The number of places where a traveler can search and book their accommodations has multiplied significantly in recent years. In order to compete with the forever-changing booking options, hotel marketers need to increase their visibility throughout a traveler’s path to purchase. However, many hoteliers focus their marketing attention only on converting a traveler through the booking process.
And according to our most recent data in Sojern’s Hotel Insights Report, waiting until travelers are ready to book could cause a hotelier to miss that booking opportunity completely. By the time travelers are ready to book, they have already narrowed down their consideration set to only a few choices—an average of only 1.5 hotel brands within their online searches. And, only 32% of hotel planners consider three or more brands when searching online.
This information was surprising for Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist for SHR, who we recently sat down with to discuss the key findings of our hotel report.
“For those of us who power online reservations for hotels, we get obsessed with converting travelers into the booking funnel—creating a seamless path to help move the user further down the booking funnel. But we also need to reach them BEFORE they are ready to book.” – Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist, SHR
Inspire the Experience to Convert Early
Influencing travelers earlier, even if they are not ready to purchase, is a worthy investment for hotel marketers to begin building a connection with travelers. When a traveler is ready to book, that hotel will then be a part of their consideration set. Hoteliers can help begin the relationship early with travelers by speaking to the experience that their hotel provides.
“The funnel is important, but in order to influence the funnel, your brand needs to always be at the top of a traveler’s mind, especially when they are dreaming.” – Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist, SHR
Preparing for Voice Assistant Travel Searches
Hale also believes that inspiring travelers with non-branded keywords is very important for hotel marketers to target early—especially as we are moving to a place where voice searches will become the norm.
When we think of how people search with their voice assistant, they will not adhere to the availability response as we know it today; Hey Google or Hey Alexa, in the same manner, they speak. No one is going to ask, “Hey Google, book me an ocean-facing room for $195 a night at the Marriott on Maui for December 5th – December 12.” Instead, people request details about the experience, the feeling, the intent of their travel with inquiries like, “Hey Google, Where can I find a room with a view of the beach for my birthday week?” Consumers expect that personalization will be built into the search queries, especially as voice searches progress. Today, we have been trained by booking widgets on a desktop to scroll through our booking options—filling out what type of room, how many people, and the dates of travel. But, we don’t speak that way.
Hale explains that hotel marketers can prepare themselves for this search transformation by using more language-based keywords that are based on the experience of how travelers will start interacting with those voice searches.
“Today, it’s having content that inspires a traveler to dream. Tomorrow, it will be helping assist that dream with voice searches.” – Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist, SHR
Hale predicts that hoteliers will see the impact on voice search in stages. They will start with the information that has already been recorded via other means. For example, your past purchases on Amazon are recorded. So, it’s easy to ask Alexa to reorder paper towels or dog food. For travel, this means that voice searches will be answered based on known travel preferences such as previous orders and loyalty memberships. Or, destination sites or travel aggregators will bring together the most basic of information that will satisfy board searches, like top places to book your honeymoon.
“We could see adoption on different fronts, but the fringes of innovation will be interesting to watch, especially with the booking widget.” – Estella Hale, Chief Product Evangelist, SHR
Technology with voice assist will develop on its own time. But today, travel marketers can make sure to have a direct impact by providing inspiration to gain a traveler’s loyalty early.
Once a traveler moves into the booking process, with your hotel brand top of mind from earlier touch points, ensuring that they encounter a positive online experience from start to finish is key for conversion.
Looking for other key insights on how travelers are searching and booking their hotel? Download the 2018 edition of Sojern’s Hotel Insight Report here.