How Hotels Recover More Direct Booking Revenue with A/B Split Tests
October 21, 2022
As a hotelier, you’re likely always looking for new strategies to increase your direct booking revenue. Abandoned booking recovery is one such strategy, but are you A/B split testing your recovery campaigns?
A/B split testing is an important, though often overlooked, digital marketing strategy that will increase the effectiveness of your email recovery campaigns.
More effective email campaigns = more direct bookings.
Direct bookings are the Holy Grail of the hospitality industry: highly sought after though increasingly difficult to secure. This is often due to the popularity of online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com.
The benefits of direct bookings include:
- More control over pricing
- Increased guest loyalty
- Higher profits
- No commission fees
The problem for hotels is that online travel agencies take a commission on every booking. So, while they may drive more business to your hotel, they also eat into your profits.
However, through the use of A/B split testing you can increase direct bookings for your hotel. Even better, A/B testing can be done quickly and easily with the right tools.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a booking recovery campaign up and running to increase direct bookings for your hotel. But before we can tailor your campaign testing to increase direct bookings, we must first understand the basics of A/B split testing. Let’s break it down!
A/B Split Testing in a Nutshell
What is A/B split testing? Also called split run testing, it’s a method of marketing experimentation where you compare two versions of content (Version A and Version B) to see which one performs better with your target market.
Conducting an A/B split test involves sending two different versions of your email to a sample group of customers. The only difference between the two emails is whichever factor you’re testing for (eg. subject line, call to action, etc).
Traffic is split between the two versions of the email, with Version A being sent to half of the sample group and Version B sent to the other half. Real-time metrics for each email are then compared side-by-side for conversion rates, open rates and other important metrics.
Email marketing tools, like RezRecover, that come with A/B testing widgets make it easy to edit your test content, select your sample group, view your test results, and adjust your email recovery campaigns in just a few clicks.
How to Structure Your A/B Split Test to Increase Bookings
A/B split testing helps you identify which booking recovery strategy works best for your hotel. But first you must decide which metric you are testing for.
Common email campaign metrics tested with an A/B split include:
- Click-through rate
- Conversion rate
For example, you could test two different emails: one with a special offer and one without. If your goal was to increase conversions, then the content that encouraged the most travelers to convert (by returning to their abandoned booking) would be your winner.
To begin a split test for your email campaign, first select one clear factor to test. There are many possible factors that can be tested, including:
- Subject Line
- CTA Copy
- Email Copy
- CTA Button Placement & Color
- Discount Codes and Offers
- Personalization (BEDS)
- Images and Design
This begs the question: which metric should you test to increase direct bookings?
It depends on where you find your email campaigns are struggling:
|Low conversion rates:
|Low click-through rate:
|Email copyCall-to-actionButton colors Discount codesPersonalization
|Email copyButton placementImages and design
A/B Split Test Examples for Booking Abandonment
Now that you understand what an A/B split test is, let’s take a deeper look into the different types of A/B tests you can run to improve your booking abandonment rate. Remember, the goal of any A/B test is to identify which version of your email performs better so that you can make changes accordingly.
A/B testing subject lines is our go-to for improving the performance of booking recovery campaigns. It’s a great first step for achieving accurate test results, because you need to be sure your emails are actually being read. What’s the best way to increase open rates and ensure your emails are read? A killer email subject line.
When testing subject lines, focus on two key elements: length and personalization. The ideal length for a subject line is six words or less. And according to Campaign Monitor, personalizing your subject line with the recipient’s first name can increase open-rates by 26%.
Here is an example of a possible subject line A/B split test give you some inspiration:
|“Oops, did you forget something?”
|“Hey Jane Doe, did you forget something?”
Notice how the subject lines are slightly different? In the second, a touch of personalization is added by including the recipient’s name.
To find the winning subject line, compare the results and how the changes impact your open rate. The goal is to find the version that achieves the highest open rates, and the lowest bounce rate.
