For our clients and others that we speak to, it's the same story and battle; the fight for direct bookings is a continuous showdown with the OTAs. Stating the obvious, this isn't a fair fight. With OTAs incomparable marketing budgets both in terms of brand awareness and domination of Search Engine Result Pages (SERP), it is increasingly more important to identify and pick our battles... to try and identify the areas where there is an even footing, and multiple wins to be had.
The Challenge Presents Opportunity
On average, hotels have seen over the last 2-3 years a decrease in organic traffic anywhere between 20-30%. Much of this is due to the various and continuous changes Google has made to search results, with the introduction of the carousel, more prominent PPC and keyword ads that have relegated organic results ‘below the fold’ in most cases. With this changing landscape, hoteliers much find a way to make up for x% traffic, which was accounting for x% of their direct bookings.
Investing time, money (and energy) needs to be done selectively in areas that achieve the above.
In this vein, Metasearch has become the most important advertising channel for our own clients since Q1 2017.
The benefits that can be achieved are pretty clear:
- Lower Pricing – Take advantage of meta as a comparative platform; Market your Member’s Only Rates and Private Rates that can be lower than the OTA’s and do it in the context of the side by side comparison
- Brand awareness – As a large number of Metasearch users are doing research, on platforms such as Google – where Metasearch results are shown in Search, Maps and Google+ – the playing field is leveled vs. SERP, where OTAs can dominate not only above the fold, but at times the first couple pages
- Feed your other marketing channels – With the qualified nature of Metasearch traffic, when it does hit your brand site, start maximizing your other marketing activities and feeding your funnels such as Facebook and Google re-marketing, look-a-like audiences etc.
- Use it as an opportunity to refine your booking engine flow, re-visit the quality of your content, and put something new into the marketing mix.
At the end of the day, Metasearch isn’t revolutionary and is not the death of the OTA’s (those early claims are quite laughable). But it does present an opportunity to drive direct bookings whilst also increasing exposure and feeding other marketing channels.
So why does Metasearch present this opportunity?
One of the biggest reasons for this is Metasearch traffic is qualified, and from a marketing and brand presence, ubiquitous – which is why the OTA’s are still working on maximizing their presence.
Take advantage of the even playing field, where the OTAs are still overcoming challenges
As aggregators, metasearch channels put the hotel brand sites on an even footing with the OTAs.
OTA's are benefiting from Metasearch, for sure, but are still facing challenges; Expedia and Priceline brands may take up a lot of space in the metasearch engines, but without coordination or cross brand bidding strategies.
This is causing the OTA's to alter strategy, which presents hotels with unique opportunities.
As of October 18th, Expedia.com abandoned it's Price Matching Guarantee, which is a departure from a long-standing offer and strategy by the OTA giant.
This means more visibility for hotels and more transparency when being compared side by side. And side by side comparison is a primary use.
1.. METASEARCH IN PRACTICAL TERMS
As of last year, 35% of ALL customers in the USA use Metasearch engines to compare rates during their booking process.
Some estimates are showing that by 2020, 20% of all bookings will be made through Metasearch channels, ensuring that hotels are in control of this channel with a toolset that takes advantage of every opportunity is a must.
From a marketing channel perspective, this is a no brainer. Metasearch users are seeing ads triggered by specific dates and location searches. They are inherently qualified, showing intent or interest, regardless of where they may be in the Dream > Plan > Book funnel – for every hotel and market it is different, but experience on the channels and making sure your reporting and analytics let you compare side by side provides insights on where to maximize your spend.
Metasearch allows hoteliers to stand up right next to the behemoths, in a platform that is designed to help guests with price shopping. If you put yourself in a position to offer the best price, you have a chance of getting the click. There isn't much sense in making it more complicated than that.
Our clients have seen results that back this up.
Our ‘OTA Style’ Best Practice Landing Page when a user comes from Metasearch Sites
- Full Photo Gallery of Property, Room and Amenities
Provide the user access to all hotel information on one page, especially hotel photos, as we recognize that at this stage the user is very often at the point of transitioning from the Planning to Booking Stage, and are still finding out about the property.
- Full Property Info, Amenities, and access to Location on 1 page
Ensure the user has access to all relevant hotel information needed to make their decision, and do not back them into a ‘book’ or ‘leave’ scenario. Many hotels bring the user into a ‘booking engine only’ page that leaves out relevant hotel info, OR a strictly hotel info page that is too far away from a conversion point. Our approach accommodates for both scenarios on one page.
- One Click Room/Rate Selector
Display both Available Room and Available Rate information on one page, enabling a ‘one-click’ selection process when the user is ready to book and enter check out.
Read below to find out more about how we help our clients achieve this and how you can start gleaning insights:
The Möbius solution focuses on the user’s path to purchase in all aspects, and with Meta, we recognize (as the stats show) that users can be in different places in the sales funnel.
We have taken best practices from the OTA’s as seen above, to ensure that when a user hits the booking engine from a Metasearch site, the landing page provides property information, imagery, room amenities, as well as multiple offers, and enticements for booking direct.
This accommodates for users who are in different stage of Dream > Plan > Book, and ensures that we provide them all the information they need to help them convert.
As with all parts of the Möbius solution, it’s about making the on-boarding and rollout process comfortable and straight-forward, so you can utilize our tools with confidence and quick wins.
Additionally, full automated bidding, optimisation and reporting are included in our turnkey solution giving our clients access to one of the fastest growing direct booking channels.
Some examples of what we learned?
Every market and hotel is different, but learning the platforms and how they can be optimized for each hotel brings better conversion and top line revenue. Understanding the different channels enables hotels to find sweet spots and capitalize on them:
- Whilst Google and Kayak have an average lead time of 12 days for our North American clients TripAdvisor’s lead time average is 75% longer at 21 days across the first 12 months of going live on the platform.
- Our clients have leveraged by marketing more Advanced Purchase Rates to match user intent and increased TripAdvisor booking volume by 40%
Decrease in Lead Time
- On all other direct bookings, combined organic, direct, referral and other spend, the average lead time decrease with qualified Metasearch Traffic:
- 15% shorter lead time on Desktop Metasearch Bookings
- But the biggest change we see on Mobile Web, with a whopping 58% decrease in lead time on Metasearch bookings, from 19 to 8 days