Remember comment cards in hotel rooms that read, “How was your stay?” Remember focus groups, driven by hotel loyalty programs? Remember that Seinfeld episode, where Jerry told the rental car agent, “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation.” Fast-forward to today, where the data collection isn’t after the fact, but rather during the actual reserving process. With a nod toward assessing (and improving) the online booking process, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) Mobile Working Group examined five proprietary hotel booking apps and five Online Travel Agent (OTA) apps and applied the NTT DATA Customer Friction Factor℠ (CFF℠) Assessment. When they compared the results, what they found created a compelling case for improvement.
Three transactions, three data trends
The HEDNA Mobile Working Group put themselves in the shoes of two types of travelers — business travelers and infrequent leisure travelers — and assessed three discrete transactions:
Transaction 1: A brand-agnostic, price-sensitive user is booking a nearby hotel for a one-night stay on the participating mobile application.
Transaction 2: A brand-loyal, price-insensitive user is booking a nearby hotel for a one-night stay based on an established guest profile.
Transaction 3: A brand agnostic, price-sensitive user is on a “Click to Connect” service post.
Despite the different traveler personas, the scores didn’t vary enough to be statistically significant, so the results from each persona were averaged together in the final results. Here’s a high-level summary of each transaction:
- From an engagement perspective, OTAs caused more friction, due to buried information that forced the customer to spend time researching.
- Overall, OTA apps had a higher incidence of ads, pop-ups and cross-selling — causing immediate friction, unnecessary clicks and loss of focus.
- OTA apps asked users to enter repeat information in various queues, leading to an increase in ecosystem friction.
- The use of ads in OTA apps caused technology challenges, as pop-ups limited viewing and created unnecessary scrolling and multiple clicks.
- OTAs required two to four additional process steps to complete the transaction, increasing time online.
- The technology architecture for OTAs was typically not optimized, causing evaluators to refresh the page numerous times and increase the time it took to load pages.
- Consumer versus product orientation was blurred from an OTA perspective.
- Offering multiple brands and cross-selling increased customers’ confusion and frustration.
- OTAs did not offer a streamlined approach, nor was the customer always able to complete the transaction.
Booking a room for improvement
Based on the findings of the CFF Assessment, the HEDNA working group suggests the following recommendations to reduce friction and increase conversion:
- Limit choice by reducing steps to complete a transaction, avoid overwhelming users with unnecessary options, and focus consumers booking a room with minimal steps and only the necessary options.
- Upsell post-transaction by unpacking offers after booking; using other options, such as targeted emails before arrival; getting guests in and out of apps as quickly as possible.
- Reduce information collection by auto-populating information where possible, refraining from prompting the need for data on multiple occasions, reducing the number of steps, which also:
- Decreases the likelihood of duplicating or conflicting information
- Increases the opportunity to offer targeted guidance
- Increases simplicity of using known information to provide assistance
The team feels strongly that hoteliers, in particular, can cast a wider net, simply by improving the customer experience, particularly on mobile devices.
"Creating a frictionless experience is imperative to increasing conversions and capturing a wider audience of high-intent bookers in the moment. The recommendations surfaced by our CFF Assessment, while straight-forward, shed light on very simple actions that can be taken to reduce common sources of friction on mobile."
One of driving forces behind cross-device transactions is widespread high-friction booking via mobile. Citing a recent article in Travel Weekly, the team noted that, particularly when it comes to travel, causing a user to research on a mobile device and making them switch to a desktop to book, increases the likelihood of losing a transaction to a more mobile-savvy competitor. Their advice is clear: Defining a simple, straightforward customer experience on mobile removes booking barriers.
For more information on HEDNA’s recommendations, download the whitepaper. To learn more about how NTT DATA Services can help you identify and define a mobile strategy, and keep your guests coming back for more, check out our website, or contact an NTT DATA Services Travel and Hospitality Specialist.