90% of travelers ready to book elsewhere (You’re only unique if guests say you are)

We all like to think we’re unique and special – like a snowflake – but recent research by Tealeaf is giving travel companies an alarming wakeup call.

The study suggested that an incredible 90% of UK travelers booked through a different website each and every time they make an online travel reservation.

How can we fight that trend?

Loyalty is crucial for long-term success. That’s not something new. Analysis over the past 20 years indicates it can be between 5-10 times cheaper to get an existing customer to buy from you than it is to acquire a new customer. So what can you do to get those guests and customers coming back?

Leisure travel planning typically takes place over a long period of time. The numbers vary slightly from study to study, but it’s probably fairly accurate to estimate that consumers are researching travel between 2-6 months before they make the purchase.

86% of consumers using reviews as a deciding factor

In an article published earlier this month, ComputerWorld.com reported that while the internet is killing brand loyalty, 86% of consumers are using reviews and ratings as a deciding factor in their purchasing decision. The amount of information written by consumers helps travelers feel they can avoid a bad experience if they do enough research. And the research they do is often to find reviews written by consumers like them. It’s this social proof that makes people feel secure with their purchase.

Build loyalty by making them feel secure!

According to Internet psychologist  Graham Jones, websites must inspire confidence.

As the study from Tealeaf confirms, there is a large amount of browsing and going from site to site. Central to this is the assessment of trust…and central to that trust is social proof.

Human beings behave in ways designed to protect them from harm. Clearly, if many people are doing something and they don’t come to any harm, then it is ‘the right thing to do.’ As a result, people are always looking for signals on a webpage that what they are dealing with is acceptable to more than one person.

They want to see the product on offer is being used by many people–it is social proof that it is okay to buy. With holiday purchases, social proof becomes paramount.

That’s where social proof comes in…

Trust and confidence online is built through social proof.  As managers, actively encouraging the creation and collection of this social proof – often in the form of online reviews – must become our top priority.

We need to turn our guests and customers into salespeople and spokespersons. This happens through creating a great experience in our hotels, and then encouraging people to talk about that online.

Monitor, collect, and re-publish

When people go online to talk about their travel experiences, that might do that anywhere. You don’t have a lot of control over this. So to take full advantage of opportunities online, use tools and systems to quickly join conversations that happen about you and about your brand wherever they take place.

And then use these conversations as an opportunity to build guest loyalty.

Think about ways you can collect and publish positive feedback on your website and marketing materials. This is the social proof that will set you apart from the claims made by others, and lead to higher customer retention.

………………….

ReviewPro provides hotel managers with access to one of the industry’s largest databases of online guest opinion: over 50 million reviews in 8 languages from 55 different travel review websites. The ReviewPro Quality Seal aggregates review scores from multiple review sites and OTAs into a single score to give your website visitors a clear picture of your overall reputation online. Get the details here.

5 thoughts on “90% of travelers ready to book elsewhere (You’re only unique if guests say you are)

  1. Hi Josiah.

    Interesting article.

    I’m not sure if I agree that Internet has killed Customer Loyalty. That was to turn things a little upside down. Internet has made bargain shopping more accessible, yes.

    But I totally agree that these challenges provides some new opportunities that we have to focus on. And focus on how to meet new consumer interaction. Traditional Customer Loyalty will need to be put in new aspects with Social Media and the way hotels have to interact with new market segments.

    Thanks for sharing these reports. Interesting reading material here.

    Cheers.. Are

  2. Josiah – agree certainly that not all will return to the same websites but many out of habit will, if to do the research first. But on another note – there are other Guest Review Management tools; I think it’s important to ensure that people are aware of the others that are available from RateTiger, Fastbooking – both of whom have been working with the hotel industry for a long time. Best Ryan

  3. Internet has definitely changed the way people travel. But as Are said, mainly because they can go an see elswehere. I guess it did the same to travel as it did to enclyclopedias. No more need to have a 12 volume set in the bookshelf and keep looking in the same place, just google it.
    However the biggest mistake people do in working out their USP is not consulting finding out how customers perceive the hotel and thus working something out internally instead of externally.
    I wrote about that in my article on how to select a USP.
    http://hospitalitymarketingonline.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/figuring-out-a-hotel-usp/

    • Hi Martin.

      I liked your great analogy ‘No more need to have a 12 volume set in the bookshelf and keep looking in the same place, just google it’.

      The challenge for Hotels is to be where the consumers are today. And most consumers today are online in forums, chat channels, Social Media, wikis, Blogs, Webinar’s and related events. We will see a lot more referral based service then we have experienced in previous years. It is no longer that they will automatically come to us, but we have to come to them and meet their new needs and wants on unfamiliar play ground.

      One interesting challenge and opportunity is that location is no longer the actual location. The real location of the Hotel will extend outside the traditional walls of the Hotels. Traditional Hotel Services will still be in demand, but Hotels need to prepare themselves for new market segments that require some untraditional thinking.

      In my opinion Customer Loyalty will be more important then ever but it has to be put into new channels. This provides Hotels with a lot of new and fun opportunities. We have an very interesting Event coming up here in the US next month – Customer Centric Strategies for Travel 2011. I plan to be there, and I think Josiah is going to be in on one of the panels there. Really looking forward to be there, and get some info around upcoming trends.

      Cheers.. Are

  4. Hi Josiah, thank you for quoting my material. You make some excellent additional points on the topic and I agree with your point about social proof. In my experience of hotels, they often concentrate too much on “services” and not enough on engaging with me personally so I can then become an ambassador for them. How can I provide social proof when I am not treated socially, merely as a number. Hotels call people a “guest” but then effectively ignore them online. It is all about price and booking – not much social to grab hold of there…!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *