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Vacation Rental Marketing: How to conduct fast, fun and efficient user research

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You have heard it 1,000 times, but have you really done it? I am talking about putting yourself into your customer’s shoes. Sometimes, asking just a simple question to a crowd of seasoned vacation rental industry members can be quite revealing.
At the Vacation Rental World Summit in Florence, Italy, I asked:

How many of you, property managers and property owners, have ever booked one of your vacation rentals straight from your website, as a consumer would? I am talking about searching, booking and paying online, without using your own knowledge (e.g. don’t call the owner to get it done) or your internal tools (e.g. don’t use your PMS – property management system).

Not one hand, out of 120 people, was up in the air. Why? Because as professionals, we have at our disposal tools and contacts that save us so much time.
Yet, it means that we may be missing problems on our websites or in our booking processes that our customers do experience.

  • And how about your employees?
  • Your tech team?
  • Your marketing team?
  • The web agency that you hired to design your website?
  • Have they actually experienced it through and through?
  • Have they documented and reported on their experience?
  • Have you taken action it?

User research is an amazing way to increase your revenues, by helping you identify bottlenecks and leakages in your current sales flow. Without increasing your marketing spend, you can get more bookings by identifying and fixing existing mistakes and omissions.

How to copy user research done at Booking.com

At the Vacation Rental World Summit in Florence, and then at the VRMA Europe conference in Paris, I presented how Booking.com, a top 10 internet business company in the world, does user research on vacation rental guests and property owners.
Surprisingly, it does not have to be expensive. It is more about the process: getting everyone to test the website, documenting everything, reporting on the findings, and taking action.
In the slides below, you will a summary of this presentation:

  • Why Booking.com sends highly paid developers and coders to the nearby airport to wait for Booking.com guests at the arrival terminal,
  • Why user research matters,
  • How to observe users on your website and offline,
  • Tools to get feedback from users  (E.g. hotjar, usertesting.com),
  • How to do dogfooding,
  • A/B testing on heavy traffic websites.

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