Is Your Site Truly ‘Sticky’?
How to get more direct bookings while listing on OTAs
How to get more direct bookings while listing on OTAs
If you are in business as property owner, agent or manager, chances are you are also in this industry as a guest.
I dare to say that most of us are in business for passion first rather than necessity. Or at least passion got us started, drives us in the first place and is directly responsible for the amount of success we have today.
That also means that as passionate VR owners, managers or agents…we would normally choose a rental when we go on vacation.
I began researching the property to rent for our Christmas Holiday, to thank my wife Cristina for supporting me while putting together this year’s edition of the Vacation Rental World Summit.
I started on HomeAway (duh!) as I wanted to take advantage of what I consider a smart way OTAs give users to create a list of favorite properties to refer to in view of future plans.
Not so surprisingly, given Brian Sharple’s latest business model, I retrieved my list of favorites for the Canary Islands and this is what I was presented with:
A few hours of helpless search later, quickly eye-scanning hundreds of properties on a few listing sites, I began feeling quite overwhelmed and frustrated. Sounds familiar?
I could not find a single property that matched my criteria, which are not too demanding: a stylish property that’s got flair, character, is well presented, and doesn’t cost a fortune (well…maybe I am too demanding!).
Surprisingly, there are still so many properties with very poor images, very bad property descriptions and a total lack of the basic few triggers that make a viewer think: “there you go!” Not to mention a decent website of their own where a prospective guest can really be taken into a whole new journey and turn into an actual customer.
No matter how upset with listing sites increasingly restrictive policies you can be, we cannot deny that OTA’s and listing sites are here to stay, rule the market and be the place the vast majority of travellers start planning their search for a property to rent. After all, they have massive financial resources to invest in educating consumers and building awareness about their brands.
Honestly, how many times have YOU turned to Booking.com, HomeAway, Airbnb or VRBO to find a place to stay simply because it was easier and faster?
We’re constantly bombarded with information overflow, we feel the daily burden of increasing duties to keep afloat, we have less and less time to dedicate to even the silliest of our hobbies, so we all naturally tend to look for short-cuts to get things done quickly and find an easy solution to what we feel like another stressful thing to do (finding the right property for our next vacation).
With that being said, my point here is to use OTA’s as a marketing channel in your armory and one of the many starting points for your prospective guests to end up choosing you over your competitors.
Place the name of your Business Front and Center: in your listing’s headline, in your property’s description, in your photo captions.
I’ve got the habit to google the name of each property I quite like on OTAs, to see if they have their own website, so I can gather more information, dig deeper and eventually…contact them directly! And I’m not the only one doing so.
A pretty fair amount of my own direct bookings comes from travellers who find us on listing sites first, google “Casa Teulada” and book direct through our site, so they avoid commissions and get a much more personalized service from the host.
Think about it: while Airbnb & friends can mask basically everything that links to you directly, they cannot (yet) mask your brand name.
So for as long as it lasts, you stand a good chance to be found and contacted directly by an increasing portion of savvy seekers who prefer dealing with hosts, managers and agents directly.
I normally ask all our guests how they found us and while they sometimes can’t remember exactly on which platform they saw us first, those who didn’t find us organically or through word of mouth say that:
A) They were drawn to Casa Teulada by the beauty of our photos on a listing site (hence your images do really matter).
B) They noticed the name of our property, googled it and landed on our website! (Bingo)
So if you get travellers to that point, like I did when I stumbled upon this property in the Canary Islands:
The least that you want is for your prospect to google your property name and find a website that’s not exactly “sticky”. Not that it will turn your viewer necessarily away – in fact I emailed the owner of Villa Esmeralda to get a quote anyway – but it is your #1 asset and your business card, so you should do all you possibly can to make navigating it a memorable experience.
So here are three sites that awe, inspire and turn lookers into bookers. Have a look and wear your traveller’s shoes:
Would you go there? And why?
Taro De Chimida is a stunning property in the Canary Islands.
The site makes good use of stunning full screen photography, so you can’t but go “Wow” as you land there. There is no doubt this property is truly charming: great decor, beautiful colors and an overall positive and relaxing atmosphere we could all quite picture ourselves in.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Eric Vökel‘s ability to brand and market his apartments successfully. The site has seen slight changes over time due to the growth of Eric’s inventory, but it is quite remarkable how many different ways this website has to engage with a prospect directly, to add them to their mailing list and to offer tangible reasons to book direct on their site.
Those of you knowing me for some time, know Cortijo’s site as well! Not only Cortijo was the case study I chose to give my presentation at last year’s Vacation Rental World Summit, but it is also a case study I know well, because I built Cortijo’s site and because I’ve seen how successful it’s been to his owner (who’s actually seen a 300% increase in bookings on his first year with the new site).
My quest for the ultimate property to rent in the Canary Islands next Christmas has finally ended and I eventually found the place for Cristina and I.
Can you link to a VR site that’s truly awesome in the comment box below and say what makes it special to you?