Marketing is always a challenge - especially on the internet, where traffic influences revenue often more than quality. People may or may not like what you have to sell, but your success depends on your marketing strategy and its ability to bring them to your website. However, traffic is nothing without conversions. Therefore, you must measure your success based on your conversion rates.
The secret to online success is not only driving people to your website: traffic means nothing without conversions. It will take a significant level of skill and mastery to convert random visitors into paying guests. Traffic can come from direct searches, PPC ads, social media, influencers, WOM (word of mouth), and other funnels, but conversions can only come from the value you are ready to give those visitors.
There are several reasons why people land on your website, and some of these include:
- they know your hotel and are ready to book;
- they learned about your hotel from someone else and are ready to book;
- they learned about your hotel but are not sure whether to book or not;
- they research a destination;
- they are competitors keeping an eye on your every move.
Indeed, you cannot expect to convert competitors, but you can convert all the other visitors provided that your site is optimized to give them a stellar experience. So here are some strategies to persuade them.
What Is CRO?
CRO is an abbreviation for conversion rate optimization - a term used online to define the rate of “actions” versus traffic. Actions can be sales, downloads, click links, and a plethora of other things you want website visitors to do. For hotels, bookings and sales of vouchers and packages are the obvious, ideal, and measurable outcomes. The term, however, although an industry standard, doesn’t specifically define the purpose. You don’t optimize the rate: that’s an effect of optimizing other site elements like landing pages and booking forms. You should also optimize external features - ads and newsletters, for example. Leave nothing to chance.
After years of testing and research, the MECLABS Institute minted the Conversion Sequence Heuristic: C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a.
According to the MECLABS Institute, these values include the site’s visitor motivation (m), value proposition (v), friction (f), anxiety (a), and incentive (i). And there’s science behind the formula, pretty basic if you think about it: who are you trying to convert? To answer this question, you must understand your guests’ motivations and craft your message accordingly: make it clear, credible, personalized, and exclusive. In essence: deliver value all the way. Then, incentivize your guests to book with you rather than a competitor, make them feel secure about their privacy, and make the booking journey a breeze: as in no cumbersome booking forms.
CRO offers potent benefits, and here are the main three:
- Understand your customers
The time and effort you put into researching your market will help you better understand your guests. Surprisingly, what you want or expect them to be it’s never the reality. People are unique, and often they have habits you cannot predict accurately. Of course, you can define “personas,” but you will be better served to invest your energy into getting what they want, need, and expect from you, then delivering on those values.
- Augment your ROI
ROI is the goal of your business, and CRO is the key to achieve it online. Did you know that CRO tools have an average ROI of 223%? That’s impressive, and if statistics are right, CRO is the answer to all your business needs: improve the customer experience, deliver more value to site visitors, and increase direct bookings.
- Trust that delivers
Trust can make or break a business, and yours is no exception to the rule. CRO is not just about pretty pictures, well-written texts, and fast-loading sites. CRO is about convincing a site visitor to book. Building trust is not a guessing game: hire an expert to help.
CRO Tools You Need Right Now
Besides the obvious Google Webmaster Tools and the like, you must consider other CRO tools. Some of these may include:
RateParity for Hotels
RateParity is a powerful platform designed exclusively for hotels. It includes several tools, including a price comparison widget, AI-powered chatbot, messaging, reviews widgets with scores, vouchers, gift cards, and push notifications to prevent card abandonment. All these improve conversions and aid hoteliers in branding and sustaining an online footprint that promotes guest satisfaction.
RateParity Tools Overview:
RateParity offers a suite of tools to help hotels boost their direct bookings quickly after implementing them on their websites. A comprehensive dashboard gives hoteliers a clear overview of conversions, OTAs disparity alerts, and other critical metrics.
- Price Comparison: The price comparison widget has an integrated booking engine, allowing users to book without leaving the hotel’s website. The widget displays prices from OTAs along with the best rates from the hotel. Adding other perks, like free WiFI, complimentary breakfast, welcome gifts, and so on to the widget will further incentivize site visitors. In addition, hoteliers can customize the widget to match site color and branding guidelines.
- AI-Powered Chatbot: Used to display the best available rates based on users’ arrival and departure dates, number of guests, and number of rooms, the AI-powered chatbot will deliver a direct booking link to allow users to book directly on the hotel’s website. Additional uses for the chatbot may include promoting special offers and discounts, answering frequently asked questions, showing the lowest monthly room rates for the next six months, integrating price comparison functionality, etc. In addition, the chatbot collects user data - like names and email addresses - helping hoteliers grow their user database for future newsletters and personalized email campaigns.
