A destination website is a work in progress. No matter how great it is, things can usually be done to make it better. Continuous improvement is part of Simpleview’s culture, so when the team at Visit Mobile let us know they were struggling to justify their investment in Book › Direct in light of a tight budget, we embarked on an all-out effort designed to put their concerns to rest.
Book › Direct gives DMOs the ability to showcase a relevant and curated list of lodging and experiences, allowing website visitors to book directly with brands they trust. Partners value Book › Direct as an added source for potential bookings. Since the bookings go directly to their preferred reservation system, the partner does not pay additional commission or fees.
But because Visit Mobile’s referrals weren’t at the level they needed, the Simpleview team undertook a conversion rate optimization (CRO) effort. CRO is the process of increasing the percentage of conversions from a website or mobile app for a particular action by testing different ideas. Common CRO strategies involve testing ways to garner more newsletter sign-ups, selling more attraction passes, or getting more people to download visitors guides.
In this case, Visit Mobile wanted to send more referrals to hotel partners. Here’s a sample of one of the CRO tests that was performed:
We asked Meredith Guzy Turncliff, digital marketing manager at Visit Mobile, to answer a few questions about the hotel referral CRO effort.
Why did you decide to undertake Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for your hotel referrals?
When I joined the team in 2017, I was brought on as the first-ever digital marketing manager at Visit Mobile. We had the Book › Direct/JackRabbit Systems integration on the current site and had for a while. Since we are funded by the lodging tax, it was one of those things that our lodging partners wanted, and we provided. I dove into all things Simpleview, and I was really struggling to justify the cost because it just wasn’t performing; the ROI just wasn’t there.
We launched our new site, and Emily Gonzalez (Visit Mobile’s vice president of marketing & communications) and I really dove in and dissected our department’s spend. We expressed our concerns about the performance of this platform to our Simpleview representative. We had limited funds, and the integration was on the budget chopping block. That is when the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) plan was presented to us as a last-ditch effort to improve the engagement of the Book › Direct/JackRabbit Systems integration.
Spoiler: It was a HUGE success.
What about the process did you find most interesting (or results most surprising)?
I think it is safe to say at the beginning of the process, Emily and I were both a bit skeptical. Throughout the entire process, we were updated and had scheduled progress check-ins, dare I say, on the verge of being over-communicated with. I kid, it was all very transparent. I think what surprised me the most is how in-depth the process was; I believe we ran eight tests, and of those, five were wins. I believe we also stopped one early; I don’t recall why, but it was trending to be a winner as well. It was evident the confidence Simpleview had in the product and the support we had as a small team to make it successful for our destination.
What benefits has the success of this effort had for your DMO?
I think as a DMO, the biggest benefit of the success is that we have hard data to show the business we are driving to our partners with our digital efforts. Digital of any capacity is a high price ticket and the least understood of marketing efforts. We have to be able to show digestible ROI. And a 78% increase in referrals in a year, a 53% increase (during COVID-19), and a 90% increase FY2019 vs. FY2021, it’s hard to argue the success and value.
What advice do you have for other DMOs looking to increase their CRO for Book › Direct hotel referrals?
Specifically for CRO/hotel referrals, this is a no-brainer decision to support your lodging partners and drive bookings. Regarding Simpleview overall, TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMER SUCCESS REPS! Seriously, if you have doubts or are unhappy with something you have invested in with Simpleview, talk to them, share your concerns in real-time, not after a year of being unhappy. They stand behind their products and the partners they bring into the fold. They will exhaust every effort to help you find a solution.
Anything else you'd like to say about the project, process, or Simpleview?
We are thrilled with the success of the CRO process and so happy that we were able to increase that traffic to our partners — that is why we are here, after all. If our partners aren’t benefiting, we aren’t succeeding. Here in Mobile, we are known to celebrate, some might say born to, and this is one of those wins worth celebrating!
Conversion rate optimization is an important way of making sure your website works hard for you and gives visitors the path they need to plan a great visit to your destination. Want to hear more? Check out the results that Tourism Saskatoon reported earlier this year.