Is Your Booking Fee Leading to Cart Abandonment?

May 23, 2019, Kyla Steeves
Travelers abandoning a booking because of a booking fee.

Picture this. A website visitor scans your booking page until finding something they want to experience. But after checking availability, completing booking steps, and making it to checkout, they end up abandoning the cart. Why would they change their mind at the last minute?

According to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate for online shopping is 69.57%. Of that, 55% say it’s because of the high additional costs — such as shipping, taxes, or fees. So if your online booking system adds a charge to the total price, odds are, a large chunk of your visitors won’t follow through.

You’ve got to ask yourself then — is your free booking software letting you down? Does a booking fee prevent your tour and activity business from reaching its full potential? Let’s break down the numbers to find out.

How much revenue you give up with a booking fee

For this example, we’re going to say you get about 250 bookings per month at the average price of $100. That’s a monthly revenue of $25,000 — a healthy and respectable number. By applying the above stats, however; it’s only 30.43% of what you could be selling.

Thanks to cart abandonment, you might be missing out on another $57,155 every month — which turns out to be $31,435 because of an extra booking fee. Take a look at this chart for a better idea of the lost revenue:

Booking abandonment breakdown.

There are perhaps other reasons why a visitor drops off — like a complicated booking process or website errors. That’s why it’s best to track cart abandonment in Google Analytics and identify common points of friction. But for the most part, it comes down to sticker shock.

Usually, consumers — or travel shoppers — start with a price in mind. When they choose an experience based on that, and see a higher total at checkout, of course, they think twice about booking. For myself, I’ve skipped over Airbnb rentals countless times because of an outrageous cleaning fee.

While you may brush off cart abandonment as unavoidable, it’s something you shouldn’t ignore if you want to grow your tour and activity business. And I’m guessing that’s one of your primary goals. Otherwise, you wouldn’t try to get more online bookings in the first place.

You win website visitors, only to lose them at checkout

Think of everything you do, every dollar that you spend, to drive website traffic and interest. Does any of this sound familiar?

  1. You have a professional, mobile-optimized website
  2. You pay for online advertising — Google Ads, Facebook, and more
  3. You create a profile on many local listing sites
  4. You offer promotions and discounts, regularly
  5. You generate buzz with Facebook contests
  6. You partner with Instagram Influencers to gain exposure
  7. You apply SEO basics to your website
  8. You pitch feature articles to relevant online publications
  9. You work with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs)
  10. You have a strong social media presence
  11. You promote seasonal gift certificates
  12. You run successful email marketing campaigns

Even if you check off half of the above strategies, you put a fair amount of time and money into marketing. You may gain a high volume of visitors as a result, but what matters more is whether or not they become guests.

Again, your booking fee can block this from happening — a high cart abandonment rate also means a low website conversion rate. That is to say; you don’t get as many bookings as you should for what you lay down. So really, your free booking software hurts your marketing ROI rather than helps.

How do you justify going to all that effort to capture visitors, only to squander it at checkout? And worse, give your competitors a chance to land them instead?

Giving up long-term business to your competitors

What do you think your prospects do if they decide not to book with you? They don’t just give up and say, “looks like I’m not going zip lining.” No, they seek out other options instead. Unless you’re the only one in the area offering that experience, they likely go with the better deal in the end.

For a highly competitive market — such as axe throwing or escape rooms — this could be detrimental to your business. With plenty of providers to compare, it’s easy for travel shoppers to be picky. So anything like a pesky booking fee will act as a point against you.

On top of that, your bookings aren’t always one and done sales. While you may attract some travelers, you probably get a lot of locals, too. And here’s the thing — locals come back, whether it’s for a birthday, bachelorette party, or to hang out with friends.  

As you know, repeat business is just as important as new business — if not more. It’s difficult and expensive to acquire new guests whereas current customers already know your brand, and that you deliver an incredible experience.

But if they don’t like paying the booking fee every time, they’ll eventually turn to a provider that doesn’t charge one. Rather than stay loyal to you, they’ll book with them — again and again. You shouldn’t let that happen.

How to fight cart abandonment due to booking fees

There are two options for reducing cart abandonment due to booking fees:

  1. Retarget abandoners with tailored ads, or
  2. Eliminate the booking fee altogether

You can definitely test the former, but often, retargeting is more annoying than motivating. So why make a bad impression after your booking fee already did that? Plus, your online booking system should lessen your workload, not add more to your plate.

Alternatively, by choosing an online booking system that doesn’t charge a commission, you can never let a booking fee be the reason for cart abandonment again. Luckily, you’re in the right place.

Checkfront is always commission-free, and comes with other amazing tools to grow your business.

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Related Articles: Is Your Booking Software Company Really There For You? | Why Google is the Best Review Platform for Tour Operators | How to Team Up With Local Tour Operators and Thrive | Are Your Guests Craving Hyper-Personalization? | Why Digital Waivers Are a Must-Have For Your Business | What Solo Travelers Want for In-Destination Experiences |

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