3 Things You Need to Know About Mobile Bookings

smart_phone_okalkavanEvery day, more and more people are using iPads, iPhones, Androids etc to book hotels and B&Bs.

Pretty soon more people will be booking travel via mobile than on old-fashioned desktop computers. Google – the (current) kings of all things search – regularly produce stats on the growth of mobile. Here are some of the most eye-catching latest figures:

(1)   Almost half (47%) of all travellers now start their travel planning from a mobile device.

(2)   Today, 40% of leisure travellers and 36% of business travellers use mobile search engines to find hotels and book overnight accommodation.

(3)   By the second quarter of 2013, travel-related search queries will increase by 68% from smartphones and 180% from tablets. As you can see here…

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But perhaps most important of all is the news that far more last-minute bookings are made these days from mobile devices than desktop computers. Properties whose websites are not optimised for mobile are missing out these bookings, since, according to Google, 36% of last-minute travellers said that difficult mobile navigation is the main deterrent from booking…

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So don’t put it off any longer. Get a mobile-optimised website and a mobile app today. You know it makes sense!

Winning Images – Part 1

Great Visuals Sell Accommodation

bestPriceTickBig hotel chains have the largest marketing budgets, so their websites must always be the ones that attract the most attention. Right? Wrong. In the USA recently, it’s the websites of smaller, boutique hotels – and even B&Bs – that have been generating the most buzz in the media. Why? Because these smaller hotels are much better (and quicker) at adapting to what customers want when booking accommodation online. And these days…

It’s All About Images!

A strong visually-oriented layout is the only way to go, because (and this can’t be emphasised often enough)…Photos sell rooms.

1. Good photos.
2. Big photos.

And, most importantly…

3. Prominent photos

Here’s a great example of a rooms page (courtesy of the Lion Inn, Winchcombe)…

 lion_inn_rooms

Don’t force your customers to hunt around for images that will tell them what the place they’re thinking of staying at actually looks like. Put them front and centre. You own a great property – let the world know about it!

So, even if you don’t want to redesign your whole site, at the very least get your web designer to boost the size and number of quality visuals on the front page and all the room pages. And, ideally, add a big, unmissable link on the front page itself that shouts, “ROOM IMAGES.”

How To Manage Your Online Reputation – Part 1

 

Iain shares some thoughts on the best ways to engage with your customers online and how to turn good service into sales.

Everyone seems to be talking about ORM. You could even say that right now ORM is one of the most popular TLAs (three letter acronyms) in the business world! The official, rather stuffy, definition of ORM is, “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.”

That makes it all sound a bit sinister and corporate. I think the true definition of ORM is more positive and is best expressed by former Vancouver hotel manager and ORM consultant Daniel Edward Craig: “…Online reputation management is the process of tracking and responding to online reviews and commentary and using feedback to guide improvements. It’s about actively participating in social networking to build awareness and shape impressions.”

Spot on. Online reputation management isn’t about anything so crude and cynical as gaming the system. It’s about developing an on-going relationship with your customers, responding to their opinions and showing that their feedback, whether positive or negative, matters to you. So what follows are some personal thoughts about ORM that have emerged out of my own wide experience of managing an online travel company and communicating with customers on a daily basis:

1.                  Managing your online reputation

Why bother?

  • People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
  • 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
  • More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed.

Evidence suggests social media is currently used primarily as a service channel rather than a direct sales channel, so if your customers are using it they will expect you to be on it and may want to connect with you via social media.

Sales and service are linked and there is absolutely no doubt of the link between service and loyalty, so service and reputation are a great place to start. The transactional “sales” side of social media may not be that strong, but I don’t believe it will be long before large businesses make it happen….just like they did with the Internet! Indeed large companies are building these social media platforms into their service models.

When you come right down to it, using social media is really just about working with your customers in a way that they find most convenient…and isn’t that what good service is all about anyway?

We built the customer review process into “freetobook” right at the start so every customer using our online booking engine receives a review email a day after their stay….and 29% of our customers complete reviews for the properties (voluntarily).

2.                  Where does your independent property start?

  • Audit first, find out what’s out there and what people are saying…or not saying.
  • Understand what you want customers to say and where you want them to say it.
  • Monitor, react and encourage feedback: these are all “first principles” of service… wherever you are.

(These are just some of the tips I have picked up from various places, but if anyone has any comments or examples of situations I would be glad to hear of them: iain@freetobook.com).

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…”

Booking and traffic leaks

Drip by JRonaldLeeGetting prospective customers to your website can be an expensive process. Once you have them, you need to keep them there and focused on the booking process.

A leak is an unintended entrance or escape. Make sure visitors are not leaking from your website, as it could be costing you bookings and or commission.

Continue reading “Booking and traffic leaks”

Get even more bookings with a customised header

In the world of accommodation websites, good photos drive sales – it’s as simple as that. Now Freetobook allows you to customise your header with an eye-catching image that will make it look even better and encourage more direct online bookings. For example:

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Continue reading “Get even more bookings with a customised header”