Contributed by Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist, SHR

Truly knowing your guests has always been important, but in an increasingly competitive landscape, it’s taken on a new urgency. Today, this knowledge must include understanding the guest journey. Where does that journey begin? For most guests, it begins online. The interesting part is that we’ve been finding that it also ends there. What does this mean for your hotel business? In a recent webinar, Sojern’s senior sales executive, Shaela Wepfer, and myself tackled this question. We found the answers by charting guests’ online journeys before, during, and after the stay.

Setting Your Hotel Up for Success

amenities list

When it comes to creating a solid strategy, it’s best to provide your guests with clear expectations of what they can look forward to when visiting your hotel. And that means great images. As Shaela explained, hotels with at least one photo, just one, are 225% more likely to receive a booking enquiry. Considering this, using only your sharpest imagery is a great way to help lift your hotel up in your market. One of today’s best ways of displaying photos is via a carousel of images. This gives your guests a 360-degree impression of your offerings to really picture themselves in each setting.

Descriptions in your booking engine are another place where strong content must appear to drive guest expectations. If you can tailor your content to your own particular attributions, so much the better. Remember, you are the master of your hotel’s narrative, so be sure to tell your story your way.

Before the Stay—Driving Direct Bookings

What is the difference between a good hotel website and a great hotel website? For one thing, a great website has relevant offers for the guest. You have to make sure each click is landing them where they want to go so they feel “expected” once they have booked. Using what is called push advertising, you can have a sort of one-on-one conversation with the guest by controlling the messages that they see as they plan their trip. By establishing this kind of relationship early on, you have the opportunity to offer them a better, more personal experience by presenting them with upgrade and add-on offers they can actually use.

booking engine

You also need to create a smooth, seamless booking experience. As Shaela explained, among other items, this means you need to have a proper calendar view in your booking engine. Also, ideally, you want to enable your guests to book in three clicks or less. I agree with this and will add that you need to go beyond the brand by looking at what else your tech allows to remove booking barriers. For instance, you need to avoid messages of non-availability. This is why the concept of blended rates continues to be a must-have for your technology to help you reduce booking abandonment. By blending rates, you can turn the typical gauntlet of booking into a fast—and successful—experience for your guests. And remember to focus on guests that booked directly, but also on those who did not so you can convert them for the future.

During the Stay—What Matters and What Doesn't

Just like with booking, you need to make today’s tech work for you and your guest during the stay. This applies to everything from being “expected,” to providing personalized info, to getting them the right add-ons to earn their loyalty. Shaela suggested hotels say good-bye to the outdated offerings such as valet parking, and say hello to something every traveler of ever age group needs today—free WiFi. In this area, a strong PMS CRS connection is non-negotiable. With it, you can make sure guest information is up to date and relevant, with CRS updates you can make sure that what is fed into your CRM, or mobile concierge is relevant to the guest.

After the Experience—Staying Connected

The old adage that bad news travels faster than good is still true. So, it is imperative that you make sure you are actively engaged with your hotel review process, and request feedback often. Shaela reminded us that today, reviews have taken on the tone and importance to many people of a trusted friend, or even a relative. I agree, and will add another fact; people do not post about their booking experience, they post about their hotel experience. So, monitor and internalize your reviews to draw out what is actually happening during your guests’ stay, and what is happening online after the stay. This can help you shift more OTA-generated guests to direct-booking guests. Staying in the review loop also allows you to inform guests of upcoming promotions, add-ons, and upgrades that you know they will love.

At SHR, we know that you have a unique hotel story to tell. Use the right technology to tell that story every time a guest visits your site, and you can help ensure that you are building trust, and building brand loyalty in the process.

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