Shire Hotels brings price comparison back to home turf

In what can only be described as a bold move, Shire Hotels has introduced price comparison functionality on its website displaying rates from big OTAs alongside its own.

In a bid to boost conversion the six-strong UK hotel group began pitting its own rates against those of intermediaries at the end of last year when it launched a new website.

Of course there is a lot of context here from the ongoing rate parity debacle across Europe to the desire from hoteliers to claw back control of inventory and not pay OTAs a commission for customers they would probably get anyway.

However, Shire’s price comparison idea came from ecommerce marketing manager Sam Wilson who wanted to address a 25% increase in traffic year-on-year but no corresponding uplift in conversion.

Madness or genius? So far the jury seems to be leaning towards the latter as conversion rates are well into the double digits, not bad when you consider industry averages of around 4%.

Buy-in from management was instant and Wilson enlisted developers to put the price comparison element together, no mean feat he says.

It sits separate from the booking engine (provided by Travelclick) and works by showing the rate for one of Shire’s hotels and enabling consumers to see similar rates offered by four intermediaries.

shire hotels price comparison

Wilson says the initiative is not about taking on the big boys but the hotel group does have a best rate guarantee and encourages consumers to ring if they a better rate is displayed by an intermediary.

He argues that if the psychology of consumers is to check rates with the hotel provider and then see if they can get it cheaper on an OTA, why not enable them to do that on the site.

“It’s all about consumer choice and to increase conversion and pass more quality traffic on to the booking engine. If they’re going to book via Expedia, they’ll book via Expedia but I did not want them to go off our website and potentially book another hotel down the road.

“By us displaying all the prices of the OTAs we are being very transparent. They will have their own traffic and their own bookings but this is to get more conversion on our direct site.”

Now that the functionality is up and running, hotel group is attracting interest from third parties about potentially adopting it but for the time-being it was developed for Shire’s benefit.

And as to whether it’s perpetuating the consumer tendency to shop around rather than fostering trust and loyalty in a brand, Wilson maintains that if people want to shop around they will but Shire has done the ‘legwork’ for them.

NB: Thanks to Sam Weston of Hotel Speak for the find.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
 
 

About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda worked at tnooz from September 2011 to June 2018 in roles including senior reporter, deputy editor and managing editor.

 

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Eran Savir

    At BookingDirection (http://www.bookingdirection.com) we’re also working on a similar solution to this problem: generating more direct bookings for hoteliers, creating price transparency, etc. however we’re taking a different product approach. We’re still in closed beta (with a very long waiting list…) and we’ll be happy to share more information in a couple of weeks. Disclosure: I’m the founder and CEO of BookingDirection.

     
  2. Maureen Jelly

    Great idea having the ‘legwork’ done for the visitor Sam when comparing prices…….what’s not to like! Thank you very much for such a helping hand when choosing a place to stay. Shire Hotels all look fab and I can’t wait to stay in one.

     
  3. raj

    TravelTripper has this functionality pre-built into their booking engine. It also applies the BRG policy if a lower rate was found. It is great to see the hotel implementing this on their own too.

     
  4. Ross Weber

    Finally! You’re on the right track. Glad to see someone in the industry thinking progressively. In 2015, I believe you will see more intelligent hoteliers adopt similar strategies.

     
    • Gary

      Agree. The hotel industry should be trying to re-educate guests that booking direct is best value. Internet now allows each hotel to reach most travelers. The need for a Big Brother style travel service that can help the little hotels no longer a the only option to reach customers in almost every corner of the globe.

      In many cases the hotel has done the hard work in promoting their unique point of difference or built a reputation based on quality service and facilities. Yet the OTA’s funnel guests through their system with aggressive online marketing / re marketing etc funded by high commission that the hotel pays them to effectively market against their own hotel.

       
  5. dan

    Great in theory. I just checked it out and the rate was £20 cheaper on Expedia at two of their hotels

     
    • Sam Wilson

      Dan, thanks for your comments – does this not reaffirm our commitment to transparency? We also recognise that sometimes the OTA’s may come in cheaper, but display a lowest rate guarantee message if this happens.
      On the whole though, we have rate parity (like for like).

      Sam

       
      • dan

        Transparency is so important in generating trust and loyalty from consumers and your price comparison feature is really good but OTAs are also engaged in generating the same trust and use BRGs to good effect. This confirms to the consumer that the best rate is available with an OTA.

        We should all strive for transparency and honesty in all communication and also campaign for an end to rate parity and take back control ofour businesses

         
  6. Charlie Osmond

    Great work Shire,
    There is no question the pricing transparency is best for consumers. It saves time and provides reassurance. Clearly, as the conversion rates attest, it is also better for hotels.

    Triptease recently launched a similar widget with a few hotel groups. It is possible to have it up and running on your site by adding a single line of code. See http://www.triptease.com and do get in touch if you want to give it a go.