Curious which subject lines produce the highest open-rates? We created a complete list of 10+ Booking Abandonment Email Subject Line Examples with High Open-Rates. Start here before running your next subject line test!
When it comes to booking abandonment it is crucial to act fast. Testing the cadence of your email sequence aides in finding the sweet spot to bring travelers back to their booking.
For a recovery campaign to be successful, it should include at least three emails in the sequence. The timing between the three emails can (and should) be tested with an A/B test.
Timing is particularly important when it comes to the travel sector, as bookings will have a higher Average Order Value (AOV) than other industries. This means the consideration process will be longer, and you must be sure your emails aren’t sent too early or too late.
Timing is such an important aspect of your booking abandonment campaigns, so why not learn more from the experts? Head on over to CartStack’s blog to read up on the best times to send a cart abandonment email.
If you’re struggling to get potential guests to return to their bookings, it’s best to A/B test your email content & copy. This will help you determine which changes result in the most conversions.
Common changes that can be made to test email copy include:
- Banner Images
- Logo Placement
- Content Block Layout
- Mobile Layout
- Pre-Header Text (Your second subject line)
- Body Copy
- Length of Copy
- Footer Content
Remember, the goal of your email copy is to direct travelers to your call-to-action. Sense of urgency is another important factor to consider when testing email copy. Creating a sense of urgency can encourage customers to book now before it’s too late. This can be done by including language such as “limited time only” or “book now before it’s too late.”
Finally, don’t forget to test different call-to-actions (CTAs). CTAs are the most important part of email copy, so it’s important to make sure they are effective. Try testing different copy, such as “Book Now” or “Learn More.”
Personalization is key when it comes to email marketing. By A/B split testing your emails, you can find out what works best for your audience in terms of personalization.
RezRecover’sBooking Engine Data Sync (BEDS) collects in-depth personalization data including:
- Property Name
- Room Image
- Booking Total
- Arrival Date
- Departure Date
- Number of Nights.
This data allows you to personalize your emails to include things like the customer’s name, travel dates, and other preferences that can be collected during the booking process. By using BEDS data to personalize your emails you’ll be able to increase engagement and conversions.
However, it is still important to test your emails to find which personalized data performs best. For example, in the image below you’ll see one email contains itinerary details, while the other offers a discount.
An email test of this nature seeks to determine which factor is going to result in more recovered bookings: A personalized reminder of the dates & property info abandoned, or a 10% discount to return & complete their booking.
Remember: There are thousands of reasons someone may have abandoned their booking, and many of them could be related to the booking details themselves. For example, maybe the dates they were originally looking at are no longer an option for them. In this case, sending an email that says “come back and book these dates” may not resonate well with indecisive travelers and their ever-changing schedules.
According to Ellie Mirman, the VP of Marketing at Toast, emails with a single call-to-action increased conversions by 371% compared to multiple call-to-action emails. So if you’re including more than one call-to-action in your email content, it might be time to do a little A/B split testing.
The CTA is the single most important factor in driving conversions. It’s what tells customers what they need to do next, and it should create a sense of urgency. By split testing different variants of your CTA, you can figure out which version is most effective in leading customers back to your booking page and completing the process.
Some elements to consider testing include:
- Button color
- Button placement
- Font Size
- Font Color
- Actionable Copy (First-Person Pronouns)
- I.e. Learn More vs. Show Me More
- Length of copy
There are a lot of different elements that go into email design, and each element can impact whether or not a traveler returns to their booking. Even small details, such as the color of your URLs, links and CTA button, can make a huge difference to your conversion and click-through rates.
A study by Vero also found that including images in your email content can increase conversions by 42%. So if you’re not using images, it might be time to give it a try.
A/B split testing is a powerful conversion rate optimization tool that can be used to increase direct bookings. By testing different subject lines, offers, cta copy, and email content, you can find the winning combination that converts abandoned bookings into completed ones.
Using email marketing tools like RezRecover makes it easy to conduct split tests and track the results. Sign-up for our free trial to start split testing your email campaigns today and see how you can increase your conversion rates!
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