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I set Online Booking up with my best property (I have 4) for about a month right after I got the email that online booking was available and it was a huge failure for me. I was very busy at the time and did not realize how the inquiries had dropped off to zilch until about a month had passed and suddenly I got an email saying I had a potential booking pending. That was the only one I got after about a 30 day trial period.
I had noticed that the Book Now button did create the appearance that it was the only way to book the property, and to get past that I wrote a very clear bit in the description saying online booking was an option but not the only option, please email or call me (putting my CELL NUMBER in the text, etc) with questions or problems. But that did not seem to help and traditional inquiries just seemed to freeze while I had OB active. Therefore I disabled online booking and started getting inquiries at the usual steady clip again. My assumption was that customers/guests feel way more comfortable contacting the owner first, AND they might feel they are more likely to get some sort of deal that way. And I am not sure why my added verbiage assuring people that they could still inquire/book the old fashioned way did not solve that problem. I used it on only one property, my nicest and most popular one (#394500), because my rates are simplest for that one and I rarely give discounts so the online booking was not stopping me from working out deals, etc. Anyway, does anyone have a success story with the Reservation Manager Online Booking option? Does anyone think I should try it again? I'd love to have it working for "busy season" but not if it will prevent me from getting business!
When I first heard about it I thought the book it now option was just a bad idea for the VRB(actual)O business. Very interesting take on what the travelers might think when they see it.
I have not heard about any success stories and your experience seems to validate my opinion. I do think it is better suited to PM's. By the way, did you get that 'pending booking"?
As for taking a CC on the phone on the initial call I would not do that. Half the time I am out and about and in no position to jot down a CC #. I am not sure how to, or if you can, call it in yourself. I just ask them to please contact me through the listing as that is how I keep track of everything (which is true) and I will send a them a contract and instructions for payment. I follow through with it promptly. I have had quite a few of these and never once lost a booking. Usually they are on the listing page while we are talking.
Very interesting perspective and experience you've had in one month. Your assumption could be right about travelers wanting more contact, first, directly with the owners...before going ahead and deciding to book. We haven't had much "conversation" here on the performance of the "online booking" feature, neither from the owner nor the traveler side. I hope your post kick starts a discussion. Pros/Cons would be great to hear more about.
I believe this is a bad marketing idea even while it is touted and supported by the CEO of HA/VRBO. The numbers below IMO show that in time this bad marketing idea will fizzle out. This is the worst area coders should have spent their time when we had sooooo many issues this past summer.
Here is an idea of the numbers. These are not good percentages of showing success.
200,096 Rental Properties
4044 Book It Now Properties
FLORIDA Rental Properties
44,487 Book It Now Properties
NE FLORIDA (My area)
2347 Rental Properties
20 Book It Now Properties
I too added the Book Online function and also added wording that it was optional - please feel free to contact me. I am starting to get inquiries early this year. I have not booked any guests online. I have had guests contact me and book. Last night was an eye opener for me - I only rent Sat-Sat in summer and a guest misread the calendar and inquired about Sun-Sun. Although this is not blocked online since I cannot dictate which days for check-in/check-out, I was able to email her and she booked the correct days. She had not used the online booking option but this made me realize online booking does not allow me to communicate other options. I am going to give online booking a month before I remove it. I guess there is no way to know how many 'hits' it gets. That would be good preformance info.
I checked Savannah GA where I live and found 2 properties doing OB within the first page. That's not many. I guess I might not try again b/c it is just not worth the risk of losing people on the house that is the most popular/profitable. My other properties have pricing and discounts that are too complicated to put on automatic. And to answer the first question, the "pending booking" meant that the person had paid the 50% already and all I had to do was confirm it was OK. So that was cool but considering a month went by without any other regular inquiries or online booking action besides that one- which btw was Canadians who normally don't call anyway because of long distance-- I think the cause of the problem was the OB itself. And more specifically the false impression that it was the main/only way to book the house.
On the FAQ page Homeaway/VRBO urges renters to speak to the owner on the phone before paying. In fact they make it seem like if you don't do that then you are asking to get scammed. I sometimes remember this when I am trucking along booking people with RM after just email exchanges and suddenly some (usually older in age) people will request a phone call for no reason except because they read that on the site. So basically they are offering the online booking while telling guests to interact with the owner. I can see why guests would be unsure.
Thank you for sharing this with us. Very helpful. I have not done the book it now feature and do not intend to do it unless it becomes the norm and expected in our area.
I am trying again with a different listing- I activated it this afternoon and called someone from an inquiry that came in the morning, left her a vm with a total and explained I activated online booking. I told her she could use that or get back to me to book. She used the online BOOK it! That does not count though sinceher inquiry came in before the book it button was on there. But it made me hope this could work! I'll keep you posted
We have been using the "Book it now" feature since shortly after they made it available(Nov 1). I just looked at our inquiry rate over the last few months. We received 15 inquiries in Sept, 13 in Oct, 6 in Nov, 3 in Dec. Only one of these inquiries used the BIN feature. Our listing is in Maui and our busy season is Jan-March. We have been fully booked for the busy season since October, so we attributed the slowdown in inquiries to the fact that we had limited availability left for the upcoming busy season. We recently purchased a second vacation rental in the same location and listed it a week ago with HA\VRBO with availability starting 2/1. We are also using the BIN feature on this listing and have received 11 inquiries in the last week with 3 of them using the BIN feature to book directly. This seems to indicate that the slowdown on our other listing was due to the fact that it was fully booked as we expected. I would be interested to see what others experiences have been.
