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Use of manipulative dark pattern techniques monitored by European Commission. How to build a website to increase booking sales legally?

The European Commission, together with the UOKiK (and other national authorities from the EU), has scrutinised online shops and booking sites for using messages and graphics in their interface that are designed to induce consumers to make a particular decision that is not necessarily in their best interests. Dark patterns can contribute to increased sales, but also loss of customer trust and penalties. How do you find the golden mean between an effective site that increases bookings and the guest's well-being?

Dark patterns - what are they?

With the development of the customer experience, web designers increasingly know the path of a particular customer's journey through the site. This provides opportunities to apply various techniques aimed at forcing a specific decision on the visitor that is beneficial to the platform. Some of the most common 'dark patterns' used by booking sites include putting pressure on the user. Forcing logins for discount opportunities, manipulating room availability information, the order in which guest reviews are presented, or unrealistic discounts or price alerts.

Similar techniques are applied to various consents on a website or newsletter. In this case, buttons of different sizes are most often presented - a large, colourful and inviting button is used to sign up or buy, as opposed to an opt-out option that is barely visible. Deceptive sentences based on negation are also used. The difference in wording is only in the location of the punctuation mark, e.g. 'no, I want to book' versus 'I don't want to book'. Appeals to emotion and guilt can also be exploited. An example of this might be the messages seen when trying to unsubscribe from a newsletter, where a message such as 'I'm unsubscribing and don't want to pay less' is placed next to the unsubscribe option.

European Commission and UOKiK in defence of consumer rights

The European Commission together with the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection conducted an audit which revealed that as many as 40 per cent of retailers use manipulative techniques on their websites. These include in particular: fake countdown timers, suggesting a particular choice or hiding important information for consumers. At this point, national authorities will contact traders where dark patterns have been detected and ask them to remove them. However, that is not all. The commission is already working on three directives to protect consumers.

How to effectively increase conversions without using manipulation?

A basic principle to follow when building a website's friendly UX is showing truthful information and using unambiguous messages. Creating artificial discounts or using vague wording will not inspire confidence in customers. Already in the first step, show the true number of rooms to be booked and the final price with all extras.

Be guided by the fact that the client should consciously tick the add-on or consent checkboxes rather than unchecking it. Show the components of the payment and the down payment required. Avoid messages that may be unclear to the visitor. Use buttons of the same size, using colours that make it easier to distinguish between actions. The logic of their placement should be the same throughout the booking process.

If a promotion is used, clearly show what was the previous price and how much is the reduction. You can list the lowest price as the main price, but remember that it must be selectable by the guest. Avoid introducing discounts that cannot be taken advantage of and those that will mislead the consumer. If the facility is unavailable, suggest other dates.

Take care also of:

  • intuitive steps,
  • convenient filtering,
  • secure payment process.

Simplicity and transparency are an effective, legitimate and trust-inspiring strategy. If you are unsure how to effectively guide a customer to a booking - trust professional systems like IdoBooking. We have a number of experienced UX designers, graphic designers and WebDevelopers who are up to date on all trends and converting sales activities.

Learn more about IdoBooking

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