Every 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…
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…
So don’t put it off any longer. Get a mobile-optimised website and a mobile app today. You know it makes sense!
5 More Ways That Great Photos Can Boost Your Bookings
Great photos can massively enhance the first impression guests received from your website – and therefore boost your bookings. Here are a few clever strategies to really drive home the benefits that excellent visuals provide…
Collect lots of terrific photos of your property by all means. In particular, make sure that your room photos present your accommodation in the very best and most flattering light. But once you’ve done this, chose a SINGLE PHOTO that you’ll use to convey everything you feel is best about the experience your offer your guests. Use the photo as a kind of unofficial logo anywhere you can – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Places (and whatever other ‘must do’ social media channels are lurking over the horizon!) Once people see it often enough, they’ll associate it instinctively with your property.
When you (or your web designer) is updating the photos on your site, make sure you think carefully about how you name them. Well-named photos add a lot of Search Engine value to your site. It may seem a bit unwieldy, but make sure the file name for each photo includes the name of your property and where it is (e.g. mayfield_guesthouse_norwich_bedroom1.jpg) rather than just (room.jpg). Lots of people find accommodation by doing geographic searches like “B&B in ____” or “guesthouse near ____”. Naming your photos in this way will help them find you. Congratulations, your site just got “Searchier”!
Great photos of rooms are the gold standard when it comes to visuals that will entice people to stay with you. But other types of photos can also be great when it comes to really emphasising the cosy, personal experience that people crave. If you take great pride in your home cooking, for instance, have some great photos of your meals on your site. If you’re on the coast with spectacular views, emphasise those. In other words, find your unique selling point and push it as clearly and concisely as possible through your visuals.
Putting guest reviews (even TripAdvisor reviews!) on your site can be a terrific way of establishing trust (i.e. “Look, we’re a wonderful property with nothing to hide and here are the reviews to prove it.”) But some people these days don’t even have the time/patience to read reviews. A Guestbook page with a few photos of you with your guests (ideally smiling!) creates an instant and very powerful positive message. They’re also great for your Facebook page.
Going back to how people search, it can be immensely useful to have a “Local Area” page on your site, with lots of smartly-labelled photos showing nearby attractions. Placing yourself within your community means that you become a strong part of its online presence and an advocate for it. It also means that you’ll score well, once again, with Search Engines if anyone searches for a local attraction then starts looking for accommodation.
Big 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)…
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.”
One of the most exciting things on the horizon for freetobook is our new connection with VisitScotland.
VisitScotland has a new accommodation search system that allows all B&Bs, guest houses, small hotels etc in Scotland to be displayed regardless of their relationship with VisitScotland itself (this is known as a “polling” system).
What this means is that very soon all Scottish freetobook properties will be able have their rates and availability appearing on VisitScotland’s site whenever a prospective customer does an accommodation search.
1st June is the current “go live” date for VisitScotland’s new system. Keep checking our blog for further details and updates.
A winning website is a worthwhile investment. Like it or not your customers will form a view about you and your property based on what they see and how they interact with your website.
The first thing a potential customer will do is look for your website, on finding it they form a view about your property and service, you have a winning strategy if the third thing they do is make a booking.
What you need to do to create a winning website ?
It’s now well established that customers select accommodation with their heart first and their head second. So make sure they fall in love with your website, it’s about an emotional connection. This means big impact, great looking photos and engaging text that is short and to the point.
Understand what it is that your customers want and make sure they find it writ large on your home page. For a farm stay, a fabulous rural panorama or some cute animals, a seaside retreat might have a high impact photo of the beach/sea and a party town hotel some nightlife photos – it’s all pretty simple.
OK, you know what they want and you have given it to them, now they want to book. To achieve maximum bookings make it easy to book. Your online booking button must feature prominently on your home page (“above the fold” – no need to scroll down to find it) and on every other page in a very similar position. You will lose bookings if you make it hard to find your booking button.
Keep it simple, engaging, attractive and easy to navigate. Make a point of asking your customers what they think of your website, don’t be precious about the website it’s not for you it’s for your customers.
Regular updates are critical to keep your website fresh and relevant, a handy way to do this is through a blog.
A great website is a winning strategy….. a rubbish one will lose you bookings.
(look out for next weeks bite sized winning strategy “Customer feedback and Reviews”)
With 845 million active users, Facebook is becoming an ever-more useful way of reaching new customers and generating more revenue. If you already have a Facebook business page, Freetobook can now create a Facebook booking page for you as well. This will allow you to:
Display great photos of your property.
List all your property information and room descriptions.
Display your location on a Google map.
And most importantly of all…
Link to your booking engine, providing easy online booking direct from Facebook.
You’ll find this great new functionality by logging into your profile and clicking on a new tab called “Social.”