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One of the most important areas to invest time into is developing the persuasive layer of your online experience and deliver more reasons for your visitors to do what you want them to do.

In fact, I see persuasion as being one of the next big battlegrounds online.

As more websites are upping their game around the fundamentals of good user experience and usability principles they’re looking for the next area of growth and to gain competitive advantage. 

One brand I’ve paid particular attention to since 2009 has been Booking.com. I previously wrote a piece back in October 2011 about the wide range of persuasive techniques used on its search results page.

Since then Booking.com has continually evolved and refined its online experience, adding in new features, functionality and in particular using even more persuasive techniques.

In this article, which is the first in a series,  I’ve highlighted many of these newer features and provided tips and advice on how to apply these techniques to your business. 


Social proof demonstrating most recent bookings

On the right-hand side of the homepage Booking.com dedicate a full section to showcasing recent bookings from other visitors.

As you will see throughout the online experience, showcasing social proof is a hugely influential technique that Booking.com use and it starts with the homepage.



If you aren’t yet using social proof to provide credibility to your service or products, test introducing voice of customer insights onto your homepage.

Clarity of what you are here to do

One thing is absolutely clear, when you arrive on the Booking.com homepage, you are here to search for hotels.

The big, prominent and quite simple search area shouts out 'start here' to the visit from the moment they land on this page.


If you could get visitors to do one thing from your homepage, what would this be? How clear is this currently on your homepage?

Re-assess the prominence of content and calls to action on your homepage to see whether you can get a higher percentage of visitors doing the one thing you would love them to do.

Clarity of the proposition under the primary search title 

Booking.com recognises the opportunity to provide a simple succinct brand proposition message directly under the search title.

Straight away, visitors get a clear understanding of the volume of hotels available and the range of accommodation types. Not too bad in one short sentence.


Consider adding in a short one liner under your primary page title which provides visitors with an immediate understanding of your proposition and why they are in the right place.

Answering primary user questions in a prominent place 

Under the search facility Booking.com has chosen to present visitors with one USP (accompanied by the simple but highly effective tick to demonstrate this is a positive statement) which aims to address two primary visitor questions:

  • When will payment come out?
  • What if I want to cancel?


You’ll no doubt have a range of unique selling points that you would like to put in front of your visitors.

Using both qualitative and quantitative research you’ll be able to get an understanding of which of your USPs resonate most with either first time or returning customers.

The next step is to split test the messages which appear to resonate most with visitors through your research, with the aim of identifying the one USP message that has the biggest impact on your conversion rate.

Providing a large area dedicated to promoting their USPs 

In addition to highlighting one primary USP under the search facility, Booking.com also features a whole area dedicated to its key benefits, and even heads up this area with the title “Why use Booking.com?”. 

Looking down the list of benefits really does feel like the site is tackling all the major areas that visitors may have questions on.


Look at your top five most popular pages on your website and ask the question “how well (or not) are we communicating our USP’s to visitors?”.

I rarely see online experiences where the business has chosen to dedicate a significant amount of their homepage to showcasing a list of their primary USPs.

Often brands appear a bit shy in shouting about some of the reasons why customers choose to use them and not one of their competitors. Don’t be one of these businesses!

Recognising the credibility that comes from external review sources 

As you go further into the site it’s clear that Booking.com has invested significantly in gaining customer reviews on a per hotel basis.

In fact, it probably has the largest volume of customer reviews that I have ever come across. Well, apart from Ebay seller reviews!

This is of course fantastic, influential persuasive content, but Booking.com also recognises the importance of providing visitors with independent review scores, in their case from review centre.


Are there independent review sources that you can you use within your online experience to provide some impartiality around customer feedback on your business, products and service?

If there is, test using this content, including the logo of the review source to enhance visual recognition.

Search results

My original article back in 2011 looked in detail at the wide range of persuasive techniques that Booking.com uses on the search results page.

Below I have listed out some of the primary additions it has made since then which are providing more reasons for visitors to consider making their booking here rather than on a competitor’s website.

A demonstration of the volume of rooms reserved for this date and location

On most search results pages you now get a panel which says what volume of rooms have already been reserved in this location on your chosen dates.

Depending on the user’s state, this can either provide social proof of the popularity for the area which they are looking at or a sense of urgency by showing how few hotel rooms are left , not that Booking.com is shy in trying to encourage visitors to act already!


Is there a key metric or usage-insights around your service or website which you can bring to the surface to act as a form of social proof or show scarcity?

If there is, test introducing some content which displays this information to see if it has a positive impact on your primary conversion metric. 

Visibility of how popular hotels are with other visitors

Another new addition to the search results pages is (another) icon, this time a cute little heart.

