{468x60.media}
Ms. Frank

Website / Online Mechandising / SEO

Is Changing Your Website Worth the Cost?

By Tema Frank, CEO, Frank Reactions

There is no such thing as a perfect website. Even the companies that run the best, most successful websites in the world are constantly making changes and finding new, better ways to communicate and sell through their websites. But if you've got a limited budget (and who doesn't?) you need to think long and hard about whether it is worth the time and money needed to make changes to your site.

Let's take a look at what costs are typically involved. First, you need to do some research to determine what, if anything, needs to be changed. That entails a research cost. Then there are the costs involved in making the changes. And finally, there are costs to monitoring the results and checking to see if you are getting the expected return on your investment (ROI).

1. What needs to be changed?

You may have a gut feel that your website is not performing as effectively as it could be. You may have had some customer feedback about frustrations with your website. Or you may simply be hoping that by improving your website you'll get more bookings. None of these give you clear, reliable direction about where and how to make changes. Which means you can end up throwing out a lot of money by changing the wrong things, or changing the right things in the wrong way.

Instead, if you invest up front in some user testing, you'll be able to focus your efforts on changing what really needs to be changed. And with the right kind of testing, you'll know how to change it for maximum impact.

There are many ways to do user-testing, and they range in cost from a low of about $1,500 to upwards of $40,000. At the upper end, you will get a lot of usability expertise to help you design the right kinds of tests, an expert who will pore through tens of thousands of words of qualitative comments and possibly hours of video footage, interpret the results and make recommendations. The lower end will be much more basic, typically leaving it up to you to figure out what to test and to interpret the results. Depending on your levels of expertise and situation, either approach may work at certain stages of your website's life cycle.

Although there is a cost to testing, don't ignore the cost of not testing. There is the foregone income that results from making no changes to an under-performing website. If your website could increase the proportion of site visitors actually making a booking by even 5%, how much extra profit would that mean to you?

Alternatively, if you decide to make changes without testing, there may be money wasted in programming unnecessary or ineffective changes. These costs can range from hundreds to many thousands of dollars.

2. How to change it

Odds are that your testing will propose more changes than you'll have the staff or budget to implement immediately. So you have to look at each proposed change and cost it out.

If you do not have in-house web design staff and programmers, get quotes from more than one. The tricky part here is that the lowest quote may not be the best bet. Often people who bid low in the web design business are people with little experience and/or technical expertise.

Be sure you see samples of other work they have done that is similar to what you need done, and talk to companies they've worked with. Ideally, they'll give you a large enough client portfolio that you can randomly call on some of them, rather than restricting yourself to the reference names they've chosen to give you. One site designer we had considered working with, for instance, had great-looking samples, but when we called a couple of his clients they told us that working with him had been like pulling teeth.

Some website changes can cost virtually nothing, but have a huge impact. Things like replacing industry jargon with everyday language, or putting a toll-free number on every page. (The latter will, of course, have an impact on your customer service costs, but it will likely be justified by a higher rate of sales than you would have if people who couldn't find what they needed on the site just gave up and went to a competitor.)

Other changes will cost more, but still may be worth it. For example, one comment we hear consistently when we research hotel websites is that people want photographs of the rooms and amenities. There is an up-front cost to getting such photos onto the site (and doing so in a way that doesn't slow down your page opening speeds significantly), but given consumer reluctance to book online without having seen the rooms first it may well be worth the cost.

To decide if it is worth it, you not only have to look at the costs of implementing the change, but also at how your bookings currently come in, and what sort of customer you are targeting. If most of your business is from repeat customers, room photos may be less important than if you are running a vacation destination site that people will not likely come to over and over again.

3. Expected ROI from the changes

Even measuring success has a cost. That's why so many companies don't evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, particularly online ones. It is faster and easier to go by "gut feel". But one of the great strengths of the Internet is that it is so much more measurable than most other media. You can easily measure your online conversions (the number of your site visitors who end up booking online) before and after having made the changes. That will tell you whether or not the money was well spent, and give you clues as to which types of changes are likely to have the biggest future impact on sales. (See sidebar: Sample ROI calculation)

When you look at your own numbers, you may be surprised at how quickly website improvements will pay you back.

