Google has strongly burst onto the hotel-transaction scene via its Book on Google (BoG) interface, awakening plenty of curiosity and questions about the real interest Google has with this movement. At first, it presents many similarities in regards to the twist carried out by TripAdvisor with Instant Booking. However, at the same time, it’s very different.
What is Book on Google?
It is a booking system or interface that Google provides in order for users to complete their booking without leaving Google instead of redirecting them to the hotel’s or OTA’s website. You can find more about what it is and how it looks like in “What is Book on Google and how does the client see it?”
Is it a feature reserved for hotels or can OTAs also participate?
It’s available for both hotels and OTAs. Here’s an example of a hotel and an OTA using Book on Google.
What does Google want with Book on Google?
The goal is to improve the user experience, especially on mobile devices, where the jump to the OTA or hotel website results in losing clients due to bad adaptation or slow response times. With this change, and always according to Google, they achieve an increase in conversion, therefore getting to a win-win situation for both client and hotel (and of course Google too).
It follows the same reasoning Tripadvisor logically exposed when launching Instant Booking.
However, one could argue two additional interests that Google hasn’t disclosed but that are clearly there:
- Gaining access to millions of new data that it previously didn’t have, such as client behaviour during the booking, most popular room types, most popular payment methods, additional requests made by the client during the booking or frequent travellers and their destinations. Google, as a natural leader of big data, could use this data and increase its already immense knowledge of its users.
- Coming full circle and keeping the client during all stages of his service cycle: inspiration > search > comparison > booking > share and start again. In other words, “why leave Google if I can do it all on here?”.
Lastly is the eternal question of, “what will Google do in 2, 3 or 5 years? Will it still want to provide bookings or will it change its strategy?
What markets Book on Google is available in?
It is launched worldwide (all OTA and hotels can use it) although only the US and UK markets have access to it. It’s expected to be launched worldwide in the upcoming months.
Is Book on Google the same as Google Hotel Ads?
No. Google Hotel Ads is the platform that allows OTA and hotels to put their stock and prices in the different showcases that Google offers (searches, maps, Google destinations, etc.).
Book on Google is an option that OTA and hotels have at their disposal in their Google Hotel Ads campaigns. You can choose to activate it or not.
Where does Book on Google get its stock and prices?
From third parties that do have stock: OTA, wholesalers, tour operators or from the hotels themselves (chains and independent) that are participating in Google Hotel Ads (GHA). If you don’t participate in Google Hotel Ads, you won’t be able to activate Book on Google for your hotel.
How does my hotel receive a booking that comes in through Book on Google?
Your hotel will receive a confirmation from whoever you have given your stock to, whether it’s an OTA or your own direct channel. You won’t receive confirmations from Google itself. The provider may inform you of the booking’s origin, something that’s not usual for OTAs since it would reveal the source of their bookings, something which they’re not interested in doing.
How does the client receive a booking made via Book on Google?
The user receives two emails: one from Google Travel and the other from the hotel itself. It’s slightly confusing (due to the duplicity) for the user since it’s a single booking. There is an example in the post “What is Book on Google and how does the client see it?” (LINK to the earlier post). Here’s an extract of the email that the client receives from Google.
How do I connect my direct sales to Book on Google?
To activate Book on Google you need to participate in the Google Hotel Ads programme, whether it’s in the CPC or CPA mode. Therefore, the first requirement is to work with a partner that is integrated with Google Hotel Ads.
You also need your partner to have additional integration, this time with Book on Google, as well as having the PCI DSS security certificate. Since it’s in an initial phase, there are very few partners with working integration. At Mirai we are working to connect with Book on Google as soon as that option becomes available.
How much does Book on Google cost? Is it a CPC or CPA (commission) model?
Although this may sound strange, Book on Google is free. In other words, it has “no additional cost”.
Since it has the requirement of participating in the Google Hotel Ads programme, it does come with that cost, whether it’s CPC or CPA mode. Only once you’re in Hotel Ads can you activate Book on Google and it won’t come at any additional cost unless your integrated partner charges you for it (but still, this cost would not come from Google).
An idea that reinforces the gratuity of Book on Google is that Google is planning to allow you to use it on the hotel websites without charging anything for it.
Can I participate in Google Hotel Ads without using Book on Google?
Of course. Book on Google is an option that Google offers OTAs and the hotel to improve their clients’ experience and, therefore, increase conversion. Using it or not is the OTA’s or the hotel’s choice.
If I decide to use Book on Google, who does the client that is making the booking on it belong to?
There’s plenty of debate here and different opinions. I would be inclined to think that he’s a client of both rather than a client of just one of them.
Why the client is Google’s:
- Although his intention was to book on the hotel website (as you can see in the example below), the truth of the matter is that he’s booking on a Google screen and giving his details to them
- To manage his booking or to cancel it, he could be tempted to go to Google, which is where he made the booking
- If he’s happy with the experience, the client will be loyal to Google for his future bookings
Why the client is the hotel’s:
- Google gives the client’s details to the hotel, so they can contact him whenever they want without restrictions.
- By having the client’s details, the hotel can try to build loyalty, suggest upgrades or any other additional information of interest.
- The confirmation email is sent by the hotel and it can show the corporate image and other elements that identify that he’s dealing with the hotel directly.
Should I consider the bookings from Book on Google as direct sales?
Just like with TripAdvisor Instant Booking, there’s plenty of fuss with this issue and there are all kinds of views on it.
On one hand, it is direct sales since the client is yours (you have his details) and you can build loyalty. However, it’s not as direct as a booking on your website, since the client booked on Google and he might not be aware that it is a direct deal with the hotel and he might be using Google in the same way he’d use an OTA.
Should I participate in Book on Google when it becomes available?
This isn’t an easy answer and it will depend on the importance that you give to these two variables:
- Profitability. If, as Google says, it increases conversion, your campaigns on Google Hotel Ads will improve their return immediately and you’ll make more money.
- Independency. This is a direct sale but not as direct as through your website. Even if you made more money (something still to be confirmed), the fact that the client booked on a website that’s not your hotel’s is conceptually negative, since it distances you from the client.
Think about it and make the decision you think is best for your hotel. In any case, it’s right to try all novelties that you may profit from and this is one of them.
For some hotels, these additional reasons below may condition their decision and it would be good to know them.
- Book on Google has the same image and design for all hotels. Therefore, if you are worried about not having your hotel’s corporate image during the booking process, you won’t feel comfortable using it.
- Thus far, Book on Google cannot be personalised, so if you ask your clients for additional information during the booking (company name, details to generate an invoice, bed preference, arrival time), you would lose them with Book on Google.
- Payment methods. If you accept additional payment methods other than credit card guarantee, such as PayPal or bank transfer, or even accept the booking without card details, once again you would lose this feature with Book on Google.
- If you have a customer loyalty programme where the client logs in to access better prices or to personalise his booking, that can’t be done on Book on Google (for now at least).