There’s a lot of buzz in the hotel industry these days about the rising costs of acquisition. It seems that an increasing proportion of rooms revenue is being doled out to third parties in the form of cost-per-click advertising, commissions, booking fees and other activities. Not to mention all the champagne and limos you sales & marketing directors indulge in.
And while some of this is simply the cost of doing business, many hotels are struggling to compete with the advertising might of OTAs. If you’re not careful about controlling costs, you risk making no profit at all. And that means no bonuses for you!
So I was excited to discover a simple yet innovative new product that has the potential to shift some of the profits back to hotels by driving more direct bookings.
Price Check, from London-based Triptease, is a widget that hotels can place on their website to display real-time rates on online travel agencies. Essentially, it turns the hotel website into a simplified metasearch engine. Travelers can compare rates without leaving the site and be confident they’re getting a comparable or better deal by booking direct.
Much like a TripAdvisor review widget, Price Check can increase conversions by providing information travel shoppers seek as part of the path to purchase. This makes them less likely to leave the site, get distracted by another offer, and never return.
As the Triptease website states, “Transparent pricing restores trust in the direct channel.” That bodes well not only for hotels but for all types of travel businesses.
I wasn’t surprised to find that citizenM hotels is using Price Check. I’m a big fan of the brand. If something is clever and forward thinking, chances are citizenM is all over it. Frankly, they had me with their tagline, “Designed around smart, good looking, successful people like you”. They seem to know me so well.
“People shop around nowadays, and there are plenty of sites to help them to make a decision,” he told me. “OTAs help people to choose between hotels, and metasearch especially helps to assure them that they’re getting the best deal when they select a hotel.
“The hotel website needs to provide the same reassurance to the guest that it absolutely is the best place to make the booking. We have been using the Triptease widget for some time now, and although it is complex to prove the financial added value by A/B testing, we find it a great enhancement to the booking process and worth every penny.”
Shire Hotels in the UK has developed a similar product in-house. Here’s what came up when I checked dates:
As an aside, if you’re looking for inspiration, Shire Hotels has one of the simplest, sleekest websites I’ve seen. It’s stripped down to the essentials—large, striking photos, a logo and a “Book” button, with the option to click the “Menu” button if you want to see more. And the booking page couldn’t be more user-friendly, although things get a bit messier once you enter the booking engine.
I asked Asad Dhunna, who oversees marketing for Triptease, how the new product is being received so far. “Hotels love Price Check,” he told me. “It’s helping them drive onsite conversions. In our A/B testing we’ve seen an average uplift in conversion of up to 35%. Through an increase in onsite conversions we’ve started saving our partners thousands in commissions. And it’s educating consumers about the importance of booking direct.”
If hotels can generate anything near a 35% conversion uplift, the pricing is reasonable and will quickly pay for itself.
Of course, to maximize conversions hotels should state compelling reasons and offer added incentives for travelers to book direct and clinch the deal. Be careful not to violate your OTA agreements, however, or you risk having your sales rep banging on your door, waving the contract.
I asked Dhunna what he suggests. “Providing competitive and transparent pricing is the best incentive to clinch the deal. We’re currently trialing instant price matching. For example, it might say ‘Congratulations you found a cheaper price. Expedia is 4% cheaper. Here is a code for a 5% discount. Thanks for booking direct.’”
So what’s next? I’ve always thought it would be interesting to test out a widget that allows travelers to compare rates from competitors directly from the hotel’s website. Now that would be challenging OTAs at their own game. So I was intrigued to see this message pop up in my searches for rooms at citizenM Glasgow. The shape of things to come?