Tema Frank, Chief Instigator at customer experience consultancy Frank Reactions,, has been pioneering online success for hotels and other businesses since 2001. She has over 30 years’ experience in marketing, customer service, user experience testing and business strategy. Her clients have ranged from small B&Bs in France to large organizations like Expedia, Travel Alberta, Sabre Holdings, Cruise Ship Centres and the Alberta Motor Association. She speaks at conferences internationally, and has taught Digital Marketing at the University of Alberta, at the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour in France, Grant MacEwan University, and in short courses for companies and government departments. Ms. Frank can be contacted at 1-866-544-9262 or tema@frankreactions.com Please visit http://www.FrankReactions.com for more information. 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:

NOVEMBER: Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive

Eric Rahe

The advent of social media brought with it an important shift in the hospitality industry. Any guest’s experience might be amplified to thousands of potential customers, and you want to be sure that your hotel stands out for the right reasons. Furthermore, technology has increased competition. According to Euromonitor International, the travel industry will have the highest online payment percentage of any industry by 2020, often occurring through third-party sites that display your competitors alongside you. As a result, many hoteliers are looking to stand out by engaging customers and the experience has become more interactive than ever. READ MORE

Pat Miller

Even the most luxurious hotel has a finite budget when it comes to the design or re-design of hotel spaces. The best designers prioritize expenses that have the biggest impact on guest perceptions, while minimizing or eliminating those that don’t. This story will focus on three blockbuster areas – the entry experience, the guest room, and the public spaces. This article will focus on these three key areas and shed light on how the decision making process and design choices made with care and attention can create memorable, luxe experiences without breaking the bank. READ MORE

Patrick Burke

For over 35 years, American architect Patrick Burke, AIA has led Michael Graves Architecture & Design to create unique hospitality experiences for hotel operators and travelers around the globe, in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. As the hospitality industry has shifted from making travelers feel at home while away to providing more dynamic experiences, boutique hotels have evolved to create hyper local, immersive environments. Having witnessed and contributed to the movement, Burke discusses the value of authentic character that draws on physical and social context to create experiences that cannot be had anywhere else in the world. READ MORE

Alan Roberts

More than ever before, guests want and expect the design of a hotel to accurately reflect its location, regardless of whether they visit a property in an urban center, a historic neighborhood or a resort destination. They also seek this sense of place without wanting to sacrifice the level and consistency of service they’ve come to expect from a beloved hotel brand. A unique guest experience is now something expected not just desirable from any hotel wishing to compete in the world today. A hotel’s distinctive design and execution goes a long way to attracting todays discerning customer. READ MORE

Coming Up In The December Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Hotel Law: Issues & Events
There is not a single area of a hotel’s operation that isn’t touched by some aspect of the law. Hotels and management companies employ an army of lawyers to advise and, if necessary, litigate issues which arise in the course of conducting their business. These lawyers typically specialize in specific areas of the law – real estate, construction, development, leasing, liability, franchising, food & beverage, human resources, environmental, insurance, taxes and more. In addition, issues and events can occur within the industry that have a major impact on the whole, and can spur further legal activity. One event which is certain to cause repercussions is Marriott International’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. This newly combined company is now the largest hotel company in the world, encompassing 30 hotel brands, 5,500 hotels under management, and 1.1 million hotel rooms worldwide. In the hospitality industry, scale is particularly important – the most profitable companies are those with the most rooms in the most locations. As a result, this mega- transaction is likely to provoke an increase in Mergers & Acquisitions industry-wide. Many experts believe other larger hotel companies will now join forces with smaller operators to avoid being outpaced in the market. Companies that had not previously considered consolidation are now more likely to do so. Another legal issue facing the industry is the regulation of alternative lodging companies such as Airbnb and other firms that offer private, short-term rentals. Cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Monica are at the forefront of efforts to legalize and control short-term rentals. However, those cities are finding it’s much easier to adopt regulations on short-term rentals than it is to actually enforce them. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine these and other critical issues pertaining to hotel law and how some companies are adapting to them.