Why your hotel website doesn’t capture direct bookings

Hotel website usability direct booking

When I started to write this blog, I told to myself that I wouldn’t write about website usability and related issues – there are tons of articles, books, webinars etc. However, recently I have noticed so many issues on hotel websites that it changed my mind. As I regularly browse websites of our leads and talk to hoteliers, I see these 2 common trends:


Trend #1: Hoteliers cry because guests prefer to use booking engines over hotel websites.

(And simultaneously)

Trend #2: User experience on hotel websites is mostly terrible.


(Note: If you follow both of these trends, you better not Tweet this!)


Do you know why you are not capturing direct bookings on your website? Not because of price – the price is not always 100% of the decision made. There are also other factors like how easy it is for guests to book your room or what is the perceived trustworthiness. Guys at Booking.com probably do a lot of tests in order to improve the usability. It also provides assurances so people trust their services. It also uses social proof and urgency very well so sometimes you cannot help yourself but to book immediately.

This post is not about what Booking does well but what you might do better to capture more direct bookings. In this post, I will dive into several critical points that will help you improve your conversion rate.


Where is your call-to-action?

Each website should have a goal. I assume that the primary goal of your website is to generate bookings. However, when I checked it out, I didn’t see any clue that should drive me this way. People need to know what they should do as a next step. Clear call-to-action that stands out of the website can be a good start. My rule of thumb is that your desired action should be only one click away from each page on the website.

Please, note that many people are not ready to book during their first visit. What does it mean for you? If booking is the only option you have, you might loose the potential prospects because of missing initial interaction. If they are not ready to book yet, let them at least sign up to your newsletter. This way, you can keep in touch with them and send them relevant offers. Once they are ready to book, you are a potential candidate on their list.


Why your booking process is so unclear?

Another common pitfall. I don’t consider myself as a regular Internet user (I have little bit more patience than regular users do). However, sometimes I feel like “What shoud I do now” or “What will happen when I press this?” It is perhaps a general human problem – we have a tendency to make everything look complicated. And it really is difficult to make things easy to process and use. However, there are people who can do that for you – they are called UX designers. Why don’t you use one?

The worst thing is to let your guests think. Remember that the less painfull experience you provide, the harder it is for your potential guest to abandon you. Print it and stick it on your computer. And don’t forget to work on it.

Another thing I would like to discuss is something called the action ratio (I borrowed the term from Oli Gardner – thanks Oli!). It is the ratio of the number of actions user can do compared to number of actions you want user to do. Imagine your booking process. Can your user abandon it by clicking on homepage or other item from your menu? If yes, you failed. If guest is in the booking process, the only action guests should be able to do is to finish her booking. You should ensure that all your guest receive is the support to finish the booking, not to abandon it.


Do you need all this information now?

The endless form is something that I was really looking for. Especially when I use my smartphone. Nah, I am just messing with you. I hate it. You should think over the information you ask from me. It will be a little bit easier for me to make a reservation and I will not be afraid of loosing my personal information.

If you are asking me for too much now, you risk I will leave. If you will ask when I am checking in, I have no other place to go – so I will be more patient.

You can perform the form analysis to find out which form items cause booking abandonment. Then consider removing them.


Why are you giving me so many choices?

It is cool that I can pick from several options, however, note that the more options you provide to me, the less likely I am to actually select one. Does it sound weird? Maybe it is, however, there are a lot of studies that supports this fact (this one is my favorite).

Try to keep the number of options low. If you really cannot provide less choices (e. g. because you already made 9 types of rooms), try to ask several questions first (e. g. What experience are you looking for?) to provide relevant choices only. However, if you select wrong criteria or don’t know your guests very well, it can also hurt your conversions. So this is probably a risky choice in the beginning of your transformation journey.


Where is the information I am looking for?

I don’t care what you want to say to me. I care about what I want to know. Provide me with these information because I am not going to spend a lifetime to look up for it. If you don’t know what I want to know, ask your previous or current guests (here is the nice guide how to do so). I am probably similar. If you do a little research, you will learn a lot about how I think and what information I would like to consume that can persuade me.

If you see there is a huge abandonment on the page, you can also see pop-up survey with 2 simple questions:

  1. What was the purpose of your today’s visit?
  2. What kept you from getting there?

You can learn a lot and adjust your website accordingly.


Can you assure me you are the right choice?

Alright, you gave me what I need to hear but I still don’t trust you very much. You know, I don’t know you at all. Right now, you should provide me with some social proofreviews from your previous guests (you can use TripAdvisor widgets) and/or booking engine rating and/or awards and/or articles you were featured etc. If other people like me enjoyed their experience, I will probably do, too.

Social proof

Another things that can make up my mind are the following:

  • Do I have to pay upfront or do I have to pay after the stay?
  • Can I cancel my reservation without a penalty?
  • Do I have any guarantee that I will get what you said I get (and if not, what will happen?)

These are just examples of what you could think about, too.


How can you analyze your low-performing website elements?

This is the topic for the next post in which I will provide you with some free tools and tips. If you are interested, you should definitely subscribe to our blog. And yes, you can also ask me your questions in comments. I will be happy to give you a piece of advice.


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Marketing Specialist and PhD. candidate
Lukáš takes care of questions connected to modern marketing, analytics and optimization of processes.

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