The hospitality industry is booming, with customers in the UK spending an impressive £52.2bn eating out in 2015 with predictions that this figure is set to increase to an estimated £54.7bn by 2017. The tourism industry is also growing, and with it so does the competition for restaurants, B&B’s and hotels.
More and more consumers now use the internet to research hotels, book dinner reservations and read reviews, so it’s essential for independent businesses to get an online presence to be found in an ever-crowded marketplace. In this post we look at four main reasons why you need to get online.
1. Increase your bookings
When looking for overnight short breaks or a nice evening meal to celebrate a special occasion, consumers now expect to be able to choose dates, times and even pay for a booking online. And, thanks to comparison and booking sites such as booking.com and expedia.co.uk customers can now find a wealth of information in one place.
Creating a website that allows your customers to book online or even showcases your B&B or restaurant will help you stand out in the marketplace and should increase your bookings. Just make sure that your site is mobile friendly, after all hotels remain the sector where smartphone bookings are most popular, generating 1 in 5 online bookings.
In addition to having a website it’s also valuable to spend some time getting your business listed on relevant online comparison, booking and directory sites to take advantage of the large amount of traffic these sites see daily.
2. Showcase positive feedback
As consumers ourselves, we know that it’s very common to read at least a couple of reviews before booking into a hotel or visiting a restaurant.
Online reviews are a great way to showcase what other customers are saying about you and can be a really positive way to increase bookings. With 97.7% of consumers reading other travellers’ online reviews it’s definitely worth spending some time encouraging your customers to leave their feedback, and there are some easy ways to do this.
The significance of online reviews in hospitality is only set to grow and showcasing the great feedback from your customers can help your business stand out from competitors. Research shows that restaurants who boost their Yelp rating by one star could increase revenues by 5% – 9%.
3. Get found by potential customers
Businesses without an online presence run the risk of not being visible to a whole host of potential customers. With 94% of UK internet users searching online to find local businesses¹ it’s very common for customers to use a search engine to find food and accommodation establishments.
By having a website and working on areas such as your local SEO you can improve your chances of appearing in the top results for local searches such as [restaurants near me] or [B&B’s in Manchester]. This puts your business in front of customers who are searching for what you offer, be it a nice lunch or accommodation for a night.
It’s also what customers expect, if they can’t easily find your location, opening hours, images or prices at the touch of the button, they’ll most likely abandon the search and look elsewhere. Being online and having a website as an extension of your business’s front door is your opportunity to be open 24/7.
4. Get people talking about your business
Being online also gives you a great opportunity to get people talking about your business and can be an exciting way to get closer to your customers.
Social media is a great outlet for this and there are plenty of things you can do to increase your bookings. For example, you could look to create and promote some special offers to make you stand out from the competition, and with the cost of Facebook Advertising reasonable for many small businesses, you could spread your message further afield or target customers in a certain area.
Social media also gives you a great opportunity to tell your story and show customers the people behind your business, which is a perfect way to humanize your brand. Perhaps your business is family run or you have an interesting story behind how you started your business.
Many customers are also taking to social media to find businesses, read reviews and ask questions. Simply making sure you’re active on the major social channels can allow you to respond to customer queries quickly, and could even lead to a booking.
Marriott Hotels was one chain to use social media to build customer engagement by setting up a loyalty scheme called PlusPoints. Social media fans could collect points through tweeting and checking-in to Marriott Hotels and these points could then be traded for gift cards or a range of merchandise options. Offering a loyalty scheme for your customers is a sure-fire way to increase the chances of them coming back.
These are just a handful of reasons of how getting online can make a positive impact to your businesses, and ultimately can help increase bookings.
Not only is an online presence a great way to shout about your business and encourage customers through your doors, but it’s also becoming a vital part of all business strategies and those neglecting the trends could see their businesses struggling to keep up.
Even starting by getting a website and social media presence, you could find that loyal customers are itching to leave you a review and your online bookings could increase just by making this investment. Plus, it’s easier and cheaper than you might think!
And, if you’d like to do some more reading on why and how to get online first, why not take a look at our other articles?