It’s no exaggeration to say that choosing a hotel booking engine is one of the most important decisions that you can make for your business. Yet we often see hotels and bed and breakfasts settle for free software that isn’t going to help you grow your business. A booking engine is more than just a way for your guest to reserve a room. It can help you drive direct bookings, offer urgency triggers to your guests, and collect and present data so that you can make better-informed decisions about pricing your rooms. You don’t just have to settle for a plain hotel reservation system. Let your booking software be one of the essential tools you use to help you get better every day.
What a Guest Looks for in a Booking Experience
Think about your personal experiences using a booking system. Don’t you hate it when you have to click past screen after screen of deals, offers, and added charges? At a certain point, you start wondering why it’s so difficult to give your money to this business! Your guest feels the same way. The more added fees your guest sees, the higher the abandonment rate. Keep your guests reserving directly with you and stay competitive with OTAs by keeping your booking process simple.
In addition to simple, you also want your process to be safe. Secure SSL encryption is important. Luckily, most modern booking engines are secure, as indicated by the “https:” at the beginning of the URL. Before you purchase anything, make sure it offers SSL encryption.
Finally, make sure your booking engine is mobile-friendly. You’ve worked hard to make your website responsive, so your booking engine needs to be the same. Guests don’t want to struggle to read the fine print. Everything on the screen needs to be easy-to-read.
What You Need to Look For in a Booking Engine
Free Is Never Better
When it comes to booking engines, you get what you pay for. As we said before, a booking engine is going to take the guest through the most critical step of the sales process. Don’t just settle for the cheapest option out there. You need to fully understand the investment that you’re making.
It’s important that your guest’s transition from browsing through your rooms and specials to reserving their stay is a seamless one. Guests are more likely to abandon the process if they’re suddenly taken to a booking site that looks completely different.
You also have a great selection of packages, specials, and add-ons for your guests, so make sure your booking engine makes including them on a reservation easy. Conversely, you want your system to be able to work with promo codes so that you can easily run last-minute deals and special offers.
Work Smart, Not Hard
Your booking engine is collecting data with every reservation that it receives. It should be able to help you see every little detail about guest behavior, from the most-often booked room types to your busiest periods during the year. That data can help you maximize your profits with yield management. A good program should come with rigorous revenue management ability, as well as rigorous reporting. You’ll need eCommerce Tracking (which will let you better use Google Analytics and Google AdWords). Once you get all this data, you’ll be able to competitively choose room rates. Once you’ve decided those rates, you should be able to use this software to change the rates without any hassle. Your booking engine should also work as your property management system.
Keep in Contact
Another important feature of some booking engines is the ability to send pre-arrival and post-departure emails to your guests. Remember, these post-departure emails are especially critical, as they can encourage your guests to review you on Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.
Your booking engine can also reach out to customers that have abandoned their cart. If they’ve signed in or entered their email before leaving, you can send them a reminder that they haven’t yet completed their reservation.
A great way to keep your guest moving down the sales funnel is by the use of urgency triggers. For example, when your guest enters their desired dates into the engine and it says “Only Two More Rooms Available!” this is one more push for your guest to click that very important “complete reservation” button.
If you have a loyalty program, you’ll want your booking engine to be able to integrate with it. A loyalty program that doesn’t accurately track correctly or is difficult to use isn’t worth much to you or your guest.
Put It to the Test
Curious as to how your booking engine performs? Test it out! Check how users to your site are behaving on Google Analytics. If your site has a high abandonment rate right before finishing the reservation, it might be because of your booking engine.
Take a test run! Go through the booking process, both on mobile and on your desktop. How was it? Would you want to book a room that way?
Take a look at your competitors’ booking engines. Are they easier to use? Do they have features that your current software is missing? Do they have a loyalty program? What all can they upsell? If you find yourself jealous of your competitor’s booking process, it’s a sign that you need to start looking for new software.
How Q4Launch Can Help You
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by choosing a new hotel booking engine, it may be a sign that you need a good, trusted marketing partner. Q4Launch frequently helps our customers with all sorts of decisions that affect online conversion, in addition to our website and marketing services. Contact us today to learn how we can help you grow your business.