Online Bookings As A Measure Of Success? What A Load Of Rubbish!

Online bookings represent just 5% of revenue - we cannot use it as a measure of success for digital marketing anymore.


Sam Trainor-Buckingham

Every day I come across the same conversation and the same problem in marketing for restaurants:

  1. Digital marketing is the future
  2. Online bookings are the measure of success

Budget is signed off, objectives are set, decisions are made and ROI is often calculated on revenue from online bookings. And yet online bookings account for a fraction of the total income generated by most businesses; in the restaurant industry online bookings account for roughly 5% of overall turnover.

The value of digital marketing?

How can digital marketing be the future, and at the same time its return be based on a conversion channel that excludes 95% of bookings?

Of course there are many impressive metrics that support the benefit of digital – Facebook Fans, brand awareness, form completions, voucher redemptions – to name a few. But the cold reality is that direct revenue from online bookings is often the only metric that anyone considers – especially if you have a finance department to contend with.

To truly measure the success of digital marketing we need a new conversion model, something that looks at the true impact and importantly, applies a revenue figure to it.

The actual conversion process online

Different people and devices are involved, various websites and friends are consulted, the same person who initially visits your website doesn’t book – and Google research has found that 10% of customers will switch device during the booking process.

The simple, but often overlooked truth: restaurants provide one of the most complex decision making processes for online measurability and tracking. Why? Because as opposed to a purchase on Amazon, restaurants are about people coming together – and people are complex. There is no way of knowing exactly where your bookings come from through conventional models, but we do know that 80% of customers research online before visiting a restaurant.

Knowing this, how can we use online reservations to measure the success of digital marketing?

Blind decisions

The real issue though, lies not with the ability to prove a return – but in the inability to make relevant conversion based decisions with digital marketing activity. New customers tend not to book online – they like to call and find out more information first. Nor do they often book on their first visit to a website, preferring to look around, talk to friends and make a decision at a later point.

So marketers are left with fairly useless indications of success, such as bounce rate and time on site. “It took John 1 minute to decide he wanted to come to my restaurant and Bob 1 minute to decide not to”.

As a marketer, I’m left guessing.

A new conversion model

So at Ignite Hospitality, we’ve been working on a set of algorithms that are based on customer behaviour patterns on restaurant websites and their likelihood to then book: via the phone, online or simple walk-ins. There are clear indications of a customer’s intentions online, assessed from a combination of hundreds of factors, including where they hover on a website, what areas of the site and other websites they visit – that give us a clear picture of what restaurant they will choose and the likelihood that they will eventually visit the restaurant.

Through a process of widespread usability studies and online data analysis we are in the process of building a wealth of insights to develop this conversion model, which will give us a true reflection of a customer’s decision making and conversion process online.

Crucially this will provide an accurate conversion value that reflects the importance of digital marketing that can be applied by channel, allowing informed marketing decisions to drive the bottom line.

Say “goodbye” to online bookings as the core measure of success; it’s not based on reality and leaves us guessing. Instead say “hello” to advanced algorithmic conversion values, or what we’re now calling Total Advanced Conversions© (TAC) as the next step in understanding the true ROI of your digital marketing activity.

To find out what Ignite can do for your hospitality business, get in touch or email

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