Book Direct: all aboard the direct booking express
Wave goodbye to OTA commissions, bid adieu to poor online presence and embark on a direct bookings journey. For serviced apartment and co-living operators, direct booking is an increasingly essential piece of the sales armoury, laying the tracks for enhanced revenue, brand strength and customer connection.
Cut out the middle-man
Online travel agencies (OTAs) have grown in size and scope. From holidays to hotels, short-stay to long-stay, OTAs account for an increasing number and range of inbound sales, but at what cost? Talking strictly financials, OTAs in the serviced apartment and co-living world charge up to 20% commission on bookings, but there’s also the operational costs of handling cancellations and the missed opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
On the other hand, channeling business directly through your own website puts operators back in the driving seat. Instead of paying 15%+ commission, let’s say, operators can offer 10% discounts for booking directly, boosting revenue in the short-term and the long-term through repeat custom. Meanwhile, operators can also offer room upgrades and additional services on their website, at the same time as minimising management costs.
Connect to customers
During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, OTAs blotted their copybook by delaying the return of customers’ money and failing to communicate with them empathetically. Ultimately, operators suffered from their misjudgment and were not even able to reassure customers directly as OTAs retain all guest data.
Conversely, innovative living companies have full control over the customer connection when taking direct bookings. Enabling guests to book on your own site provides operators with reams of useful information, such as contact details and booking preferences. Operators can use this data to understand guest behaviour, deliver personalised experiences and offer tailored deals. In addition, by establishing a direct communication line, operators can set up loyalty programmes and build long-lasting relationships that sow the seeds of return business.
Strengthen your online presence
Direct booking capability is not just an end game, but a marketing strategy too. Sprinkling industry keywords and company information over multiple pages on your site improves your SEO and makes it easier for guests and agents to find you online.
What’s more, direct booking enhances the effectiveness of social media campaigns. By funneling traffic towards your own branded pages with photos, key info and the best available rates, your website becomes a one-stop-shop for potential customers.
How to incorporate direct booking
There are three main ways to attract guests to your site.
- OTAs - Many OTA visitors tend to look up an operator’s website before booking, which is a golden opportunity for direct bookings. If your site is well-laid out, full of useful information and snazzy photos, offers a simple to use booking form with a 5-10% discount for booking directly, who are guests going to choose?
- Search engines - Seo-friendly websites maximise your online presence, so operators should use tools, such as blogs, keywords and metadata, to optimise their search engine performance.
- Outreach - Whether through online social media campaigns or speaking at consumer events, operators can drive traffic by increasing their exposure.
‘If you build it, they will come’ is not the exact quote nor strictly true. At the base level, guests are looking for the simplest and cheapest way to book, so cumbersome booking processes that require guests to fill in heaps of personal information are not big draws. Instead, operators should aim for a clean, customisable interface that only asks for key details and gives guests the choice to personalise their stay, such as various payment and room options.
At res:harmonics, we kit out operators with a fully customisable direct booking engine that complements their website (or we can build one for you). From showcasing apartment photos and offering bespoke booking terms to taking payments online and varying rates by length of stay, you can have complete control over your portfolio and create bookings in real-time. Time to power up the direct booking engine and go full steam ahead.