An Update – Venue Search Insights for Winter 20/21

Written by Emma Hla
Image by Kevin Mueller.
“It is still cold, we are still in winter, but the thaw is beginning”

I didn’t write that, I’ve just read it whilst sipping my first coffee of the day and reading the Neptune Stories Volume 13 magazine dreaming of a new kitchen. But I think it perfectly sums up our current state. The fire fighting continues, the not knowing or being able to give answers is weighing heavy, but we know there is a light and hope to hold onto.

I recently hopped onto the Hostology webinars with some insights into the venue search right now and how newly-engaged couple’s are reacting to the ongoing situation.

We last did a search insights update in the autumn, so now with the peak festive season just behind us, I thought it would be a good time to share some reflections.

Engagement SEASON

The increase for new enquiries over the festive season was amazing and we certainly saw a bigger engagement season than the 2019/20 period. This could be a mixture of the usual increase of engagements at this time of year, plus the pent-up demand from summer couples who didn’t feel they could move forward with their planning over the autumn.

To give you a stat overview for the Christmas period (26th Dec 20 – 3rd Jan 21) we saw:

  • a +5% increase in users
  • +57% increase in events (actions taken on our website)
  • +99% Venue Finder engagement
  • +39% web referrals
  • and +14% direct messages vs. the same period for 19/20

Current Confidence

Step into January and our traffic has levelled to January 2020 numbers, and considering at this point Covid wasn’t a threat to our everyday life, it’s a positive place to be sitting.

However, we can pin point the exact day traffic dropped momentarily and, as always, it’s linked to big government announcements. On the 4th January, lockdown 3.0 was announced and couples are very much stopped in their tracks when big events like this happen. It takes a few weeks to settle and then confidence returns for a while.

Obviously, a big factor for venue searching is viewing, and couple’s (despite virtual viewings on offer) may feel they can’t move forward/enquire/book right now.

Virtual viewings were very popular across late spring and early summer last year and I know many venues had great success with this. So I truly believe venues still need to be offering it and encouraging it. You can read a feature dedicated to the virtual viewing here.

Couple’s venue hunting right now will also be seeing things from the last 10 months that might feel a little unsettling – postponed weddings, unhappy couples, a devasted industry and of course some venues not surviving. This can be seen across social media, a key place they check out venues and suppliers.

Whilst I think it’s important to be authentic in the current situation, and vital to support campaigns, industry voices and of course the many couples who have had to postpone their dream days, we also need to be conscious of new couples coming through who feel happy, excited and hopeful.

Our focus over the last two months has been guiding these newly-engaged folks along and trying to keep the excitement, positivity, and confidence up so future bookings can be made. We want couples to still feel all the feels having just got engaged!

One of our first planning features of 2021 was ‘How to Plan a Wedding with Confidence During a Pandemic‘ which was well received by couples and industry alike.

During this lockdown, we have also encouraged our members to make it clear on third-party listings and websites you are available for enquiries and are hosting virtual appointments. It’s important couples know you’re there.

If we look at things now, 4th Jan – 2nd Feb 2021 vs. the same period last year, our engagement on the Venue Finder is +52% and web referrals are +12%, but direct messages are slightly down. This indicates couples are looking, are highly engaged, but not necessarily confident in moving forward.

How can you help them make that next step?

I know many venues are also offering a lower deposit which is fully refundable (no quibbles!) should the couple visit in person post-lockdown and it’s not quite right. If you are still ‘the one’ after an in-person visit then the remaining deposit is paid.

If you are offering ‘Book with Confidence’ terms then do let us know and we can communicate this on your listing.

The Venue Search

WHAT ARE COUPLES SEARCHING FOR?

We’ve reviewed our analytics for peak engagement season and January and we thought it might be useful to share what our couples are currently searching for.

I’ll break this down into venue types, area and capacity.

Types

Our top 10 searches each month are usually the same, but we’ve definitely seen a little switch since Christmas with some new entries into the top 10.

The biggest search right now is still Elopements.

Followed by:

  • Church On-site
  • Orangery
  • Woodland
  • Land
  • Country House
  • Barn
  • Town Hall
  • Industrial
  • Creative Space

Country House (+151% on LY) and Barn (+142%) are new for this period and have entered the top 10 venue types. For most of 2020 anything outdoor related was huge – outdoor ceremonies, gardens, woodland, beach, marquee and tipi options. But these are settling now and we’re seeing other indoor venues coming through in top searches, suggesting a move away from the influence of covid.

Area

In terms of areas, we’re still seeing rural areas such as Devon, Cotswolds, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Scotland with big increases. Whereas key cities like London are down by approx. 25% in terms of search volume. To compare, Devon alone is +700% on the previous year.

This suggests there is an element of seeking rural locations, fresh air and retreat spaces for longer celebratory stays with friends and family.

Capacity

For 2020, Intimate (20-40) and Elopement (2-20) were our biggest capacity searches. For the period since Christmas this has switched to Elopement (2-20), Simple (40-60) and Party is back in the game (60-150)!

We have been waiting for Party to enter the venue search once again, because this does indicate a confidence for higher guest numbers.

When are couples looking to book?

  • 75% of the couples on our platform are enquiring for 2022 and beyond
  • ¼ are considering 2021
  • 12% are 2023 and beyond

Avg. guest numbers for 2021 enquiries is sitting at 61, and falls within the ‘Simple’ capacity that we’re seeing an increase for.

When couples were looking for 2021 last September, this avg. guest number was 90, so expectations have been adjusted for those wanting to book a wedding in 2021.

When we get to 2022 the avg. guest number is 112, so it’s firmly in the ‘Party’ bracket and larger weddings are being planned.

Marketing Tips

Things to do right now

As our hibernation continues, we do encourage a continuation of your marketing, As we’ve said from the beginning, being visible is very important right now.

  • Check your listings to ensure everything is up to date – website URLs, email addresses, telephone numbers. All the basics.
  • Does your copy tell your story.
  • Do you have new offers or packages created around the current situation.
  • Do you have late availability dates to fill.
  • Do you have features booked into the affiliated blogs.
  • Are you maximising elements on your listings such as virtual tours and covid-statements?
  • Do you have the very best images + films representing your venue.
  • Do you have testimonials – include current Covid-weddings to show you’re open, active and taking bookings and couples are thrilled with your service and their day.
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