The inquisitive part of me wondered what this meant so I swiftly moved my mouse cursor over the icon to see what the heart and number was demonstrating.

As it turns out, it shows how many people have added the property to their wish list. Another tick in the social proof techniques box.


Look beyond simply providing a list of popular products or “Top 10 most viewed items”.

On a product by product basis are there any purchase or intent to purchase numbers which you can bring to the surface to demonstrate the popularity of certain items?

ASOS would be a prime candidate for this with its highly prominent and integral 'my saved items' feature. Having heard first hand that “we have literally hundreds of thousands of saves a day” perhaps using this data to demonstrate which are the real on trend or popular products would be interesting to test.

The ability for visual filtering                                                  

Visual filtering techniques on product listing and search results pages, is one that I’ve only really seen ASOS provide (for quite a long time too, kudos).

It gives visitors the option to 'hide this brand' so if you’re browsing through lots of products, rather than only being able to filter which brands you would like to see, visitors can choose to hide certain brands they aren’t interested in.

Quite recently Booking.com has started providing visitors with the ability to hide certain hotels that you aren’t interested in. I can see this being a particularly popular technique more for 'power users' who spend a significant amount of time browsing, filtering and sorting hotels to get exactly what they’re looking for.

I’ve been there myself, keep seeing a hotel in search results that I know I would never book for one or many reasons.


If your website provides visitors with lots of choice consider techniques beyond the standard filtering experience which can empower users and give them control over the content or products they are presented with and have a greater chance of finding what they want.

Image gallery exploration at an early stage

Another key feature that Booking.com has introduced is the ability for visitors to cycle through hotel images whilst still on the search results page.

Quite a few retailers are now adopting this approach, providing visitors with a richer understanding of the product or service, without having to click through to the product page and then back to the search results.

There are a number of ways to use this technique; whether using quick view overlays or simple image changes as users hover over a product image.


If your website provides visitors with lots of choices, consider using this technique to allow users to have more control over the filtering processes with the addition of images on the search results page.

Hotel detail page and the booking process

In my next article I will be providing a detailed review of the persuasive techniques used by Booking.com on both the hotel detail page and within the all-important booking process.

Questions for you

  • What persuasive techniques do you use to encourage visitors to take action and why?
  • Which other websites do you feel could have the title of “the most persuasive website in the world?”
  • How much is too much when it comes to using persuasion techniques? Do you feel that Booking.com are trying too hard to persuade people to book with them?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, and please do add your comments. Also don’t forget to look out for part two in May…

Our Festival of Marketing event in November is a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more. 

Paul Rouke

Published 10 April, 2014 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

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Comments (17)

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Tim Tiernan

Firstly, I must admit, I've used Booking.com recently even though there were other, cheaper sites!

From a professional perspective, I really respect that they are trying to get as many people down their funnels as possible, but from a personal perspective I really wish they didn't try so hard. I'm of the (somewhat mis-guided?) belief that there should be some subtlety in online experiences and it feels like Booking.com are pushing too hard.

If you offer the best rates, the best service and the best overall experience then you don't need to keep poking me with a stick to make a purchase with you, I'll do it naturally anyway!

over 2 years ago


John Roberts, Marketing Director at Oil and Gas Job Search

Booking.com is the best hotel booking site I have ever used and I travel a lot, both on business and for pleasure. I don't think I've used another site for over 6 years.

What really dragged me in was the fast, powerful filtering that felt so natural to use at a time when nowhere else was doing it.

over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Tim - thanks for your comments. You're raised a really going which is one that I'm planning to explore in part 2 regarding whether you can push too hard to encourage people not to procrastinate.

I've booked a hotel on here twice in the last 3 weeks, and interestingly they were two quite different experiences from a "ok you are trying too hard to make me book now" point of view. I can pretty much guarantee that they will be testing which amount and which location of dynamic little pop up messages that appear within the actual booking process, as I have had 2 very different levels of exposure to this. Let's just say the extreme case I spent more time reading the next dynamic message than I did filling in my details. Well almost!

Thanks again for raising a valid point and area for discussion.

over 2 years ago


James Young

It's impossible to say since they don't appear to publish (or at least you don't refer to any) actual reporting of how successful all the things you mention in your article are.

I'd guess it's a pretty efficient site and I know they have a great design and dev team but I'm not sure you can make any calls based on this article.


over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@John - thanks for adding your comments. Quite a glowing testimonial for them! You're right about the filtering experience they deliver, very quick, intuitive, powerful, useful and it just works, well. It still surprises me how many retailers have sub par filtering experiences. Just today I've been observing moderated user testing sessions for a range of furniture retailers and there are some real howlers being committed, still in 2014.

