A Holistic Guide to Analysing Online Sales

Online sales. Where it’s all happening.

Things are moving very fast in the world of travel sales and distribution. According to recent research published by Google and Ipsos MediaCT, 83% of all leisure travel and 76% of all business travel is now planned on the Internet. Further, over 50% of all travel is booked online and around 15% is now booked using mobile devices (up from a few % just 2 years ago). By 2017 it is estimated that almost half of all travel will be booked using mobile devices.

The reality is that virtually all travel planning and booking, whether for flights, accommodation, or tours, is moving to the Internet. As an accommodation provider you have to be good at this …very good.

The Accommodation Buying Cycle

A convenient way to visualise your online presence is to use the accommodation buying cycle. What the cycle shows is a series of steps, a sort of virtuous circle, starting with how travellers find you all the way through to sharing their experience of staying with you with their friends and other travellers. The key thing to realise when planning your attack on the web is that ALL phases of the buying cycle need to be addressed.

Discovery (getting found)

The trick here is to pop up everywhere possible. This includes being found on search engines (Google, Bing etc.), on social media (TripAdvisor, Facebook, YouTube etc.), on OTA sites (like Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.de etc.), on blogs, on affiliate websites, on maps, on videos and via your website, mobile site and Facebook site. It is the area where an investment in SEO and SEM will be directed.

Planning and Selection

Once a potential customer has “discovered” you, the next step is deciding whether they are going to stay with you, versus others they have discovered which compete with you. An average traveller will visit 16 websites during the discovery and planning / selection process, so you need to make sure you have all the critical information available (competitive pricing, room and facilities information, maps, pictures, videos etc.) and that your site is both user friendly and loads quickly. Traveller feedback on sites like TripAdvisor plays a critical role in this selection process as well.

Booking

Travellers expect room availability information to be displayed clearly and to then be able to secure a room instantly by booking using a credit card or other online payment service. They do not like to wait for an email response if they have the option to book on another site immediately. They also expect the site they book on to be both trustworthy and secure (using industry standard payment interfaces and security systems), to have booking policies clearly displayed, and to have an intuitive user interface similar to what they see when they use sites like Expedia or Booking.com. It also helps convert more lookers to bookers if your booking engine has some calls to action such as letting travellers now how many rooms are left, or how many other travellers are looking at the website. Many websites lose the final booking to OTAs simply because the booking process was not familiar, not friendly or didn’t prompt a decision.

Experiencing & Sharing

This is an area of growing importance and leads straight back to the discovery phase. It is all about travellers telling their friends and fellow travellers about you, and today this is HUGE. Facebook for example has 1.2 billion users. People are talking about you on sites like TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other sites every day. What they are saying is building (or destroying) your brand and it is happening whether you engage or not. Successful accommodations engage, proactively turning social media into an asset for their business.

The Digital HealthCheck

Hotel Link Solutions has developed a diagnostic tool to assess how well accommodations are addressing all the various elements in the accommodation buying cycle. 55 separate criteria around the buying cycle are measured in order to come up with a score for the “digital health” of the accommodation being researched.

The weighting we place on the various criteria we measure varies according to its impact on performance. We also factor in the size of the property and the level of competition, so it is quite a complex algorithm.

We perform over 100 of these health checks every week on all sizes of accommodation, from homestays to 5 star resorts. From this we are amassing a huge database of information which will allow us to provide benchmarked data for clients across all phases of the buying cycle and taking account of both the size of the accommodation and the level of competition. Things don’t stand still on the web and the importance of such things as mobile sites and social media will grow over time and this will be reflected in our weightings.

Apply for a free HealthCheck on your property today.