eCommerce to boost your direct channel revenue

It seems to me that the term “new normal” is somewhat of a moving target. In the ever-changing (even without global pandemics) modern world, one new normal is continuously replaced by changing trends, innovations, economic shifts and so on. So what should that mean for the hotel market place?

Hotel rooms and travel experiences, as a pure product, have a shelf life. If we take the idea that the hotel is a marketplace, then your rooms are perishable daily, and we all know that revenue in the shoulder months is far harder to harvest. So would it be fair to consider your products as FMCG? I think it is worth exploring.

The focus of this is not merely to compare your hotel’s inventory to a shelf of ripe avocados which will be unsellable in 24hrs, it is to liken the way we sell hotel experiences to that of the consumer eCommerce landscape.

The eCommerce sector has long realised that successful digital transformation involves investments in infrastructure and modularity. Retailers now understand that merely meeting the next set of customer demands or trend patterns is no longer enough to stay at the top of the tree. Their focus must shift toward matching an infinite game.

In 2018, 82% of all travel bookings around the world took place without human interaction, and with the rate of online bookings growing at 10.3% each year, the eCommerce element of your website is something that you can’t ignore. So what can we learn from the consumer eCommerce world to increase direct bookings?

There is enough scope in this subject to write a book, so I will outline four top-level ideas, each of which will be elaborated on in future posts.

01_Changing demographics
Due to a situational shift, the number of regular shoppers online over 55 has tripled in 2020 (25-34 is still the largest segment). Nevertheless, this figure is relevant as a demographic that has often been overlooked or thought to be ‘picking up the phone,’ are now becoming savvier online. This figure was taken from a report by Waitrose – but ordering a weekly shop breeds confidence. The freedom and ability to stay away midweek means that there will probably be a bag packed already when the pandemic mist clears.

02_The power of the feeds
I won’t go into social media’s benefits, they speak for themselves, but the point here is how we use them. Grabbing attention is paramount in an environment where there is information overload. Hotels can take full advantage of this platform by taking the time to segment your audience. The staycation market will undoubtedly be at the front of guests’ minds as we head out of lockdown, so geo-targeting and audience segmentation are paramount to filling your inventory, not least in continuing to drive that demand in the autumn and winter.

03_Use this time to refine your digital presence
The bottom line is that fewer options lead to higher conversions.
Potential guests, who have time on their hands, will be looking for a summer break after May’s reopening so removing distractions is a crucial way to draw a visitor deeper into your site. Instead, cut out the noise from your landing pages and lead visitors to focus on featured offerings, leading to higher conversions. Concentrate on your USPs and of course make the booking journey as fast and straightforward as possible, remembering, of course, mobile devices will play a significant role, as the share of m-commerce is expected to rise to 72.9% in 2021.

04_Be ready, and agile
Be ready, brief your marketing agency on reopening campaigns and get all your ducks in a row. Over the last year, we witnessed circumstances changing overnight, and the e-commerce world has always profited from being on the ball. This is not just a pandemic realisation, anyone living in the UK will know how changing climate affects the adverts in their social feeds. So have the campaigns ready to go for a few “what if” scenarios, last minute, change in international restrictions, re-opening and special offers (sympathetic to your revenue strategy of course).

05_ Refine your booking experience
Now is the perfect time to examine your booking journey. The hotel and travel industry as a whole suffers from higher levels of cart abandonment. As more traditional e-commerce sites become smart about customer experience, many travellers now have higher expectations regarding bookings. One of the most telling statistics is that 90% of all travellers expect a personalised experience when they book a hotel. So what can you do? Think about a unified booking experience where guests can book their rooms and easily add experiences such as dining and spa treatments. By doing this, you gain in both higher conversion rates at a higher value and increase your guests’ onsite spend when they do stay. Consumer retail, both in-store and online, have long used the power of selling at checkout for years, it’s time hotels did the same.

These are very top level points, and each one will be tackled in more detail in future posts, but if there is one positive that we can use our current situation for, it is to take stock, and get ready for the restart.

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