How to guide guest booking behavior to increase revenue.

When referring to the value or “ROI” of tradeshow attendance or similar educational expenses, it is often said, “If you can take away one thing that will help make you more successful, it was worth it”.   I believe that to be true but in the context of a vendor/supplier, I am looking for a takeaway or takeaways that will benefit our customers.  That can be information, a new product, or in this case, a new feature that we can add to our Vacation Rental Platform (VRP).

VRMA Conference

Karen – Sunset Properties and Joe – our fearless leader at Gueststream

At the recent VRMA National Conference in Phoenix AZ last week, I sat down with Karen from Sunset Properties to discuss a new feature for her website.  Property Managers understand that selling travel insurance can be a very lucrative compliment to their booking process.  As new rules and guidelines emerge, the way to present travel insurance on your website can get a little confusing.  Following is a brief outline of the components and how to best set up your booking process to better integrate travel insurance.  Using this process will absolutely increase the average price of your online bookings.  Opt-In – this is a common term that simply means that a guest has the choice to participate or not.  It can also be used to define the default state of your booking process- meaning that the default setting is “out” and the guest needs to change it to “in” to participate.   This configuration should never (unless required) be used as it has the lowest conversion rate.

Opt-Out – in this case, the default setting is “in” and the guest would need to change it to “out” in order to not participate.  From a conversion standpoint, this configuration is better than Opt-In but also the most controversial.

Opt-Choice – this means that neither in nor out are selected and the guest is forced to choose.  This is becoming more popular as it can be universally considered a “neutral” approach to offering travel insurance.  With a few supporting actions, this is the best option and has the highest conversion rates.

To further complicate this, some states prefer that you do not use the Opt-Out configuration while most states have no stated position.  The states that prefer to not use the Opt-Out option are WA, CA, MO, FL, NJ, ME, MN, and TN. The dilemma then is that you need to set your default to either Opt-In or Opt-Choice but those are not the best choices for a PM that wants to maximize online revenue.  What’s the solution?

This brings us back to Karen’s new feature request. This feature is pretty simple but very powerful and works like this:

1. OPT-CHOICE While a guest is in the process of checking availability by entering check in/out dates, they also quickly and easily choose their State from a dropdown or auto-fill menu.  If the State is not one on the short list of those opposed to Opt-Out, the default is immediately set to Opt-Out or, insurance included.  This feature made perfect sense to me but before we set out to build it I thought I would do a little research to verify that this would be the most effective strategy.   I contacted Laird Sager, President of Red Sky Travel Insurance.  Larid, through both research and observation has concluded that the best “Opt” option is Opt-Choice but with an additional feature and follow-up.  First, the guest’s choice of in or out must be a mandatory part of the booking process.  If they chose out, your website should display a pop up that will in effect “freeze” the process.  According to Sager, it is this “freezing” of the process that will give your potential guest time to consider (or reconsider) the choice as opposed to simply and quickly declining the coverage as a matter of course.  Many readers may have seen this technique deployed at some of the large OTA’s and the message reads something like, “Are you sure you want to decline coverage….” And may include a brief example of the negative impact of such a decision.   While the Opt-Choice is the best of the three default configurations, adding this pop up will increase your conversion rate even further.  Sager added that a follow up call from your sales staff will further increase that conversion.  If staffing and budget allow, a follow up phone call makes a lot of sense.  Further benefit to this approach is that it will give Property Managers peace of mind when someone that did not purchase insurance requests a refund.  With good reason, PM’s can ask the guest, “what more could I have done?”   Follow as many or all of the following 3 steps to maximize your travel insurance sales within your booking process:  Use “Opt-Choice” as your default configuration for including Travel Insurance on your website

2. PROVIDE POP-UP Use a pop-up message to “freeze” the process and help guide your guest

3. FOLLOW-UP Follow up with a phone call to close the deal

This simple approach is a great example of attention to detail. The name of the game in online marketing is not doing one big thing right but doing all the little things that add up big.

Thanks to Karen at Sunset Properties for showing us this concept and to Laird for his insights and guidance.  Look for this feature in our next Vacation Rental Platform version update.

If you attended the VRMA Show in Phoenix and have a great “takeaway” to share or new feature that you would like to see on our VRP please let us know! We are constantly reinventing the Property Management Software connectivity and value/feature proposition and welcome your feedback and input.

If you would like to learn more about our new Travel Insurance feature or how Gueststream can help you with your website technology and marketing needs click here.