Ah well onwards and upwards I guess!

over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@James - thanks for your comments. You are right in thinking that myself personally doesn't have any figures on how commercially successful the variety of persuasive techniques are for booking.com. What I do know is that they have a wide of UX driven people within their business including behavioural experts and data scientists, and that they do plenty of A/B and MVT testing. So I deduce from this that the techniques they are using have been proven to be highly succesful from a commercial sense.

What I have tried to do in this article is provide tips for other businesses to consider and test out themselves. Hopefully there could be a few hidden gems in the article somewhere :-)

over 2 years ago



Yes, booking.com is good and I have used them. But I find a good experience and better rates most times through directrooms.com that includes total price. I like knowing the total price upfront.

over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Traveler - thanks for your comment. I'm not sure I follow you here, transparency of pricing is as good as you can get on booking.com - then even dynamically generate the text on the button you click to confirm your booking with the price you are going to pay - which for the record is the same price as you see on the search results page.

Perhaps you just has some reason to promote another hotel booking site perhaps!

over 2 years ago


Laura Player

Whilst the articles main focus was on the persuasive call to actions employed by booking.com it also makes for a great usability experience. When looking at web accessibility, digital inclusion covers the usability also, for those not confident in using websites, looking on multiple devices or with print disabilities (dyslexia, second language) all of the continued support tips, advice create a clear user journey and continued reassurance to the customer they are booking correctly, which ultimately delivers more completed transactions.

over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Laura - thanks very much for your comments. You make a really good point about the use of continued support tips and advice during the user journey. For users with a mouse, simple things like messages as you hover over the primary call to action buttons not only provide a persuasive nudge but they also provide transparency about what will happen next.

They are also one of the few websites I have come across which dynamically change the content of the primary booking button with the actual cost of your booking - 100% transparency and clarity in one.

over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Paul

Great post, always enjoy your blogs.

Re homepage persuasion, i really like how AO.com has evolved and social proof is a key message. It sits well with a pureplay as they don't have the offline brand heritage of a brand like Currys, so social proof helps validate their service quality and popularity.


over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@James - thanks for the feedback on the article, much appreciated..

AO.com is certainly a fantastic example of a pureplay retailer using different persuasive techniques to encourage the sale, including as you say a really big focus on social proof. Having just taken a look now I see they have recently moved up their USP graphics and information from under the primary navigation to now right next to their logo in the header. Search also looks more prominent compared to when it was a grey filled in box.

Maybe Matthew Lawson would like to share some insights from testing that they have been doing on the location and display of persuasive content - I'll ask him!

over 2 years ago

Matthew Lawson

Matthew Lawson, eCommerce Director at loveholidays.com

@Paul your observation is correct. We've changed our top nav to be closer to our brand.

What was great this was driven from MVT testing rather than the "Brand Police". As I say, if its right for your customers is right for your brand.

We've saved 60 pixels awesome, we grown people using on site search and as a whole the site works better.

In regards to social proof, my only point is, its powerful when its true and add value to the customer. I have seen attempts where they have tried to use it to force the conversion making me skeptical and in parts feel they may be telling me lies.

over 2 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Matthew - thanks very much for the insights and great to hear about how you have also been shifting user behaviour so more visitors are using your excellent suggestive search facility.

You make a great point about authenticity and transparency around social proof - I too have seen attempts which don't deliver on either of these points, and visitor reaction has typically been one of not believing what is being said.

Anyway, keep up the great work at AO.com!

over 2 years ago


Ken Munn, Principal at Write

Persuasive, maybe.

Intrusive, certainly.

To the extent that I've now actioned a junk mail filter to stop confetti from Booking.com getting into my inbox.

over 2 years ago



They have a great sales strategy, I recently blogged about it too. However, they do need to work on their email marketing strategy - I get emails maybe 2-3 times a week (feels like more) telling me about great deals in San Antonio, Texas (where I stayed for a week on holiday last year) that I NEVER click on or open. Why do they keep sending exactly the same emails? Surely they know that I am not interested. It would be more appropriate for them to send holiday suggestions and cheap breaks in Europe/UK as I am more than happy to look for new destinations to stay in...

over 2 years ago


Jack Jarvis, Owner at The Website Review Company

@paul I think Booking.com have it spot on as their product by nature is time sensitive (the hotel will still be there but the room may not on the day you need). Flight companies have this strategy nailed also.

What would be interesting as a follow up article would be on any product based ecommerce sites and what they can do to 'push' the transaction.

I have promoted this type of activity to many of my clients, but many are skeptical, so it would be good to see any larger companies employing this strategy (UK examples even better).

over 2 years ago

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