How to get more Direct Bookings with effective Writing.
First, what is UX Writing? We tend to slightly confuse this term with the more commonly known Copywriting. The main difference is this:
- UX Writing is about shaping the product experience by crafting copy that helps users complete the task at hand.
- Copywriting is the process of writing promotional materials to get attention and attracting customers.
In other words, whilst Copywriting serves and supports your marketing strategy, UX Writing is all about how you communicate the message around your hotel, your rooms and rates, when prospects are already looking at you.
Besides the difference, both are probably among the least understood and most underestimated topics in all industries. Yet, it is statistically proven how good writing tremendously impacts sales and conversion across multiple processes.
In this article I want to show you how you can leverage the perceived value behind your rooms and rates by using simple and effective techniques on how to display your content. And here’s the funny thing: we don’t even have to invent anything new; we can simply “copy” the same principles from the ones in the hotel industry who are already using these techniques and proved they are simply the best at it.
I guess you know who I am referring to: OTA’s.
Let’s quickly compare how this hotel sells the exact same content throughout Big B and its own booking engine:
Needless to say that the Parity Rate doesn’t guarantee additional direct bookings, but tell me, just by looking at the two images, which one by heart would you say is the more compelling and appealing?
Rhetorical question of course. The booking engine looks too poor, as if something’s missing.
There is, indeed, something missing on the hotel booking engine, for example, Cancellation and Guarantee/Payment policies are not mentioned (they are by clicking the rate name, a popup opens up showing more details re that specific rate).
Besides what is missing, there are many other different things that are paving the way to big B. Here I am going to list the most important ones and, after that, I will show you how I would turn the rooms&rates display upside-down to raise the perceived value, in the eye of prospects.
1. Room Name: “Standard” is negative wording.
Most hotels all over the globe have Standard or Basic as the lowest entry-level room category, which is totally fine. Point being, Standard and Basic are definitions coming from the hotel industry and were (and still are) very useful for travel agents over the GDS, so that they could go through different hotels and different room types, by using common terminology to more easily detect and identify different room types.
Unfortunately, probably because we were lazy or simply didn’t think that through, we basically forgot that B2C users do make use of words in a non-technical way. Thus Standard simply means “standard” and Basic means “basic”. Think out of the hotel-industry box, do “standard” and “basic” relate to something great or even remotely positive?
Standard refers to something on average. In other words: “normal”. What a bad word, normal. Is that really how you would like your prospects feel? Do you really want them to buy into something “normal”? Or even worse, “basic”?
In fact, as opposed to it, B.com simply takes that out. The principle is very simple: if you cannot highlight the benefit of what you sell, at least avoid mentioning the downsides of it.
2. Benefits at a glance.
Cancellation and Payment policies are only visible if users click on the rate name. However, these are 2 of the most important information prospects are looking for and what make different rates… different.
More in general, following this principle, we need to let users know what the main differences and the main benefits are among different rooms and rates, without having them to click anywhere to get a deeper picture.
My general rule is the bullet-3: 3 benefits for each room, each rate, in bullet points.
What are the 3 main benefit and differentiation among room types?
- room size
- bedding type
- room view
- upper/lower floor
- amenities (especially in case of upper room categories)
Free WiFi is important, but if you offer it across all room types and you have another place within the page where you can highlight all main features of the hotel, it might be pretty much redundant to list Free Wifi in all rooms.
As for bedding type, if, for example, we mention Double/Twin in the room name, there is no need to list it again.
What are the 3 main benefit and differentiation among different rates?
- Breakfast (or other meals) included or not
- Cancellation Policy
- Guarantee/Payment Policy
- Services included
3. Benefits in different color.
Look at B.com at see how benefits, visually speaking, are easy to read, simply because they are in a different color (green). User’s brain catch the benefit without even reading the text.
Look, I’m Italian, I’m very sensitive to this topic. In our culture, especially when we are on vacation, we don’t even wake up in the morning knowing that we are not going to have a proper breakfast.
Besides, breakfast is one of the options that you offer. My question is, why would you mention your breakfast only when it is included in the rate?
Again, take a look at how B.com and other OTA’s deal with this topic: whether it is included or nor, the information is always there, ALWAYS! Simply, if not included in the rate, mention what the cost would be.
You might prefer setting up breakfast as a dynamic package, that pops up as an option as soon as prospects select a room/rate. However, let’s get practical and check the numbers. Even if you have been performing extremely well through your booking engine, the exit rate on the rooms&rates booking step is always the way higher as compared to any other booking step. Let’s see the conversion funnel:
65% of prospects do leave the booking process after viewing your rooms and rates, meaning 65% of your entire audience, do not reach the dynamic package step. Thus, make sure to mention your breakfast before, and if it’s excluded from the rate, simply state how much you will charge.
5. Use positive wording.
“Room Only Rate” pretty much explains what that rates is about. However, we should let prospects focus on the positive rather than the negative side of whatever you sell, right? In other words, by saying “Room Only Rate” you are not highlighting the benefits of that rate, you are emphasizing what customers will NOT be having.
In this case, you should rather use a more generic “Daily Rate” and, eventually, “Daily Rate with Breakfast” if you give your prospects both options. This way you are easily turning the negative into positive, because you are highlighting that “Daily Rate with Breakfast” includes breakfast, rather than the fact that “Room Only Rate” doesn’t have it.
The same principle applies to “Non Refundable Rate”. Relabel it with “Pay Now, Pay Less”. Content-wise, it’s exactly the same, but would you agree that it sound way better?
Another example, when you say “Breakfast included” you are simply stating a fact. In other words, you are saying things the way they are, logically. But emotionally, that doesn’t say anything, nor does it stimulate any dreaming.
Instead, the simple addition of a positive adjective (Fabulous) automatically boost the value perceived behind what you are selling, your breakfast.
You get the point: turn the negative into positive and the overall perception might turn upside/down too. It’s simple, but it makes a huge difference!
6. “BAR” vs. “BUR”: Best Available Rate is not the best available rate.
In the example above, I am referring to the “Best Unrestricted Rate”. In this case, nothing to argue, but I want to mention this this issue as it happens too often. Lots hotels persist in naming their BAR rate with “Best Available Rate”. Let’s assume for a while that the above would be the case, so you would see “Best Available Rate” instead of “Best Unrestricted Rate”.
Point being, does it look like the best available rate? I mean, we often forget about the fact that BAR, in the Hotellerie, is essentially a technical name. It’s been adopted many years ago when the GDS became a very productive channel for the B2B market and it serves to help travel agents to better identify what the best unrestricted rate is.
However, we tend to forget that B2C customers (your leisure market) simply perceive Best Available Rate as being, supposedly, the best available rate, meaning either the cheapest or the one with the highest objective value, as compared to other rates he/she is being offered with.
After so much talking, here’s what I would suggest being the best display, at least for this specific booking engine:
Notice also the different Book-Now button color for “Pay Now, Pay LESS” rate. Orange and red are relatively similar, however this is just another smart way to highlight the rate you ideally want to push more. In the eye of your prospects, that different color emphasize the very good value-for-money that they are going to have by booking that rate.
If you do so, just make sure to use positive colors for you buttons, following the Science of Colors (pink, red, white, blue, yellow).
Depending on your booking engine provider and the flexibility you have been provided with, the changes above may be a few minute-thing or a multi-step task that takes a little longer.
Nevertheless, in most cases it should be FREE. While evaluating to invest money on tools and consultation, this is one of the best way to optimize and make the most out of what you already have.