- Cart Abandonment: This is one of the most valuable RateParity tools to optimize a hotel’s website conversion rates. Used to re-engage distracted visitors or to bring back to the booking process users who have dropped out, the cart abandonment tool features exit popups designed to persuade possible guests to opt-in for a discount or to save a reservation and finish a booking later. Hoteliers can also use this tool to send personalized emails based on the users’ data (arrival and departure dates, room type, number of guests, etc.), incentivizing them with added direct booking benefits.
- Messaging: Messaging delivers tailored notifications about special offers, discounts, and packages as the users browse the website. The tool has customizable popups that show any message the hoteliers need potential guests to see: last-minute deals, perks, and other specials. Hoteliers can also use popups to re-engage users who are about to leave the site. Last but not least, hoteliers can use the smart notes tools in the messaging platform to publish customized messages updated automatically based on the users’ activity on the website, booking pace, property location, and other metadata.
- Reviews Widget: Aggregating confirmed guest reviews from OTAs and other third-party websites, the review widget features a score based on the tone of voice of a property’s positive versus negative review ratings. Hoteliers can use the widget to highlight a property’s best features, inspiring trust and persuading guests to make a reservation.
- Vouchers & Gift Cards: Hoteliers can use vouchers and gift cards to optimize a hotel site’s CRO by offering site visitors the option to “buy now, stay later” or offer them as gifts to family and friends. Vouchers and gift cards can also provide an influx of additional cash in a time marked by incertitude due to the COVID-19 crisis. RateParity has an extensive library of customizable layouts, and guests can personalize their coupons and gift cards with a name and message. In addition, hoteliers can track gift card performance, sales, and revenue in their RateParity dashboard.
CrazyEgg or Mouseflow
It’s hard to say which one is better: I am partial to CrazyEgg (the name is funny), but Mouseflow has more useful features than the other: it records all user sessions right without requiring further actions; it has automatic usability friction detection and heatmaps for all pages with no set up required - among much more.
Omnichat by MobileMonkey
This company provides a suite of tools to engage with your potential guests: Instagram, SMS, webchat, and Facebook Messenger. And you want their tools because more than 75% of customers would rather message than email or call.
SimilarWeb for Traffic
SimilarWeb is where you go to find out why your competitors outrank you. They offer all kinds of tools and browser extensions to help you make sense of what happens on your site in real time.
Whatever design issues you have with your site, this is the tool to count on. It identifies design issues helping you turn usability issues into opportunities.
We are quoting this because it is funny (and true): “LeadOwl reminds you every 15 mins, 60 mins, and 24 hours to call your freaking leads!”
Here Are Some Tips to Master CRO
There’s no success without analytics. Google offers the best tools for the purpose. Set up Google analytics for your site or use any other in-depth analytics platform of your choice. Set up goals for your site: direct bookings, vouchers and gift card sales, newsletter signup, and any other action users may take on your website. Track these goals to see what works and what underperforms and optimize accordingly.
A/B Testing Matters
Identify your best-performing pages - the ones you set up goals for in your analytics platform, then the lowest scoring pages, and optimize the latest for better results. Create different landing pages for paid advertising campaigns and compare their results. The best scoring pages rule: compare and optimize other landing pages to align with your goals and persuade site visitors to act. For example, A/B testing may show you that changing a small detail like the size and color of a button can greatly impact direct bookings.
You cannot ignore the power of guest reviews: they are instrumental to your success. Reviews show how much other people enjoy and trust your business. Use a review widget that aggregates reviews from TripAdvisor, OTAs, Google reviews, and so on to show your site’s visitors what other guests liked best about your hotel, facilities, amenities, services, and overall hospitality. Enough positive reviews can inspire trust and motivate potential guests to make a booking. Monitor review on third-party sites and reply, addressing all the issues signaled in negative reviews as they occur. Improve your online reputation with a proactive attitude towards guest reviews.
The Funnel Matters
Optimize everything, not just your website. OTAs, ads, social media campaigns, and so much more count for every booking you record. To make the process smoother and easier for you, begin at the end of the funnel and optimize the poorly-performing ads and website pages. You can learn a lot by optimizing what doesn’t work. Then, move up the ladder and tweak the best-performing pages and ads to maximize profits and ROI.
CRO is not a process to take on based on assumptions. You need solid data, testing, and constant care even for pages that perform now. In time, even the best laid out strategies can turn unprofitable if you don’t continue tracking and optimizing your site. Set your goals and understand what your site visitors want or expect from you to deliver personalized offers that will persuade them to book directly on your website. Adjust your optimization strategies based on channel, goals, and users. With the right CRO optimization tools and a solid mindset for modern marketing, you will increase your direct bookings and ROI while keeping your website visitors satisfied and engaged.