IHCL integrated the booking engine to provide a superior end-to-end user journey, simplify the decision-making process, and drive higher direct revenue.
The opportunity: Today’s traveller relies on multiple touchpoints on the internet to make travel decisions. The hotel website is an inevitable touchpoint to gain authentic information about the ultimate stay experience. This channel offers an opportunity to convert a user into a guest at the lowest cost of sale, a medium-term potential to upsell/cross-sell other products, and a long term value by driving repeat purchases through loyalty offerings.
The challenge: While customers visit the hotel website to gain information, they are indifferent about the channel on which a booking is made. There are two important factors that influence the booking decision – 1) Pricing and 2) Booking experience.
Barring large hotel chains that have an in-house tech platform, the brands that rely on CRS tech partners inevitably use the booking engine provided to them. This means that when a user is on the hotel website, they not aware of the price. In addition, the booking experience itself is a disparate flow from the brand website based on the out of the box solution provided by the CRS partner. Thus there is a significant drop-off from users who look versus those who book. Also, such an implementation is unique in the industry and comes with its set of additional challenges.
The solution: By integrating the booking flow into the native experience of the brand website, there are multiple challenges that can be addressed – Eg: Seamless user experience with uniform brand tonality, availability of relevant decision making information at all points without having to switch back and forth between an information website and a booking engine, ability to customise messaging and user flows, ability to uniquely identify the customer across the end to end booking journey. In addition, such a flow also offers the ability to upsell/cross-sell other products post-confirmation once the booking is locked in.
Solution design: To get the implementation right the first time, user flow data was mined from the existing setup of a Website + Booking Engine ecosystem to understand the major pain points and validate the hypothesis.
• Heat maps of user interactions on the website showcased that search is the backbone of the user journey, but travel plans may not be finalised. By using the data of lead time to booking and most common travel configurations allows for a default value of the search parameters to accurately serve the lion’s share of users, while reducing consumer effort.
• Real user screen recordings revealed that users tend to navigate back and forth between the website and the booking engine. Such non-linear navigation implied that certain information was not available on one or the other system.
• Funnel analysis was used to identify drop off points. This provided insights on how user behaviour is different on different devices, and therefore how steps to booking (eg forms and fields) need to be reimagined to prevent drop off.
• User surveys were carried out on the website to capture direct customer feedback. This customer-voice helped crystallise the main pain points and opportunities.
• A/B tests were carried out to evaluate changes based on hypothesis and helped establish a feedback loop that pointed to the final, important changes.
The above learnings were distilled into the solution design. The major principles that were arrived at were as follows
• Information Architecture - Identify decision hierarchy and organise information accordingly
• Progressive disclosure - Do not overwhelm the user with more information than necessary at each stage
• Avoid decision fatigue - Give the user a maximum of 3 choices to pick from
• Further the narrative - Ensure all relevant information to proceed is available on the same screen
Implementation: The implementation partners were
• CRS partner – Sabre SynXis
• Design and development partner – Moonraft Innovation Labs
• APIs and middleware – InnovaCX + Oracle
• Cost - $150,000
• Time taken
• Beta phase – 6 months – live on 1st November, 2018
• Go-live + 2months
Immediate Impact: The implementation was rolled out across the chain – 100+ hotels on the brand website. In a post 75 day analysis, the following are the results –
• 108% increase in conversion rate compared to the same period the previous year
• An increase in transactions by 67%
• Increase in direct web revenue by 58%
• The cost of project recovered by incremental revenue in just 7 days!
• Customer surveys reported an NPS score of 63 for the integrated booking experience
Next steps: Incremental improvements are carried out continuously and the integration has opened up opportunities for other revenue streams. Eg: An upsell pilot produced revenues of $101,384 in 12 days. In addition, this integration offers the opportunity to personalise the booking flow with customer segmentation and relevant offers. This would be rolled out along with a single sign-on implementation shortly.
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