Contributed by Paula Perrin, Sr. Market Analyst, SHR

mobile

Online Travel Agency (OTA) numbers can be impressive. According to a recent Phocuswright study, the OTA share of the online travel market reached 39% in 2016, and is projected to slowly increase to 41% by 2020, equaling $81.4BB in online gross bookings. Yet the OTAs are more than the sum of their monetary outcomes. The secret to their success lies in how they now function as marketing, search, and booking engines, plus execution platforms. This hybrid combination yields deep and readily available information that helps propel hotel businesses forward because it delights an emerging type of traveler that is just beginning to dominate the entire booking landscape; the mobile researcher.

Mobility Meets Homework

To understand the mindset of this guest and where they have come from, it’s helpful to look at some recent booking statistics. For instance, a full two-thirds of Millennials say they are now comfortable using a smartphone to research and book an entire trip, with 64 percent saying that they regularly book a hotel room on a mobile device after shopping on one. Add to this a recent Traveler Attribution Study by Expedia that found package bookers make an average of 38 visits to various sites over the 45 days before booking, with travel content consumption the week-of more than doubling. And then there’s the fact that a full 85% of GenXers, who lead the generational spending pack at 29% of the global estimated net worth, say they won’t buy a product until they’ve thoroughly researched it, with 71% of this research being done via OTAs. The bottom line is this; you need a way to serve and delight the mobile researchers of the world, and there is no question that, at least right now, you need OTAs to do this in a meaningful way. But there are things you can do on your own site as well to capture, and convert, more of these new guests, especially if you have the right CRS and booking technology at your command.

Modeling the OTA to Boost Bookings

Responsive design helps you make sure that your conversions can happen on multiple devices, increasing your chances of capturing mobile bookings. This means keeping content relevant across all mediums, also known as achieving content parity. Hoteliers also need to look at their own hotel on every device to see what the guests see. Doing so can give you the right perspective for making your most productive changes and updates.

Persuasive messaging features like strike-through, which show immediate savings and value on-screen for the guest, can help you compete in OTA-style. The goal, after all, is to get guests to convert in the moment, whether that moment is search number one or search number 31. This kind of messaging also gives you the ability to craft personalized offerings for those previously mentioned package buyers, i.e. clubs, tour groups, weddings, etc.

Customized branding allows you to have an interface that is a seamless experience for your guest because navigation should blend into your site, not break away from it. The mobile researcher wants to focus and not be directed elsewhere. To do this, your booking engine must be advanced enough to share some visual aspects of the hotel website to not jar the guest as they explore.

Import the Joy of Sharing

We all know that people are more likely to book when they see their choice validated by others, a phenomenon also known as crowdvoting. So, one of the fastest ways to keep mobile researchers interested once they get to your site is to make their job as easy as possible and reassure them that they are making the right choice to book with you by simply linking a well-respected review site like the newer Oyster, or of course, the ever-trusty TripAdvisor directly on your website.

By making sure to model your efforts around functional mobility and easy access to research via the best technology and OTA methods, you can attract not only the mobile researchers, but more of every type of guest, achieving bottom line improvements while continually managing your business against local needs, and in the case of OTAs, global needs as well.

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