3 Steps to Minimize Abandoned Hotel Bookings & Boost Direct Sales

September 19, 2019

Booking abandonment sucks. It wastes your marketing budget, minimizes your potential profit, fuels the business of online travel agents, and makes it difficult to drive more direct bookings. And, it’s occurring all too often, with four out of five potential customers leaving your website before completing their reservation. But what can you do about it.

We’ve already covered the powerful potential of booking abandonment emails for driving direct bookings and recovering lost leads. But, with the average accommodation-purchase journey now taking 36 days and involving 45 touch points – a single post-abandonment email won’t cut it. And it certainly won’t prevent booking abandonment from happening again.

This week we’re looking at how you can minimize online booking abandonment from happening in the first place by implementing on-site tactics, optimizing your checkout flow, and perfecting your recovery emails. But to begin with, let’s take a look at why online booking abandonment is such a big problem.

The problem of online booking abandonment

Booking abandonment in the travel industry is now at a staggering 81.31% – the second most abandoned online purchase. Why is this happening? Recent research into the reasons behind abandonment shows the top reasons for deserted reservations to be:

  1. More information and research needed;
  2. To compare prices;
  3. To check with other travelers;
  4. The length or complexity of booking;
  5. Technical issues; and
  6. Lack of payment options. 

The interesting thing about all of these reasons is that they are all easily overcome. In fact, following last week’s blog on 21 booking abandonment email examples that drive direct bookings, you’re likely targeting some of these booking barriers already. But can you do more?

How to Minimize Online Booking Abandonment – Three Simple Tactics

Booking abandonment emails are a perfect tool for recovering anywhere between 10-20% of lost leads, but they’re not a solution to the booking abandonment problem. 

To address the problem, and get the most out of your existing website traffic, you need to reduce abandonment from happening to begin with – something that the following three tactics can help you with:

  • On-site campaigns – optimizing your website’s content to overcome booking barriers and persuade customers to the checkout;
  • Checkout flow – optimizing your checkout flow by working with the subconscious mind to persuade customers to finalize; and
  • Recovery – optimizing your approach to targeting lost leads. 

Let’s take a deeper look. 

1. On-site Tactics for Minimizing Booking Abandonment

From the moment someone clicks onto your website, you should be doing everything in your power to get them to the checkout – whether it’s their first or 45th visit. Aside from the obvious stunning visual, persuasive working, and beautiful branding, we recommend implementing the following on-site practices to really boost your conversion rates. 

Ease of use

If information is difficult to find, prices are hard to calculate, payment options are impossible to locate, and pages are slow to load, then you’ve already achieved five of the top six booking barriers. Your website should be simple to use, relaxing to view, and stress-free to book through. Not only does this make it easy for customers to book with their emotions before their mind catches up, but it also gives customers an insight into what it’s like staying with you.

Achieve ease of use by:

  • Using clear call to action buttons at the top right of the screen and at the bottom of any copy;
  • Providing a choice of contact methods including telephone, email, and live chat; and
  • Allowing users to quickly see room and travel dates they have selected in their booking cart. 

Top tip: avoid having an “apply” button for vouchers and discount codes as customers may click this button and wrongly assume they’ve completed the whole checkout process!

Retaining attention

It is very difficult to retain someone’s attention when they are online. Emails are popping up in the corner, Facebook is just a click away, and then there’s that thing called reality asking you what’s for dinner and how much longer you will be. But, all you need to do is to retain attention long enough to get customers to confirm their booking. Three great ways to do this are:

  1. Timed on-site offers – these are popups that are set to appear after someone has been on your site for a certain amount of time. They aim to keep customers on your website by offering a deal or discount for completing their booking such as 10% off or free airport transfers.
  2. Exit-intent offers – these are popups that disrupt a would-be abandoner’s exit by presenting information or an offer to regain faltering attention and combat the potential reason for abandonment. Displayed information could be a reminder of the benefits of booking direct, or a simple offer to incentivize them to complete their booking today.hotel exit intent popup offer
  3. Push notifications – these are timed, clickable notifications that flash up in a customer’s web browser to present additional information or offers to encourage conversion. Again, these can be used to create scarcity (only two rooms left), risk aversion (don’t forget our guaranteed price offer), and value (complete now for free mojitos on arrival).hotel push notifications

Learning from your mistakes

The best way to optimize your website for booking conversions is by watching your current traffic to learn the reasons why potential customers are leaving your website. Use a tool such as CartStack’s abandoned session replays to pinpoint when shoppers are abandoning and identify conversion leaks and technical issues. And then use this information to improve your website and tailor your messages and offers. 

2. Checkout Flow Tactics for Minimizing Booking Abandonment

The length and complexity of making a hotel booking is the fourth most popular cause for abandonment and with good reason. A tired shopper who has spent 36 days reading and researching their trip doesn’t want to prolong the search any further. What’s more, if the website checkout is slow, complicated, and unhelpful, that doesn’t spell well for the real checkout. 

Improve your checkout flow by:

Making it easy

The human brain loves ease so make your checkout look and feel simple by:

  • Using asterisks to mark required information;
  • Using a clear and simple layout with no unnecessary clutter or information; and
  • Allowing customers to make quick edits without hitting the back button (such as traveler numbers and dates). 

Making it quick

Once a shopper decides to go ahead with their booking, you want to get them through the checkout as quickly as possible before their logical mind casts doubt and makes them reconsider. Achieve this by:

  • Allowing customers to book using a guest account or requiring account set-up after payment;
  • Clearly guiding users to the next step in the checkout process and using a progress bar to show how close they are to booking that dream break;
  • Using Form Autofill to automatically re-populate form fields with information gathered from previous visits;  including name, email address and travel dates.

Top tip: reduce the number of clicks required to complete a booking – bookings on Expedia can be done in just three!


Splashing out a month’s wages on a lifetime trip, booking half of your vacation time on a family break, or planning your “pop-the-question” weekend away is a big decision. Providing reassurance to your customer throughout the checkout process is a great way to encourage them over the finish line and overcome any concerns. 

Use the power of risk aversion by:

  • Reminding users about the security of their information and payment details;
  • Being up front about all costs, taxes, and city fees at the beginning of the process; and
  • Explaining any jargon or price guarantees. 

Top tip: display total prices in local currencies to avoid currency related abandonment

3. Recovery Tactics for Minimizing Booking Abandonment

No matter how much you optimize your website and checkout flow, there will always be customers who simply need more time to complete their booking. And that’s ok because you can use the following tactics to recover them.

Booking abandonment emails

hotel booking abandonment email cart abandonment cartstack

Booking abandonment emails are a series of timed emails aimed at achieving what we call, “the four Rs”: 

  1. Remind the customer about your website;
  2. Reengage their interest in your accommodation;
  3. Return them to your optimized website; and
  4. Recover their booking by encouraging them through your checkout flow.

On-site and checkout flow optimization

The hard work on your on-site and checkout flow optimization is not lost when a customer leaves. The above tools and tactics can all be used to re-engage shoppers and encourage them through the checkout a second time. 

Further marketing

And, if your customer is still not ready to book, no problem. You can send the leads from your reservation abandonment software directing into your CRM using Zapier, and include them in your ongoing marketing efforts until they’re ready to book. 


You might have thought booking abandonment emails were the answer to your faltering conversion rates, but your secret weapon lies in a series of tactics that aim to get the most out of your existing traffic at every stage of their journey – not just the end. We’d love to hear how you get on with the above solutions for minimizing booking abandonment from happening in the first place – join the conversation on social media