I had Book it now setup on my listing and took it down. I found that few people were able to find the calandar due to the poor user experience deisgn of the widget. So, they would just email in and ask if the dates were available. The big question was how many did not bother. I saw an uptick of percent requests when I took it off. I think it would be a fine feature but the way it is designed as a call to action to Book it now rather than see if your dates are available and then give a call to action to book it now seems to drive the users away. Until I see the deign chanaged I will stay away.
Hi everyone –
Thanks for the feedback and sharing of your experiences with online booking. It sounds like for some of you, booking seasonality as well as property availability are factors that have impacted the online booking performance. I’m happy to hear that some of you have received bookings already.
Online booking is a new feature that launched in October 2012. Adoption amongst owners and property managers is growing steadily (from zero to over 8,500 listings on HomeAway.com and VRBO.com) and we expect continued uptake throughout 2013 as more owners become aware of this feature and its benefits.
Traveler interest in online booking is high. Based on internal research conducted in early 2012, over 85% of travelers said they would use online booking to reserve their next vacation rental. Unsurprisingly, the majority of travelers still want the opportunity to speak with the owner or property manager prior to booking online.
Our solution supports this by enabling travelers to ask questions through the online inquiry form or phone prior to submitting a reservation request. Furthermore, the 24 hour reservation review period provides an opportunity for you to ask questions of potential guests and confirm availability prior to accepting a reservation request.
Online booking also helps you reduce the busy-work of confirming reservations, improves your search ranking within your subscription level, and increases your visibility onsite with prominent online payment and booking icons.
We hope this helps provide more context around the new online booking feature. And, as always, when we release new features, we appreciate your feedback and will use it to continue enhancing and improving our products.
I wonder if it also has to do with age group of your targeted guests. Both our rentals are 1 bedrooms and a majority of our guests are younger couples. This demographic is typically more comfortable with online purchasing so this may play in to why we have received some bookings through this service.
As a traveler, I love convenience and I think having the option to pay online make it much easier for me. However, I do think it would be great if HA\VRBO would do some user studies with a variety of different age demographics to see if there are improvements that can be made in the way the online booking option is presented. I think it may be confusing for some users how to access the calendar with the current format which may be contributing to lower inquiries.
Proud owner of 2 beautiful Lahaina Maui Vacation Rentals:
I have had no action (inquiries or bookings or calls) on that listing (#437880) since I put up toe BIN button about 24 hours ago. That may not sound like a long enough trial period but with the level of interest I have on my other similar listings I think I already can tell it's a problem. I see the post about seasonality, etc. and I think my case is a good test because there is a whirlwind of activity for booking in Savannah for springtime and I do have 4 listings all in the same area, category and price range. The other 3 have all gotten several inquiries today. The one I am testing BIN on is a great price and was getting a lot of inquiries before I did this.
The point about target audience age could indeed be valid. I get all ages but certainly plenty of older people.
I want it to work though!!! I think it is a really slick system. I added the wording about "view the calendar" and also that you can still email your inquiry, etc. to the top of my description so it shows up next to the BIN button. I'm giving it a week this time I guess.
Savmma- Your results are making me a little nervous. Now I am wondering how many inquiries we are potentially missing by using this feature. I also want it to work. I think it has the potential to be a great feature and will appeal to some of our more tech savvy guests but if it comes at the cost of losing some other demographics it is not worth it.
Keep us posted on your experience through the rest of the week. I may take the feature off of one of our units this week and see if I see a difference in inquiries on that one.
World traveler and proud owner of 2 beautiful Lahaina Maui Vacation Rentals:
2 more days and no inquiries on that property- I've had 4, 5 and 7 inquiries on my other three listings during that time. Today is Sunday which is usually the biggest day for inquiries for me. My husband thinks I should romove the BIN button asap. I will take it down tomorrow morning if I get nothing by then, I just don't see how something like that, which is so easy in my opinion, could deter people so much. Obviously we are all totally familiar with everything about our listings and know the options inside and out so we are not seeing it through the eyes of the potential guest.
I think I've concluded that the real problem is the appearance of the Book it Now button on HOMEAWAY and not VRBO. They make it fairly intuitive on VRBO or at least they put all the options in one little area. I don't know why it is so different on HA but the "just need a quote?" widget isn't on HA, nor is the easy to find "view full calendar" button. So I'm removing it sadly. Half of the action on this particular listing has been through HA (during the times I have no Book It button) so unless they make it easy and obvious on HA as it seems to be on VRBO I'm going to skip it. I hope someone from the company responds to this. I was really hoping the lack of inquiries was simply just people getting their own quotes and saving me the trouble but I have a pretty good inquiry to reservation ratio normally. Please let me know when this gets better as I am a huge fan of the idea.
I too had been using BIN and saw a dramatic drop in inquiries. I was thinking maybe it was the holidays? This morning, I removed the BIN and have had six inquiries today. I can only assume the BIN feature was somehow scaring people off.
Thanks for starting this thread!
hkquinn, Was yours on Homeaway or VRBO or both?
Both VRBO and HomeAway. Although most of my inquiries come from VRBO.
I had two more inquiries last night. This is too weird! VRBO/HomeAway, I sure your moderators are reading this and can look into this situation for the site as to is there a correlation between online booking and losing inquiries.