

5) Advertisers with an API who did not have availability show, but you are not able to click on them (in this case LateRooms)

 

Your Online Bookings payment Icons – Update on system functionality

Payments against bookings – New Icons on your Diary page

We continue to upgrade and improve the freetobook online booking system. Many of you have asked for an easy way to see if bookings have been paid, we think we have achieved that for you. When you next login you will notice the new coloured icons showing on your “Diary” page. These can be used as a quick glance indication of payment against bookings. Red means no payment made against the booking, Amber shows that the booking is part-paid and Green is fully paid.

Online Booking System Payments
easy to read payment icons

As you can see each booking has a little coloured icon showing you the payment status. When you enter payments against the booking it will automatically change colour to tell you the new payment status.

Icons for payments against bookings on your online booking dairy
Each booking has an icon which will change colour as payments are allocated

 

 

 

 

 

The full page of your online booking diary shows like this. If you want to add a payment to any booking all you need to do is click on the booking and hit the payment button.

Online booking system with an easy to manage online diary
Online Booking Diary with easy access to your booking details

Freetobook is already a leader in online bookings systems, we are confident that online booking with us is already the best available, that said we continue to make it even better. Upgrades are usually a result of listening to “you” our customers. If you would like to engage and share with us check out our facebook or twitter pages.

“LOVE the new payments feature!!!  Everything you need to know at a glance on your diary….perfect!”

Heather at Craigend Bed and Breakfast http://www.craigendbandb.co.uk/

“We’re liking the coloured payments, part payments, non payments feature in the diary!”

Thorney How Hostel Grasmere http://www.thorneyhow.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

New Default Widget Search Date

Brand new functionality from Freetobook offers you even more flexibility by enabling you change the default search date on your booking widget.

In the past it was automatically set for 7 days in advance. Now you can set it to anything between 0 and 14 days in advance. If you choose to set it to 0 days in advance, potential customers will instantly see same-day availability just by hitting “search”.

You can find this functionality by going to the “Home” tab then the “Widget” subtab:

Click on “Edit” then, on the next page, go to option 4 in the left-hand column:

 

 

 

Now you can set your default number of days and the default length of stay.

 

New LateRooms link from freetobook…

LateRooms logoIncrease your sales, customer base and web visibility with this new functionality from freetobook.

Very soon, freetobook customers will be able to link to LateRooms through our system and manage all their rates and availability in one place. If you’re already signed up with LateRooms, just let us know your ID and we can do the linking for you.

Continue reading “New LateRooms link from freetobook…”

Increase bookings with easy access to customer details

As an experienced accommodation provider, you’ll know that when it comes to doing any kind of email marketing your customer database is your greatest resource. Using special offers to encourage previous guests to stay with you again can significantly boost business – particularly during quiet times of the year.

In the past, one of the most time-consuming aspects of doing this was manually compiling long lists of customer contact details.

With new functionality on freetobook you can now run reports that allow you to see – quickly and simply – which customers have booked during a particular time period and the booking method they have used. You can also easily export those customer details into a spreadsheet, so you don’t have to type them all out again.

This is how it works:

Step1: Login to Freetobook.
Step2: Click on the “Diary” tab.
Step3: Click on the “Reports” sub-tab.
Step4: Click on “Customers”.

You will be taken to this page:

reports_screenshot

Having specified the source through which these customers booked and the date range for their bookings, hit “Generate Report.” On the next page you’ll see a list of customers who matched the criteria you have set. (In the example below we’ve blanked out the real customers’ names to protect their privacy)

matched_customers_screenshot2

You can now click “Export Results” in order to export all those customer details in a CSV file (CSV stands for “comma-separated values.” It’s a file where numbers and text are stored in a plain-text format that can be easily opened as a spreadsheet by a program like Excel.)

Once you’ve got all the details in a spreadsheet, you can easily use them for a mail merge or extract just the email addresses for a marketing campaign. You can also manually fill in blanks or add any customers whose details you took over the phone.

Track your marketing success with freetobook statements

We have just added a freetobook statements page to help you:

1) see where your bookings originated from
2) track how much revenue is coming in from your website on a monthly basis
3) prepare the way for freetobook’s own resale channel

With bookings coming in from various channels, it is increasingly difficult to know where your customers first found you.

A new, unique feature on freetobook helps you track where your bookings are coming from. Many of you are already using booking widgets in various places, i.e. in your special offer emails, on your facebook page, on your local accommodation association website. Now you can see which widget produced what bookings.

To start benefiting from this new functionality, simply login and click the “Pay” tab and then go to “Statements.”

The page looks like this:

statements_screenshot2

Here you’ll be able to see a detailed breakdown of each booking. There’s also a “Commission” column. At present, nothing appears here. But in the future any commission deducted from bookings made though freetobook’s own sites will be listed in this column.

All this is fairly standard, but there are some special features which are not available from any other online booking system.

The “Widget” column allows you to see where each guest’s booking originated, e.g. your website, or via Facebook, or through an email. You can therefore tell exactly how much your Facebook page or any email campaign is helping you to get extra business.

This is possible because the “Widget” functionality elsewhere on Freetobook allows you to give any new booking widget you create its own name.

You can find this functionality by selecting the “Home” tab then the “Widget” sub-tab. Click on “Create New Widget” and you’ll be taken to the relevant page, where you can use the “Short Name” field to give the new widget a title:

create_widget_screenshot

 

Calendars now with one added colour (blue)!

We have had great feedback from users who have trialled our new three colour calendar, so we have activated it for everyone. The new blue colour shows where you have sold rooms; green is for available rooms and red indicates where you have closed out.

Just like this:

Blue Calendar colour for sold out rooms
Blue Calendar colour for sold out rooms

Up to now your bookings have only shown in the Diary, which is the natural place for them. Now with the extra colour they are also reflected in your calendars. The new “blue” will make it even easier to manage your calendar rates, close outs, units available, and minimum stays.

The blue colour shows you have sold out on a room type, saving time by reducing the need to switch between your Diary view and your calendars. This makes it easier to maximise your occupancy. For example, if you’ve set a 3-night minimum stay on a room for a particular date but the next night sold out (making it impossible for anyone to stay in it for 3 nights), you can change the minimum stay to 1 night and hence sell the room.

Thanks to this update, you now see all availability information on all the calendars, making control over your rates and minimum stays easier than ever before. As always, we welcome feedback on this update. Please let us know how it works for you.

PS: If you have a setup with more than one of any room type, it will only show blue when all the rooms of this type have sold out.

Upgraded freetobook search results

When it comes to encouraging people to book on your website, lots of things are important, but pictures and descriptions of rooms are up at the top of the list.

With this in mind, we’ve being doing a lot of work recently to upgrade the presentation of search results powered by freetobook.
freetobook search results

The most obvious new feature is the fact that you can now display photos of your different room types. Customers can click on the photos to enlarge them and see exactly what they’re getting. You therefore have the opportunity to present your accommodation in the best possible way.

Potential customers will also have more faith in your property if you offer them the maximum amount of information in search results – it shows trust and at the same time allows you to highlight your best features. To this end, we’ve updated search results so that they can now include a short description of each room type, as well as a list of facilities available and a (mouth-watering!) description of the breakfast attached to a B&B offer.

To see how it looks on one of our sample sites click on the “book now” link below. It’s a sample site, so you can make a booking if you like.
Book Now