Last week, we had the privilege of attending the Direct Booking Summit in Dallas. Nicholas Ward, President and Co-founder of Koddi, moderated the panel discussion on metasearch alongside an esteemed panel of experts including Jay Hubbs, Senior Vice President of eCommerce at Remington Hotels; Adrian Hands, Senior Director Key Accounts EMEA and Americas at TripAdvisor; Gil Harel, Head of Strategic Partnerships Hotels & Content at Skyscanner, and Ted Schweitzer, Former Senior Vice President, Digital Commerce & Media at La Quinta Holdings.
With so many changes going on in the metasearch space, the panel covered a lot of ground during the 40-minute session. If you missed the event, here are three trends you need to know about the current state of metasearch:
The panel discussed the evolution of Google’s growing travel business as well as new offerings from metasearch publishers such as TripAdvisor’s Sponsored Placements and Skyscanner’s Direct Booking. The panelists agreed that metasearch isn’t going away anytime soon; it’s only becoming an increasingly important and complex channel.
As metasearch grows in complexity, it’s also becoming more competitive. According to Koddi’s data, in the second half of August this year, there was more consistent competition than we’ve seen any other time throughout all of 2018. This could mean higher acquisition costs and a shift in where bookings are going.
Although we haven’t seen mobile bookings surpass desktop bookings yet, last year’s mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches in the US. This means there’s a huge opportunity to improve the mobile experience for travelers. “It’s a global landscape like it never was before,” said Adrian Hands. “Half of our traffic and activities on metasearch were from a mobile device. This is likely a new audience.”
If you’re paying for the clicks to get users to your hotel website, you don’t want them to leave due to a poor experience. With more users beginning their travel searches on their phones, getting the mobile experience right is essential to winning the mobile booking. There’s a lot of planning and testing involved in creating the perfect mobile conversion path, but you can start by reducing the number of fields on booking forms as well as the number of clicks it takes a user to book on your mobile site.
Not every hotel has the budget or bandwidth to develop an optimized mobile booking experience, especially one that suits multiple global audiences. This is where facilitated bookings on metasearch sites can help. By allowing users to book directly on metasearch sites, advertisers can offer a seamless and localized mobile booking experience.
The panel discussed TripAdvisor’s strategy reversal with its Instant Book feature last year. Gil Harel also spoke about Skyscanner’s Direct Booking feature, which has seen up to a 20% uplift in overall conversion rate and a 50% mobile conversion rate.
When it comes to distribution, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some brands will use metasearch for acquisition and others for retention. And in some cases, it may be more cost-effective to let certain bookings go through an OTA rather than spending the money on a direct channel. As Jay Hubbs put it, “You have to look at it through the lens of what is the most profitable business that I can get for that stay date.”
When developing your metasearch strategy, you have to start by getting the basics right. Connectivity and rate parity have to be in check. If your property content (description, images, and pricing) are not accurate, you’re not setting yourself up for success.
It’s also important to understand user intent. Travelers will make surprising choices sometimes, and they’re not always based on price. When we understand what they care about and what the context is, we, as advertisers can make smart decisions.