Reviews are now essential to travellers: 88% of people consult them before booking and half say that reviews are the greatest influence on their booking choices, making them a powerful tool for travel companies to generate incremental bookings and higher revenues.
But many travel businesses rely on external review sites or DIY solutions and, in doing so, lose many of the benefits they thought would accrue; worse, they risk tarnishing their reputation.
The impact of reviews
Two obvious metrics when measuring the impact of reviews are: 'Am I seeing increased traffic to my site?', and 'Am I seeing extra direct bookings?'. Relinquishing control of reviews to third-party sites or using limited in-house solutions means that the answer is often "no" to both.
Reviews in the travel sector have also been blighted by controversy over faked guest reviews. The difficulty faced by third party sites is that they have no effective way to ensure only real guests leave reviews. By relying on external review sites, you risk damage to your reputation through fake reviews – and letting revenue slip through your fingers.
So how can you ensure you business enjoys all the benefits of reviews, but avoids these pitfalls?
Embed reviews on your site: How often do you find your site appearing lower in search results than review aggregation sites? How often do would-be bookers, even once they've found you, leave your site to read reviews on a third party site? The reality is that most of visitors lost to third-party sites will end up booking with your competitors, or booking with you through the review site, slashing your margins.
Embedding reviews on your site boosts your ranking and ensures that all the benefits of traffic and search come to your business, not to third-party review sites.
Take control of your own reputation: Fail at this and new customers tend to find and focus only on the distorted conclusions of a handful of motivated, disgruntled customers on unverified review sites. Instead, reach out proactively to your customers for service ratings and reviews and – vitally – allow only those people to submit a review. This generates a broader cross-section of views, providing an accurate (and more positive) picture of the actual experience.
A proactive review system also helps to eliminate fake reviews – the issue that has blighted travel reviews for several years. Eliminate fake reviews and the onus becomes yours to listen to and learn from your customers, because they really are your customers.
Let people rate not just their trip, but their experience with you: Service reviews are a powerful tool, protecting margins by enabling differentiation on service and brand promise instead of prices. Reevoo's trusted brand drives a 123% conversion improvement when service reviews are read.
Think about targeted recommendations and up-selling: Use relevant and highly personal insights from other travellers and Facebook contacts to introduce attractive new deals and reduce abandonment. Availability alerts and timely special offers injecting urgency also shorten the buying window, increasing conversion. Reevoo's measurements show that these powerful conversion-driving tools help conversion rates to soar by 54%.
Don't spend too much trying to manage reviews: Big travel companies employ teams of people to manage and optimise reviews, but they could invest their resources more effectively. Reviews collected and managed by an expert review specialist may cost more up front, but they deliver higher uplifts in revenue, easily beating 'DIY' solutions on ROI.
Reevoo is a social commerce solutions provider. For more information on why and how to put verified reviews to work for your business, download Reevoo's eBook, 'Making travel bookings social '.