August 16, 2021
Airbnb and the large OTA’s may have a front-row seat on the search engines but the one thing they don’t have is personalization, and the online experience for the traveler really ends at the point of booking. Online bookings represent one of the largest market shares in the travel industry and research shows that 90% of travelers want personalized online experiences, something an OTA is unable to deliver.
Property managers have the upper hand when it comes to being an expert in your market and not only offering guests a home-away-from-home but a vacation experience that extends way beyond a place to stay. Research shows that while travelers tend to search OTAs first, and this is probably where they will find your listing, they spend around four weeks researching a destination and are likely to visit your site and encounter your brand directly at some point, prior to making the booking.
Will they stay on your website or click back to the OTA?
Remember, the new norm of travel is all about the guest experience and this begins the moment they encounter your brand. Ultimately, your website should inspire travelers to book immediately with you as a trusted source, local expert, and provider of high-quality homes. This should be immediately evident on your website. If you can offer a lower price or even a best-price guarantee (clear and bold on our home page, not hidden!) and advertise a clear incentive to book direct, the chances are you’ll lower your bounce rate and secure more bookings.
Is your website costing you guests, or attracting them?
Your website is the most powerful tool to market your brand, attract guests and grow your business. Your website must be responsive and mobile-friendly, quick to load, offer an easy online booking process with a secure payment portal, and be visually appealing with fun and interesting content that speaks to the potential guest on a practical and emotional level. The care you put into your website depicts the care you will place on the guest vacation experience, is your website costing you guests or attracting them?
Navigation: If your website is cluttered and complicated the chances are the potential guest will move on (or click back to the OTA). Keep your website navigation clear and concise with an attractive layout, important information such as flexible cancellation policies and COVID protocols easy to find, and a transparent and seamless booking process to reduce abandonment rates. It takes only 50 milliseconds for a potential guest to form an opinion of your website and 2.6 seconds to create a first impression!
Images: Images give you the opportunity to connect with your guests through visuals that inspire an emotional reaction (and create that good first impression!). Online success is largely driven by images, not words, and while rich content draws the guest in, high-quality images and visuals grab their immediate attention, increase dwell time, and are the #1 deciding factor for guests booking a vacation home. Use images to highlight your unique selling points, destination attractions, property features, and amenities that set your brand and homes apart.
Enticing Packages and Pricing: Pricing is one of the most influencing factors in the guest experience and the number one reason for cart abandonment. Be transparent with your pricing and incentivize guests to book direct with specials, packages, competitive pricing, and value-added extras exclusive only to visitors on your website. Let travelers to your website immediately see the value you offer as a local property manager and the benefits of booking direct.
Clear Content: Find a balance of enticing visuals and rich content that rank well and allow the guest to visualize their dream getaway with ease. This involves having a clear understanding of your brand, unique selling points, target guest, and your destination to build authority and provide your guests with a one-stop travel resource. Compelling content includes detailed property descriptions (with clear images) to allow your guest to visualize their time in your home, up-to-date local area guides and interactive maps to plan their vacation, transparent house rules, and cancellation policies to avoid later conflict, and guest reviews to back up how awesome their vacation will be.
A professional, responsive, and well-designed website is a great way to build and promote your brand identity, engage and connect with your guests and stand out from the competition. The industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, demand is exceeding supply and the vacation rental landscape is becoming increasingly competitive.
Spend some time scrutinizing your website through the eyes of a traveler and potential guest. Does your website have the “Wow Factor” to turn lookers into bookers and build a database of loyal repeat guests!