Of all the technology solutions that hotels can choose from, the most essential one to get right is the web booking engine (WBE). This seemingly innocuous little window on a hotel’s website is the driver of those hallowed direct bookings, that are more profitable to the hotel than those received via OTAs, and is driven itself by a back office system of varying complexity, functionality and usability, depending on who the provider is.
There are dozens, hundreds even, of WBEs on the market, ranging from the free to the very expensive, from the basic to the advanced. But whichever WBE you choose, you need to look out for these 5 essential characteristics…
It’s Easy to Use
When I say “easy to use”, I’m talking about at the front and back end. At the front end, it should be easy to use for visitors to your website who want to make a booking. Booking abandonment rates in the hotel industry are estimated to be at around 68%, and much of this is down to websites that make the booking process longer and more complex than it needs to be.
Ease of use encompasses a number of factors: the booking window/button should immediately be visible to website visitors; images, rates and information on different room types should also be easy to see; and the booking process should involve the minimum number of steps – if you’re asking your clients for anything more than their name, email address and credit card details at this stage, you risk a lot of abandonments.
At the back end, the system should be easy to use for your staff. The more intuitive the system, the quicker your people will learn to master it and the less training will be required. Systems that are easy – and fun – to use make for happier hotel staff!
It Is Multifunctional
Think of your WBE like a Swiss Army Knife. Obviously its main purpose is to cut things, but a good one will also come with a corkscrew, nail file, tweezers, bottle opener and a lot more. A WBE that only handles web bookings is not worth the hassle. Good WBEs should also come with a channel manager offering connections to all the OTAs and metasearches you could ever want to work with; a CRM system for storing guest data; messaging functionality to allow pre- and post-stay communication with bookers; multiple language capability (not all your guests speak English); social media connectivity to allow booking via Facebook and other social networks; and analytics. If a WBE can do all that, it’s worth a punt.
It Fits Seamlessly Onto Your Website
A good WBE should look like it’s just another part of your website and blend seamlessly into the look & feel of the site as a whole. Bookers thinking that the booking button is taking them away from the site to somewhere else often get put off and abandon. The WBE should also offer a white label option so that, as far as the booker is concerned, it’s the hotel’s own rather than something provided by a third party.
It Encourages Upselling
I recently demoed our WBE product to a hotelier, and he expressed amazement that it enabled guests to book optional extras such as airport transfers, spa sessions, bottles of wine, meals, indeed any extra the hotel wishes to sell – I was even more amazed that his current WBE COULDN’T do that!
You want your guests to book more than just a room, so a good WBE will help you increase revenue by allowing you to sell any optional extras you wish, by making it easy to offer room upgrades, and by enabling you to set up packages involving rooms + additional services. If your WBE can’t do this, you seriously need an upgrade.
It Guarantees the Best Available Rate
Everyone – OTAs, hotel websites – claims to offer the best available rate, a claim easily debunked by doing a quick metasearch. A good WBE allows you to walk the talk by guaranteeing that the rate you offer your direct bookers is the best, or even better than the best, by providing live price checking and matching.
Which means that, when a visitor does an availability/price search, the WBE will also scan the OTAs and see what price they are offering – and if your web rate is more expensive, will automatically offer to match the lowest rate, thus helping ensure that the booking stays with you.
So check your current WBE against our checklist – if it scores 5/5, you’ve chosen well. Any less, and it’s time to think about an upgrade – and time to call us to find out more about our WBE solution, Simple Booking. Already used by over 2000 happy hotels in Europe, we recently launched Simple Booking in Southeast Asia. To learn how Simple Booking can help you increase direct bookings and boost revenues, visit their website or email Tim Russell on firstname.lastname@example.org.