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Ways to Convert Lookers to Bookers

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October 22, 2022
Revenue Strategy
Michael Goldrich


They’re overjoyed, thinking this is finally the start of a long-awaited vacation. While they may be correct regarding time away from real-life, day-to-day responsibilities, their vacation journey actually started months earlier as they sought inspiration for the getaway.

After that, a series of steps ultimately drove them to summon that Uber and head to the airport. This sequence is called the customer journey. It follows a very specific pattern: inspiration, consideration, decision, delight and deliver and advocacy.


Once that traveler gets inspired, selects a location and books a hotel, they shift within the hotel’s customer journey from an uncommitted looker to a very committed booker – a future guest. Hotel websites are powerful at inspiring, delivering targeted messages and gathering guest data. They’re also useful tools to help secure a reservation. However, this encounter with the hotel website isn’t the end of the journey – it’s just the beginning.

Next, the guest communications phase kicks off. It starts with a confirmation email, then moves to a series of pre-arrival emails that continually engage the guest about their upcoming visit and upsell them on any ancillary activities.

Throughout the booking process, the hotel collects key data points about the customer. As a result, it’s able to send them personalized content in the pre-arrival emails encouraging them to plan ahead and reserve their ancillary activities through links to the hotel’s website or mobile app.



That mobile app can be a key resource. Hotels can use it to add the final touches to a guest's stay as their arrival date approaches. It also comes in handy while they’re on property. Think of the app as a guest services resource that’s literally at the customer’s fingertips – there to help you deliver that promised experience. Chats and texting can accommodate almost any request. Maps with wayfinding technology can help navigate even the most complex resorts. Sure, some guests still like to pick up the phone and talk to a person, but more and more folks would rather use technology to get help with their questions or reservations.

This makes it critical for the hotel to look at all guest touchpoints from multiple lenses. Certainly you have to evaluate them in terms of the information technology (IT), marketing and business needs. But the most important perspective is the customer’s viewpoint.
The first part of the customer journey is largely digital. The hotel website provides critical information to the guest to persuade them to book. As the looker becomes a booker and then a guest, their experience becomes a hybrid of the digital and physical based on the accommodation style, property size of and/or anticipated on-property experiences. After the guest leaves the hotel, the relationship becomes fully digital


Breaking down the customer journey into its constituent parts, makes it easier to understand the different steps and the types of information available to the customer.

Inspiration (Looker):

At this point in the customer journey, people are in the dreaming phase of their vacation. This usually starts when they return from a trip and are still in vacation mode, when someone they know returns from a trip and shares their experi ences or because they simply want to get away and are inspired by what they see on social media and read online.
They know they want to go on vacation, but they’re not sure exactly where. They start searching the internet, scrolling through their social feeds and looking for influencers to help figure out where they should go on their next trip. During this time, they might even stumble across a hotel website. If this happens, it’s most likely the result of a hotel’s non-brand term acquisition strategy through paid and organic channels capturing people seeking inspiration related to the destination.

Research (Looker): In the research phase of the customer journey, guests have determined their destination. They often create a list of 4-5 hotels to determine which one best fits their needs. To do this, most people start on an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia or Booking, or a metasite like Kayak or TripAdvisor. They enter their destination and evaluate hotels based on locations, reviews, prices and amenities. Once they have their list, they typically visit specific hotel websites to gather additional information and get a feel for the experience they’ll have there.
Often, a hotel website is someone’s first full interaction with the brand and property. And as the old adage goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. This is a key opportunity to showcase the property and show potential guests why they should book right then and there. To do that, your site must be engaging and rich in visual and written content. It should also leverage direct channel marketing technology that can deliver targeted messages at the right time, to the right person, on the right device.

The site should reassure the guest they’re getting the best price and promise that by booking direct – rather than booking elsewhere – they’ll get additional exclusive benefits. If the looker’s original set of researched hotels doesn’t encourage an immediate booking they’ll discuss their understanding of the various properties’ features, reputation and value with their travel partner. They’ll also touch on prices, cancellation policies, dates and the expected overall experience.
Decision (Booker): At this point, the customer has selected a hotel and just needs to make the reservation. However, the channel they book through is up for grabs. Most customers will enter the hotel’s branded keyword names into Google. That name will show up on the search engine results page (SERP) in paid and organic areas.

Most people will click the top link to complete their purchase. This is unfortunate, since the hotel would prefer the customer to book directly via its organic link. But if the hotel doesn’t pay for its branded keywords terms, OTAs will purchase them and use them to convert customers.

After the reservation is complete, the hotel will deploy a confirmation email. It will contain key information associated with the reservation and links to download the hotel’s app (if it has one). At this point, the customer has fully shifted from a looker to a booker. It’s now up to the hotel to delight and deliver.

Delight and Deliver {Pre-Arrival/Arrival/Stay/Checkout} (Booker to Guest).
Once the reservation is made, the next part of the customer journey begins. The booker becomes a guest. Now they’ve made the big decision – where to stay – the planning phase begins. Excitement builds for their physical stay at the hotel. This is the time for the hotel to wow the customer. Engage with them to not only ensure they keep the reservation, but also to get them to reserve any ancillary activities. Once on property, the goal is not just to deliver the promised experience, but make the visit so special they want to return – and tell all their friends.

In the pre-arrival stage, emails and the mobile app become important tools to bridge expectations built by the guest’s (thus-far) digital experience of the hotel and the actual physical experience of being there.

During COVID, it became common to use hotel apps to create a touchless experience to check in, control the TV remotely, and check-out. Many brands also include loyalty/rewards in their app. Some resorts, like Atlantis Paradise Island, leveraged an intuitively structured app to centralize and enhance the on-site experience through location information, on-site guest communication and property transactions that the hotel website typically can’t seamlessly provide. These include:
  • Interactive GPS-enabled maps with wayfinding technologies that use strategically placed beacons throughout the property to get guests from point A to point B with step-by-step directions. (A beacon is a sensor that allows geolocation information to be shared when the app is on).
  • Dining reservations
  • Activity reservations
  • Cabana reservations
  • Self-guided property tours
  • Daily property updates based on weather and activities
  • Integrated live chat with the property concierge

If we remove friction so the guest can easily interact with the property, ask questions, make reservations, find their way around and ultimately have a smooth and enjoyable experience, we’ll ensure the next phase of the journey is rewarding both for guest and host.

Advocacy {Review and post-stay}. Even when the guest leaves the property, the customer journey doesn’t come to an end. Though they’re no longer on-site, what they do next is extremely important:
  • First, they need to provide feedback about their stay. This information allows the hotel to continue to optimize the guest experience.
  • Second, if the guest had a positive experience, the hotel wants them to share it publicly via review sites and social media.
  • The third and final step is to ensure the guest plans to return to their location or brand. To this end, the hotel should engage with the guest on an on-going basis via newsletters and social media so they want to return. In some cases, the hotel can incentivize the guest either with amenities and/or value-added offers.

With summer coming to an end, people might take a few moments to daydream about their next escape by entering a few destination search terms into Google. By doing so, they’ve taken the first steps to planning their next trip. Hotel websites with targeting and personalization capabilities to capture lookers and convert them into bookers and the hotel apps designed to delight and deliver are anxiously waiting for them as they proceed through the customer journey.

MICHAEL J. GOLDRICH is the chief experience officer at The Hotels Network.

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