The Power of the “Book Now” Button

In the movie The Pagemaster, a young boy named Richard Tyler, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin, becomes stranded in his local library during a storm. Christopher Lloyd, who plays the librarian, attempts to get him to check out various books, but all Richard Tyler wants to do is use the telephone to call his parents. He gets lost on his way to the payphone, slips on the rain water from his coat, and passes out. When he wakes up, the library begins to turn into a cartoon. The librarian, who has transformed into some wizard-like librarian called the Pagemaster, finds him and explains that he needs to follow the EXIT sign through the fiction section so he can leave. His adventure takes him and his anthropomorphized book friends through the lands of horror, adventure, and fantasy. All the while, the EXIT sign is illuminated on the horizon showing him the way back to where he wants to go so he may return home.
So what can we learn from the Pagemaster? On our websites, we need to remember to keep our goal in mind. Our goal is to get people to make a reservation. Just like how the EXIT sign for Richard Tyler illuminated the way he needed to go, so too, can the “Book Now” button guide your prospective guests to your booking engine so they may arrive at the front desk to check-in. The various industries have different website layouts. Some of these are easy to navigate and others will make you feel like you are lost with no way out. The goal, however, is the same—get the customer from browsing to buying. When the “Book Now” Button is prominently displayed it gives the customer control by allowing him or her to continue their journey when they want to, and can become an effective tool in reminding them the way they need to go. “Book Now” buttons come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Pick the one that works best for your site. One basic principle is if customers don’t see it or it doesn’t call enough attention, they may have a difficult time navigating to your booking engine. Often, a great place for such a button is in the navigation bar; it keeps it out of the way, but constantly in sight. It makes it easy for someone who already knows the property well to simply find where to make a reservation. There is no one right way to do the “Book Now” button. There are many ways to do it incorrectly. Here are the top 5:
  1. Not have a “Book Now” button.
  2. Not having a “Book Now” button makes it incredibly difficult for a guest to navigate to the booking engine and quickly reserve a room or unit. Some websites will have a “Rooms” section as well as a “Rates” section. Some will have an “Ask About Availability” or a “Contact Us” section. All of these can be helpful to explain a little more about your property, but they might create an additional unnecessary step if the guest is returning to your website to make a reservation.
  3. Hiding the “Book Now” button.
  4. Displaying the “Book Now” button on only one section of one page, or placing it in a location where guests will not easily find it is less effective. If Richard Tyler’s EXIT sign was hidden behind a book or on the ground somewhere, he would never know where to go, and it would almost make more sense not to have it at all.
  5. Having the “Book Now” button lead to an OTA.
  6. The “Book Now” button needs to hook up to your online booking engine. Why direct them somewhere else and pay a commission when they are already at your website? It saves you money in the long run to have them book through your booking engine and it helps to create customer loyalty as they will return to your site instead of your Online Travel Agency’s site to book in the future.
  7. Having the “Book Now” button only work on one type of browser.
  8. Different browsers may require different coding. It’s a pain to go through but make sure it works with Internet Explorer/Edge, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. This includes making sure it is available on the mobile version of your site. In 2015, 1 in 4 bookings were made on mobile devices. As of 2017, around 40 percent of people book their travel on a mobile device, and it’s not slowing down. In just two years, that’s a growth of 60%! If your site and booking engine are not mobile-friendly, those customers may have a very difficult time navigating your site, and they may turn to an Online travel agency such or Expedia to make their purchase.
  9. Having the “Book Now” button lead to a Contact Us page.
  10. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. When people read “Book Now,” they expect that clicking this button will take them to a place to make the reservation. If it goes somewhere like a Contact Us page where they either have to submit an inquiry of availability or contact the property directly, it can be frustrating. “Why didn’t they just tell me to contact them in the first place?” These types of Contact Us pages cause further frustration if there is no availability.
Save yourself some time and put a “Book Now” button on every page to lead to your booking engine. If you have a book now button, see if it fits these five tips to improve your guests’ experience. It will save you time and money, and it will save your guests frustration and headache.
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