     
  7. Oz Har Adir

    Idea is great, the implementation isn’t good. The search is slow, and one must click on every provider link to see live quotes, and that price isn’t even linkable.

    The real solution:
    Integrate a meta feed -> earn commission when bookings are done on the OTA site -> monitor the behavior and adjust your pricing strategy

     
    • Sam Wilson

      Hi, thanks for your comments, I agree the system can be slow sometimes but we’re working on that as I type.

      The idea was to be transparent with the user by providing the rates of the OTA’s, but it was a concious decision not to refer traffic to their sites as that would encourage abandonment and decrease direct conversion.

      We thought of a number of ways on how to execute it including affiliate links to the OTA’s but felt that would be counterproductive to the brand.

      There are many improvements that are going to made over time as the tool grows, but these have to be made with the user in mind.

      Thanks again,

      Sam

       
      • Oz Har Adir

        Thanks for the honesty, I think you are in the right direction.
        I also believe that the idea of not linking to the OTA only holds true if:
        1) You are always at par or cheaper. I searched for the Kettering Park earlier and saw a much lower rate at Expedia (according to your tool).
        2) You believe that OTA do not convert better due to the following: ease-of-use, language, brand promise, cancellation terms and payment method support, but only for reasons such as marketing and price.

        If you didn’t answer ‘yes’ to both questions, you are going against three ‘truths’:

        1) Your top goal is to improve occupancy
        2) You second goal is to reduce distribution costs
        3) No one can control access to information

        PS. that’s a second attempt in this field in a short period, after Travel Tripper showed a similar tool recently.

         
        • Gary

          As a professional hotelier it would be very concerning if the OTA had a better – ” brand promise, cancellation terms and payment method support” than my own system and our on site staff provide. Ease of use? maybe but familiar is more likely as they may have used the same OTA previously.

          We apply strict rate parity between OTA’s However we often see guests with bookings from different OTA’s even though they would have had the same price offer. Some guests are not loyal to a particular OTA, they appear to buy with whomever they perceive to have the best deal.

          I suspect most users / consumers research in various ways, Google their chosen hotel and click on one of the first listings which is usually a paid ad by an OTA when they think they are going to the hotel site. They see the hotel name and that is what they are focused on. Example only 2 days ago was guest asking why we had Expedia phone number on our website as they were certain they booked direct to hotel and even called the number on the website (Expedia) to confirm / check details.

          We rank on page 10-20 on most OTA’s. Therefore we are unlikely to get bookings from consumers using OTA’s unless they have been directed there via marketing targeting our brand. However OTA’s account for a significant share of our bookings.

          Regarding conversion, OTA’s are only concerned with conversion within their site and do not care which hotel is chosen. Example: links from Meta search, once hotel is selected, to the OTA’s site usually do not land at the hotels specific page but a search page within the OTA with the previously chosen hotel at the top of the searches. Even though a specific hotel was selected the OTA still almost leads / entices them away to another hotel with ample choices in plain view. OTA’s want the booking at any cost against other the hotel itself and other OTA’s.

          All methods to get guests to easily book the hotel they have chosen directly should be explored.

           
    • Duuhg Oz

      Why would they want the rates on the OTA’s to be clickable? so their bookers who are on their site ready to book go and book through the OTAs? Earn commission when booking on the OTA? so you mean earn a few cents per click and happily pay 18-23% commission? clearly you wrote your comment in a hurry.

       
      • Oz Har Adir

        Let’s review the options once again:
        1. Don’t tell users there are other prices out-there. -> Common practice, the very few are starting to challenge that. What happens if you follow the common practice? cart abandonment is high, users end up booking elsewhere.

        2. Don’t let users easily follow a link to the OTA. -> Common sense, why send them away? What happens if you follow the common sense? cart abandonment when price at OTA is lower is even higher than before, you don’t know why, and either lose the client or pay full commission. Other reasons for cart abandonment are harder to analyze as they would have if you could follow the user’s journey to the OTA (now you can’t).

        Reg the ‘getting cents per click’ -> let’s rephrase this: for which share of the commission would you consider sending visitors to an OTA? 50%? 75%? 90% there must be a number out there that justifies it, right?

         
  8. Evan from buuqit

    I love this idea! Would be interesting in how much it cost to develop and what API’s were used

     
    • Sam Wilson

      Hi Evan, thanks for your comments, unfortunately I cannot disclose the cost or method on an open forum.

      Best regards,

      Sam

       
      • Mauro

        Great idea, Sam! I can see it being replicated by the large brands out there.

        I would be interested to know how you are overcoming the rate parity hurdle. I can see you’re offering exactly the same product for less on your website compared to the OTAs.

         
    • William Beckler

      We at AllTheRooms have developed this technology on behalf of another hotel group and we’re happy to discuss costs and timing privately.

       
 
 

Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel