Ms. Jenkins

Website / Online Mechandising / SEO

Ten Powerful Secrets to Improve the Web Site Experience

By Cid Jenkins, Vice President, ATG's eStara

Below, I offer ten strategic secrets to help improve the customer experience for visitors to your Web site, and thus grow online bookings and increase your ability to strengthen longer term customer loyalty.

1. Be booker-friendly

Simply having a static Web site for your hotel is not enough. Your Web site needs to be able to easily handle online bookings for your guests. Both business and leisure travelers are looking to go to your Web site and quickly find what they are looking for. When a guest turns to your Web site, reservation information (including pricing rates, accommodations and any upcoming deals or promotions) should be readily available (and easily searched).

In the event that either a leisure or business traveler is pressed for time, you don't want to risk losing a guest because she can't quickly book her trip. Remember, the competition is just a click away.

2. Let your guests give back

Shoppers and travelers alike are increasingly influenced by hotel reviews and comments from their peers. Giving your guests the option to post reviews and / or comments to your Web site about their experience at your hotel allows your guests to form a community around your brand. It also gives your management team insight into issues that might require attention, and provides an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction by acting on and responding to customer feedback.

3. Streamline your brand on and offline

When a guest steps into your hotel, he should immediately feel a sense of comfort and brand recognition. He has the experience he expected and desired. When that same guest logs on to your hotel's Web page, he should get that same feeling. Paying close attention to the details makes a difference, whether it's something as simple as making sure the color palette on your site matches your physical property; or as complex as adding interactive features that mirror a culture of high-energy service commitment that exists at your actual property. Think about what separates your brand from that of your competition offline. Then figure out a way to represent that differentiation across all of your customer touchpoints.

4. Make your site feel friendly

Booking travel reservations can be a tricky process, and online travelers typically abandon Web sites when faced with pricing or technical support issues. This means that your Web site should be extremely user-friendly. Your hotel Web site should quickly highlight any current promotions you are running, and each page should have links and prompts that guide a visitor through the booking process. "Click here to learn more about our amenities" isn't enough anymore - instead, use descriptive language and dynamic content that caters to each customer's preferences and patterns.

5. Offer human interaction

In the event that your guest faces hesitation when booking her reservation, or perhaps has a question about check-in time, you want to make it as easy as possible to supply the information she needs, so she can complete the reservation. Click to call and click to chat features are being implemented on many hotel Web sites, not only to provide an easy way to engage with your guests and answer any questions that arise, but also to help reduce Web site abandonment, increase online bookings completion, and improve customer loyalty.

Red Lion Hotels, for instance, has implemented click to call on its Web site. Since adding this feature, it has found that 13 percent of customers surveyed would have abandoned their transaction without the availability of the click to call service. Also, 62 percent of survey respondents said click to call improved or drastically improved their Web site experience. Nearly 70 percent said click to call was easier to use versus alternative contact methods such as e-mail or toll-free telephone numbers. Not only did customers using click to call find the answer to their question and complete their bookings more often, but Red Lion successfully fostered a perception that they were going out of their way to help each visitor. That kind of impression can stay with a traveler for a long time, leading to return visits and word of mouth endorsements to friends and family.

6. Listen to feedback

Whether you're giving your guests the opportunity to directly engage with a hotel representative via click to call or click to chat, or responding to inquiries via e-mail, toll-free numbers, and Web submission forms, the fact remains that interaction with customers offers incredible insight into travelers' views of your Web site and your overall brand. Visitors to your hotel Web site are vital resources who can give you feedback, which you must take into consideration.

By tapping into your guests for feedback, you can gain a clear understanding of their preferences, including what types of services or promotions they browse, their frequency of booking trips, what searches they run, or what type of questions they often ask. You can identify any problems that people are having on your Web site and address those issues so they are satisfied when they return. Listening to your guests' feedback can inspire ideas on how to improve the customer experience both on and offline.

7. Entice visitors with multimedia

To help turn online lookers into bookers, make sure the images represented on your Web site are up to date and up to par. In addition to viewing images of hotel rooms, many travelers want to see details of the hotel. This includes images of your lobby, pool area, and the hotel exterior. Often, out-of-town guests are interested in seeing the area surrounding your hotel. To be sure your guests aren't surprised when they arrive at your property, make sure your Web site showcases recent images of your hotel and the surrounding area. Consider also adding video clips, virtual tours, and zoom features to really showcase all you have to offer to each guest.

8. Be ready for tomorrow

As I mentioned, it is imperative to listen to the feedback from Web site visitors. When interacting with your guests both on and offline, you should be conscious of what your guests are looking to get from your hotel for their latest trip and in future trips. You should have a strong understanding of what a typical leisure and business guest is for you. Are they up to par with the latest social media trends? Are they more of a technology laggard? Your connection to your guests should surpass the typical online Web site visit. If you are able to understand your guests and connect to them based on their preferences, you are sure to establish a strong following of brand loyalists.

9. Go where your guests are

Consider building a presence on different social networking sites and travel communities. Be sure to provide ample links to lure guests back to your Web site. Remember, interaction on these sites should be a complement to your online strategy, not a distraction.

10. Set goals

When implementing these tactics, it is important to set realistic and measurable results for your hotel's Web site. For example, if you are looking to reduce booking abandonment through the use of live interaction on your Web site, set a specific metric that is both reasonable and feasible. The travel industry has undergone significant changes this past year, so there are a number of variables to consider when setting your goals. Take into account what pages are getting viewed the most, popular seasonality for your hotel, travelers' spending habits and behavior, or even when your guests have demonstrated a preference for interacting with live hotel agents (Is it a certain time of day or when browsing a certain page?). Then focus your efforts on a set of specific tactics and regularly evaluate whether they're having an impact.** **

What happens next?

The Internet presents travelers with unlimited resources to explore pricing and accommodations, compare options, review destinations, and get the inside scoop on what your hotel has to offer. Offering your guests the ultimate online experience is the key to factor to keeping your guests coming back for more. Consider implementing as many of these tips as apply to your business, and you'll surely improve your hotel's Web site experience and propel your online sales to new heights.

Cid Jenkins oversees strategic sales initiatives. For nearly a decade, Ms. Jenkins has been instrumental in developing eStara’s strategy in the travel and hospitality market while garnering extensive experience driving revenue for eStara's partners, which include companies like Continental Airlines, Hotels.com, Red Lion Hotels and Starwood. Ms. Jenkins' career began as Director of Business Development at GraciasDoctor.com. Her international business knowledge started at the Consulate General of Chile and International Sleep Products Assocation. Ms. Jenkins can be contacted at 703-648-8296 or cid.jenkins@estara.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

JANUARY: Mobile Technology: A Permanent Sense of Immediacy

Michael P. O'Day

For many hotel guests, the most appealing hotels are the properties that offer instant connectivity with the bandwidth capable of supporting multiple devices. As our need for faster speeds and higher quality content continues to grow, hotel guests now expect uninterrupted service putting more pressure on hotel IT building designs. As more and more guests shift to the “always connected” mindset, hotels must be able to deploy technology solutions with minimum downtimes that can grow with the increasing dependence on mobility. Hoteliers must now meet today's guest technology expectations while preparing for tomorrow by installing an infrastructure in which the bandwidth and technology can be expanded as the need arises. READ MORE

Terence Ronson

There’s only one way to view this – we live in a mobile world. Almost any consumer product or service developed today, is most likely created with a mind-set that one day it will somehow be used in a mobile manner. Consigned to oblivion are the days when we need to return to a desk to do email, go to a fixed line to make a phone call, plug into a network port for internet connectivity, have a hard-wired antenna to watch TV, or wear a wired headset to listen to music. READ MORE

Scott Schaedle

It’s no secret that mobile technology has reshaped the consumer travel experience. Today’s traveler can check in and out of a hotel without ever speaking to a human being. That lack of human interaction and direct communication is both a good and bad thing for the hospitality technology industry. From booking a reservation to leaving a review, mobile use continues to rise in the hospitality technology sector, and is not slowing down any time soon. Today, nearly 60 percent of travelers book hotels using a mobile device while 81 percent of travelers find user reviews important when considering which hotel to book. READ MORE

Court Williams

In some ways, running a successful hotel comes down to a proposition both simple and sometimes complex: delivering service that exceeds the expectations of your guests. You need to provide comfort and hospitality, but also something extra to set yourself apart from other properties. Without differentiating yourself in the market, you risk becoming just one of many hotel options, rather than the preferred choice for your market. One valuable way to set yourself apart from your competition is through embracing technological opportunities available to hotels. If you leverage mobile technology, a wealth of options are emerging that can deliver new conveniences and services that enhance the guest experience. READ MORE

Coming Up In The February Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Social Media: Interacting with the Hotel Customer
Consider these astonishing numbers: 1.49 billion active monthly Facebook users. 1.1 billion active monthly YouTube users. 320 million active monthly Twitter users and nearly 400 million registered users on LinkedIn. 400 million active monthly Instagram users and 200 million active Google+ users. The power and reach of social media is an awesome force and it has transformed how hotels interact with their customers. In the past year, social media advertising spending increased 33.5% to nearly $24 billion dollars. Social networks are being utilized by hotels to reach more visitors, expand brand awareness, enhance brand reputation and to establish more direct and personal communication with their customers. Savvy hotel operators are adopting a comprehensive social media strategy, and there are several emerging trends to note. Video continues to be a powerful and influential element in social media marketing, with 70% of companies saying that it is their most effective marketing tool. Video generates a 62% higher engagement rate than photographs alone, and with new social sites like Meerkat and Periscope which offer live video streaming, those numbers will only increase. Sponsored content is another growing trend. Though advertorials have been around for decades, hotels are finding new ways to maximize the visibility of their content. Some are placing sponsored content on Facebook, or on influencer blogs. Another trend is the integration of a “Buy Now” button into social media websites. Customers will be able to make purchases without ever having to leave their favorite social sites. This development is a major convenience for customers and should also be an additional revenue source for hotels. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.