Doesn’t matter how nice and well developed your website will be, if you won’t give a chance for the visitors to make a decision right there, they are most likely to go and book somewhere else. Most possibly they will find your property on OTA and will book there. This means you are losing direct booking and also ending up paying commissions for the OTA. Internet Booking Engine (IBE) must be integrated into your website. Forget request forms and e-mail requests.
Another common mistake is to use Book Now button to “hide” the request form. It is not instant booking and such fake button is absolutely not correct and you shouldn't be using it. People want to make the booking and get confirmation right away. They don’t want to wait several days for the answer and then end up with a negative one. People want to be able to make a reservation right away and get a confirmation welcoming them at their picked date.
Tips for a good internet booking engine
- First of all, you should not forget that world now is concentrating more and more on mobile devices. People are looking for a possibility to make a reservation from their tablets or mobile phones while being on the road. Make sure that your booking engine (and website as well) is mobile friendly and fully responsive on smaller mobile devices.
- Booking engine should look like a part of your website. Maybe you will use integrated booking engine or the ones which are being hosted under a different domain, absolutely doesn’t matter - make sure that it looks like part of your website. Internet booking engine must have your logo, pictures and other visual marks that would unite your website and internet booking engine.
- Booking engine should be clearly visible on the website. Call-to-action buttons have to be visible and appear without scrolling down the page. Big “Book now” button or encouragement to “Book your stay” has to be easily noticeable. Let’s not forget that booking button has to “go together” with rest of the website. If pictures won’t be attractive and inviting, the biggest Book Now button won’t help. People have to want to make a booking right away after seeing the website. A small and corner-hidden button will never attract potential guests. People are not willing to look for something and would rather choose surrounding which is already familiar from previous experiences (like OTAs).
- Other, probably most important factor - the simplicity of the booking engine. It has to be clear and require minimum clicks. Do not use pop up windows! It annoys everybody and plus it might be blocked by a browser in case visitor is using pop up blocker. Guest has to be able to make a booking with just a few clicks. But it also has to be clear and with all information visible. Even if for you booking engine seems simple, ask somebody not related to your business, to make a reservation. You might be surprised how complicated someone might find it and they will end up closing your page.
- Make your booking engine clear for the target market. If you are focusing on families and offering service packages more used by this segment - mention this on your website and in your booking engine. If people won’t know what to expect at your place, their stay can be disappointing and you can get reviews which will hurt your business. Group of friends looking for a party place should clearly see that your place is more suitable for families so they can still look for better choice.
- This leads us to another point - advertise your main product. Ensure that your specials are clearly visible for everybody. Don’t make a mistake by advertising other features of your accommodation rather than accommodation itself. First sell the room and in addition mention restaurant, horseback riding, SPA packages and etc.
- Get internet booking engine with all security certificates. Nobody will finalise their reservation if they will see that they have to enter credit card details to a website which looks suspicious.
- Make website or booking engine visitor feel special. They are more likely to make a direct reservation if you will play with such words as “Special offer just for website visitors”, “ Best Online Offer”, “Reward for direct booking”, “Only now and only here” and etc. You are the one who controls the prices and offers. So make sure to use every single opportunity to get a direct sale. In your own internet booking engine, you can create as many special offers as you like. So once visitor visits your site, make them stay and complete the booking without going to other websites or OTAs.
- Integration of booking engine is very important in case if you are using channel manager as well. Then you should be looking for a PMS solution which already offers you integrated booking engine and most perfect - integrated channel manager as well. If you have a system like this, you don’t need to worry about calendar updates. All direct reservations will arrive at your PMS and will update availability in channels.
- Chat with your guests. Many visitors will have questions when checking your website or booking engine. Give a chance them to ask. Not everybody will be willing to make a phone call to another part of the world that will cost them a fortune. Waiting for an answer via e-mail might take forever as well. If there will be direct chat feature - it will absolutely increase trust and possibility to get a direct reservation!