Reservation Recovery Is an Incredibly Simple Way to Bring Back Lost Guests

By: O'Rourke Hospitality Team

All right, we’re going to serve up a pretty discouraging statistic for anyone in the hospitality business: Upwards of 94% of potential guests who begin the booking process end up abandoning it without making a reservation.

A little sobering, right? Here’s the deal, though: Those lost guests needn’t be lost forever. We’re talking about reservation recovery here, and it can be an incredibly simple, low-effort, and high-ROI initiative.

Abandoned Bookings

To understand why a reservation-recovery effort can be so rewarding, we need to dig a bit deeper into why people ditch the booking process in the first place.

A SaleCycle study sheds some light on the matter. Based on a survey of 1,000 shoppers, here are the reasons why people abandon the booking engine:

  • 39% said they were just browsing and wanted to consider other options
  • 37% said the price turned them off and/or they wanted to do some price comparisons
  • 21% said they wanted to consult travel reviews before making a decision
  • 13% said the booking process was overly long or complicated
  • 9% said they bailed because of technical issues
  • 7% said they ran into a payment obstacle or lack of payment options

In terms of when these individuals abandoned the booking process, more than half did so when shown the price, 26% when asked for personal information, and 21% when asked for payment info.

The most encouraging statistic from that SaleCycle study? A whopping 87% of these potential guests reported that they’d return to the booking process. That puts into real perspective the kind of opportunity these would-be customers represent, even when they’ve failed to initially follow through on making a reservation.

Reservation Recovery Strategies

Here at O’Rourke Hospitality, we help our clients recover some of those abandoned bookings by pursuing two main strategies that have proved reliably successful.

The first is employing an automated email campaign. If guests submit their email before withdrawing from booking, we can target those guests with followup emails that encourage them to return to your website and make a reservation. We’ll send as many as three emails on a promising timetable—say, an hour after the aborted booking, then 48 hours, and a week later. The initial email may simply encourage the guest-to-be to come back and finish his or her reservation; a later followup may offer some kind of incentive—say, a reduced rate—while the final email might check in with the customer along the lines of: “Still planning that trip?”

But what if the prospective guest doesn’t get to the point of leaving an email address? All isn’t lost then, either: In that case, we can try to lure them back using banner ads. This way, the customer sees something like “Finish your reservation—book now!” as he or she navigates the web.

In our own reservation-recovery campaigns, we’ve had clients enjoy as much as a 19-to-1 direct return from combined automated emails and banner ads. Not bad!

Other Strategies

Going back to the SaleCycle survey, remember that a minority of abandoned bookings stemmed from customer issues with the booking process itself: an excessively long or complex one, a technical roadblock, or a lack of payment options. Those are issues worth paying attention to as well. You obviously want to avoid any sort of technical glitches in the booking process, but perhaps you also want to consider shortening it, and/or expanding your payment options.

If you’re still reeling from the knowledge that more than 90% of potential customers who initiate the booking process never finish it, fear not! Reach out to O’Rourke, and we’ll help you craft the perfect reservation-recovery campaign to bring some of that seemingly vaporized revenue back into your stream.

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