90% of Travelers Ready to Book Elsewhere (You're Only Unique if Guests Say You Are)
By Josiah Mackenzie
Wednesday, 8th December 2010
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: http://reviewpro.com/index.htm 


About the author
This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry. 

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